News Clips October 8 - 15, 2004
New Law Will Help Rapidly Growing
Governor Rod Blagojevich
Friday signed House Bill 766, establishing Fast Growth Grants for
Sponsored by Rep. Ruth Munson (R-Elgin) and Sen. Larry Walsh (D-Joliet), the new law supports the Governors pledge to increase funding for elementary and secondary education. The $10 million appropriated for Fast Growth Grants is a portion of the $389 million increase in targeted education programs in the FY 2005 budget.
Illinois State Board
of Education (ISBE) data shows 44 school districts in
The law is effective immediately. Grant funds will be distributed on a per pupil basis to qualifying districts.
By Aisha Sultan of the
Story continues below adHailing it as a new day for students in Venice, State Superintendent Randy Dunn announced a plan Sunday to open a charter high school early next month at the old Lincoln Technical School site - reversing an earlier decision by the previous state board and superintendent.
Supporters of the proposed
Dunn acknowledged that
a "bad situation got worse before it got better" for these
students and offered an apology to residents Sunday afternoon. The only
district willing to accept students from
"To our high school students, we would like to say, 'Welcome home,'" said Janet Wiley, president of the Venice School Board, to loud cheers from the handful of parents in the audience.
Robert Falast, former
superintendent of the
The curriculum will
have a heavy emphasis on the core subject areas, such as math and reading,
according to Harry Briggs,
Although state law requires that charter schools be operating by Sept. 17, state officials said the Lincoln Charter School met this requirement because an agreement had been reached with East St. Louis before that date and the original charter school proposal had been submitted before the deadline.
The Illinois State Board
of Education plans to help oversee the charter school's operation for
at least the first six months to a year, according to Mary Hagan, the
The charter school is billed as a partnership with several other area organizations. The Madison County Urban League will provide some social services for students, and SIUE will help provide instructional support for teachers.
Dunn credited Gov. Rod Blagojevich's intervention last week for the revival of the charter school plan. The governor called on his hand-picked state school board to approve the charter school plan.
"Uprooting kids to send them outside their community to schools facing similar challenges as their hometown school doesn't make sense," Dunn said in a prepared statement.
The state recommended
last winter that the troubled
Since then, however, Blagojevich has replaced seven of the board's nine members. The new board replaced former State Superintendent Robert Schiller with Dunn last month.
BY JULIA SILVERMAN,
Over the years, plenty
of ballyhooed ideas for curing such ills have come and gone. But the
''small schools'' movement has a powerful godfather in Microsoft founder
Bill Gates, and is getting some backing from
designed to have no more than 400 students are in place or starting
up in at least 41 states. Some urban districts, like
Now, as the movement expands, educators are watching the outcome closely.
''We'll get to know more and more about them so we don't lose them down the road,'' said Aaron Cooke, a history teacher.
Lebanon High, along
with a few other
''We were not serving the needs of 100 percent of our students,'' said Leanne Raze, assistant principal of Lebanon High. ''We had a high dropout rate, underperformance on state tests and low attendance rates. We were looking for an upheaval.''
Research had shown that
going small can produce higher graduation rates, lower dropout levels
and more students attending college. That has been the case in cities
Column by Phil Luciano,
Parents, do you value education?
Would you put your money where your mouth is?
Dawn Trompeter did. When she took her daughter out of class for a family vacation, she didn't just send an excuse to the school office. She also sent a check to cover the cost to the school.
You didn't realize schools lose money when students stay home? I didn't either. And I doubt many parents ever think to send a check to cover their kids' absences.
"It's nothing I've
had before," says Superintendent Herman Ahlfield of
Ahlfield has run schools
for 27 years, the last two in
One of those pupils is Alexis Trompeter, who started second grade this fall. But just as the school year began, a scheduling conflict popped up at home.
Her mom, Dawn Trompeter,
had been trying for a long time to arrange an extended-family vacation
If you've ever tried to align planets like that, you understand the headache. They finally found a time when all could travel: Sept. 16 to 27.
Of course, that runs during the school year. Dawn Trompeter didn't want her kid to miss class. As a former member of the Marseilles School Board, she is sensitive to the need for good attendance.
Still, some family vacations happen just once in a lifetime. So she decided to pull Alexis out of school.
But first she covered her bases. She notified the school. She made Alexis do all of her schoolwork before the trip.
And then she wrote a check.
See, absences factor into the state's school-aid formula. The more absences, the less money a school gets.
had pounded district parents on truancy before. In a story that ran
To account for inflation in the past year, Dawn Trompeter hiked that figure by 3.5 percent, to $17.14.
