SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois State Board of Education voted Thursday
to finalize a contract worth about $45 million with a standardized testing
firm represented by a lobbyist who has close ties to the governor.
The decision came despite a strong protest from the current testing
firm, which stands to lose the contract to conduct testing in schools
throughout the state.
Board members ordered the staff to put the finishing touches on a five-year
contract with Harcourt Assessment Inc., represented by lobbyist John
Wyma, a former congressional aide to Gov. Rod Blagojevich who played
a key role in his 2002 campaign for governor.
A Blagojevich spokeswoman insisted Wyma's role had nothing to do with
the firm's selection, saying two other good friends of the governor
were lobbying for other bidders and that the governor's office stayed
far away from the evaluation process. Wyma had no comment.
The state's current testing firm, Pearson Educational Measurement, protested
that the contract should be rebid because significant changes had been
made in the state's testing requirements since the board asked for proposals
Four of seven testing components were eliminated during the elongated
budget fight that wrapped up in July, and Pearson said bidders should
be given another 60 days to adjust their proposals to address the changes.
The governor and the legislature agreed to cut $6.3 million for tests,
prompting the changes.
Tests still will be performed in the core curriculum of reading, math
and science. But the state eliminated various testing for writing, social
studies, fine arts, and health and physical development, officials said.
The contract calls for two years of development and three years of performing
future tests, officials said.
Pearson Vice President Michael Hussey argued the board should not be
working out the final details with Harcourt when new bids are called
"It is likely, if not certain, that the state will not receive
the best value on this contract by negotiating with only one vendor
for the significantly reduced scope," Hussey said.
He further argued negotiations with only one bidder
is a violation of Illinois procurement law. Even though the board's staff said
the actions were legal, Hussey said the disagreement created the "potential
Citing the potential lawsuit, State Schools Supt. Robert Schiller stood
behind the board's review but said he could not comment further.
A subcontractor with Pearson was represented by former Illinois Atty.
Gen. Roland Burris, who lost to Blagojevich in the Democratic primary
for governor but has retained a friendship with the governor, said Burris,
who is now a lobbyist.
Dave Strickland, another former top staffer for Blagojevich while he
was in Congress, represented a third bidder, CTB/McGraw-Hill, which
All of the firms added lobbyists in recent weeks, according to state
Nevertheless, some of the governor's harshest critics, including board
member Ron Gidwitz, a Republican, stood behind the choice of Harcourt
and voted for it when it passed without dissent Thursday.
Before voting, the board had asked the governor's office for written
concurrence to take action on a testing contract, particularly because
the governor plans to sign legislation to dismantle the board.
Cheryle Jackson, Blagojevich's press secretary, stressed the governor's
office merely said to move forward because timing was critical and did
not pass judgment on which proposal was best.
Burris concurred, saying the administration had immediately pointed
him to the state board.
School's no-braids policy has parents in a twist
BY LORI CALDWELL, Sun-Times, 9/3/04
Walter Hubbard says keeping his 9-year-old son's hair in braids is a
matter of principle. But the principal at TheaBowmanLeadershipAcademy, the Gary charter school where Antwuan Hubbard is a third-grader,
says she doesn't want boys wearing braids at her school and is keeping
him out until the braids go.
"He wore his hair in braids all last year, but now they say it's
a distraction," Walter Hubbard says. "He can wear his hair
in a ponytail or an Afro, but not braids. I don't understand the logic."
Hubbard got a phone message from school last week, saying Antwuan needed
to get rid of the braids.
A student handbook distributed during registration last month didn't
say anything about a ban on braided hair for boys. But an amended version
of the handbook, dated Tuesday, makes clear: No braids for boys.
"We have the right to change the dress code any time we want to,"
says Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, the Chicagocompany that oversees five
charter schools, defending the action by Bowman Principal Gwendolyn
"One of the themes of the school is that it is a leadership academy
that will deal with entrepreneurship in the corporate world. If we want
to succeed in it, we must comply with rules. Ms. Adell specifically
made this a part of her policy. She is an experienced educator in Gary, and we are going to stick to it."
Also, Bakalis, a former Illinois
state schools superintendent, said Thursday, with braids, "Some
of the designs can be gang-related."
Hubbard says he doesn't think his son's hair is a distraction. He says
Adell told him it was.
"It's a self-esteem issue with Antwuan," Hubbard says. "He's
a straight-A student. He gets awards all the time."
Antwuan's mother, Tinika, who teaches in a Gary Head Start program,
said his braids are "straight back and have never been in a design."
Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 is the first
school system in LakeCounty to say "no thanks" to federal money because
of the strings attached.
Other districts in the county are examining their situations and may
also balk at rules in the federal No Child Left Behind
Under the law, schools receiving Title I money for low-income students
must meet testing standards over a period of several years.
For instance, LibertyvilleHigh
is among 15 schools in the county that should offer those students a
choice to transfer to another school because No Child Left Behind guidelines
were not met for two years.
Other high schools that should offer a transfer choice are Grant, Antioch, Mundelein, Highland Park and Zion-Benton.
District 128 did not qualify for Title I money until two years ago,
when it received $92,000. The amount for the 2004-05 school year
Not taking the money means District 128 is not required to offer the
No Child Left Behind choice.
Not only is the Title 1 funding amount shrinking from year to year,
but meeting federal rules requires so much time it is not worth the
money, said District 128 Associate Superintendent Catherine Finger.
"The amount of time and energy you need to spend that won't improve
your program is counterproductive," Finger said, adding it is a
"completely unfunded mandate."
Highland Park-Deerfield High School District 113 is accepting Title
I money, but it also is clocking time spent to comply with the act.
"There is an increased level of paperwork associated with it,"
said Janelle Cleland, district learning director.
At Mundelein High School District 120, school officials are weighing
the cost of compliance with dollars received from Title I, according
to district spokeswoman Kelly Happ. The earliest the school board would
consider a change is at its Sept. 14 meeting.
Compliance starts with Illinois
students taking tests. Results are grouped in 15 ways, including by
ethnicity, to see if each school is meeting federal standards. If a
school does not pass standards in any one group, the school fails overall,
the federal law states.
Sanctions increase each year a school fails to demonstrate adequate
progress. After seven years of failure, a school must find an alternate
form of control, which may include turning the school over to the state.
All Illinois school districts must also comply with separate state
The federal law forces schools to look at special populations. Finger
said the district supports that concept and started a new analysis of
its data because of it.
"To me, that's the power behind this," she said. "Not
taking Title I dollars has no effect on accountability."
In CookCounty, Palatine-Schaumburg High School
District 211 is refusing
Title I money, and EvanstonTownshipHigh
board is expected to vote on the issue next week.
Grade-schoolers at HollisConsolidatedSchool
in Peoria have access to an indoor, heated swimming pool.
At Roanoke-Benson Junior High, on the other hand, administrators struggle
to afford replacing a heating unit.
"We had to ask for a tax referendum," Roanoke Unit District
60 Superintendent Lynn Curtis said. "Just trying to keep up with
the changes in technology is a struggle for us."
The contrast in those schools' finances can be seen in districts throughout
the state. And many Peoria-area school officials at the low end of the
financial stick say they aren't getting enough state money to fund education,
forcing local taxpayers to carry the burden.
About 62 percent of school funding comes from local sources, including
property taxes, while
districts receive 31 percent from the state and 7 percent in federal
funding, according to statewide averages published by the Illinois State
Board of Education.
"The state isn't funding a large enough percentage of education,
therefore increasing the reliance on local property taxes," said
Dave Marshall, regional superintendent of schools for Marshall, Putnam
and Woodford counties. "The only place school districts have to
go for extra funds is the local property tax payer."
Schools get local, state and federal money based on the wealth of the
district, number of students and other factors.
The General State Aid formula is used to calculate the amount of aid
each school district receives. Districts located in wealthy areas -
with high property values - get less general state aid because they
receive more money from local taxpayers than poorer districts.
in Northfield, for example, had an assessed valuation of $711,433
per student, while El Paso District 375 (now consolidated with Gridley)
had an assessed valuation of $100,343 per student in 2000, the most
recent figures available. New Trier spent $14,900 per student while El Paso spent $7,900 on each student in 2001-02.
"Let's face it, right now the education
you receive is somewhat dependent on your ZIP Code. That's why we have
the inequities we do," Marshall
In New Trier, only 4 percent of 2001-02 revenues came from state coffers
while nearly 95 percent came from local sources. By comparison, El Paso received 39 percent of revenues from the state and 57
percent from local dollars.
In addition to general aid, schools receive state funding for poverty,
special education, early childhood, breakfast and lunch programs, transportation
and consolidation, among others. In El Paso, that other funding totaled about $1.5 million, or 20
percent of the district's total revenues.
But as the costs of special education rise, school officials complain
the federal government isn't keeping up with promised payments.
The 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates the federal
government pay 40 percent of the cost of special education.
However, many local school districts report they are receiving less
than 20 percent re-imbursement.
"If the federal government would pay what it is supposed to be
paying for special education, many of our school districts would not
be having the financial trouble they are," Marshall said.
For example, Metamora High School District 122 spent $541,000 last year
in special education and received only about $82,000 in federal reimbursement
instead of the $216,000 promised, Superintendent Ken Maurer said.
"We are being shortchanged by their own
law," Maurer said.
"Eighty percent of school districts are deficit spending. Where
would we be if the federal government had actually funded the program?"
Antioch may revise school
honors policy Many protest state exam
Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune
After getting an earful from parents and students frustrated by stringent
new requirements to graduate with honors, AntiochCommunityHigh
officials said they might revise the controversial policy.
"If what we've done is flawed, then it's flawed and we change it
and we move forward," District 117 President Philip Delany told
a crowd of more than 100 people who jammed Thursday's board meeting.
In March, Antioch became the first Illinois school to make success on
the Prairie State Achievement Examination a key factor in determining
who graduates with honors or cum laude.
The test, which is given to juniors statewide each spring, determines
whether a school can be labeled as failing and face sanctions under
No Child Left Behind, the federal education reform law.
About 200 of last year's 500 seniors, roughly 40 percent of the class,
received honors by earning at least a 3.0 grade point average, or cum
laude with a 4.0 out of a possible 4.5 GPA.
Under the new approach, only about 40 students are expected to make
the grade this year, officials said.
Students now must meet the GPA requirements and also exceed state standards
on three of five sections in the PrairieState exam for honors, and four out of five for cum laude.
The sections include reading, math and science.
"The colleges that I was looking at aren't going to be that interested
anymore because I don't make the cut for the honor roll," said
Leslie White, 17, of Antioch, a National Honor Society member who ranks among the
top 7 percent of the senior class.
Another student, Leslie Collins, will drop from cum laude to honors.
