- 19, 2004
TOP OF PAGE
203, 204 wary of education-funding bill / Naperville Sun
Paw Paw: Save our
schools, move to our town / DeKalb Daily Chronicle
West school puts
spin on parent conferences / Beacon News
Soy in school
meals provides health, business opportunities / Decatur Herald
is an important requirement / Chicago Tribune
School projects in limbo as state money dries up
/ Chicago Tribune
Parent survey on Harlem dress code yields little information
/ Rockford Register Star
Students selling bricks to raise money, beautify new
school / Telegraph
School test results will be late, but accurate
/ Chicago Sun-Times
Bush II: Paige
out, NCLB to high school / eSchool News
Those Bake Sales
Add Up, to $9 Billion or So / New York Times
taking alternative paths to certifications / Kentucky Herald-Leader
Evolution foes see opening to press fight in schools
/ Boston Globe
Senior wants gun photo in yearbook / Chicago Sun-Times
Bush moving to target older students this term
/ Daily Southtown
'Value Added' Models
Gain in Popularity / Education Week
Tests of Youngest
English-Learners Spark Controversy / Education Week
for State Aid to Schools Uncertain / Education Week
lauded as national model / Seattle Times
Compromise for 6.5 Million Special Education Pupils / New York
to lean on state / The Detroit News
TOP OF PAGE
District 203, 204
wary of education-funding bill
By Britt Carson and Tim Waldorf, Naperville Sun staff writers, 11/15/04
Naperville's school districts have voiced some concerns about state
legislation designed to overhaul how education is funded in Illinois.
203's administration is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward House
Bill 750 and is recommending its school board members do the same.
But in Indian Prairie School
204, where the school board has already decided to oppose the bill,
one school board member is speaking out against the plan, saying it
will create the mistaken belief that the state's school funding problem
"I see this as a house of cards that is destined to collapse,"
District 204 school board member Mark Metzger said of the bill during
the school board meeting Nov. 8.
Critics of the state's current education funding system say it relies
too heavily on property tax revenues generated at a local level, and,
consequently, ties the quality of a child's public education to the
affluence of that child's community.
Supporters of the bill say the plan to rebate 25 percent of property
tax revenues and use $7.1 billion in income and sales taxes to fund
schools would remedy that situation.
Allen Albus, District 203's assistant superintendent for finance, said
he has heard "conflicting things" about this bill, which is
not yet in its final form. He said it could be acted upon in the spring
at the earliest, but will more than likely be debated for another year
District 203's overview of HB 750, which Albus distributed at a Naperville
Area Chamber of Commerce legislative committee meeting last week, states
the district's administration has yet to take a position on the plan
and probably won't until "there is better articulation on how it
will impact individual taxpayers."
"It's just a lot of trade-offs on things," Albus said of the
But Metzger said the bill is not about education funding as much as
it is a tax policy overhaul.
"I don't believe for one minute this is education funding reform
or anything other than a tax policy overhaul," Metzger said. "If
that is what it is going to do, then let's start discussing it on those
merits and not continue the charade that this is education funding reform
and clearly it is not."
According to District 203's overview of the bill, the legislation would
generate about $5.85 billion for public education by raising income
tax rates to 5 percent from 3 percent, taxing previously untaxed retirement
income for retirees who make more than $75,000 a year at 5 percent and
increasing corporate income tax rates from 4.8 percent to 8 percent.
A $900 million tax credit would go to low- and moderate-income families
to offset the regressive impact of the income tax increases.
The bill would generate the rest of the promised $7.1 billion for education
by closing several corporate tax loopholes and charging sales tax for
previously untaxed services, including those provided by accountants
"Everything your taxpayers spend money on will be taxed,"
Metzger said. "This has to have an affect on districts like ours."
However, in return for the increased sales and income taxes, the plan
creates a 25 percent property tax rebate — thereby returning $2.4 billion
to property tax payers across the state.
Metzger said he sees the state's property tax rebate plans as a "substantial
risk" because he sees them "going away very quickly"
once the bill is passed. Consequently, Metzger predicted, the state
will end up paying less and less to schools under this plan because
the pool of money it will use to make these payments won't grow over
District 203's overview of the plan also expressed these concerns along
these lines, stating "the long-term sustainability of the property
tax relief portion may be vulnerable" and "there is a trust
issue about providing the state an additional $3.8 billion in tax revenue,
given the shell game that occurred when the lottery was implemented."
According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, which developed
the plan, the bottom 60 percent of all income earners would see no net
tax increase if the bill were adopted and the bottom 20 percent would
actually realize a net tax decrease.
According to District 203's overview, the bill would provide more overall
funding to education and is projected to generate a $3 million net increase
in overall funding for District 203.
However, the overview also states it is likely the additional taxes
paid by district taxpayers will be greater than $3 million.
"The money that (districts) 203 or 204 would get probably doesn't
equate to what we would export," Albus said.
Metzger echoed Albus' sentiments. He said the bill would most benefit
Chicago Public Schools and districts in downstate Illinois, and residents in District 204 would likely see their
"I guarantee you the collar counties are among those that will
pay more," he said.
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Paw Paw: Save our
schools, move to our town
By Chris Rickert, DeKalb Daily Chronicle City Editor, 11/14/04
PAW PAW - It's enough to strike fear into the heart of any DeKalb-area
school superintendent: "Grants Available for Home Lots in Crime-Free Town with Excellent School System and Employment Options."
While DeKalb and Sycamore school officials wring their hands over where
to find the space and resources for growing student enrollments, the
tiny village of Paw Paw, just west of the DeKalb County Line, is enticing families with perks
on new homes, partly as a way to increase the number of kids in its
A press release put out by the village, population approximately 850,
and the Ohio,Ill.-based company The Development Coordination Corp. includes
the "grants available" tag line and details a program in that
provides village-backed grants to families who agree to buy a lot in
the new subdivision being built by DCC on the east side of town.
"The heart of Paw Paw is their schools," said DCC board member
and past president Jack Piper, who argued that if the village loses
its school system, it loses its identity.
"That was the main motivational factor in even pursuing it (the
development)," he said.
Village President Jared Nicholson acknowledged that keeping the school
district viable was a main reason for encouraging the DCC project. The
Paw Paw School
- which beginning in this school year is no longer part of a larger
system including Franklin Center students - serves about 330 students in one kindergarten
through 12th-grade building.
Nicholson adds that having enough people shop at downtown businesses
and otherwise support the village also were reasons behind approving
the DCC deal.
"I'm certain that growth is going to happen here," Nicholson
said, and the purpose of the DCC developemnt is to be "proactive"
in making sure it does.
"They'd rather grow than fall behind," Piper said.
The agreement between DCC and the village provides DCC with some $1.5
million in tax increment financing to pay for infrastructure and other
costs related to developing the approximately 60-acre subdivision.
DCC president Bart Piper, John's son, said the company has sold 20 lots
so far in what is expected to be a 100-home subdivision with homes starting
at around $180,000.
Buyers pay $25,500 for $35,500 lot. The difference is made up with a
$10,000 note that the buyer is released from once the home is built
and occupied, Bart Piper said.
Officials with the Paw Paw school district were not available to comment.
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West school puts spin
on parent conferences
Student-run: Middle school pupils take lead in sharing work with parents
By Linda Girardi, SPECIAL TO THE BEACON NEWS, 11/15/04
AURORA — After weeks of preparation, Jewel Middle School last week hosted
student-led conferences, where 12- and 13-year olds presented to parents
examples of their work, explained what they learned and why they achieved
the grades they did.