Alexis would miss seven days of classes. So, Trompeter wrote a check for $120 and sent it to the School Board.
"We wanted to make sure the school was not going to suffer for the loss," Trompeter says.
The check was the talk of the next School Board meeting.
"Certainly, it was an honorable donation," says Ahlfield.
The check was intended for the district's general fund. Still, at Ahlfield's urging, the board declined to accept the check. Ahlfield was leery of setting the precedent of accepting money for absences - a way for parents to buy their kids out of truancy problems.
"Next time, maybe the reason wouldn't be quite so good," he says.
Still, to honor Trompeter's overture, the board suggested she redirect her offer as a donation to a school program. Trompeter gladly complied, picking the school library.
"My daughter is really interested in reading, so I thought that would be good," Trompeter says.
As a bonus, the kid might learn something else. Sure, she missed a few classes, but some lessons occur outside school - like recognizing consequences and honoring obligations.
By Kristina Gleeson,
Quad Cities Online,
The per-pupil spending
gap between minority and low-income students and their white or well-off
counterparts is gaping in
The report, conducted
by The Education Trust, found
The study shows students
It also found students
in the state's highest-minority districts receive $1,595 less in education
funding than the lowest-minority districts in
The state's share of
The state and local
funding gaps in
Between 1997 and 2002,
state funding declined each year, by a total of $218 per student in
However, the urban population has grown and property taxes vary wildly from place to place. Because districts rely on property taxes for money, property values in the school district make a huge difference.
Hearings have been held around the state on Illinois House Bill 750, which tries to equalize school funding, Mr. Flaherty noted.
The bill proposes increasing the individual income tax from 3 percent of adjusted gross income to 5 percent and using the money to reduce property taxes.
"It would be the best thing toward equalizing education that's been introduced in quite a while," Mr. Flaherty said.
Sean Noble, of Voices
for Illinois Children, agreed. "As long as we rely on property
taxes to fund about 53 percent of education, the system will remain
unfair to students," Mr. Noble said. "They suffer for it,
What states can do to close funding gaps
-- Devote a greater share of state funding to education.
-- Reduce reliance on local property taxes to fund education and increase support for state sources.
-- Target extra funds specifically to help low-income children.
-- Promote fair budget practices that give each school within a district the same amount of money per student, adjusted to meet the needs of poor students.
(source: The Education Trust)
The Pekin Community High School Board's recent vote against hiring a consultant to analyze consolidation between it and a sister grade school district is unfortunate, especially for taxpayers who deserve the most efficient, affordable and productive classrooms possible.
Pekin High Superintendent Ken Schwab defended the decision on the grounds that consolidation might be more costly, which is an unusual argument. Generally, economies of scale can be found in a consolidation - schools can be closed, administration and other staff can be trimmed, the districts involved can engage in joint purchasing where they don't already. At any rate Schwab can't know for sure whether or not there would be any cost savings until a study has been done. For $8,000, what would be the harm in finding out?
Fact is there are nearly
900 school districts in
Indeed, some 80 percent
Unit districts have time and again been proven to be the most efficient from a cost standpoint, in part because you can eliminate bureaucratic duplication. All these districts already have relationships. Too often one grade school district does fine financially because it has a commercial/industrial tax base, while the one next store struggles. Is one group of kids more deserving than another of having a high quality education even though they both live in essentially the same community? Ultimately, the status quo is wasteful for taxpayers, frequently inconvenient for parents and arguably unfair to schoolchildren in a state that is always counting pennies.
And yet we consistently see resistance to even studying consolidation in these communities. Part of that is the lack of credibility state government has in keeping its promises regarding the payment of consolidation incentives, a valid concern. Beyond that, many school boards still cling to the myth of local control, which effectively disappeared when the state decided to take over testing and George W. Bush went to bat for No Child Left Behind.
hope that the latest proposal to overhaul the way
And they hope that with about 80 percent of the state's school districts in deficit spending, the time is finally right for reform.
For decades, a number of committees, reports and recommendations have withered when faced with the political challenges of changing the state's tax structure. Now, a new piece of legislation would raise income taxes while providing property tax relief to home and business owners.
The bill is the subject
of a public meeting at today at the
"What we're saying is, 'Let's get the discussion going,'" said Rhonda Jenkins, a School Board member in Millstadt and member of the local Coalition for School Funding Reform, the meeting's sponsor. "I don't know if (the bill) is perfect. But we need to make sure that the Legislature takes a true look at reforming our system." Jenkins said.