"We did our best and coming out of it, it kind of feels like you
failed," said Collins, 17, who with a 4.18 GPA ranks 7th out of
Since there are plans to reduce the PrairieState exam from five sections to three, revisiting the issue
is inevitable, officials said.
"It makes the policy an obsolete policy," said District 117
Supt. Jay Sabatino.
Several parents urged the board to rescind the honors policy, saying
it was unfair to current seniors to change the rules so close to graduation.
"It has broken faith with our students because of the promise they
had when they entered as freshmen," said Marty Kroeker of Lindenhurst,
whose daughter Lianna, a senior, won't graduate with honors because
of the PrairieState exam.
Ellen Wright, another senior, has a nearly 3.8 GPA, but also came up
short on the test.
"She deserves to graduate with honors, and I am appalled that someone
would attempt to take that away from her based on one exam in three-plus
years," said her mother, Pam Roncone.
The board plans to reconsider the policy Sept. 16.
NAPERVILLE Research shows that teachers are 40 to 45 percent
accurate at identifying bullies and their victims, according to Dr.
That's one reason why he and his wife, Dr. Amy Avery, both Naperville psychologists, developed a data-driven system that provides
teachers in the Naperville
and Indian Prairie school districts with a way to measure and rectify
the growing concerns students, parents and educators have regarding
the social and learning climates in schools.
The system, called Manners Matrix, was field-tested in Naperville schools last year, and its success led to the spread
this year across Naperville and Indian Prairie, where it was tested in four schools
beginning last year.
The Averys developed Manners Matrix to give educators the ability to
assess every student's perception regarding his or her social and learning
environment. It gives educators data regarding the kinds of antisocial
behavior happening at their schools, where the problems are occurring,
who is involved in them and how students are responding to them.
Information comes from surveys of students, parents, teachers and bus
drivers, and follow-up surveys allow educators to respond to current
events and test whether their action plans are successful.
Keith Avery said most educators aren't using tools such as Manners Matrix
in directing their efforts to address the social and emotional needs
of students, such as the attempt to curb bullying.
"It's based on perception," he said, "and perceptions
can be very inaccurate."
By including reports of students' experiences and opinions, Manners
Matrix adds other points of view to the process of improving a school's
social and learning climate.
"So you're going to get richer, wider data that is probably more
accurate," Avery said.
Kitty Murphy, Naperville's assistant superintendent for student services and
special education, said the system provides a school-specific look at
"Now we can do much more targeted interventions," she said.
For example, one of the biggest problems KennedyJunior
students noted on Manners Matrix surveys was pushing and shoving in
the hallways, Principal Don Perry said. So Perry examined the sort of
supervision provided students during passing periods. And fearing he
might be filling his school's halls with too many kids at once, Perry
adjusted the flow and patterns of traffic during those times.
Perry said Manners Matrix made it clear to him when and where problems
are arising at Kennedy.
"People for years have been trying to alter student behavior,"
Perry said. "But they've had no way of knowing whether what they
were doing was working or not because they didn't have the data."
the survey helped Principal Gwen Bockman strategically place lunchroom
supervisors in areas where students said bullying was more likely to
take place. Supervisors will spend more time watching the four-square
games and less time watching the swings at recess, she said.
And when problems arise, Bockman said she has learned from the surveys
not to rely on peer mediation to solve them. The peer mediation approach
encourages students to pick one of their classmates to help them solve
a problem they may have with another student.
"Kids didn't feel comfortable telling other kids their problems,"
she said. "They prefer to tell their teachers or their parents.
They don't think other kids can help them."
So at Maplebrook, these problems are now addressed in weekly classroom
meetings led by teachers. During these meetings, students talk about
and resolve their problems with guidance and supervision of an adult
that they trust.
"It's a way that the students problem-solve with the teacher during
class time," Bockman said.
Manners Matrix results also provide schools with information on individual
students. They are asked in a non-emotionally charged setting to tell
their schools what happens to them, where it happens, who's doing it,
how often it happens, how they respond and, ultimately, how these experiences
affect them. Based on responses, schools are able to keep track of kids
for whom their social and learning climates provide more challenges
than they do the average student. This information is provided to counselors
so they know whom to work with and how to work with them.
Avery said the data-driven approach of Manners Matrix will propel the
Naperville and Indian Prairie schools beyond the current state
mandates regarding issues of bullying, school climate and the social
and emotional needs of students.
"The most that most schools have been able to do is update their
policies to say that they won't tolerate bullying," Avery said.
"Well, that doesn't really do anything."
Just an extra hour of exercise a week could cut obesity significantly
among overweight girls, according to a study that researchers say could
lead to major changes in the way schools fight the problem.
The study--the largest look yet at obesity among younger children--did
not show the same results for boys, possibly because they generally
get more exercise than girls.
Still, Dr. Rebecca Unger, a pediatrician at Children's MemorialHospital in Chicago, said the findings show the important role that schools
can play to prevent obesity and its health ramifications. She said the
study highlights the importance of funding daily physical education
in the nation's schools, where about 15 percent of children and adolescents
are overweight, according to government figures.
"This is incredibly serious if you consider the medical and emotional
consequences of obesity," said Unger, who was not involved in the
research. "The further along these problems progress, the more
at risk these children are."
In the study of more than 11,000 children, researchers compared changes
in the body-mass index--a measure of weight relative to height--of obese
and overweight girls in kindergarten and 1st grade. They found that
the prevalence of obesity and overweight among the girls fell 10 percent
in schools that gave 1st graders one hour more of exercise time per
week than kindergartners.
Based on that, the researchers believe that giving kindergartners at
least five hours of physical education per week--the amount recommended
by the federal government--could reduce the prevalence of obesity and
overweight among girls by 43 percent.
"This has the ability to affect tens of thousands, if not hundreds
of thousands, of children," said Nancy Chockley, president of the
National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.
The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group recently released a research
brief on the study and two others of childhood obesity.
The analyses were done by Rand Corp., a think tank that used data collected
by the U.S. Department of Education as part of a long-term study of
11,192 children from about 1,000 schools who entered kindergarten in
The results released so far are only for those youths' kindergarten
and 1st-grade years. Data on their 3rd-grade and 5th-grade years will
be released later.
YaleUniversity obesity researcher Kelly Brownell said the findings
are significant because they demonstrate the importance of making sure
children get adequate physical activity, in or out of school.
But he said exercise must be tied with better eating habits--including
rethinking school lunch programs and the presence of school vending
machines laden with high-calorie snacks--to fully address the nation's
epidemic of childhood obesity.
So, students went back to school in the Harlem
district Friday after being idled for nine days by a teachers strike.
Teachers and the district still had not reached a contract agreement,
but both sides agreed to submit their final proposals for binding arbitration.
Since the two sides could not come to a deal on their own, they allowed
a neutral third party to unstick the sticking points on the contract.
In going to binding arbitration, both sides agreed to live with the
It was a good decision, albeit too late to prevent the damage that teachers
strikes inevitably cause.
There ought to be a law against it in Illinois, which is among only nine states that allow teachers
to strike. Twenty-four states prohibit teachers from striking, and 12
states have penalties ranging from dismissal to imprisonment for teachers
who refuse to work.
Well, prison might be a bit drastic, but something needs to be done,
particularly as the vast majority of Illinois' school districts face serious financial problems. More
and more districts could find themselves facing strike threats as competition
for dollars intensifies.
Illinois needs serious education funding reform to address the
financial crisis and a no-strike law to keep teachers at their jobs.
Illinois already has laws to prohibit strikes by workers essential
to public safety and security, including police and firefighters.
When the Harlem contract finally gets settled, who will be declared
the big winner? Teachers got some of what they wanted. Management got
some of what it wanted. Kids go back to school. Parents go back to their
No harm, no foul?
Everyone lost. Teachers and administrators lost some of the trust and
confidence the community places in them to handle the business of education
maturely, fairly and in the best interest of the students. School districts
exist for one purpose only -- to educate children. Providing salaries
and benefits to teachers and administrators is a byproduct of the essential
mission, not the mission itself.
Labor and management both failed by allowing the situation to get to
this point. They squandered the opportunity to demonstrate how differences
can be settled with communication and compromise without getting to
the worst-case strike scenario.
The disruption, cost and inconvenience of a strike diminishes community
tolerance for declining school quality and rising costs. They do, in
fact, compound those problems by impairing districts' ability to pass
tax referendums to improve quality and meet expenses.
The Hononegah district's tax referendum was defeated by a huge margin
after the three-week strike there last fall. Harlem has a tax referendum
for education on the November ballot. The district faces an uphill battle
selling it, especially now.
The damage goes into the classroom, too, on the respect front. When
students return to school, some of them may look at teachers with a
different perspective because of how the strike inconvenienced their
families, affected the sports program and started the school year under
a dark cloud.
The same situation looms if Rockford
contract negotiations turn contentious, as history and early posturing
by both sides indicate they are likely to.
We would ask that the key players start talking now about how they can
avoid a Harlem-Hononegah situation. Set a deadline well before the start
of the 2005-06 school year as a hard and fast
date by which to have a contract agreement.
If talks are stalled at that point with no movement in sight, the parties
should submit to binding arbitration to be completed by the beginning
of the school year and live with the outcome.
A strike in this district would do immeasurable damage, just at the
time when there are signs that the quality and confidence declines are
Our view: The decision by teachers and administrators to avert a strike
in 2003 is paying dividends.
During a meeting nearly
a year ago, District 145 officials approved a deal with teachers, represented
by the Freeport Education Association, that has had a lasting impact
on the community.
In a sense, it's why our kids are in school today, on schedule, and
not suffering through the long-term ill effects of labor strife that
have dominated recent headlines.
Our friends in the Harlem district, North of Rockford, can now attest to the level
of that damage can be caused by a strike. And we're not just talking
about having to make up school days or forfeit football games.
Strikes pit teachers against the administration, leaving parents and,
especially students, caught in the middle. People, being people, say
things in the heat of battle they regret later. And often kids don't
understand why all the adults are fighting - each of them purporting
to be doing so on their behalf.
Teachers have every right to strike - just as administrators are obligated
to get the most out of every dollar spent on education. But when both
sides participate in brinkmanship, and haggle over minutiae or some
deeply held symbolic issue, little good comes out of the process.
The willingness of Freeport teachers in 2003 to keep negotiating long past the allowable
deadline for a strike shows that in Freeport, education is not a zero-sum game. Thankfully, in Freeport in 2003, calmer heads prevailed.
The three-year deal called for a salary increase of 3 percent the first
year and 3.25 percent in the second and third years. That brought the
base salary for a new teacher, with a degree and no previous teaching
experience, to $26,706 - an amount that included a payment into the
Teacher Retirement System. A teacher at the top of the scale earns $58,307
under the pact.