Replacing the traditional parent-teacher conferences, the student-led
conferences are an innovative learning method designed to produce life-long
learners, officials said.
The number of parents visiting their child's school during two-evening
sessions quadrupled over attendance in the past, school officials said.
"Everyone is ecstatic," Principal Greg Scalia said. "There
was no place to park in the school lot, that's how successful it was."
Scalia said the new method has opened a different channel of communication
between parents, students and teachers.
In 20-minute sessions, Jewel's sixth, seventh and eighth graders reviewed
samples of their work from a portfolio covering core classes — English,
mathematics, science and social studies, and explained to their parents
the purpose of the assignment, how they felt about their work and their
progress in the first quarter.
Previously, parents would get a quick run-down on grades from teachers.
"We stay out of the students way until the end," social studies
teacher Bryan Zwemke said. "Our active role is in preparation and
as facilitators. The actual conference is their night."
Zwemke last year introduced the student-led conference model to a team
of seventh grade teachers, after experiencing it at a school in Elgin. Teachers, students and parents were so receptive the
concept was expanded to the entire student body.
"Our goal is to see as many parents as possible three to five times
a year. We're building relationships between the teacher, student and
parent," Zwemke said, adding the students openly communicated with
their parents more so than if asked, "How was school today?"
One seventh grade team saw 135 parents. In the past, they might see
10 families a night.
Zwemke said the student-led conferences forced students to sit down
and explain their school progress with their parents.
"It's much more productive," he said. "We're there to
back them up and answer questions. They are not entirely on their own."
Three-quarters of the students dressed up and in business-speak talked
one-on-one with their parents.
"The students like it better than sitting with parents surrounded
by teachers, which could made them feel as though they were in trouble,"
Zwemke said. "Now they can explain their grades, talk about their
strengths and weaknesses and set goals.
"In the past, it was a little scary with everyone staring at them."
Teams of teachers worked collaboratively to prepare their students for
10 to 15 conferences held every 20 minutes.
Zwemke said he believes having the students take an active role in their
education resulted in higher grades this quarter.
"Were promoting life-long learning," Zwemke said. "When
they leave middle school, the students will take with them practical
organizational, preparation and time-management skills."
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Soy in school meals
provides health, business opportunities
By AMY HOAK, Decatur Herald & Review Staff Writer, 11/14/04
DECATUR - Enhancing school lunches with healthful soy is good
for the kids.
With any luck, it teaches children from a young age soy isn't yucky
and can be good for the body, too. Soon enough, those kids become supermarket
consumers who might seek out soy products for their families to eat.
For companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and the farmers who
provide the soybeans for it to process, introducing kids to soy also
is good business.
"Obviously, the school food service is big business in the U.S.,"
said Barbara Klein, a University of Illinois professor involved with
the soy study at Garfield Montessori School and others throughout the
Klein and other U of I researchers are conducting an experiment that
infuses school lunches with soy, looking to see if kids recognize the
difference between soy dishes and the meat-based meals they've come
ADMis providing the food for the project.
Though Klein doesn't doubt ADM's altruistic aims in commissioning the
study, she also recognizes the potential for profit if such a soy food
market is created.
Jamie Maccari, Aramark food service director for the Decatur School
looked even beyond that. If more school lunch programs start using soy
in their meals, increased demand could bring prices of soy foods down
in general, she said.
"The demand would be much higher than the grocery shelf" only,
For processors such as ADM, there is a caveat if soy starts replacing
meat. Animal feed is another large strength of the agribusiness company.
If people drop the meat, the feed is less in demand, right?
Maybe not, said Greg Webb, vice president public affairs for ADM.
"This is not something to try and wait for the next thing after
that," Webb said. ADM is looking at soy from a sustainability standpoint,
he said, and the production of a high- nutrition alternative offers
another choice for the consumer.
The Illinois Soybean Association already has started looking at ways
to get farmers to produce more high-protein soybeans.
This past season, the organization teamed with ADM and farmers in the
Quincy area to grow and market more high-protein soybeans to
be used for food.
The premium was up to 6 cents for every bushel that met targeted levels
of oil and protein; the program will be extended to Decatur and other areas next year, said Judd Hulting, director
"There's a bright future for soy foods," Hulting said. The
market for foods containing soy has gone up between 10 and 13 percent
a year for the past five years.
With the school lunch experiment, the organization hopes to come up
with a model for schools throughout Illinois and across the country to bring in more soy, Hulting
First things first, said Maccari.
"I'll be interested to see the research that comes back as far
as the acceptability of it," she said. If the kids don't go for
soy, it might mean going back to the drawing board to create recipes
"There's a fine line. You want to see the kids eat," she said,
otherwise they won't be taking in the fuel they need to get them through
their school day.
"If there are too many things they're not going to choose, they're
going to go hungry. You need to find the in-between."
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is an important requirement
Letter by Arne Duncan, Chief executive officer, Chicago Public Schools,
Chicago Tribune, 11/15/04
This is in response to "City schools set to tighten rules on teacher
residency" (Page 1, Oct. 26). Teaching excellence is one of the
driving forces that have put the Chicago Public Schools on track to
becoming the best urban school system in the nation. Our test scores
are at all-time highs and the vast majority of our schools continue
to make yearly gains. Much of the credit for these accomplishments goes
to our teachers and their hard work in and out of the classroom.
Since 1996, we have required our teachers to live in Chicago, a policy some see as an obstacle in recruiting and
retaining the best teachers. The facts, however, suggest otherwise.
Every year our schools are performing better, the stacks of resumes
grow and our teacher-vacancy rate drops. We received a record number--15,000--teacher
applications this year, up 67 percent from two years earlier, and our
teacher-vacancy rate is less than 5 percent, a significant accomplishment
for a system of 26,000 teachers. We're also hiring a growing number
of teachers from the country's top universities--from the Ivy League
to the Big 10.
Consider other benefits of the residency policy. Teachers are natural
leaders and by living in the same communities as the children and families
they serve, they reinforce our efforts to make our schools community
anchors. By living here in Chicago, our teachers are also more likely to send their children
to our schools, and nothing inspires commitment like self-interest.
Our residency requirement--especially with amendments recently adopted
by the Board of Education--is enforced fairly and consistently and allows
for some reasonable flexibility in hard-to-staff subjects, such as special
education. We also provide our teachers with tremendous support in finding
a place to live in Chicago
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School projects in limbo as state money dries up
Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune
Ray Long and Tracy
to this report, 11/16/04
Thornton Fractional's high school district recently began renovating
its aging schools, which are in such bad shape that some science labs
have no running water.
But administrators in the southern Cook County district now fear state construction grants could fall
through, halting their project.
In Will County, Joliet
school officials have suspended some of their building projects, unsure
they'll get state grants they need to help pay for the work.
Elsewhere, districts lucky enough to have enough local funds have finished
projects while their state grant applications have languished on waiting
Over seven years, school districts have come to depend on state building
grants. But even as districts have come under increasing financial pressure,
the state's fiscal health has faltered, disrupting the school construction
grant program and generating distrust around the state.
In recent months, cash flow problems have delayed $144 million in grant
payments to 45 districts, state records show.
A new legislative analysis, due to be released this week, shows potential
problems in repaying bonds already issued to pay for the construction
grants. Telecommunications excise taxes--the main source of funds to
pay off school construction bonds over the years--have declined by $30
million since 2002, as cable modems and other technologies change the
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have yet to agree on a plan to extend the
program, which has run out of money for new grants. Estimates show at
least $6 billion in school construction needs remain in Illinois.
Discussions are expected to continue in Springfield this week, but lawmakers have little hope for an agreement.