The proposed legislation would:
Raise the state's personal income tax to 5 percent from 3 percent.
Expand the sales tax to cover personal services, entertainment and other consumer services.
Reduce by 20 percent to 25 percent the part of a property owner's property taxes that is currently used to fund schools.
The bill could generate $7.1 billion, enough to pay for the property tax relief and pump an additional $1.8 billion into increasing base funding levels for schools, according to a bill summary by proponents. There would also be money left over to eliminate the state's structural deficit and provide $900 million in refundable credit to the state's bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, the summary says.
A number of school boards and education groups statewide have endorsed the legislation. They are hoping that with enough vocal support for the legislation, Gov. Rod Blagojevich will support the bill, although he has vowed he won't raise taxes. If the governor continues that pledge, the bill's sponsor, Sen. James Meeks, I-Chicago, will need enough votes in the Legislature to override Blagojevich's veto.
"It's an idea whose time will inevitably come," said Dennis Vercler, a spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau, an organization that has lobbied for less reliance on property tax since the 1980s. "We've decided that there is never going to be a 'good year' for this. There's always going to be some political force looming. We're not going to second-guess ourselves though."
School funding in
Most agree that the state's reliance on local property taxes to fund schools has created a system in which some districts spend $5,000 a student and others spend more than $18,000. Under this system, if a community wants to raise its taxes, more money goes to schools. In poorer districts, residents can pay higher tax rates without providing enough money for schools because their communities have low property wealth.
Ralph Martire, executive
director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a nonpartisan
think tank based in
"Before, there were significant portions of the state that were doing OK and didn't want to deal with the problem," he said. "Now, 80 percent of schools are operating with deficits. Folks are worried."
Jim Baiter, superintendent
This bill "would put into place a mechanism that could do it . . . that could provide for a more level playing field."
Jenkins said she was hopeful a grass-roots effort would finally enact reform.
"I don't think I could put into words how gratifying it would be for the children of this state for the Legislature to recognize that all children need an equal opportunity, an opportunity that is not based on where they live," she said.
The bill is HB750.
Allison Barker, Associated
That was until this
"Having an all-girls class is pretty cool because you can do things without the boys there to pick on you," she said.
Stonewall Jackson is
the first public school in
Principal Carol Thom
decided to give single-sex education a try after two years of effort
to improve student achievement left Stonewall Jackson still one of 38
low-performing schools in
"This is hormone city," Thom said. "Middle school kids are very focused on ... each other. When you take that sexual tension out of the classroom, then they focus on academics."
Stonewall Jackson is among at least 147 out of the nation's 91,000 public schools opting for single-sex classes this year as administrators look for ways to improve student performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education in Poolesville, Md.
Supporters say separation reduces distractions and classroom inhibitions. It also allows teachers to cater to different learning styles. Girls, they say, often want to break into small work groups, while boys tend to engage more in debate.
Stonewall Jackson is
located in a racially mixed area on
Two years ago, only 46 percent of the students met standards in reading, while only 51 percent met standards in math. Last year, reading competency jumped to 81 percent and math to nearly 59 percent.
"Last year, sometimes I had a hard time because most of the other people were messing with the girls, and the teacher had to tell them to stop," said 12-year-old Michael Brewington. "People listen more because they can't flirt with the girls."
Although same-sex education has long been available in private schools, it has been virtually unknown in public schools since the 1972 implementation of Title IX, a federal rule prohibiting discrimination based on gender.
That changed when President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in 2002. It allows single-sex classrooms if comparable curricula and facilities are available to both sexes.
The move to water down Title IX has drawn criticism from groups such as the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women, which argue that segregated classes open the door for inequality.
Although it's too soon to know what effect single-sex classes will have at Stonewall, educators and students hope for positive results when tests are administered in the spring.
"We can't save them from all the hard lessons of life," Thom said. "But I believe this is one way we can help them get through it better."
In the new test-driven world of education, the field of the moment is psychometrics.
Trained in psychology and statistics, psychometricians work for school districts and testing companies; while the jobs require a Ph.D., new psychometricians can often command $100,000 salaries, more than twice as much as in most other academic disciplines and far more than most teachers or principals. Many psychometricians juggle competing offers from testing firms before they've even completed their course work.
To meet the growing demand, the industry is expanding rapidly some say too rapidly.
Certainly the need (for tests) has increased, in good part because of No Child Left Behind, says University of Iowa professor David Frisbie, who oversees the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, one of the nation's oldest standardized skills tests. I don't think we're coming close to filling that need.