Though negotiations were long and tedious to be sure, the two sides
also agreed on an equitable formula to cope with rising health-care
The process revealed give and take on both sides, along with a healthy
recognition of the economic environment in Freeport. They got the job done.
Following approval of the 2003 deal, Paul Everding, president of the
FEA had this to say of the process:
"I think that on the whole it's a contract that everybody can be
satisfied with for this next three years. We realize that economic times
are tough across the board, so we're please that we have a contract
District 145 Superintendent Peter Flynn, meanwhile, thanked the teachers
and bargaining team for their patience during the negotiations, calling
the pact "a decent contract during a very difficult economic time."
Those are exactly the types of attitudes that we hope will continue
into the next round of negotiations in 2006.
After all, object lessons on the damage wrought by labor strife in schools
are all around us; just as the sight of our
children trotting happily off to start another year - in schools we
can all be proud of - remind us of the enduring value of compromise.
That's what students at LaneTechHigh
were looking for Tuesday when they popped their quarters into the vending
machines at lunchtime.
But the chips, chocolate cookies and sugar-laden sodas are a thing of
the past, now that the Northwest Side school
has restocked its vending machines with healthier snacks and drinks
as part of a larger Chicago Public Schools initiative.
The new snack options include rice cakes, fruit cups and a variety of
baked chips. Carbonated drinks also have been replaced with bottled
water and juice.
School store manager Michael Choffnes said he was glad to see the junk
"The students didn't just buy one bag [of Cheetos]. They bought
two at a time, and then they bought two cans of Sprite to wash it down,"
Choffnes said. "It was a nutritional disaster."
Though she'll miss the flaming hot cheese snacks, freshman Dee DeJesus
said the changes are better in the long run because "they give
us no choice but to eat healthy or nothing at all."
Shakira Bates, on the other hand, wasn't too pleased with the new vending
"I don't like all this baked stuff," she said. "I don't
think people are going to eat it."
In the cafeteria, pizza, nachos and hamburgers are still on the menu,
but a few healthy substitutions have been made. For instance, students
get nachos with salsa instead of cheese, and the school now orders reduced
fat ground beef for hamburgers and tacos, according to the school's
new food service manager Charles Pikes.
Lane Tech's nutrition teacher, Carla Serantoni, said such small changes
there and at other public schools are a good way
to curb childhood obesity.
"It would be too overwhelming to tell kids to change every part
of their diet," she said.
Dist. 46 officials
get schooled on FOIA
By C. L. Waller, Daily Herald Staff Writer, September 09, 2004
Repeated calls to the Illinois Attorney General's office about Freedom
of Information requests prompted an unusual training session this week
for the Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board.
The situation was "unique enough to prompt one-on-one training
with the board," said Terry L. Mutchler, assistant attorney general
for the Freedom of Information Bureau/Policy.
District residents had told the attorney general's office they were
denied copies of an audit report. District officials said they notified
residents they needed more time to fill the requests because the report
is hundreds of pages.
"Our goal is to get the public and the board to understand the
act," Mutchler said.
She said the audit report situation fueled Freedom of Information calls
from residents to the attorney general's office. The first week the
office got five to seven calls, and since then it has received about
three calls a week, Mutchler said.
Freedom of Information requests at the District 46 offices also started
to accumulate. There were five in March, three in April, four in May,
10 in June, two in July and one in August. Five requests that took 28
hours of employee time to fill were never even picked up, according
to the district.
Mutchler said the audit report is a public document, but under state
law there is some information in it that would be properly excluded.
The public, for instance, may have the right to know how much the district
is spending for special education services for a student but it may
not necessarily have a right to know who that child is, she said.
"What I have seen is compliance," she said.
Yet, she also told the board, "Members of the public have to look
at what they really want."
Belleville West High sizes up uniform policy
By Alexa Aguilar of the Post-Dispatch, 9/08/2004
The clothing of the hundreds of students eating lunch at BellevilleWestHigh
on Wednesday was as varied as the students: Some were clad in black,
others wore jeans and T-shirts, some sported tiny skirts and sleeveless
shirts or sports jerseys and baggy pants.
The scene could change by next fall, now that a school district committee
is considering making uniforms mandatory at both the East and West campuses.
If the district adopts a uniform policy, it will join a handful of public
high schools in the St.
that mandate what their students wear each day. They include East St. Louis, Cahokia and Vashon. While thoughts of plaid jumpers and skirts
may spring to mind, most public school uniforms consist of khaki or
navy pants or skirts paired with a solid-color shirt.
"It's more of a strict dress code than a uniform," said Cahokia
Superintendent Jed Deets.
Cahokia has had its policy for four years. The first year was
"like World War III," with parents picketing in front of schools,
he said. Now, parents appreciate not having to spend money to keep up
with the latest fashions, he said. And administrators say there's a
marked increase in behavior problems when students occasionally are
allowed to wear anything they like.
Nationally, some school districts adopted uniforms in the mid-1990s
as they looked for ways to stem violence. The model was Long Beach, Calif., the first big-city school district with uniforms. Crime
dropped 22 percent there in 1994, the first year of the policy. Now,
many of the country's large public school systems - including those
in St. Louis and Chicago - have voluntary or mandatory uniform policies. Some
smaller districts that were eager to try uniforms in the 1990s have
abandoned them, finding the policy difficult to enforce, especially
Most suburban and rural high schools have largely ignored the issue.
In St. LouisCounty, for example, children wear uniforms in some elementary
schools, but they are rare in public middle schools and high schools.
Belleville is considering them by request, said Superintendent
Brent Clark. After the district adopted a mandatory physical education
uniform this year, he said, parents asked administrators to "at
least look at school uniforms."
Proponents say uniforms are cheaper, improve discipline, reduce peer
pressure and keep kids focused on school. Opponents argue that uniforms
have not been proven to raise academic performance or deter school violence,
and they limit students' individuality.
Ed Yohnka, director of communication for the American Civil Liberties
Union of Illinois, questioned why, in a society that celebrates free
thinking, young people should attend public school in uniform.
"My concern is, what message does it send
when we say that the way to get by in school is to conform?" Yohnka
Others want to know what message is conveyed by exposed midriffs and
"There is a lot more distraction when children have body parts
exposed," said Paul Seibert, director of development at GovernorFrenchAcademy, a private school in Belleville. Students at his high school must wear jackets, and
the boys must wear ties.
Seibert said uniforms prepare students for adult life in the professional
world. As for individuality, "if that were their only vehicle of
self-expression, then I would be concerned," Seibert said.
Students at Belleville West High have mixed opinions on their pending
wardrobe fate. Some said uniforms would ease the pressures of a culture
in which the right shoes or shirt can determine what group of students
you hang out with.
Freshman Kalia Miller and her friends said various groups of students
adhere to their own dress codes: Nerds wear jeans that are too high,
while "preps" wear "Abercrombie and stuff."
A group of seniors across the cafeteria said they are a lot less concerned
with their clothes than they were four years ago. The group mostly wore
T-shirts and jeans.
"If they had uniforms, nobody would be singled out by their clothing,"
said senior Brandon Lybarger.
"Uniforms would be lame," countered Anne Norris, a junior.
"If we were all wearing uniforms, we wouldn't be able to express
ourselves," said sophomore Crystal Zehner. "You get an idea
from someone about who they are from what they wear."
sophomore Christopher Venuto, 15, says wearing uniforms "keeps
the gangs down, and it keeps people from getting picked on for what
they are wearing."
Junior LaToya Lewis, 16, has grown to like
the uniform - polo shirts with the school logo, paired with khaki pants
"It's cool, I like it," she said. "But I wish we could
wear our regular clothes on Fridays."
Frenchel Delgado dropped out of Senn High School two years ago because,
as she tells it, she could not conform to the rules, had a tough time
getting herself to classes and felt lost in the swarm of students vying
for the teacher's attention.
But after a few weeks sitting at home contemplating
her bleak future of minimum-wage jobs, Delgado decided to enroll at
AntoniaPantojaSchool, an alternative school for dropouts.
"It saved my life," recalled Delgado, now 18. "If it
wasn't for the school, I'd probably be working at McDonald's or sitting
at home watching TV."
Delgado was one of about 150 high school students who rallied at the
ThompsonCenter Thursday, urging state educators to restore funding
for Pantoja and 10 other alternative high schools in Chicago that did not win competitive state grants this year.
Carrying placards with "We Need Money 4 Graduation Not Incarceration,"
the teenagers paraded around the plaza shouting "restore our money."
Three students hand-delivered a letter to Illinois
State Board of Education officials asking the agency to reverse its
"If they don't give us the money back, a lot of kids are going
to end up on the street," said Lamont Matthews, 18, who attends
The Illinois State Board of Education decided earlier this year not
to renew a $2 million grant to City Colleges of Chicago, which administers the Alternative Education Consortium,
a partnership of public, private and community-based organizations that
run schools for high school dropouts. Members of the consortium said
the grant represents about 30 percent of their budget and, if not restored,
would force them to turn youngsters away.
The 11-school consortium enrolls about 600 students a year. About 4,200
dropouts have earned high school diplomas during the program's 18 years.
Naomi Greene, spokeswoman for the state board, said the money for the
program comes through a competitive grant and the City Colleges application
ranked near the bottom this year.
The applications are ranked by outside evaluators based on a host of
factors, including whether there is need for the program and whether
the goals are well defined.
Chicago Public Schools also provides alternative schooling at three
Many schools have ambulances present at football games
By Rebecca Loda, Pantagraph, 9/10/04
There have been ambulances at BloomingtonHigh
varsity football games as long as John Szabo has been athletic director.
There will be ambulances -- at a cost of $185 a game -- at NormalCommunityHigh
games this year after a visiting player broke a leg last year, and not
just at varsity football games.
has emergency personnel and a rescue vehicle at all football games.
LeRoyHigh School has an ambulance only at varsity games.
A Tri-Valley parent whose son was seriously injured at last year's junior
varsity football game at LeRoy continues to question the response to
his son's injury. The school defends its actions.
There are no requirements for safety personnel to attend regular-season
games and districts have their own varying standards for which sports
and levels of competition -- varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and
freshmen -- have emergency personnel and vehicles.
Dave Gannaway, assistant executive director of the Bloomington-based
Illinois High School Association, said individual schools are responsible
for their safety policies.
"We do not have guidelines," he said, adding the association
does recommend an ambulance be at playoff games. "What we have
done is recommend, but they have to know their policy and response times."
Gannaway noted injuries can occur in practices and in other sports.
If an ambulance is at a game, he noted, it also could be called away
on an emergency call. "The schools have to have plans in place
to deal with all situations," he said.