"It's frightening, because I had a compact with my taxpayers,"
said Robert Wilhite, superintendent of Thornton Fractional High School
District 215, where voters approved a $19 million bond proposal in 2002
to match a state grant.
The school construction grant program was approved by lawmakers in 1997
to help districts such as Thornton Fractional, where 78-year-old North High School in Calumet City has antiquated boilers, inadequate electrical systems
and broken water pipes.
The program has since awarded some 500 grants totaling $3.1 billion
to help districts build new schools, renovate aging buildings and add
thousands of classrooms to relieve overcrowding. The state grants must
be matched by local funds.
With its massive school construction needs, Chicago has been awarded 20 percent of the grant dollars issued
each year. This budget year, the district balanced its budget on the
assumption it would get an additional $110 million.
If that $110 million does not arrive, Chicago school officials said Monday that they would have to
delay projects including three school additions costing $64 million
and $14 million worth of boiler repairs at four other schools.
The state never promised to fund the grant program indefinitely or even
to cover all school construction needs. But the program has enjoyed
strong support from Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his predecessors, George
Ryan and Jim Edgar. Lawmakers have authorized bonds three times to pay
for the grants, the last time in 2002.
As their own finances have deteriorated--more than 80 percent of districts
now have deficits--local school officials have become increasingly dependent
on the grants.
The last round of new construction grants was issued in September 2003,
with a handful of grants awarded after that for emergency projects.
Two dozen districts entitled to about $150 million in grants are still
on a waiting list that dates back to 2002. An additional 231 applications
are in the pipeline.
In addition, the state has made only partial payments on about 100 grants
totaling $849 million because districts are still in the construction
phase and don't get their money all at once. Fourteen other districts
are still in the design phase and have not begun receiving grant payments
totaling $102 million.
In Thornton Fractional District 215, Supt. Wilhite remembers the hoopla
when then-Gov. George Ryan visited the district in 2002 to award a grant.
A band played and the governor handed over a giant-sized, $19 million
check. District officials say they got about $1.6 million in summer
2003. But when they sent paperwork Oct. 5 for more money, they were
told there wasn't enough cash.
Karen Shoup, school construction administrator at the Capital Development
Board, which distributes the grants, said the agency was waiting for
the state to issue more bonds to cover the payments requested by districts.
Bond sales took place in September, and again last week, she said. Thirteen
districts will be paid as result of last week's sale, agency records
show. Thornton District 215 will get the largest amount, $8.9 million,
followed by Aurora West Unit District 129 in Kane County with $7 million.
After the September bond sale, 35 districts got late payments totaling
$106.5 million, state records show.
Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for the governor's Office of Management
and Budget, said bond sales were delayed in part because of recent changes
in bond-sales procedures.
But bond experts at the bipartisan Illinois Economic & Fiscal Commission,
a legislative fiscal watchdog, say there is concern about issuing more
school construction bonds because tax revenues designated to pay them
back may be insufficient.
The telecommunications excise tax, combined with liquor and cigarette
taxes, should bring in about $200 million this budget year to make debt
payments, according to a new report. The payments, however, are estimated
at $192.6 million without including the amount needed to cover the September
and November bond sales.
Debt payments also will rise as the state issues the rest of the bonds
authorized for the current program--$478 million of school construction
bonds have yet to be issued, according to the state comptroller's office.
Carroll, from the governor's office, stressed that the state would have
to use general revenue dollars to fill the hole should revenues be insufficient
to cover debt payments.
She also said the state intends to issue the remaining school construction
bonds, and that Blagojevich is committed to continuing the program.
The governor proposed an additional $2.2 billion over four years.
That proposal was rejected, in part because Republican lawmakers were
concerned that the state didn't have the money to pay back new bonds.
As it stands, lawmakers are not optimistic that school construction
and other capital projects will be approved in the session scheduled
to end Thursday.
The situation leaves some local officials disillusioned.
Supt. Diane Cody of Winfield Elementary School District 34 in DuPage,
said the state broke its promise to her district, one of the two dozen
on a 2002 waiting list, entitled to grants but never awarded them.
She said the district expected $2.3 million, but had to cut back construction
Officials at Joliet Public Schools District 86, also on the 2002 waiting
list, decided to delay construction until they get their $27 million
"We're not going out and spending additional money with our architects
until we know something for sure," said assistant superintendent
for business Troy Whalen.
- 24 districts were entitled to grants totaling about $150 million dating
back to 2002, but had not received them when money ran out.
- An additional 231 grant applications are pending.
GRANTS BY REGION
1998-2004, in millions
Suburban Cook $456.9
Total $1.8 billion
*Grants issued in 2004 were for emergency applications only.
Source: Tribune analysis of Illinois Capital Development Board data
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Parent survey on Harlem dress code yields little information
A School Board panel recommends forming a group to study the discipline
Isaac Guerrero, Rockford Register Star, 11/16/04
MACHESNEY PARK -- Harlem School District students won't be wearing uniforms anytime soon, if
a recent parent survey carries any weight.
However, the School Board's Policy Committee told Superintendent Pat
De Luca to establish a committee of parents, teachers, principals and
other groups to study what has become a thorny discipline issue in the
district of 7,866 students.
"The purpose of the committee is not necessarily to recommend a
coordinated dress code policy, but to look at all of the dress code
problems, including enforcement, and see what should be done,"
De Luca said.
Forty-eight percent of Harlem parents surveyed said they favored establishing some
type of coordinated dress code for students. But only 17.6 percent of
parents, representing 1,383 of the district's 7,866 students, responded
to the survey.
"The numbers seem almost useless," said School Board Vice
President Debbie Kerr. "So few parents responded."
Board President Sandi Johnson said she favors leaving the district's
dress code alone and instead studying how to step up enforcement of
daily dress code violations.
The survey found that parents who support a coordinated dress code believe
the policy would reduce teasing and cliques. Those who dislike the idea
said uniforms would be too expensive and that administrators should
simply enforce existing dress-code rules.
Teachers and principals routinely discipline students for showing up
at school in skimpy shorts or skirts, or wearing shirts with inappropriate
messages. Students have grown savvy and know how to bend the rules,
said Lynn Kearney, president of the Harlem Federation of Teachers.
For example, repeat offenders at Harlem Middle School often keep an extra sweat shirt in their locker to cover
up revealing attire, then peel off the outer layer later in the school
"Some teachers don't feel comfortable telling a student 'Your skirt
is too short' or 'Your shirt is too short,'" Kearney said. "Some teachers have been told by their teammates
not to say anything because it's not worth your career. What do you
say when a parent comes and asks you, 'Why are you looking at my daughter's
chest or rear end?'"
Harlem parent Anita Jurasek told the policy committee Monday
that a uniform policy would punish students who obey the dress code.
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Students selling bricks to raise money, beautify
John Krupa, The Alton Telegraph
ALTON -- Donation-seeking Alton High
students are about to spread through the city like a "good cancer,"
said junior Catheryn Greenwood.
"We want to warn the public," said junior Amber Bowling. "We
will be out there."
Students begin hawking $50 bricks, $500 granite blocks and $1,200 granite
or marble benches today, as part of a winter fund-raising campaign for
the Alton Educational Foundation.
The foundation was established in 2001, and since has funded $10,000
worth of scholarships and grants, used to fund such things as field
trips, classroom reference libraries and the installation of classroom
But with its goal of selling 6,000 bricks -- which would raise at least
$300,000 to support local education in the cash-strapped district --
the foundation is raising the bar to its most ambitious level ever.
"Every penny goes back into the classroom," said foundation
board member Laura Wallendorf.