It's a hot, hot, hot field, says Seppy Basili of Kaplan, the test prep firm. Nobody knows about it and there aren't very many of them, but everybody is looking for them.
At Educational Testing
Service's headquarters near
It's going to happen with me or without me, she says. I'd rather have my hand in it.
Last year's goal was to have 10 percent of the school's students proficient in English, according to Johnson. Next year's mandate is that 20 percent reach proficiency. The percentage of students who must be rated proficient in math and English will rise sharply starting in the 2007-08 school year, to 50 percent, making it even more difficult for schools to comply with the largely unfunded law.
"Calistoga Elementary has a student body that is 47 percent English learners who don't have the required proficiency," Johnson said. "While many of our students are proficient, we're being penalized for the ones who aren't."
No Child Left Behind requires states to implement accountability systems for public schools and students. The systems must be based on challenging state standards in reading and mathematics, annual testing for all students in grades 3-8, and annual statewide progress objectives that push all groups of students to reach proficiency within 12 years.
School districts and schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress toward statewide proficiency goals are subject to corrective action measures aimed at getting them back on course to meet state standards.
"We are not alone in this," Johnson said. "There are thousands of schools in districts across the country facing the same doomed scenario."/John Waters Jr.
By JAMIE STENGLE, THE
The call for bolder
action in schools follows the
Estimates are that more than 15 percent of American children are very overweight or obese.
Laura Hayman, a nurse and professor who wrote the heart association statement, said national data show about 80 percent of children arent getting the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
She also said that 44 percent of high school students arent in physical education classes.
hopefully you can reach the children, teachers and parents, said
Hayman, who teaches at
Experts agree that the schools are a good place to start.
Judith Young, of the Virginia-based nonprofit American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, said educating kids on the issue is critical.
If we dont teach them how to keep themselves healthy, then all the other things kind of dont matter, she said.
The heart association statement, published in the journal Circulation, calls for more physical education classes, heart-healthy meals and a tobacco-free environment from preschools through 12th grade and during after-school programs.
Dr. Catherine L. Webb,
a professor of pediatrics at
When a child starts to bring home knowledge, then the family I think will jump on the bandwagon, said Webb, who works on a heart association council focusing on cardiovascular disease among young people
Obesity is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other problems, and its a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Hayman said.
The heart association recommendations teaching kids the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and the best ways to avoid it.
The group also recommends that physical education be required at least three times a week from kindergarten through 12th grade - with 150 minutes in school each week for elementary students and at least 225 minutes per week for middle school students.
According to the recommendations, school meals should meet heart-healthy guidelines.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, who issued a school nutrition policy that took effect this year restricting fried and fatty servings and setting other food rules, said that school administrators understand the importance of physical education and nutrition, but they are dealing with limited resources.
More health education, for instance, might cost money for printed materials.
A lot of (schools) are saying wed love to do it, but give us the resources, Combs said.
Some Teachers Decry List of Ideas as Attempt to Inject Christian Values Into Curriculum
To Margaret Young, vice
chairman of the Charles County Board of Education, the required reading
lists in her
Take, for example, "Dust Tracks on a Road," an autobiography by acclaimed American author Zora Neale Hurston. Young said the book contained "disgusting" scenes of "inappropriate" sexual conduct.
"I think parents would be appalled if they really read the books their kids were reading that were so filled with profanity and pornography," she said. "I rely on the school system to provide good wholesome reading for my children."
So when the Board of Education recently compiled a list of goals and suggestions for improving the school system, Young said she supported the recommendation that calls for "removing anything [from reading lists] that provides a neutral or positive view of immorality or foul language."
But this proposal, and others that recommend distributing Bibles in schools, removing science books "biased towards evolution" and teaching sexual education classes focused exclusively on abstinence, has upset those who fear some board members are attempting to impose personal religious and moral beliefs on the public schools.
"They're basically trying to skew the curriculum, to teach their own conservative Christian values," said Meg MacDonald, a representative from the Charles County Education Association.
Board members say the list of more than 100 goals and suggestions, compiled without names attached, was simply a brainstorming exercise to generate ideas and encourage discussion. None of the proposals has been approved or even considered for a vote. But some see the document, distributed last month, as evidence of a growing conservatism on the board.
One of the more controversial proposals was to invite Gideons International to hand out Bibles to students. The document recommended being "very specific about where, when and how the Bibles are to be offered" but did not provide any of those details.
"What they're proposing is clearly unconstitutional. It is a violation of separation of church and state under the First Amendment," said Stacey Mink, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. "This is something the ACLU is very concerned about."