Gail Rafferty, administrator with the LeRoy Emergency Ambulance Service,
echoed those points, noting more rural services have limited staffing.
"It would be impossible because where do you start that happening?"
she said. "Do you start at fifth-grade intramurals?"
In her tenure, she noted, the service has transported more baseball
and softball injuries than in any other sport.
An ambulance from Lifeline Mobile Medics attends all varsity football
games at BHS and is present at lower-level games if available, said
"We've always had an ambulance at every football game for varsity
since I've been here. To me, that's the sport that has the most injuries
or the most severe injuries."
"We're fortunate in Bloomington-Normal that we have that ability,"
he said, adding certified trainers attend all athletic events at the
Normal Community High School Athletic Director Mike Clark said the decision
to have a Lifeline ambulance at every football game this year was prompted
by last year's injury. The same policy also will be followed at NormalCommunityWestHigh
Both schools also have three certified trainers on hand that are contracted
with the Unit 5 school district.
Principal Paul Colba said there are individuals trained to handle injuries
at all athletic events. There are EMTs, first-responders and firefighters
on hand at all football games, regardless of the level, he said. A rescue
vehicle also is present.
"There's always the possibility of an injury, especially in football,"
said Colba. "We certainly want to be prepared for the safety of
Ryan Jones, now a Tri-Valley senior, was seriously injured during the
game last September at LeRoy. He required brain surgery, a 78-day hospital
stay and continues to recover.
His father, Dr. Jeffrey Jones, continues to question the response to
his son's injury, claiming the school's response was disorganized and
a 911 call was not made soon enough. Jones does not question the LeRoy
ambulance response time.
LeRoy Superintendent Ed Coller, however, said he is confident in the
district's response to the incident.
Coller said the school does have ambulances at its varsity football
games because of the level of competition and the large crowds. There
is no cost for the service, he said.
Rafferty said the service would try to attend junior-varsity games,
but could not guarantee it.
Jones said if an ambulance does not attend all games, the ambulance
service should have a schedule to know when games are being played.
Someone from the school district, he said, should be assigned to call
911 if necessary.
"I think if you do those two things, you have 99 percent of the
situations covered," he said.
PEORIA - After a night of drinking and using drugs, two Peoria men set
out for East Peoria and Creve Coeur on Tuesday, looking for a woman
- any woman - to abduct, said Peoria County's top prosecutor.
At , Kevin E. Dish-
man and Scott L. Lindholm found their victim, an 11- year-old Creve
Coeur girl who was waiting for a school bus.
Dishman allegedly grabbed her by her bookbag and hauled her into their
van; Lindholm then drove off with the girl inside. The pair allegedly
sexually assaulted her several times throughout the day before the girl
On Thursday, PeoriaCountyState's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Dishman and Lindholm's actions
were the "crime of outrage of the year." Circuit Judge Stephen
Kouri ordered each man held on $3 million bond.
Both are charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault
of a child, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated
kidnapping. All are Class X felonies and could potentially land the
men in prison for up to 60 years.
"There's a special place in hell for people like this," Lyons said after the hearing.
Dishman, 37, of 619
and Lindholm, 22, of 606 Fairholm Ave., who participated in the hearing through videoconferencing,
appeared disheveled and morose.
Both answered Kouri's questions with short, terse answers. They will
next appear in court Oct. 7 for a preliminary hearing, though it's likely
the case will brought before a grand jury before then.
During the bond hearing, Lyons recounted
the events of that long day, starting with the pair drinking at the
Adam's Apple bar in Downtown Peoria and ending
with them being captured by police about
in a remote, wooded area near Keystone Steel & Wire Co. in Bartonville.
Based upon a videotaped statement given by Lindholm after his arrest,
the kidnapping was set into motion the night before, Lyons said in open court. The pair decided after a night of
booze, marijuana and cocaine that they wanted to find a random woman
and abduct her.
Age, it appears from Lyons's statements, didn't matter.
"It was entirely random," Lyons said, noting there was no relationship between the alleged
abductors and the girl's family.
The pair snatched the girl as she was waiting for her school bus at
Stewart and Groveland streets, and then drove her to Bartonville, where
by the girl's and Lindholm's accounts, the pair allegedly sexually assaulted
her four to five times each over several hours, Lyons said.
The prosecutor said the pair even dozed off, trapping the little girl
between them in such a manner that her movement would awaken them. A
few hours later, they awoke and sexually assaulted the girl again.
The child made her escape when the two men stepped out of the van to
go to the bathroom.
"In her estimation, she did not stop running for about 40 minutes.
It was dark but she could eventually see lights and thought she could
be OK if she could get to the lights," Lyons said.
She was found by Keystone security, who alerted police. The girl then
led officers back to her abductors, who were found passed out in the
van, Lyons said.
To help prevent another child abduction, teachers
this week at CreveCoeurSchool
76 advised students to be aware of their surroundings, Superintendent
Jack Wilt said. They also were given suggestions on what to do if they
are ever in a situation with a stranger.
Wilt hopes to implement a new safety program next fall.
For now, though, classroom discussions are all that the district can
provide to its students, Wilt said, adding it can't afford to put an
adult at each bus stop to monitor students' safety.
Wilt plans to meet with Creve Coeur Police Chief Mike Button next week
to mull over possibilities of increasing safety at bus stops.
According to Peoria County Circuit Court records, this case is Lindholm's
first contact with the judicial system. Dishman has a few past drug
convictions, but no felonies.
Lyons said the little girl was doing as well as could be expected,
given the circumstances. He also praised her courage and bravery, noting
she remembered everything in such detail, down to the types of signs
that were in the back of the alleged abductors' van.
"These two men, with evil on their minds, were caught due to the
heroic acts of a little girl," he said.
Gym is not optional
in fighting childhood obesity
Letter by Guy Leahy, Fitness assessment coordinator, Harper College,
Wellness & Human Performance Division, Chicago Tribune, 9/10/04
Unfortunately, the author of the letter "Harmful gym" (Voice
of the People, Aug. 21) misses the point regarding childhood obesity.
Assigning blame for the childhood obesity epidemic to hypothyroidism
or other genetic diseases does not explain why rates of overweight children
have greatly increased over the last two decades. According to the NationalCenter for Health Statistics, the percentage of children ages
who are overweight
has increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2000. The increase
in prevalence of being overweight in teenagers has tripled (from 5 percent
to 15 percent) in the same time period.
Such increases in overweight children have led to an increased number
of cases of diseases in kids that have been previously extremely rare,
such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. For
example, a recent study from Texas documented that nearly 20 percent of school-age children
had high blood pressure.
Children are overweight for the same reasons adults are: They eat too
much and don't exercise enough. A recent Canadian study that looked
at the relationship between being overweight and behavior in 7- to11-year-olds
found those children who participated in regular physical activities
such as sports were far less likely to be overweight than children who
engaged in sedentary recreation, such as TV watching and video games.
Making gym classes optional is exactly the wrong solution to the problem,
since overweight children who are in the greatest need of regular exercise
would be the most likely to opt out of such classes.
The argument that "children who don't have a natural bent for gym-class
functions can suffer permanent mental harm by being forced to attend
gym" isn't logical, because (1) overweight kids suffer social stigmatization
regardless of whether they attend gym class or not, and (2) depriving
kids of an opportunity to become more physically active and lose weight
simultaneously deprives them of an opportunity to improve their self-esteem
as a result of being more physically fit. In addition, a growing number
of innovative PE programs emphasize fitness activities and lifetime
physical activity, rather than "organized sports or forced calisthenics."
An excellent example of this "new PE" can be found at MadisonJunior
in Naperville. More information about this and other "new PE"
programs can be found at www.pe4life.com.
The benefits of regular physical activity also extend into the classroom.
For example, a recent California Department of Education study found
significant correlations between physical fitness scores and reading
and mathematics scores on standardized tests for middle school children.
Those children who scored highest on the physical fitness tests also
scored highest on the standardized tests. Rather than making physical
education classes optional, as the author of "Harmful gym"
suggests, we should redouble efforts to strengthen PE class curriculum
Benefits of raising dropout age outweigh
risks Editorial by Tom Martin, Editor, Galesburg Register-Mail, 9/9/04
One year may help. Sixteen-year-old students who plan to drop out of
school will have to wait another year, according to a new set of Illinois laws. The laws, aimed at getting more students to graduate
high school, require students to stay in school until age 17.
That year could make a difference for 16 year olds who think dropping
out of school is the answer for them.
Illinois had not changed its age requirements for attending school
(ages 6-16) since 1883. The change is part of a nationwide trend.
With dropout rates nationally holding steady - fluctuating between 10.9
to 12.5 percent - over the last decade, states are beginning to raise
the age students must attend school. New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, New York, Texas and Vermont recently raised their attendance
age. While its 4.9 percent dropout rate is far below the national average,
Illinois has joined the movement, although it's not a leader.
Indiana, and Ohio do not allow students to quit school until age 18.
Locally, dropout rates averaged over the past three years fall below
the state average, with the exception of GalesburgSchool
6.9 percent from 2000-2003. ROWVASchool District has the area's lowest dropout rate during that period
at 1.3 percent.
The cons of dropping out of school are well documented, according to
the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, which provides research
to educators and policymakers in Illinois, Indiana,
Minnesota, Ohio and
High school dropouts earn an average of $6,415 less per year than those
who graduate high school. A study in 1998 found unemployment among dropouts
was 28.2 percent.
Will requiring students to stay in school a year longer help?
Local administrators had mixed responses to the question in a Register-Mail
story published Saturday. Monmouth School District Superintendent Don
Daily expects the number of expulsions to increase because of the new
age requirement. And that appears to be the downside of the new requirement.
Students who want to drop out at age 16 but can't might simply cause
trouble one year longer, creating a distraction that saps time from
teachers and principals, therein inhibiting the learning of other students.
However, getting problem students out of school often simply sends the
problems into society for a lifetime. The National Dropout Prevention
Network reports that 80 percent of prisoners in America are high school dropouts.
And dropouts don't bear their burdens alone. A 1987 study found dropouts
are more likely to have health problems, engage in criminal activities
and become dependent on welfare and other government-related programs.
A 1985 study by J.S. Catterall at StanfordUniversity estimated each year's class of dropouts will cost the
country over $200 billion during their lifetimes in lost earnings and
unrealized tax revenue.
The issue of dropouts is complex and won't be solved by simply raising
the dropout age. But raising the age could help. Sixteen year olds are
not adults. Though we do trust them to drive, we don't allow them to
vote, drink or fight for their country. We shouldn't trust them with
a decision as important as whether to stay in school; the consequences
are too great.