Plus, the bricks, blocks and benches will beautify a future courtyard
at the new high school site on Humbert Road -- which should serve as a major thoroughfare and congregation point
as students shuffle between classes and buildings.
"This isn’t the prettiest campus in the world, so we’re trying
to make the other one nicer," Greenwood, a 16-year-old Student
Council member said, while overlooking the central parking lot known
as "The Pit" at the current high school site on College Avenue.
"This is going to look a lot nicer than crossing a pit like this.
I’m going to be proud to go to a school like this."
Bowling, who is chairing the Student Council’s brick campaign, said
students will fan out across Alton, pressing friends, family and businesses to support
the fund-raising effort.
Each brick, block or bench purchased will be engraved with the buyer’s
name, or may be chiseled in someone else’s honor.
"I think it’s going to be cool when I bring my kids back. I can
say, ‘I bought that,’ Greenwood said.
Student Council members hope to reach their ambitious goal by Jan. 30,
and have created a number of incentives to motivate students to hit
the streets selling.
Each teen will earn 10 percent of what they sell once they hit the $500
mark, in the form of gift cards for use at area businesses.
"Everyone wants (gift cards) to QT, because gas is so high,"
Classes also will compete against each other, with the highest-grossing
class getting a bench with its name engraved on it.
"Everybody needs to get involved in this, either buying a brick
or selling a brick," Bowling said.
If students buy into the campaign and reach their goal, it not only
will have an impact on the quality of local education but also will
beautify the new high school permanently -- a benefit to generations
of students to come.
"You’re paying for the new high school, so you may as well make
it nice," Greenwood said.
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School test results will
be late, but accurate
Kate N. Grossman, Chicago Sun-Times
State school test results will be released Dec. 15, six weeks
after the law requires. But unlike last year, they'll be accurate, state
school officials pledged Wednesday.
In 2003, 451 schools were erroneously marked as failing to meet federal
standards when the state report card was released Dec. 19.
This year, the State Board of Education delayed releasing the report
card after identifying potential mistakes in 1,958 of Illinois' 3,081 schools. Most were probably due to errors in
labeling student demographic information. It opened a correction window
for districts and says it has fixed all the errors.
"We wanted to be as timely as possible while still making sure
the data is accurate," said interim Education Supt. Randy Dunn.
He pledged not to repeat last year's mistakes, which unfairly placed
schools on a state failing list.
"It's not acceptable, given the stakes," Dunn said.
The state board plans several changes for next year. These include preprinted
student labels, test administration training and a plan to return test
results to schools earlier. It hopes to publish the final report card
at the start of school next year.
It is also intends to revamp the design of the report card, making it
easier for parents to read. The report card includes test results, class
size averages, student demographics, average teacher salaries and experience
levels and other information.
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Bush II: Paige out,
NCLB to high school
From eSchool News staff and wire service reports, 11/16/04
Two weeks after the Nov. 2 elections that granted President George W.
Bush an extended tour of duty, school leaders are still trying to understand
what the results will mean for educational technology.
One thing educators now know for sure is that Education Secretary Roderick
Paige won't be back for a second term. Paige officially tendered his
resignation Nov. 15, stating, "I did not come to Washington as a career move. I came to help President Bush establish
a culture of accountability in American education."
It was not immediately clear at press time who would become Paige's
successor, though Beltway insiders speculated the job would be offered
to Margaret Spellings, Bush's domestic policy advisor. Spellings was
responsible for shaping Bush's education policy while he was governor
of Texas and served on the White House staff during the president's
Officials from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) did not return
an eSchool News reporter's telephone calls before press time.
Regardless of who's in charge at ED, educators and school administrators
can anticipate "more of the same" when it comes to school
technology leadership during the next four years, according to several
education policy experts who spoke with eSchool News shortly after the
"I don't see a lot of change. I don't see more funds being marked
specifically for ed tech," said Ann Flynn, director of educational
technology for the National School Boards Association (NSBA). "While
I know people care greatly about education, issues like the war in Iraq and terrorism so upstaged education" leading up
to these elections.
The election results, which also solidified the Republican Party's majority
in both the Senate and the House, could mean an expansion of the landmark
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), Bush's signature education
plan. In fact, in the run up to the election, Bush vowed to extend the
accountability provisions of NCLB to high schools, promising $200 million
to pay for that expansion.
Elsewhere on the funding front, Bush also said he would commit another
$200 million to assist struggling readers. He promised to increase funding
for math instruction by $269 million. He said he would increase the
maximum college Pell grants from $1,000 to $5,500 and would raise first-year
loan limits for college students. He also promised to commit $125 million
to help community colleges offer credit to high school students.
Though NCLB, as structured in Bush's first term, requires greater accountability
in exchange for federal dollars, its critics--which include local school
administrators and state legislators from both political parties--say
it's grossly underfunded. Some say the law's emphasis on testing and
research-based methods also leaves little room for creativity in the
Although much of the federal focus will remain on using technology to
implement various aspects of NCLB, the Bush administration also will
be looking to implement a few new ed-tech initiatives announced during
These initiatives include creating an eLearning Clearinghouse to promote
online courses available to students and adults from both public and
private sources; providing $200 million to establish individualized
learning plans for high school students; and offering greater access
to specialized teachers and Advanced Placement courses through distance
learning. (See "Bush floats new eLearning plan," http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showstory.cfm?ArticleID=5269.)
"This is going to be good for ed tech," said John Bailey,
deputy policy director for the Bush campaign and former director of
ED's Office of Educational Technology. "The President has made
a clear commitment to educational technology in the midst of an incredibly
Details about how these new programs would be implemented were unavailable
at press time. But advocates of educational technology say they are
genuinely concerned about how the administration intends to pay for
these new programs when its existing ed-tech programs are already in
"I think a lot of people would like to see the eLearning Clearinghouse
happen, and we hope that there will be ample funding for it," said
Jon Bernstein, vice president of Leslie Harris and Associates, a legislative
specialist contracted by groups such as the Consortium for School Networking,
the International Society for Technology in Education, and others.
Ed-tech advocates have been lobbying hard against a proposed $91 million
reduction to the nation's primary ed-tech program in the fiscal year
2005 budget (see "Ed-tech advocates protest budget cuts":
points out that the idea to cut the program's funding came from the
House floor and not the Bush administration.
"The President recommended keeping that $90 million in there. That's
not his position," Bailey said. He noted that the most drastic
cuts to school technology funding have come at the state level, and
he said he'd like to see ed-tech advocates launch the same lobbying
efforts at the state level as well.
Another possible result of Bush's reelection is that the work educators,
students, and ED officials have put into crafting the new National Educational
Technology Plan won't be wasted or undone, said NSBA's Flynn.
"They spent many, many months crafting the new ed-tech plan, which
is just starting to get traction," Flynn said. "Since there
wasn't an administration change, I would expect this is the document
they will work from."
ED has floated drafts of the new plan among education experts, and it
is believed the plan officially will be available in December.
The freeze on eRate funding is another issue ed-tech advocates hope
the feds will fix. They'd like Congress to pass a bill exempting the
eRate program from complying with the Anti-Deficiency Act, which abruptly
caused funds to pay for internet and telephone service to stop flowing
to the nation's schools and libraries Aug. 3 (see "eRate chaos
looms for schools": http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showstory.cfm?ArticleID=5341).
"I hope--through whatever process it takes--I hope we can get back
the reliability and dependability of the eRate," Flynn said. "The
unpredictably that happened to our schools this fall was not good."