The issue of Bible distribution
has been litigated repeatedly. A 1993 U.S. Circuit Court case found
it unconstitutional for Gideons to give Bibles to fifth-grade students
"The courts are pretty consistent," McDowell said. "Schools cannot look like they're promoting religion."
Mark Crawford, a
"I think some people have been scared of the idea of separation of church and state to the point they . . . have become overly cautious," he said.
Crawford is part of the majority on the board that supports introducing the theory of creationism into the science curriculum. They argue that students need exposure to all theories about the origin of life so they can make educated decisions.
"I believe that if we are teaching evolution, we should have a section on creationism as well, and any other theory," board Chairman Kathy Levanduski said. "Let's motivate our kids to be creative thinkers."
John Krehbiel, a 10th-grade
biology teacher at
"Supernatural beliefs simply don't belong in a science class," he said. "We deal with the scientific evidence available. If they bring this in to a science curriculum and want to talk about evidence, I'll rip it to shreds."
The list of moral and
religious goals, which the board said it would begin discussing Oct.
12, has left some teachers "absolutely flabbergasted," said
Leslie Schroeck, a guidance counselor at
people are telling you how you should be and, if you're not, you're
a bad person," said Schroeck, who has two young daughters, one
By Lois K. Solomon,
Sun-Sentinel Education Writer,
It's the real thing:
finished negotiating a new contract with Coca-Cola, which will have
exclusive rights to sell its Coke, Dasani water, Powerade and other
beverages at the
"I'm all for anything that will give the schools money," a Dwyer parent, Linda Oenbrink, said. "I wish the kids didn't drink soda, but water and juice, that's fine."
The race for the student beverage dollar is fierce, although the money provides only a small source of profit for the drink giants, said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, a trade publication.
"No two companies are more competitive than Coke or Pepsi," Sicher said. "They compete fiercely at every single point where they meet."
The companies have had to respond to parents' concerns about their children gaining weight from carbonated drinks and fattening foods they find in school vending machines. Coke requires middle school machines to be locked at certain times during the school day to limit access, while Pepsi, which also offers Gatorade, Dole juices and Aquafina water, directs its vendors not to sell carbonated drinks to elementary schools.
Still, not all parents are pacified.
"Water does not
mitigate the problem at all," said Suzy Chevrier, a mother of three
Some schools have instructed their suppliers to leave some unhealthy items out of the machines.Tradewinds Middle School west of Lake Worth chose to limit profits to keep prices down for students. Principal Neal Trafford said he chose Coke, which wanted to charge $1 for a bottle, over Pepsi, which sought to charge $1.25. The school gets 30 percent of every soft drink sold and 20 percent on juices, water and Powerade.
At Dwyer, Principal David Culp said he knows how important it is for teenagers to improve their eating habits. But he said students would buy drinks at the grocery store if schools did not supply them."We are in a severe money crunch, and these contracts are a tremendous, tremendous benefit to the schools," he said. "How am I going to come up with $500,000 in any other method?"
By Scott S. Greenberger,
The move to alter the
so-called Chapter 70 formula would be the first major change since the
state established it as part of the Education Reform Act of 1993. The
change would probably take place next year, after the
Legislators have long been wary of wading into the issue. The formula is extraordinarily complex, but giving more money to some districts means that others will get less, unless there is more education aid available. In local campaigns this fall, Democrats are warning that Governor Mitt Romney's proposed income-tax cut is unwise, because it would drain money that could be needed if the SJC orders millions in new spending on schools. Romney says that spending more money on poor districts isn't the answer, and the SJC is unlikely to order the state to do it.
Whatever the political
challenges of taking up school spending, the Hancock case is generating
momentum for change on
''There's no question that as the high court is looking at the issue of education funding, that will have an impact on the Legislature," said Senator Robert A. Antonioni, the Leominster Democrat who chairs the Education Committee. ''It raises the whole question of adequacy: If the court is looking at it, usually where there's smoke there's fire. One way or another, I think Chapter 70 will be before the Legislature in the upcoming session."
Antonioni's House counterpart, Representative Marie P. St. Fleur, agreed that ''momentum is building" for altering the formula, and state Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll predicted that ''there will be a lot of activity around Chapter 70 in the upcoming debate about the budget."
Romney is also interested
in adjusting the formula, according to his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom.
But the administration opposes a major increase in education spending,
because additional dollars will not fix troubled schools, Fehrnstrom
said. He pointed to a study released last week by the Education Trust,
a Washington-based group devoted to closing the so-called achievement
gap between white and minority students, which suggested that the spending
gap between rich and poor districts in
''The way we create excellent schools is not by throwing more money on top of the billions of dollars we've already pumped into the system," Fehrnstrom said. ''The way we create excellent schools is by introducing more accountability, such as giving principals the management tools they need to run their schools."