Students who want to drop out of school often suffer from a lack the
parental guidance. Keeping potential dropouts in school another year
increases the odds that they will find the guidance missing in their
lives, maybe from a teacher, a coach, a principal or another student.
Keeping potential dropouts in school one year longer makes sense and
could help more students reach graduation.
The classrooms at CommunityHigh
evoked a business start-up in the days leading up to Wednesday's opening.
Teachers dubbed one space "the war room." Instructors brainstormed
in small groups. Not all the furniture was in place.
The five teachers working to launch this new school hope their passion
for non-conventional education will carry them through the inevitable
glitches that await in the weeks ahead. Their
curriculum will take kids into the community through a variety of service
projects while continuing to teach them the basics.
Dartel De La Rosa, who started at Community High Wednesday, thinks the
teachers can pull it off.
"They have a lot of energy," the 14-year-old said. "I
think they are young at heart."
Over the next two years, hundreds of new, small high schools are expected
to open across the country, many of them founded upon a similar youthful
idealism. The national movement has taken root in Boston, Cleveland,
Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego
and many other cities and states.
In Milwaukee alone, dozens of schools will open over the next five
years, with several taking the place of large, comprehensive high schools.
Educators believe this more personalized approach will keep more kids
For the district, though, the challenges continue to mount:
Where will all of them be located? How can they offer diverse courses
and extracurricular activities? How can so many new high school administrators
be trained? Even if you can split a large school into pieces, how do
you transform the culture?
And how do you enlist the critics - the ones who have seen other reforms
come and go - and who doubt the staying power of the idea?
Those concerns do nothing to dampen the optimism found on the bustling
floor at Community High. Roxane Mayeur, an art teacher, said she is
grateful for the districtwide effort that helped nurture her school.
Otherwise, she said, "It probably would have remained a dream."
Other small schools
About 250 new high schools are opening in 30 states this fall, according
to officials at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helps
foot the bill for planning the new schools in Milwaukee and many other cities.
In Milwaukee, three new programs created last year in North Division
opened as fully autonomous schools this week for freshmen and sophomores.
Washington High will organize into three "academies" this
year, which will become separate schools in the fall of 2005. South
Division will take a more moderate approach, creating three academies
for students that will remain under the same administrative umbrella
for the next few years.
Other small schools scheduled to open over the next couple of years
will focus on subjects as varied as sign language, the science of aviation
and sports education and management.
"When we submitted our proposal for funding, we suggested opening
61 schools in five years," said Dan Grego, who is leading the effort
to provide support for many of the new schools. "Some people thought
that was crazy. But we are only one year into it and are working with
De La Rosa, who chose CommunityHigh School over Bay View, said the smaller size was a selling point.
"It's easier to communicate with people and you can bond with more
of them," he said.
But Christian Albouras, a 17-year-old who attends SouthDivisionHigh
said he hopes the three programs at South never become separate schools.
"I think it would feel weird if there was only like a hundred kids
in my academy," he said. "It seems more fun and diverse to
be in a big school instead of saying, 'You have to stay in this little
Weaving social issues
Community High, at 234 W. Galena St., was born out of a series of conversations between teachers
at Vincent and Rufus King high schools. The teachers had been talking
for some time about how to weave social issues into the high school
curriculum; two of them had run an after-school program together.
"We had to do all of it outside of school," Mayeur said. "We
wanted an environment where we could do it consistently."
Teachers hope the freshmen starting at Community this fall will participate
in projects like getting voters to the polls or in a program called
Street Law, where they will learn how to conduct trials.
"We want them to walk away empowered to make changes, to understand
that they have the capability to change their own future and enrich
the lives of people around them," Mayeur said. "I think other
high schools can do this, but small schools have the opportunity to
get to know students better and help them make decisions that are tailored
Community has about 90 students and five teachers. Through the Gates
Foundation, the school received grants totaling $200,000. Community,
a charter school, is structured as a teacher cooperative, meaning the
teachers make all of the decisions together and each has administrative
"Every day we find out things that we don't know about, but need
to understand," Mayeur said. "We've been learning the politics
behind starting a school and trying to stay one foot ahead of the game."
Finding a space for the school was one of the hurdles. The teachers
wanted to be close to downtown, but in a diverse neighborhood. The school
will only be at the Galena
St. location for a year.
"We really risked the school not happening," Mayeur said.
"We had to hang in there and get a site that matched our vision."
A few officials worry that, districtwide, the vision is moving too fast.
Tom Balistreri, a School Board member, said he supports trying reform
with "a reasonable number of schools," but not dozens. Balistreri
also believes most high schools need at least one experienced administrator.
"The schools have not been set up for success, and there's no evidence
that they are going to have a higher level of achievement," he
And some are concerned about what may be given up.
John Schissler, a retired teacher from Marshall who coordinates the school's alumni association, said
that "obviously having taught at Marshall for 32 years, and having so many fond memories, I would
prefer to see the status quo."
About five new schools are scheduled to open in the Marshall building in fall 2005, although they will continue to
play together on the athletic field. The teams will keep the Marshall name.
"I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to cost more money,"
Schissler said. "I know they've tried it in New York and a few other large cities, but after 32 years teaching
in MPS, all the new programs they've tried to implement, unfortunately,
have gone awry, especially as soon as the money dries up."
But Charles Siebert, the principal of South Division, said MPS administrators
have allowed schools to try different approaches. "This wasn't
something that was rammed down anyone's throat," he said.
The change certainly wasn't forced on Meg Stahler. After attending Greendale public schools, the 14-year-old chose to transfer to Community High this
fall using the Chapter 220 program, which allows minority students in
the city to attend suburban schools, and white students in the suburbs
to attend schools in Milwaukee.
"I really wanted to be at CommunityHigh
she said. "I think it's totally different than any other school."
Stahler said she is looking forward to the hands-on curriculum and a
combined art and English class.
"It will make you think instead of just giving you pages to read,"
she said. "Not everyone is made for a suburban school. I don't
mean offense. Some people do well in them. But not everyone is made
to be standardized."
WASHINGTON -- President Bush is promising to make secondary schools
a priority in a second term, broadening an education agenda that critics
say has left high schools behind.
Bush, who made raising achievement among young children the centerpiece
of his domestic agenda, is putting new emphasis on the preparation older
students get for college or work.
"In our high schools, we will fund early intervention programs
to help students at risk," Bush said Thursday in accepting his
party's nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York City. "We will place a new focus on math and science.
As we make progress, we will require a rigorous exam before graduation."
Bush announced he wants to require states to test students annually
in reading and math in grades three through 11. That's an expansion
of the law he signed in 2002, which requires those tests in grades three
through eight, and at least once during grades 10 to 12.
The two additional years of tests would come with $250 million a year,
The idea, part of the second-term vision Bush outlined, reflects his
recent campaign message of giving a high school diploma more meaning.
The focus on high school grades is a natural extension of the No Child
Left Behind law, Bush aides say, which called for higher achievement
of all students, but particularly younger ones, minorities and poor
Bush's move also comes as education officials are sounding the alarm
that high school -- the gateway to college or work -- has been overlooked.
His rival, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, has campaigned
on high school reform and criticized Bush for failing to enforce his
own law's monitoring of graduation rates.
"They should be focusing on high schools," said Kati Haycock,
director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for poor
and minority children. "It's the part of the education system that's
been least well attended to by federal policy and by the states."
Among Bush's new proposals:
--$500 million for states and school districts to reward teachers whose
students show increases in achievement.
--$200 million for schools to use eighth-grade test data to develop
performance plans for students entering high school.
--$125 million to expand community college programs, including dual-enrollment
courses that allow high-school students to earn college credit.
Kerry's campaign responded by accusing Bush of breaking his word on
education by requesting $27 billion less than his education law authorized.
Such shortfalls have prevented schools from meeting the law and drawn
protests nationwide, the campaign says.
A string of studies has raised awareness recently about high school
woes, describing students without skills for college or work, graduation
exams that lack clarity or rigor, and graduation rates that are far
less rosy than the ones the government reports.
"We need to radically rethink what we're doing at high school,"
said Naomi Housman, coordinator of the National High School Alliance,
a coalition of 46 organizations. "We have to think about what the
purpose is. If we just improve it in isolation of what the work force
needs and what higher education is looking for, that's ridiculous."
Bush is promising more money for the State Scholars program, which requires
tougher high school courses, and college aid money for poor students
who enroll in it. He's also proposing programs to help students struggling
with math, to expand Advanced Placement access for poorer students,
and to lure private-sector workers into teaching math and science.
Bush's approval rating on education is the lowest since he took office,
according to the Gallup Tuesday Briefing, a subscription service run
by the polling firm.
Gallup found 47 percent of adults approve of the way Bush is
handling education, down nine percentage points since January and 18
points since shortly after he took office in 2001. Those attitudes may
reflect more about political polarization in the country as the election
nears than they do views about Bush's education plan, the Gallup briefing said.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act authorized the greatest expansion
of educational opportunity for low-income and minority students in 50
years. Among its dramatic reforms, the law gives students previously
trapped in chronically failing schools the right to transfer to higher-performing
schools. This ticket out of bad schools applies to more than 12 million
students nationwide and 400,000 students in New
To help make this a reality, President Bush increased federal education
funding dramatically - a staggering 69% in New YorkState.
The law and its transfer provision represent a great move forward. Parents
are impatient with school bureaucrats who plead endlessly for more time
and more money. They shouldn't be expected to sacrifice their children
a single day longer.
Yet three years after the law was approved, Schools Chancellor Joel
Klein has decided he simply is not going to comply. Last year, the Department
of Education authorized just 7,000 children to transfer to better schools,
out of an eligible pool of 400,000. This year, rather than increasing
the number of students getting transfers, Klein has artificially - and
illegally - capped transfers to fewer than 1,000 students.
What no one is admitting is that the better public schools do not want
the tougher-to-educate children and have been pressuring Klein to stop
the transfers. So, after decades of "public" educators accusing
charter schools and private schools of "creaming" the best
students, their own dirty little secret is out. The district school
recipe for success apparently is hoarding the good students and, like
modern-day Orville Faubuses, they stand in the doorway, blocking new
By refusing to switch students out of failing schools into better schools,
the city is marking each one of them for educational failure. In a sense,
the city is shipping off these children to an educational Siberia.
For the sake of these trapped children, the chancellor should reverse
himself and let the transfers go forward. It's the right thing to do.
If Klein refuses, New York Education Commissioner Richard Mills should
Carroll is president and Brooks is senior research associate of the
Foundation for Educational Reform and Accountability, based in Albany.
Less than a quarter of students in Arizona high schools attend physical education classes daily.