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell said
he is in favor of working with members of Congress to draft legislation
to exempt the eRate from the law. It remains unclear whether the decision
to apply the Anti-Deficiency Act to the eRate--out of the blue and in
mid-stream--was Powell's call alone or whether it came from the White
House Office of Management and Budget; both offices have evaded the
question to date. (eSchool News has filed a Freedom of Information Act
request for the relevant public documents, but the FCC's latest response
has been to postpone action.)
It had been rumored that Powell would leave his post to take a position
at his alma mater, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., but Powell told reporters Nov. 9 that he is happy where
he is, though he added he won't stay past 2007 when his term ends.
An FCC insider speculated that perhaps Rebecca Klein, former Texas Public
Utility commissioner, would replace FCC Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy,
whose term expired last June. Democratic commissioner Jonathan Adelstein,
whose term has also expired, might have a chance at staying on, reported
Republicans gained at least four seats in the House (the final tally
will not be known until Dec. 4, when the results of Louisiana runoffs are in) and four seats in the Senate, but it's
still unclear what the changes in the House and Senate will mean for
"I have never viewed ed tech as a partisan issue. We have had champions
on both sides of the aisle," Bernstein said. "No matter what
side of the aisle you're on, everyone recognizes the value of educational
TOP OF PAGE
Those Bake Sales Add
Up, to $9 Billion or So
By GREG WINTER, New York Times, 11/15/04
Camping trips in the desert. Excursions to the famed Scripps Institute
on the California coast. A summer at space camp. Not to mention the other
standards of a solid education: art classes, chess, sports and individual
No, it is not the roster at an exclusive private school. It's the menu
of extracurricular activities offered at the public Nadaburg Elementary
in Wittmann, Ariz., where about 70 percent of the children are low income,
if not more.
So where does the money come from? Not from education budgets or some
benevolent foundation. The answer lies miles away, in immaculate retirement
communities with names like Sun City West and Sun City Grand. The residents
there may not have any grandchildren who attend the school, near Phoenix, but they have become among its staunchest patrons.
The school offers an unusual glimpse of the degree to which private
fund-raising has reshaped the nation's schools. In Arizona, for example, residents are allowed to take up to $250
of their state taxes and apply it directly to any school, regardless
of whether they have children who attend. Nadaburg's teachers and administrators
use the rule to great advantage.
They ride buses to retirement communities nearby to sign up benefactors.
They invite the people there to luncheons. They lead the children in
Christmas caroling for those who have transformed their school.
"I consider it to be a legitimate, viable factor in the success
of our kids academically," said Steven Yokobosky, Nadaburg's superintendent.
"I mean, the kids aren't excelling, but if you look at the demographics
of our school they shouldn't be doing as well as they are."
Private support of public schools has become a wide phenomenon. Big
city districts look to foundations and businesses to help meet students'
needs. Parents around the nation are raising money for vital school
functions as state spending on education slows down.
But is all this private money enough to really change the character
of schools? And does it help close the gap between wealthy and poor
schools or widen it?
Public elementary and secondary schools claimed nearly $373 billion
in federal, state and local revenues during the 1999-2000 school year,
federal statistics show. Nearly $9 billion of that came from nongovernmental
Foundations, the institutional donors with a focus on helping communities
in need, gave about $1.2 billion to public and private K-12 education
in 2002, according to the Foundation Center, a group in New York that
works to strengthen the nonprofit sector. That is a small fraction of
the amount coming from other private sources — most notably, parents.
In an informal survey of about 100 of its member organizations by the
National PTA, conducted at the request of the reporter, the group concluded
that parents and their communities contribute as much as if not more
than $10 billion in cash and services to the nation's schools.
The gifts and services that PTA's furnish range from libraries, computer
labs and playgrounds to a laundry list of smaller essentials that many
districts may not be able to afford.
Parental giving and fund-raising varies widely by income level. The
PTA's for the poorest 25 percent of schools surveyed typically contributed
$13 to $68 a student, while the wealthiest 25 percent of schools surveyed
typically donated $192 to $279.
Some experts say there is not enough evidence to prove that private
money ends up favoring wealthier schools, partly because their poorer
counterparts get more money from corporations and foundations. But given
the lopsided amounts that parents raise, some contend that private money
ultimately worsens the disparity.
"I think it clearly makes it worse," said Tom Vander Ark, the education director for the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, which has pledged more than $1 billion to start schools
serving low-income students. "But it's tricky, because we don't
want to condemn individual contributions to local schools. They're certainly
supporting important things for young people. It's a benign way that
our society exacerbates the inequity between the rich and the poor."
There are exceptions. Nadaburg's campaign in retirement communities
raised almost $244,000, or more than $488 a pupil, under the rule in
2002, researchers have found, though the area has a much higher poverty
rate than the state average.
But statewide in Arizona, between 1998 and 2002, the poorest quarter of schools
received a total of about $8 million in contributions under the law,
according to Glen Y. Wilson, an assistant professor of education policy
at the University of Connecticut, while the wealthiest quarter received more than $29 million.
Other state policies have had a similar effect, sometimes by accident.
In the late 90's, Vermont legislators tried to make sure all schools had enough
money, so they required districts with higher property taxes to share
some of the wealth. To get around the law, about two dozen communities
deliberately kept property taxes down and started local foundations
that were exempt from the rules on sharing. Local residents put more
than $11 million into these private funds last year, the state said.
Vermont has since changed the law, effectively dismantling these
local funds, but not because they ran contrary to the spirit of sharing,
state officials said. Instead, animosity developed in some towns because
not everyone contributed, said Bill Talbott, chief financial officer
for Vermont's education department.
When state spending on education shot up nationwide in the late 90's,
buoyed by the hearty tax receipts of a forceful economy, the financial
gap between rich and poor districts began to narrow, according to a
report released last month by the Education Trust, a research group
that aims to close the achievement gap between students. But growth
in education spending has slowed considerably. Wealthier districts have
made up for much of the slowdown by raising property taxes, so the financial
gap between rich and poor has expanded again, the report found.
"What foundations shouldn't try to do is fund gaps in the system,
or fill holes that the public ought to be filling," said William
Porter, executive director of Grantmakers for Education, a network of
200 foundations. "The resources that we can put toward a problem
pale in comparison to the problem itself."
As public spending on education slows, even PTA's in some of the better-off
districts say they have little choice but to prop up their local schools.
For example, beyond the thousands of dollars parents have raised to
outfit the playground at Emerson Elementary School, a magnet school
with few poor students in Westerville, Ohio, the school's PTA says it
spends thousands more on essentials like library books.
"It's no longer about arranging the parties and cleaning up the
playgrounds," said Trina Shanks, past president of Emerson's PTA.
"It's a whole lot more."
TOP OF PAGE
Kentucky teachers taking alternative paths to certifications
Associated Press, 11/15/04
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A growing number of Kentucky teachers are taking alternative routes to their certification
- getting into the classroom while earning their credentials.
In the past six years, more than 1,400 people have taken one of Kentucky's six alternative paths to teaching. Nearly half earned
their alternative certification last year, according to the latest state
The university-based route allows aspiring teachers to teach during
the day and take courses at night or on weekends. That route had 631
people enrolled last year, five times as many as the previous year.
Kentucky officials in charge of the alternative routes say they
are vital to easing the state's teacher shortage, increasing diversity
and helping school districts meet federal rules that require a skilled
teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-06 school year.
"This just gives folks, particularly the mid-career folks, an option
to get certified without having to go back and start their college career
over again," said Susan Lieb, executive director of the state's
Education Professional Standards Board, which oversees teacher and school
Not everyone in education is sold on the idea. Some warn that alternative
programs often emphasize subject knowledge over teaching skills such
as classroom management.