Fehrnstrom pointed out that after hearing arguments in the Hancock case Oct. 4, several SJC justices expressed skepticism that more money would improve the low test scores and high drop-out rates in the poorer districts that filed the lawsuit. Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, for example, said, ''What . . . comes through to me loud and clear is that there are real problems in these districts that have nothing to do with money."
Driscoll agreed that a lack of money isn't the primary problem in some troubled districts. Nevertheless, he said: ''Money is part of the issue. It's always part of the issue. If there are big inequities, we need to look at those."
This year, the Chapter 70 budget is $3.183 billion, up from $3.111 billion last year, but down from $3.258 billion the year before. Under the current formula, the state aid a community receives is tied to its property values.
Antonioni said the current
approach hurts areas such as
St. Fleur said the House declined to take up the bill, because it wanted more time to examine the issue and because the SJC ruling was still pending.
St. Fleur and Antonioni said that it may be unrealistic to expect lawmakers to approve a change in how school money is distributed without increasing the overall amount of money in the pot. Simply put, Antonioni said, a plan would have to produce more winners than losers in order to attract enough votes. ''You're not going to get legislators to vote for something, unless there is something there for their districts," he said.
Kansas raised the bar this year for achieving adequate yearly progress under the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, and more schools than ever cleared it.
Students continue to
raise their scores on the Kansas Assessment Tests that are used to measure
progress in reading and math, a state education official told the Kansas
Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday in
"Results are up for everyone, and the gap between students who are advantaged and those who are disadvantaged is closing," said Alexa Pochowski-Posny, assistant commissioner for learning services.
But in some cases, the gains are not enough to meet the state benchmark for progress under the federal law, enacted in 2002. In all, 16 districts and 102 schools were labeled as failing to make "adequate yearly progress."
Locally, the Turner
The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for all students to be academically proficient by 2013-2014. States determine proficiency and set their own annual benchmarks for scores in reading and math.
This year, the state raised the percentage of students who needed to score at the proficient level for a school to make adequate yearly progress. In fourth- and seventh-grade math, the benchmark rose to 53.5 from 46.8 percent; in fifth- and eighth-grade reading, the mark was 57.3 percent, up from 51.2 percent. The benchmark also rose for high school students: to 38 percent for 10th-grade math from 29.1 percent; and to 51 percent for 11th-grade reading from 44 percent.
Title I schools -- those serving a high percentage of poor students -- that fail to made adequate progress two years in a row are placed on a list of schools needing improvement. They must offer students the option of attending a better-performing school in the district. If a school remains on the needs-improvement list a second year, the school must offer school choice or supplemental services, such as free tutoring. In the third, fourth and fifth years on the list, the state can initiate corrective actions, including a plan to restructure the school.
Non-Title I schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress currently are not subject to the same sanctions as the Title I schools.
State board members were pleased with the results but expressed concern about reaching 100 percent proficiency by 2013-2014.
"The trends are
excellent, but the difficulty will be getting past 90 percent proficiency,"
said John Bacon of
Board member Sue Gamble
"In 2001, this board made some projections that if the Legislature would provide the funds, we would show this growth," she said. "We have met or exceeded those goals with no significant infusion of money into the process. So we are hearing from many of our critics that, Why do you need any more money? " You're doing fine without it.'
Pochowski-Posny said districts have made the moderate gains that are possible without additional funds by taking such steps as aligning curricula with state standards. However, helping the remaining students become more proficient probably will take more money.
"We're talking about doing those things that require significant resources," she said. "Extended time and catching them before they get to school."
The state saw a marked increased in the number of schools attaining the standard of excellence designation in reading or math. The rating goes to schools with a certain percentage of students in the two highest achievement levels that also show significant movement of students out of the two lowest achievement levels.
In all, 13 local high schools joined 77 of their counterparts across the state in achieving the standard of excellence in math, and 11 were among the 64 that earned the excellence rank in reading.
Pochowski-Posny credited gains to changes in school curricula and a focus on reading and math.
"The most significant thing we're seeing is for the first time, schools are very clearly aligning what they're teaching with the state standards," she said. "Very clearly, they're focusing. Teachers are focused on reading and math, and what they need to ensure that students know."
Some local administrators are concerned that labeling a school or district as failing to make adequate yearly progress hides the academic gains such districts might make.