At the state's elementary schools, children go to PE class an average
of twice a week, not every day like when their gym teachers were kids.
Getting kids up and moving
900: Hours per year that the average American youth spends in school.
1,023: Hours per year that the average American youth watches television.
5%: American children who were seriously overweight in 1964.
13%: American children who were seriously overweight in 1994.
4 hours, 41 minutes: Average time per day American children spent in
front of a screen of some kind.
1 in 12: Chance that an American parent requires children to do their
homework before watching TV.
54%: 4- to 6-year-olds who, when asked, would rather watch TV than spend
time with their fathers.
Source: TV-Turnoff Network in Washington, D.C., 2000
Educators and health officials blame the decline in PE, and other electives
such as music and art, on the pressure for schools to score better on
standardized tests and to do well in state and federal rankings. Some
schools are even cutting recess so kids have more time for academics.
"My feeling is, we're going to have a bunch of kids with their
heads filled with all sorts of facts, and they'll read beautifully,
but they'll all be dead at the age of 50," said Robert Pangrazi,
an ArizonaStateUniversity professor emeritus and creator of the popular P.L.A.Y.
program, or "Promoting Lifetime Activity for Youth."
With the lack of PE coupled with hours spent glued to TV and easy access
to junk food, it's no wonder kids are so fat.
About 15 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 are considered overweight, three
times as many as in 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta.
"We've got to get them moving," said Curt Jablin, a PE teacher
at North Canyon High in Phoenix and PE coordinator for the Paradise Valley Unified District.
He is among the growing number of PE teachers nationwide, many of them
trained by Pangrazi, who have given up dodge ball, wind sprints, and
the Presidential Fitness Test in favor of activities that will last
kids through their adult lives.
Now kids are learning about nutrition, karate, yoga, skating, jumping
rope and tennis. There's little of the stuff today's parents remember
from their childhood gym classes: agonizing rope climbs, square dancing
or waiting anxiously to be picked for a team and praying not to be last.
"Team sports are great but how many people participate in team
sports as adults on a regular basis? Not many," said Jablin, president-elect
of the Arizona Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation
But the change in thinking about PE and the way it's taught is reaching
its peak at a time when fewer kids are getting the chance to try it
The state requires health and PE education in kindergarten through Grade
8 and such education is needed to graduate from high school, said Holly
Mohr, program director of school health and nutrition services at the
Department of Education. The state does not mandate the number of classes
per week or the number or credits given. That's up to school districts.
Because the state standards are so vague, PE offerings vary from district
to district, said Renae Cunnien, program manager for obesity prevention
at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"At the junior high and high school level, it has become an elective
class for a lot of kids," she said. And many schools allow kids
to opt out of PE if they are involved in other activities.
Physical activity guidelines written for the National Association for
Sport and Physical Education by Pangrazi and fellow ASU Professor Charles
Corbin recommend at least 150 minutes per week of PE for elementary
students and at least 225 minutes per week for middle and high school
Cutting gym classes
Educators and health officials agree that children who are physically
active are more alert in class, feel better about themselves,
eat healthier and are less likely to abuse drugs.
But, "the push is on academics, and schools have to respond to
that," said Rob Barnes, an assistant principal at CentralHigh
He thinks it's a shame that fewer students take electives because of
the emphasis on academics, a phenomenon occurring nationwide.
Barnes encourages kids to take advantage of the school's gym and weight
room, telling them that grown-ups pay a lot of money for gym memberships.
Not many students do.
Sometimes, the students don't have a choice. When school budgets are
tight, Cunnien said, often the first things to go are elective courses:
art, music, PE.
Pangrazi said most Arizona schools have good PE programs with well-trained instructors
but the children don't get to go often enough.
"We're taking the most active element of our species - the little
folks - and making them sit forever," he said. "It's contrary
to the organisms."
In 2003, 22 percent of Arizona
high school students reported that they attended a daily PE class, according
to the state's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Thirty-six percent attended
gym class one or more days during the week.
Officials do not track that same information for Arizona elementary schools. But, nationwide, 8 percent of elementary
schools and 6 percent of middle and high schools offer PE daily. Only
Illinois requires daily PE for all kids.
In June, President Bush signed a bill that, in part, requires all schools
have a wellness policy that includes physical education by 2006-07.
Arizona is in a good position to comply with the requirement.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has ordered districts
to adopt wellness policies by July 2006, as part of his healthy school
The number of U.S. schools "in need of improvement" under
President Bush's education law is smaller than forecast, but experts
question whether that means the children got smarter or the rules got
The No Child Left Behind law, enacted in 2002, demanded that all schools
show "adequate yearly progress." Scores on state tests must
gradually improve until 2014, when all students in grades three through
eight and one grade in high school must read and do math proficiently.
Schools also must show progress for poor, disabled and minority students.
Many observers predicted that as standards rose, the number of flagged
schools would rise to 50%. But this fall, as states report scores, the
number of schools "in need of improvement" is actually shrinking
in many states.
Nationwide last year, 32% of public schools made the list, which triggers
requirements to offer free tutoring or transportation to another public
school. Some schools might even be restaffed or shuttered.
In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, Education
Secretary Rod Paige said results show that "No Child Left Behind
is working. All across America, test scores are rising."
But some officials say credit for the dropping number of schools "in
need of improvement" doesn't just go to rising achievement. Other
factors include a focus on test-taking skills, new regulations that
allow schools to exempt more students' scores, and more students taking
required tests. Some schools were deemed inadequate because not enough
students took exams.
"This is not really a result of an increase in student performance,"
says Scott Young of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which
is compiling the state totals.
In many states, school districts took advantage of changes last spring
that allowed them to exempt the test scores of more disabled students
and those with limited English skills.
"We appreciated the flexibility," says Tom Watkins, Michigan's Superintendent of Public Instruction.
But where some see flexibility, others see political maneuvering.
Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington advocacy group, and others note that the changes coincide
with the presidential race.
Bush administration officials deny that election considerations softened
"From Day One we have been in a position where if you show too
much flexibility you're watering down the law (and) if you don't show
too much flexibility it's 'one-size-fits-all,' " Education Undersecretary
Eugene Hickok says. "The bottom line is,
kids are learning. We think it's very good news."
Houston may create school
for immigrants only Pam Easton, Sun-Times,
HOUSTON -- Houston school officials have proposed a school designed specifically
for immigrants, including flexible yearlong schedules, accelerated credit
programs and weekend classes.
''Many of these students walk into our high schools and know little
or no English,'' interim Houston Supt. Abe Saavedra said Tuesday at
LeeHigh School, where students from 70 countries speak 42 languages.
''Immigrant students need more support than conventional schools can
The proposed school, which will be voted on Thursday by the HoustonIndependentSchool
board, would offer weekend classes, customized instruction and ''whatever
we have to do to make sure these kids graduate,'' Saavedra said.
Antonio Cruz, a 17-year-old who arrived from Mexico two years ago and who left school to help his family,
is just the kind of person Houston
educators have in mind. Cruz now works the overnight shift as a janitor.
''They are not making enough money to make ends meet,'' Cruz, speaking
in Spanish, said of his relatives. ''I would like to continue to study.
I am happy this new school will open up soon.''
Cruz said the new school would allow him to attend classes in the afternoon
and evening before going to work. He hopes to earn his diploma and eventually
become a police officer.
The school would open in 2005 to about 125 students, eventually growing
to about 250, Saavedra said. The Houston district has about 12,000 immigrant students.
In Texas, students may attend public schools through age 21,
and Lee High principal Steve Amstutz said it
is the older immigrant students who could most benefit.
Schools elsewhere in the country have experimented with similar ideas,
including in New
Chicago, which traditionally have had flexible high school schedules
for immigrants, according to Lou Desipio, an associate political science
professor who specializes in immigrant issues at the University of California at Irvine.
Last month, the Texas Education Agency restored the Houston district's ''academically acceptable'' rating. The rating
is based on dropout rates and standardized test scores and reflects
whether schools are performing adequately. The district had lost its
accountability rating a year earlier when an investigation by the Texas
Education Agency found improperly reported dropout data.
Law works against
Letter by Jonathan Steinhoff, elementary school teacher in Northeast Portland, Oregonian, 9/8/04
As the school year begins, let's remember some news from this summer.
Statewide school report cards came out with mixed results. Shortly thereafter,
available data from charter schools came out. They were far worse.
Charter schools are the proto-public schools that are promoted in the
No Child Left Behind law as one of the remedies for saving "failing"
public schools. Now we see that they cannot live up to NCLB standards.
Ironically, charter schools are not mandated by the federal law to hire
"highly qualified" teachers or even test their students as
the regular public schools must. Those that administer state tests are
required to do so by the districts that approve their charters.
Yet, Rod Paige, secretary of education, who has stated that "placing
a highly qualified teacher in every classroom is one of the cornerstones
of No Child Left Behind," now defends charter schools.
In saying that charter schools need time to prove themselves and that
there are many ways to evaluate their successes other than test scores,
Paige uses the very arguments that public school defenders use when
criticizing NCLB. With double standards like this, it is becoming increasingly
obvious that this law is setting up our schools for "failure."
THE No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed
into law January
8, 2002. Its stated
purpose is to ensure that all students attain proficiency in reading
by the third grade, and in mathematics and science by the eighth grade.
Each state creates standards in these subjects, and all students are
tested each year in grades three through eight in reading and mathematics.
Students are also tested in science three times during their school
years, including once in high school.
These goals are to be achieved using "scientifically based' programs
Sounds good, doesn't it?
A nation of literate high school graduates, skilled in math and science,
well prepared to enter college, striving for high-tech careers in our
But where are the arts? Did they fall off the face of the Earth? Are
music, art, dance, and drama merely "fluff,' nice to have in the
schools, but certainly not necessary for a child's education?
As an arts advocate with two degrees in art history, I believe that
NCLB's exclusion of arts education, especially in the elementary schools,
does our children a grave disservice. It assumes that all children learn
the same way and at the same pace, through "scientifically based'
But children are unique, and they learn in their own way, whether it
be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Studies have shown that
children who play a musical instrument are more skilled in mathematics.
Art teaches concepts of color, shape, depth, line and balance. Dance
puts children in touch with movement, patterns and coordination. Drama
students learn language and public speaking skills.
Schools that have unilaterally included arts education in addition to
NCLB have seen a significant rise in their children's test scores.
I think not.
Granted, the absolute need to teach our children to read and be proficient
in math and science should be paramount. What I object to is the attitude
that the arts are "nice to have' but certainly not necessary to
graduate an educated person.
NCLB's approach is too narrow and totally focused on the sciences. We
need a more balanced approach, where the arts are an integral part of
the curriculum, contributing to and enhancing the admirable goal of
leaving no child behind.