"That's a real problem," said Brent McKim, president of the
Jefferson County Teachers Association. "It's not good for the kids
for the first years, and I think it makes it much less likely that teachers
who are licensed by way of those routes will remain in the classroom."
Nonetheless, state officials predict enrollment in alternative programs
will continue growing. Last summer, the General Assembly added a seventh
alternative route that allows a person to begin teaching after completing
a six- to eight-week instructional training course.
Last month, the Kentucky Department of Education started using a $1.3
million federal grant to recruit mid-career professionals and college
graduates without teaching degrees into alternative programs so they
can teach in high-poverty school districts around the state.
A handful of states, including New Jersey and Texas, began using alternative certification routes in the
early 1980s to ease teacher shortages. By 1997, 41 states and the District of Columbia had adopted some type of alternative program. Those
programs have supplied an estimated 200,000 teachers since 1985, according
to a study published last year by the National Center for Education Information.
Alternative programs are helping districts meet new federal requirements
that no longer allow states to issue emergency teaching certificates,
a tool many districts used to fill positions in math, science, special
education and English as a second language.
Educators acknowledge there are drawbacks to alternative routes, most
notably that people begin teaching lacking a full background in instruction.
"These folks are put into classrooms oftentimes before they've
had any training at all. They're kind of thrown to the wolves,"
said Cindy Gnadinger, the graduate director at Bellarmine University's Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education.
Universities such as Bellarmine and Spalding encourage students to begin
their college training in the summer so they have some instructional
knowledge before school starts. But Gnadinger and others say alternative
teachers strengthen Kentucky's classrooms with their knowledge, experience and maturity.
Betty Lindsay, dean of Spalding University's College of Education, says candidates often "bring a commitment to teaching. It's a decision
they've made after considering it very carefully and trying other things
in their lives."
TOP OF PAGE
Evolution foes see opening to press fight in schools
Raja Mishra, Boston Globe, 11/16/04
A long-running American cultural clash has flared yet again, with a
trial in suburban Atlanta this month over teaching evolution in public schools.
Several Georgia parents are challenging a local school board's decision
to require biology textbooks to include a prominently placed label stating
that evolution is ''not a fact."
The Georgia case is the first to land in court, but this year alone
13 states have had challenges to teaching evolution in schools. With
the new federal No Child Left Behind education law mandating a broad
review of science curriculum in every state over the next two years,
those challenges may accelerate, as religious activists and evolution
opponents seize on opportunities to shape guidelines on what public
school students learn about the natural world.
Those challenging evolution rarely say that schools should teach creationism,
the biblical account of the origin of life. Instead, they insist that
teachers present evolution as a debated and uncertain hypothesis, though
most scientists consider it among the most important and well-supported
scientific theories of all time. Scientists worry that the antievolution
campaign will weaken American science education and see it as part of
a broader push to incorporate religion in public schools.
The debate is unfolding as the nation wrestles with the role of religion
in public life, as the recent presidential election made clear.
The mobilization of religious conservatives that helped to reelect President
Bush greatly impressed officials at the Institute for Creation Research,
a self-proclaimed ''Christ-focused creation ministry" in Santee,
Calif., committed to challenging the teaching of evolution
''When people get organized, those that approach politics from a point
of view that God exists, it's clear that things can be changed,"
said the institute's vice president, Duane Gish. ''The evolutionists
use every device available in politics. Why shouldn't we?"
Once disparate antievolution groups have become more organized in recent
years, establishing networks on the Internet, sharing tactics, developing
literature, and honing arguments.
''The case in Georgia is the first court case to take this up, but there
will be more," said Paul R. Gross, life sciences professor emeritus
at the University of Virginia and author of a recent book on the antievolution
effort. ''This is a very serious movement. It touches the deep and sincere
feelings of a great many people in our country."
While most of the challenges to the teaching of evolution have been
in states won by Bush, the issue has also emerged in the last two months
in three states won by John F. Kerry:
In western Wisconsin, the Grantsburg school district passed a measure mandating
the teaching of ''various scientific models or theories of origin."
In Pennsylvania, the Dover area school board passed a measure requiring the teaching
of ''intelligent design" along with evolution. This theory argues
that life is so complex that some intelligent force, above and beyond
evolution, must be behind it. Proponents say the intelligent force is
In many local battles, evolution opponents have successfully argued
that students should be exposed to questions about evolution and alternative
theories. In Ohio, the state Department of Education passed a measure
in March encouraging teachers to hold classes that question the evolutionary
''We were very pleased by the science standard that was developed"
in Ohio, said John West, associate director of the Center for Science
& Culture of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank
active in opposing the teaching of evolution in schools around the country.
He added, ''I certainly do see more of these policies being pursued"
as the No Child Left Behind law prompts states to review their science
The law requires review of all subjects, and in most states the process
is well underway in English and math. The reviews, conducted by state
school boards, can lead to changes in curriculum, textbook selection,
and standardized test content. School board officials are elected or
appointed by elected officials and therefore subject to political pressure.
''When you do get organized, when you use political pressure, it is
effective," said Gish of the Institute for Creation Research. He
said he would like to see ''the schools present the best case for evolution,
and let the creationists present their best case, and let students decide."
Evolutionary scientists have fought against such sentiment for decades.
''This is such old-hat stuff," said Harvard emeritus professor
Ernest Mayr, who at age 100 is one of the titans of evolutionary science.
Mayr is adamant that antievolutionary arguments, even those that don't
directly mention religion, have no place in public schools.
''What it really amounts to is a break with our Constitution, which
tells you that you should keep religion out of public life," he
Another major figure in the field, Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson,
said the current challenges to evolution are fringe movements, noting
that Pope John Paul II, in a 1996 statement, acknowledged that evolutionary
scientists had amassed considerable evidence for their theory.
''They are really going outside the beliefs of most Christians in the
world and most other religions in the world," said Wilson of evolution opponents.
TOP OF PAGE
Senior wants gun photo in yearbook
Beverley Wang, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/16/04
CONCORD, N.H. -- Where other students might pose for their senior
yearbook photo with a tennis racket or favorite car, Blake Douglass
wants to be seen with his shotgun.
The 17-year-old filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force Londonderry High
to allow the photo and give up the policy school officials used to reject
''What they're doing is basically discriminating based on content or
message,'' said Penny Dean, Douglass' lawyer and a specialist in gun
cases. ''You can't do that. You might want to but you can't -- and especially
you can't with a broad policy like this.''
An avid hunter and trap and skeet shooter, Douglass said he decided
long ago on his senior photo -- an outdoor shot in a sportsman's pose,
with him wearing a shooting vest and holding his broke-open shotgun
over his shoulder.
''He would look at his yearbooks since he's been a freshman and say,
'I can't wait until I'm a senior -- this is how I want my senior picture
done,''' said his mother, Kathy Douglass.
Blake Douglass saw seniors in previous classes have posed with musical
instruments, dogs, in-line skates and a Ford Mustang.
''Those were their hobbies and I just want to put my hobby in,'' he
said. ''I don't see it as a threat.''
School officials said the photo lacks context in the yearbook's seniors
section. They offered to publish it in a separate ''community sports''
section, but Douglass refused.
Principal James Elefante said that although the photo isn't threatening,
''I still stand by that holding a saxophone is different from holding
TOP OF PAGE
Bush moving to target older students this term
Ben Feller, The Associated Press, Daily Southtown
WASHINGTON — President Bush is ready to shift his education focus
to older students, building on the law he pushed through before terrorism
and war came to define his presidency.