"Just because you
didn't make AYP doesn't mean you're failing," said Ray Daniels,
superintendent of the
Daniels' district failed to make adequate yearly progress, as did seven of eight middle schools and four of five high schools within the district. "But if you look at the results, most of the schools did make progress, they just didn't make enough to make AYP," he said.
Besides meeting the
benchmarks overall, subgroups of students also must meet the benchmarks
for a school to make adequate progress. That proved a stumbling block
for the state overall, for the
Statewide, high school English language learners taking the reading test were the only subgroup to show a decline in progress.
The African-American subgroup, on the other hand, showed the greatest gains in reading, with the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level or above growing by 8.6 percent at fifth grade, 7.6 percent at eighth grade and 1.2 percent at 11th grade.
Pochowski-Posny said the continuing achievement gap in reading between white students and black and Hispanic students had narrowed. She said that the continuing difference was less a matter of ethnicity than of poverty.
Daniels criticized identifying particular groups of students as the cause of a district or school's failure to make the grade.
"Often, the groups of kids identified are those who have historically been identified as not achieving," he said. "This just reaffirms another message to these kids and their families. It's not a good thing for those kids to continue to be identified as the reason the school is not making adequate yearly progress."Olathe South demonstrates the pitfalls of the subgroups. Students there scored sufficiently high marks in both math and reading for the school to earn the "Standard of Excellence" rating. However, one subgroup did not make the grade in reading, and so the school failed to make adequate yearly progress.
Mary Matthew, the district's director of school improvement and assessment, said the district already was working on strategies to bring up the subgroup's scores. The district took a similar approach last year with a different subgroup.
No Child Left Behind "has focused schools to do the right things for all kids," Matthew said. "The stretch AYP has put on all schools is that we have to worry about all the kids, and that's a good thing."
Associated Press Newswires,
LOS ANGELES - More than
Based on current test
scores, more than 1,200 schools will likely to be labeled failures under
the federal law by the end of the year. When the last two years of scores
are included, 3,500 schools -- 39 percent of
The state Education Department on Wednesday was set to release a list of an additional 500 other schools that have failed to meet their federal targets two years in a row.
The problem stems in
Schools that do not meet their target two years in a row must use some federal funds to offer students transfers to higher performing schools or provide after-school tutoring. If schools still do not reach their targets for improvement, the federal sanctions, which include dismissal of principals or even the closure of schools, come into play.
"When we find one that isn't working, we've got to change, even if it means closing it down and reconstituting it. We mean business," Romer said.
State superintendent of public schools Jack O'Connell and superintendents from 20 other states have lobbied the federal government to relax the rules so that schools are judged by their test-score growth, not their ability to meet the targets.
But supporters of the law says it is already flexible enough. with less stringent rules for schools that have high numbers of English-learners.
"Now is not the time to back off, when we see it working," Assistant education Secretary Ray Simon said.
Still, Principal Mary
Harris, of Graham Elementary in
"It's not realistic, it's not attainable," she said. "There are no baby steps. You're supposed to leap off and do it."
The story was prepared
as a ''video news release'' for the department by Ketchum Inc., among
the 10 largest public relations firms in the world. The firm also prepared
a similar story urging parents to ask local school officials whether
their child qualified for free tutoring under the No Child Left Behind
Act. Ketchum's spokeswoman in
Under a $700,000 contract, Ketchum created the two videos, and also sent the department monthly scorecards that rated print and television articles about No Child Left Behind from the Factiva database on a scale that ranged from plus 100 to minus 100.
The top score of plus
95 was awarded to Education Secretary Rod Paige, whose op-ed column
The student-loan TV
snippet opens with praise of the federal financial aid program by Paige,
includes advice and comments from a student aid officer at
''I haven't done one since, and I don't do them anymore,'' said Watrel, a freelance reporter whose sign-off didn't mention it was a government-financed video. The video was prepared in March.
She said Tuesday that she stopped doing voice-overs for the government's pre-packaged videos after the General Accounting Office ruled in May that Ketchum's similar feature on Medicare, prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services, violated federal laws against taxpayer financing of ''covert propaganda.''
''Video news releases are standard PR practice,'' said Susan Aspey, the Education Department's press secretary. She stressed that the stations knew that the satellite feed came from her department.
She said the student-loan story ''had better pick-up'' than the story on No Child Left Behind, which she said ran in about 20 markets. She added, ''After the GAO report came out, the department stopped using'' the tactic.
The ''most troubling'' aspect of the controversy is that so many TV news operations used the story without checking for any contrasting points of view, said Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based school for working journalists. He compared it to a newspaper printing a news release word-for-word without informing its readers.