An example in Philadelphia Washington Times Editorial, 9/9/04
Education, the domestic cornerstone of the Bush presidency, has been
a constant source of debate. When George W. Bush campaigned for the
White House in 2000, he used the phrase No Child Left Behind to describe
his education-reform initiative. After that initiative became law, congressional
Democrats, teacher's unions and some governors accused the president
of failing to sufficiently fund his own proposal. There were other criticisms
as well despite the fact that NCLB was developed to increase student
achievement, mandate accountability, offer states more flexibility in
spending and grant parents more options for their children. While NCLB
was not designed to spend more federal money on schools, the Bush administration
has done precisely that, increasing overall funding by 48 percent since
fiscal 2001 (including a 75 percent increase in special education programs
and a 52 percent rise in funding for disadvantaged students). More importantly,
though, NCLB is producing the academic effects that the Bush administration
While school districts around the country are taking small steps, Philadelphia is taking big leaps. Consider this brief timeline: In
2000, then-Gov. Tom Ridge brought in a private company to help redirect
Philadelphia schools. In 2001, Philadelphia launched the largest school-reform project in modern
history. In 2002, a new reform panel identified scores of schools with
low test scores. In 2003, more than 200 of Philadelphia's 265 schools failed to meet the yearly progress standards
set by No Child Left Behind. In 2004, school authorities managed, in
one short school year, to produce significant academic progress: 160
schools met the mark or surpassed academic goals.
How did Philadelphians do it? First, they turned their backs on the
status quo and figured out how to finance their school reform plans
by leveraging state and, most importantly, federal dollars. They implemented
plans that were historically unprecedented in that they turned 45 schools
over to the hands of for-profit and not-for-profit groups. The results:
Not only did a majority of schools utilize NCLB to push for and achieve
greater percentages of students scoring proficient or above in reading
and math, but there was also a decrease in the percentage of students
scoring below basic.
As for claims by Democrats and the National Education Association that
NCLB is an unfunded mandate, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Pennsylvania and other states and local school districts failed to
spend $5.7 billion in federal school money in fiscal 2000, 2001 and
2002. Pennsylvania reportedly had nearly $44 million in unspent Title I
Philadelphia is arguably the best example of what Mr. Bush meant
when he first said that wise spending and effective leadership can help
ensure that no child is left behind. The fact that states had so much
federal school money on their hands and that they could not even spend
it all should debunk the myth that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded
Washington Times left facts behind
Media Matters for America, 9/10/04
A Washington Times editorial published on September 9 misleadingly claimed
that under President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education
program, "Pennsylvania and other states and local school districts failed to
spend $5.7 billion in federal school money in fiscal 2000, 2001 and
Federal regulations regarding the appropriation of money for education
make the appearance of overfunding nearly inevitable, but much of the
$5.7 billion that the Times claims was returned to the U.S. Treasury
Department may yet be spent. As Media Matters for America noted on August 10, after FOX News Channel host Bill
O'Reilly made a similar misleading claim about education funding, the
law gives states at least 27 months to spend federal education money.
According to a July 12 press release from the House Committee on Education
and the Workforce Democratic staff, states spent 99.5 percent of federal
K-12 education money allocated for fiscal year 1998, the most recent
year for which all relevant deadlines for state expenditures of federal
education money have passed.
Moreover, the Times' assertion that the apparent surplus "should
debunk the myth that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded federal mandate"
ignores the budgetary shortfalls that have occurred as a result of the
legislation. As MMFA has noted, a House Committee on Education and the
Workforce Democratic staff report shows that the president's budget
for 2005 provides $9.4 billion less for NCLB programs than was authorized
for them by Congress. According to the report, this would be the "3rd
straight time" that NCLB programs would be denied "promised
resources" since the act was signed into law two years ago. The
National Education Association estimates that fully funding the burdens
placed on local educational agencies by NCLB would cost $18 billion
more than Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2004.
shortage has impact
Rural schools particularly hard hit
6, 2004 DAYTON, Ohio -- Ken Smith spends hours on the road, sometimes skips
lunch and works at home in the evening to catch up with paperwork.
That's the life of a school psychologist who serves 30 elementary and
"There has been a shortage of school psychologists in southern
Ohio," said Smith, 43, who works in two rural counties
around the southern Ohio city of Portsmouth. "We definitely need more. Day to day -- that's
what we're dealing with."
The problem isn't limited to Ohio.
Kathy Cowan, spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists,
said there is a serious shortage of school psychologists nationwide,
especially in rural areas.
An association survey done in 2000 found there were between 25,000 and
30,000 school psychologists. The group estimated in 2002 that only about
one-third of the nation's school districts had at least one psychologist
for every 1,000 students, the minimum the association recommends.
As a result, experts say the shortage of school psychologists in rural
areas is making it tougher for districts to meet federal academic standards.
They say school psychologists help students with learning disabilities
and those who respond to different teaching styles or techniques.
"One of the main jobs of school psychologists is to find ways to
help students not able to achieve academically," said Sawyer Hunley,
assistant professor of psychology at the University of Dayton.
"Without that assistance, teachers are pretty much left on their
But attracting people to rural areas is difficult.
Peter Currer, an assistant superintendent for ModocCounty in rural northern California is looking for a school psychologist to help the other
two who travel the county's 5,000 square miles. One drives three hours
a day to spend five hours with students.
"I started looking for a credentialed psychologist and I will be
lucky to find a student intern," Currer said. "It's hard to
make a match with someone who wants a rural, remote lifestyle. We're
100 miles from a Wal-Mart. We're 100 miles from a McDonald's."
That translates into less support for children and their families, Currer
"When you're dealing with a child with significant behavior problems
and their behavior is interfering with their ability to make progress,
the school psychologist is the best resource," said Ruth Fodness,
who spent 14 years working as a school psychologist in rural South Dakota, driving up to 200 miles a day to meet with students
at different schools.
Attracting and retaining school psychologists became such a problem
in northwest Ohio's rural MercerCounty that officials came up with a creative fix three years
"We weren't finding good people that wanted to be in rural Ohio," said Superintendent Eugene Linton.
So officials identified people with local roots who
worked in the schools and were interested in becoming school psychologists.
The district paid part of their tuition at the University of Dayton
in exchange for their agreement to intern at MercerCounty schools and then work there for at least five years.
"Most of them want to stay here anyway, so the five-year commitment
is no problem," Linton said.
The shortage in southeast Ohio has
prompted three universities to join forces to establish a training center
there. MarshallUniversity, the University of Dayton
and ShawneeStateUniversity will begin offering a psychology program in Portsmouth next year.
Ken Smith said he would welcome a fresh supply of school psychologists
to boost his five-person staff. He's sure teachers would too.
"There is no one else out there that has the training we do as
far as testing and assessment," he said. "And I do very little
counseling because the testing requirements of the job do not give me
AUSTIN - High school students in Houston and elsewhere may not learn about preventing pregnancy
and disease in proposed new textbooks that teach abstinence exclusively.
The proposed new books were the subject of emotional debate Wednesday
during the final of two public hearings before the State Board of Education.
More than 300 people signed up to speak about the books, which will
be voted on by the Education Board in November.
Critics of the books, which will replace 11-year-old texts, said that
they lack a discussion of condoms and contraception in violation of
the curriculum requirement that health books "analyze the effectiveness
and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods."
For example, Holt, Rinehart and Winston's Lifetime Health lists 10 steps
for students to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
The use of latex condoms is not one of them. Students are advised, however,
to get plenty of rest.
Supporters of the books said that local school districts have the option
to use supplemental materials that discuss ways for sexually active
teens to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease.
has an "abstinence-plus" program, which means that classes
discuss contraceptives and birth control in middle and high schools,
The main high school textbook, Making Life Choices, and the teaching
stress that abstinence is best to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted
diseases and teen pregnancy. But students are instructed on various
contraceptive methods, reliability rates of each and how to access other
HISD emphasized that parents have the right to remove their child from
any part of the district's human sexuality instruction.
The district is considering adding or expanding four after-school sex
education programs, including one called "Sex Can Wait." Some
of the programs are abstinence-only and others are abstinence-plus.
The Austin hearing featured testimony from parents, students, doctors
and teachers. One speaker prayed for the removal from office of public
officials who support comprehensive sex education.
Outside the state office building where the hearing was held, a dozen
people held signs urging motorists to "honk for sex ed."
Several lawmakers were among those testifying.
Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, praised the books for omitting information
about contraceptives. He said those decisions should be made by local
school boards as the "best way to have parental involvement."
Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, urged the education board to reject
all four proposed books as not meeting curriculum requirements.
"It is a sad day in our state when we rank first nationally in
the number of teenage pregnancies but we are on the verge of approving
health textbooks that do not mention contraceptive methods," Farrar
Citing statistics from the Texas Department of Health, Farrar said there
were more than 16,000 births to teenage mothers in 2002.
Supporters of abstinence-only programs said they need to be given time
"Years of comprehensive sex education have failed. A double message
blurs the direct abstinence approach," said Anne Newman, director
of policy for The Justice Foundation, a San Antonio-based group that
supports limited government and parental rights.
Katrina Ramos had difficulty keeping her class under control when she
first started teaching at HiramJohnsonHigh
three years ago.
Her students were defiant and talked back to her, making it difficult
to teach, the special education teacher said. So she opted to take advantage
of a local program, receiving the training necessary to make individual
The result: Her classroom's behavior turned around in no time.
"I think home visits help to form a partnership between families
and their schools," said Ramos. "It helped us to make a connection."
Thanks to a $60,000 donation from the national and state teachers unions,
Sacramento City Unified's innovative Home Visit Project kicked off its
eighth year Wednesday with school board members and administrators accompanying
teachers on after-school visits.
School board President Jay Schenirer said home visits are integral to
improving student achievement, especially in struggling schools.
"Parent engagement is an important factor in student success,"
The Home Visit Project was founded in 1996 as a joint effort by Area
Congregations Together, the SacramentoCityUnifiedSchool
and the Sacramento City Teachers Association.
The school district paid interested teachers their regular hourly wage
to conduct the home visits after school and on weekends. The goal: to
get to know parents and students on a more personal level so that all
sides would feel comfortable communicating if problems or issues cropped
Principals reported improved attendance, behavior and test scores at
schools that opted to participate.
The program flourished and became a statewide and national model. Sacramento teachers have trained more than 1,000 fellow educators
throughout California and 10 other states, said Carrie Rose, director of the
nonprofit Home Visit Project.
In 2000, state Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, authored legislation that allocated
millions to fund teacher home visits; however, that funding fell victim
to this year's budget cuts, Rose said.