No Child Left Behind, Bush's first big domestic legislative victory,
orders schools to show yearly gains among students regardless of their
race or background.
The federal role in education has never been so big, and the president
says his plans to expand the law "could move pretty quickly"
in the new Congress.
"Do you remember the No Child Left Behind Act?" Bush said
in his first news conference after his re-election, when asked how he
would reach across party lines. "I think there's the model I would
look at if I were you."
Yet some say that model needs much repair. Many Democrats who supported
the law criticize what they call lackluster spending and enforcement
under Bush's leadership.
And with an expanded majority in Congress, some Republicans want Bush
to put his power behind a more conservative school-choice agenda. That
would mean a bigger push for private-school vouchers and charter schools,
which are public but largely independent.
"We're going to find out a lot about what George Bush is really
all about," said Andrew Rotherham, who directs education policy
for the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank aligned with centrist
Democrats. "He would be better remembered as the president who
put in place the framework for closing the achievement gap — not the
one who got a multicity voucher plan passed, which is the base-pleasing
Bush will have a new education secretary to shepherd his policies. He
has chosen his domestic policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, to replace
Rod Paige, who resigned Monday. The nomination must be confirmed by
Bush wants to extend his education law by requiring two more years of
state math and reading tests in high school grades. That's part of a
broader promise to improve high school standards, graduation rates and
the value of the diploma — all of which are welcomed, said Patty Sullivan,
a leader of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Even with the larger GOP majorities in Congress, Bush still lacks the
votes to halt Democratic delay tactics in the Senate. Since the election,
Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on education, has signaled he
wants to work with Bush to make early childhood learning a bigger priority.
There's still plenty of room for bipartisan school progress, Kennedy
said, "without taking divisive steps, such as diverting scarce
public education dollars to private schools."
Yet in the House, Education Committee Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio,
will look for ways to work with Bush and others to expand school choice,
spokesman David Schnittger said. Bush has won vouchers in the District of Columbia and transfers for students out of some struggling schools
across the nation. The agenda also includes such items as extra pay
for teachers whose students perform well. But given the deficit, spending
won't come easy.
"There won't be many surprises on education," Schnittger said,
"but there will be a lot of action."
That's because Congress has a backlog of laws due for updates. They
—Head Start, the popular preschool program for poor children. Bush wants
the program's emphasis shifted toward literacy, and he favors giving
states more control.
—Higher education, where Bush has a series of college-aid plans and
will push for greater accountability in how that money is spent.
—Vocational education, the federal program that helps students prepare
for trade and technical jobs. Bush wants to require more academic rigor
from such schools receiving federal aid.
And then there is the question of what to do about No Child Left Behind,
a matter expected to continue dominating the national conversation over
Although the law is lauded for its goals, Democrats and Republicans
say some parts need work, including the way school progress is measured.
The Bush administration has shown some flexibility but appears unwilling
to adjust the law before its scheduled update in 2007.
"There is a range of concern out there, from serious and thoughtful
to outrageous and disingenuous," said Rotherham, a former adviser to President Clinton. "The administration has
done a terrible job of distilling that. They need to rebuild the broad
Or not. Some Republicans say Bush can't satisfy Democrats, particularly
on funding, no matter what he recommends. They want the White House
to be more proactive about No Child Left Behind and to keep shaking
up what they deem to be a public education monopoly.
"My cardinal rule in Washington
is you're on offense or you're on defense," said William Bennett,
who was education secretary under President Reagan. "They're on
defense too much."
TOP OF PAGE
'Value Added' Models
Gain in Popularity
Growth Yardstick Appeals to States
By Lynn Olson, Education Week, 11/17/04
The concept sounds appealing: Measure the effectiveness of schools and
teachers based on the amount of academic progress their students make
from one year to the next. Often known as “value added” measures because
they track the “value” that schools add to individual students’ learning
over time, such methods are increasingly popular with educators and
Some view the methods as an antidote to accountability systems that
focus solely on getting children to a specified achievement level on
a state test, regardless of where they start. Others view them as a
way to isolate the effects of teachers and schools on learning, separate
from such background characteristics as race and poverty.
Three national conferences on the topic took place last month alone.
And this week, the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers
planned to host a meeting on their use.
“Value-added measurement is a very active area today,” Nancy S. Grasmick,
the state superintendent of education in Maryland, said during a conference at the University of Maryland College Park last month. “We know there’s controversy surrounding
this,” she added. “We need to ferret out all of the factors and not
just jump into this without a strong research base.”
Indeed, as policymakers and practitioners rush to take up value-added
methods, researchers continue to debate their merits and how the existing
models can be improved.
While value-added assessments are well past their infancy, noted Robert
Lissitz, the director of the Maryland Assessment Research Center for Student Success at the University of Maryland, “the practical applications of value-added models are complex, difficult,
and often controversial.”
That hasn’t stopped the momentum, which has gained steam in part because
of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires states to
test every student annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8
and at least once in high school.
That mandate has opened up the possibility of tracking individual student
growth from grade to grade in far more states, a prerequisite for value-added
modeling. At the same time, concerns that the law’s accountability provisions
are unfair to schools has sent people scrambling for alternatives.
Sixteen state schools chiefs wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod
Paige earlier this year requesting the flexibility to use value-added
or growth measures to meet the accountability requirements. States such
as Ohio and Pennsylvania are now working to incorporate such models into their
state accountability systems, joining existing ventures in Arizona, Florida,
North Carolina, and Tennessee. And many other states, including Arkansas, California,
and Minnesota, are considering adding value-added assessments.
One of the big attractions for educators is that value-added methods
could provide a fairer way to measure school and teacher effectiveness
than existing accountability systems.
The NCLB law, for example, judges schools primarily on the percentage
of children who perform at the “proficient” level on state tests. Schools
don’t get credit for students who make lots of growth in a given year
but still fail to reach the proficiency bar, or for advanced students
who continue to progress.
Schools also are judged by comparing the performance of cohorts of students
in successive years—for example, the performance of this year’s 3rd
graders vs. last year’s 3rd graders—even though the two groups may be
quite different. In contrast, value-added methods track the growth of
each student in a school over time from the child’s starting point.
Such methods also can provide schools with diagnostic information about
the rate at which individual children are learning in particular subjects
and classrooms, making it possible to target assistance to students
or teachers or areas of the curriculum that need help.
In 2002, the Pennsylvania education department invited districts that were already
testing in grades 3-8 to participate in a pilot value-added project,
using the model that William L. Sanders developed for Tennessee in 1992. The plan is to take the project statewide next
‘A Great Diagnostic Tool’
The 4,500-student DuBois Area School
about 100 miles from the Ohio border,
signed up immediately.
“There are people who are really worried about this concept and want
it to be perfect before we say yes,” said Sharon Kirk, the superintendent
of the district. She spoke last month at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored by Battelle for Kids, a nonprofit there that
is working with about 80 Ohio districts on a value-added pilot using the Sanders method.
“I can’t imagine why we would not absolutely embrace information that
is going to make us better.”
One of the first things Ms. Kirk did was ask each principal to predict
which group of students his or her school was serving best. Daniel Hawkins,
the principal of the DuBois Middle
said he’d been confident the school was doing a fine job educating its
most academically advanced students. When the data came back, it showed
that in both math and reading, those students were making less progress
over the course of a year than similarly high-performing students in
“I was wrong,” he said, “obviously wrong.”
Amy Short, an algebra teacher at the school, said educators realized
they were spending too much time reviewing material at the start of
each school year and needed to accelerate instruction.