''If nothing else, [viewers] assume a story has gone through the news judgments that produce everything else on the news that night,'' Woods said. ''That's a pipe dream when it is coming from a private organization or branch of government that has no interest in providing a different side to the story.''
The department's involvement
was revealed in documents and cassettes obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act by People for the
The department's story about the No Child Left Behind Act ''definitely gives the viewer the false impression that it is news coverage, rather than partisan political propaganda'' said Nancy Keegan, the group's education director. Photo Education Secretary Rod Paige appears in an Education Department video. The video fails to make clear the reporter involved was paid with taxpayer money.
Editorial by Jonathan
Last month, I flew to
"We have a holiday named after George Washington, because he fought for liberty," I said, by way of example. "Why not a holiday named after Nat Turner?"
Blank stares. Glazed eyes.
"Does anyone know who Nat Turner is?"
Nobody did. In a class of 20 future American history instructors, not a single person could identify the leader of the most famous slave revolt in American history.
Why not? The problem lies in the ways we prepare public school teachers. And it also lies in President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, which pretends to address the issue, but really doesn't.
Under the 2001 law, new middle and high school teachers must pass a test or possess a degree in subjects they teach. Most white- collar professions require academic courses and a test of knowledge before they will certify a new member of the guild. For novice teachers, though, it's typically one or the other.
So 12 states and the
What about veteran teachers?
All they need to do is show they're "highly qualified" in
their subject, under rules set by each state. So in
Most of the debate surrounding No Child Left Behind has centered on the provision that mandates student testing and hinges federal funds on the results. Led by teacher unions, some Democrats have denounced the testing requirement for promoting rote instruction and imposing draconian penalties. Other critics - including presidential challenger John Kerry - have endorsed the basic outlines of the law but have condemned the Bush administration for failing to fund it adequately.
Politically, that's a non-starter. Kerry happens to be correct on the issue of funding: No Child Left Behind requirements will cost the states $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2004 and much of that won't be picked up by Congress. But in a contest between "standards" and "money," standards are going to win out every time.
Rather than simply berating Bush for underfunding new mandates, Kerry should condemn the mandates as not strict enough. To his credit, Kerry has called for "rigorous testing" of all new teachers and for states to develop procedures for "improving or replacing teachers who do not perform." But the devil is in the details, as No Child Left Behind has taught us. If Kerry has a plan to accomplish these goals, he needs to spell it out right away.
Most of all, he needs to shift the focus of our educational debate away from students and toward the place it really belongs: their teachers. And he must demand higher standards, not just higher funding. That's the only way to ensure that teachers know about Nat Turner, and everything else.
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches
Mike Hasten /
BATON ROUGE - A national
survey of school funding shows
In a 17-page report,
Education Trust targets
In Education Trust's
calculated figures for the 2001-02 school year, the average gap of $1,348
per student between rich and poor schools. The average is distorted
Using the 40 percent
"It's slow but
it's steady," said Beth Scionneaux, division director for education
finance in the Louisiana Department of Education. "
research shows that
Scionneaux said the study is valid but the one table cited by Carey doesn't tell the whole story that the rest of the report does. For example, the state ranked 19th in the nation in 2002 in allotting extra funding for students living below the poverty line.
The report says that
in 2002, the
Scionneaux said a commission appointed to review school funding has discussed raising the percentage for low-income students and a consultant's report this month to BESE is expected to raise the same issue.
The Education Trust
report also points out that
"This basically says that we are spending a higher portion of our available resources on education," Scionneaux said.
The study points out that the spending difference is due to economics more than race, even though most of the poorer school districts have higher minority populations. The revenue gap between the wealthiest and poorest school systems is $725 per student. The gap between school systems with high and low minority enrollment is $143 per student.
Education Trust combined local and state funding of school systems.
Freddie Whitford, executive director of the Louisiana School Board Association, said school districts have been fighting an equity problem for years.
"Within the immediate future, I think we're going to be seeing litigation on equity and adequacy issues," Whitford said. "It's just a matter of time. Equity has to be addressed."
One of the major problems with school funding is that the state grants industrial tax exemptions that apply to school tax assessments, so even though the tax is on the books, nothing is collected, Whitford said. "That's why there's inequity."
"If state policy is eroding the local tax base," he said, it might not be good policy.
"Some states have established an overall funding level for all schools," Carey said, and if a school system tries but can't raise the same amount as other systems, the state equalizes funding.
Scionneaux said that
in some of
Illinois State Board of Education