The National Education Association stepped in with a $30,000 donation
to pay for the continued training of teachers nationwide; the California
Teachers Association matched the donation with $30,000 to pay the wages
of local teachers who conduct home visits.
Marcie Launey, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association,
said she is glad to see the Home Visit Project continue.
Teachers in the district have worked hard to align class curricula to
rigorous academic standards mandated by the state, and schools have
seen improvement, she said.
But recent test scores indicate that progress has reached a plateau,
"The next step is to bridge the gap between home and school because
teachers cannot do it alone," she said. "We need cooperation
Studies have shown that regardless of socioeconomic factors, students
in schools with high rates of parent involvement do better academically,
"Teachers say that home visits help them know their school community
in a way that they haven't before," she said.
For parents, having a teacher in their home helps dispel some of the
mystery and fear associated with school, said Jocelyn Graves, a single
mother of two and member of ACT who helped found the Home Visit Project.
"Schools were a battleground, with parents blaming teachers and
teachers blaming parents for any problems," Graves
said. "Home visits helped accomplish communication and make the
Graves credits home visits for helping her son graduate from
"I found out he was failing, but because of home visits I knew
how to connect with the teacher," she said. "I wasn't afraid
to find help, and figure out how to get him the credits he needed to
Home visits helped teacher Shana Amerine relate to her students at FernBaconMiddle
on a different level.
"It allowed me to understand their home environment and get to
know them as people, not just students," she said.
For many students, seeing their teachers make an extra effort encourages
them to try harder, said teacher Ramos.
"I think many of the students feel that if we're coming to their
house, we must really care about them," she said.
Warner Plans Drive
To Reform U.S. Schools
As Head of Group, Governor Urges Changes in 12th Grade
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael D. Shear, Washington Post Staff Writers, 9/10/04
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said yesterday that his major initiative
as chairman of the National Governors Association will be a campaign
to reform American high schools and make the senior year more meaningful.
Speaking at FairfaxCounty's GeorgeC. MarshallHigh
Warner called 12th grade "one of the most important transition
years in education" but said too many seniors slack off and waste
As one cure for "senior slump," Warner said, seniors should
be allowed to receive college credit, thus saving some of their college
tuition and trimming states' higher education budgets. He said he expects
to announce a deal soon in which Virginia's public universities will accept credit for a set of
common classes offered at community colleges.
In addition, Warner said better partnerships between schools and business
groups would allow more students to gain industry certifications in
high school if they plan to go directly to work.
"Whether you're college-bound or career-bound, we need to make
sure the senior year is much more valuable," he said.
Warner, who took over as head of the bipartisan governors association
in July, plans to hold town hall meetings on high school reform in the
next year and convene an education summit with U.S. governors in February.
By the time the association has its annual meeting next summer, he said,
the group will have surveyed 10,000 high school students about their
thoughts on reform.
Besides providing an outline of his plans, the announcement was another
chance for Warner to take the national stage as the clock runs out on
his four-year term as governor.
He is prohibited by law from serving two consecutive terms. His political
allies say he could be tapped for a Cabinet position if Sen. John F.
Kerry wins the White House. Warner could run again for the U.S. Senate.
He lost his first Senate race in 1996.
As chairman of the governors association, Warner hopes to export his
reputation for bipartisan, businesslike governance on a wider scale.
It has worked in Virginia, where his successful collaboration with moderate Republicans
during this year's tax fight boosted his soaring approval ratings.
Advisers say the governor's push to reform the senior year of high school
gives him the opportunity to do what he does best: apply common sense
ideas to a vexing problem. He said yesterday he hopes to bring "tangible,
real solutions that can be implemented in a short period of time"
to high school reform.
The largely nonpartisan issue also allows Warner to play down politics.
He will be joined by two Republicans -- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft -- as well as Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci (D)
on a task force to flesh out his ideas. President Bush also has called
for raising performance in high schools, letting Warner declare that
the issue will be a focus in Washington no matter who is elected in November.
Gerald Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary
School Principals, said he is thrilled that Warner is putting a national
spotlight on high schools, which he called the "stepchild of the
school reform movement."
Warner made his announcement to an audience of educators, policymakers
and students. Marshall High School is the alma mater of his wife, Lisa
Collis, and before he left, a school official cracked open a high school
yearbook so Warner could see her senior photo.
He fielded questions from about 30 Marshallseniors, whose suggestions
ranged from reserving more spots at top public colleges for in-state
students to implementing a high school nap time.
He told the students that Marshall,
with its array of advanced courses as well as an in-school academy aimed
at students enrolled in career and technical education, represents the
best of Virginia schools. His education initiative also allows him to
continue courting poor and rural communities, where such varied programs
for seniors don't exist. Warner's success in wooing those parts of Virginia helped him win the governorship in 2001.
Robert G. Templin Jr., president of NorthernVirginiaCommunity
said giving students access to higher education earlier -- which could
allow many to graduate from college in less than four years -- is a
practical necessity as experts predict that far more students are preparing
to apply to college than space will allow.
"The question looms before us," Templin said, "where
will our children go to college?"
A plan to expand college credit sounded like a good idea to Robert Carlson,
17, one of the students who spoke with Warner. He fears that his top
choice colleges, including DukeUniversity and the University of Virginia, will not honor the advanced classes he is taking at Marshall. "I'm doing six hours of homework a night and getting
five hours of sleep, and there's no college credit for it," he
StateBacksSchool District Secession Bid
Panel OKs a local vote on a neighborhood's proposal to split from Centinela Valley
By Jean Merl, Los
Times Staff Writer, 9/10/04
The state Board of Education handed a key victory to leaders in a small
SouthBay elementary school district Thursday by authorizing a
local vote on their effort to split from the CentinelaValleyUnionHighSchool
The board's vote, unanimous except for one abstention, gives voters
in the 2,000-student WiseburnSchool
just south of Los
AngelesInternationalAirport, the final say in whether to add a high school to their
strong-performing system, which spans kindergarten through eighth grade.
"This means we can provide our children with a better opportunity,"
John R. Peterson, one of the leaders of the secession campaign, said
shortly after the board's vote.
The election will be held in March, and, if voters approve the measure,
officials expect to open a high school for Wiseburn no later than fall,
2006. Officials said they could start with a campus currently leased
to a youth soccer organization and decide later whether to build a facility.
The racially diverse district includes the Holly Glen neighborhood in
western Hawthorne and the unincorporated communities of Del Aire and Wiseburn.
The vote disappointed CentinelaValley officials, who had argued that residents of the entire
high school district, not just the Wiseburn portion, should be allowed
to cast ballots. The high school district is made up of three other
elementary systems in addition to Wiseburn Hawthorne, Lawndale
"I'm very discouraged," Centinela Valley Supt. Cheryl M. White
said, noting that Wiseburn provides a large chunk of the tax base for
the entire high school district. Its departure would slice deeply into
the remaining district's ability to pass bond measures for repairing
campuses and building schools.
Wiseburn leaders said they were tired of waiting for major achievement
gains in the 7,500-student CentinelaValley district, which, though improving, still lags state
and county averages on the California
testing system. Wiseburn's four small schools test well above the average.
Both sides sent contingents to Sacramento to argue their positions at Thursday's meeting. In the
end, the board followed the Department of Education staff's recommendation
to allow the election and to limit it to Wiseburn voters.
A crucial factor in limiting the voting to within the Wiseburn district
was the secession leaders' promise that their district's property owners
would continue paying their share of a $59-million bond measure passed
in 2000, even though the newly reconfigured district would take none
of the schools or other buildings belonging to Centinela Valley.
Both sides agree that limiting the election to Wiseburn district voters
strongly enhances the proposal's chances at the ballot box. But getting
an election, even one with favorably drawn boundaries, does not guarantee
In the South Bay city of Carson, backers of a drive to secede from the sprawling Los AngelesUnifiedSchool
won state permission for a local vote. But, underfunded and poorly organized,
they saw their measure trounced in November 2001 when United Teachers
Los Angeles bankrolled a well-run campaign against it.
In the Wiseburn case, the high school district's teachers are expected
to fight the split, while Wiseburn teachers are in favor of it.
For Peterson and other leaders in the secession drive, Thursday's vote
marked one of the final hurdles in a three-year campaign to bring the
issue to voters.
"It took a lot of time away from my marriage and my kids,"
Peterson said as he and other leaders prepared to take some Wiseburn
students on a post-vote tour of the Capitol. "I'm just grateful
my wife has been so supportive and that I'm still married to her."
September 10, 2004
Ed Review is a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities
relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other
The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (September
21, 8:00-9:00 ET) marks the beginning of the third full school year
under the No Child Left Behind Act, and, already, the benefits to America's
school children are evident.Indeed,
according to the National Center for Education Statistics, scores on
the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests
are well above levels recorded in 1998 and 2000; African-American, Hispanic,
and low-income students account for the most significant improvement
in NAEP scores; and students in the largest urban school systems showed
significant improvement in reading and math in the initial year of the
law.This good news will be the
focus of the broadcast, as the program explores why the first and most
important goal of education should be to ensure that every child develops
proficiency in reading.The live
discussion and videotaped reports will examine ways schools and families
can help students develop the knowledge, skills, and habits needed to
master literacy skills, as well as underscore the critical role of highly
qualified teachers in improving reading achievement.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO http://registerevent.ed.gov/downlink/event-flyer.asp?intEventID=178 (As always, you can watch live
and archived webcasts of each show at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/.)
Caught up in the money?"Federal Support for Education: Fiscal
Years 1980 to 2003" provides a comprehensive picture of total federal
financial support for education since the U.S. Department of Education
was created in May 1980.Excluding
tax benefits, federal support rose to $171 billion in fiscal year 2003,
an increase of $108.2 billion, or 172 percent, since fiscal year 1990.After adjusting for inflation, federal support
rose 102 percent.Notably, the
Education Department accounts for less than half the "on budget"
federal funding for education.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2004026.
_______________________________________________________ SAT SCORES
A record 37 percent of the 1.4 million college-bound
seniors who took the SAT exam last school year were minorities -- up
from 31 percent in 1994 -- and the percentage of first-generation college-bound
seniors grew to 38 percent of all testers, 53 percent of black testers,
and 69 percent of Hispanic testers.In addition, despite this challenge, the average score remained
unchanged from 2003: 1026 out of 1600.At the same time, minority students did not keep pace with their
white peers, whose 2004 score was 1059, 20 points higher than in 1994.African-American students' scored 857, an eight point improvement
over the decade.Mexican-American students' scored 909, a three point improvement over
the decade.After Asian
students, American Indian students showed the best 10-year improvement:
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO http://www.collegeboard.com/press/article/0,,37478,00.html (Secretary Paige's statement
is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2004/08/08312004.html.)