The school set up four different levels of algebra and provided additional
periods of math practice for students with the lowest math scores who
also were falling behind their peers. Each week, teachers in the same
grade and subject sat down to decide what they would teach in the coming
week, and crafted nine-week assessments to track students’ progress.
By 2003, DuBois Middle
students were demonstrating significantly more growth over the course
of the year than similarly performing students elsewhere.
“I really like this because I think it’s a great diagnostic tool for
me,” said Ms. Short, who uses the data on individual students to tell
whether they need additional support or enrichment. “I thought I was
teaching my kids better.”
Research by Mr. Sanders and others in the field has found that the variability
in effectiveness between classrooms within schools is three to four
times greater than the variability across schools. Moreover, students
assigned to highly effective teachers for several years running experience
much more academic growth than students assigned to a string of particularly
ineffective teachers, although the precise size of those effects and
how long they persist are unclear.
Based on such findings, said Daniel Fallon, the chairman of the education
division at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, people have come to recognize that the effects of good
teaching “are profound and appear to be cumulative.”
Most people appear comfortable using value-added information as a powerful
school improvement tool. The bigger question is whether states are ready
to use such methods in high-stakes situations.
So far, the U.S. Department of Education has not permitted any state
to use a value-added model to meet the requirements for adequate yearly
progress under the No Child Left Behind law. And it’s not certain the
department has the authority to do so without changing the statute.
Celia H. Sims, a special assistant in the department’s office of elementary
and secondary education, said at the time states submitted their accountability
plans to the federal government, most didn’t have in place the grades
3-8 testing or student-information systems that would permit them to
track individual student gains over time.
“Value-added can certainly be used even right now as an additional academic
indicator by the state,” she noted, although no state has made that
choice. In part, that’s because additional academic indicators can only
serve to increase the number of schools potentially identified for improvement
under the federal law.
“States are still looking at how growth can fit within No Child Left
Behind,” Ms. Sims said. She does not know of any value-added model that
specifies how much growth students must make each year, so that all
students perform at the proficient level by 2013-14, as the law requires.
“That’s the non-negotiable,” she said.
Researchers in at least three organizations—the Dover, N.H.-based Center
for Assessment, the Portland, Ore.-based Northwest Evaluation Association
and the Washington-based American Institutes for Research—have been
working on models to combine value-added analyses with absolute measures
of student performance, so that students would be on track to achieve
proficiency by a specified point.
“This, to me, is a central issue with value-added,” said Mitchell D.
Chester, the assistant state superintendent for policy and accountability
in the Ohio education department. By state law, the department must
incorporate Mr. Sanders’ value-added method into the accountability
system by 2007-08. “How do you combine looking at progress with still
trying to ensure youngsters in Ohio end up graduating with the skills and knowledge that
they need to succeed beyond high schools?”
Some policymakers also are eager to use value-added models as part of
teacher evaluation or compensation systems. But while many researchers
and educators said value-added results might, eventually, be used as
one component of such systems, they should not be the only measure.
“I think that really puts too much of a burden on value-added measures,”
said Henry I. Braun, a statistician with the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service.
In general, such measures can distinguish between highly effective and
ineffective teachers, based on the amount of growth their students make,
researchers say, but they have a hard time distinguishing between the
vast majority of teachers whose performance hovers around average.
Moreover, while value-added models can identify schools or teachers
that appear more effective than others, they cannot identify what those
teachers do that makes them more effective.
“In the earliest years of implementing a value-added assessment system,
it’s probably smart to lower the stakes,” said Dale Ballou, a professor
of education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
It’s also unclear how such measures would work for teachers whose subjects
are not measured by state tests.
Both the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Education Association
have supported the use of a growth measure as part of Ohio’s accountability system.
“We felt there were a lot of hard-working people out there who were
not getting adequate credit for moving kids along the way they do,”
said Debbie Tully, an official with the OFT, an affiliate of the American
Federation of Teachers.
But while the union is “more than open” to using such measures as one
component in teacher evaluation, Ms. Tully added, it’s far too early
to tell if it can be used as an evaluation tool.
‘Under the Hood’
Yet for all the criticism of value-added methods, said Mr. Braun of
the ETS, “we have to confront the logic behind the enthusiasm that we
see out there in the world for value-added measures.”
The key, he said, is for policymakers to “look under the hood,” and
not just take such measures at face value.
“I think the fact that people are taking this stuff seriously now is
focusing people on the right questions,” said Vanderbilt’s Mr. Ballou.
While value-added models may eventually run up against insurmountable
limitations, they’re not there yet.
“All the other methods are also flawed,” Mr. Ballou noted, “so if you’re
not going to use this one, what’s the alternative?”
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Tests of Youngest
English-Learners Spark Controversy
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, 11/17/04
At a time when many states are poised to roll out new standardized tests
to evaluate English-language proficiency in unprecedented depth, California is balking at carrying out a federal requirement to
test the literacy of young children who are learning English.
In a unanimous vote last week, the California board of education decided to ask the U.S. Department
of Education to exempt the state’s English-language learners in kindergarten
and 1st grade from being tested in reading and writing, as required
under the No Child Left Behind Act.
California officials argue that their schools’ current practice
of testing such children only in listening and speaking should be sufficient.
Schools in the state enroll about 30 percent of the nation’s 5.5 million
“You can imagine the amount of time it would take to give the assessment,”
said Deb Sigman, the state testing director for the California Department
of Education. “We think it’s in the best interest of students that that
time be focused on instruction of those preliteracy skills.”
Meanwhile, many other states are gearing up for new exams to assess
English-language learners of all ages—including kindergartners and 1st
graders—in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. For the youngest
of them, some test developers have designed assessments that must be
given one-on-one and could take up to an hour and a half for a single
child, though they aren’t expected to be given in one sitting.
The tests for young children, planned to start next spring or next school
year in many places, measure such factors as whether a child knows that
English is read from left to right and can recognize letters of the
alphabet or single words, rather than whether the child can actually
read or write, test developers say.
The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to include English-language
learners in the statewide assessments given to all students in grades
3-8 and high school. But in addition, states must test English-language
learners in grades K-12 each year on their English proficiency.
In California, officials do not want to alter the California English
Language Development Test to include reading and writing sections for
kindergartners and 1st graders, Ms. Sigman said. The sections, she said,
would need to be individually administered.
Ms. Sigman said the federal requirement for English-proficiency testing
puts an extra burden on young English-language learners that their native-English-speaking
classmates don’t have to deal with. She pointed out that the No Child
Left Behind Act does not require standardized testing of native English-speakers
until the 3rd grade. California starts all children with such testing in 2nd grade.
Kathleen Leos, the associate deputy undersecretary in the office of
English-language acquisition in the U.S. Department of Education, declined
to comment last week on California’s request for a waiver from the testing requirement
for young English-language learners. She said the department hadn’t
yet formally received it.
But Ms. Leos reiterated the importance of the requirements. “I’m assuming
classrooms will be doing an ongoing assessment [of English-language
learners], so you know where your students are and what your students
understand over a period of time,” she said.
The discussion on the national level about the requirements of the No
Child Left Behind Act for English-language learners has focused on Title
I, the section of the law governing aid for disadvantaged children.
Under Title I, English-language learners must take standardized state
mathematics tests in the first round given after they enter U.S. schools. They have to take state reading tests in the
first administration given after they’ve been in U.S. schools for a year.
Previously, many states didn’t include English-language learners in
statewide assessments until they had attended U.S. schools for three years.
Under the No Child Left Behind law, schools must break out the test
scores for English-language learners. That provision has garnered lots
of attention, given educators’ concerns that schools can be penalized
if such students—like other subgroups, such as pupils with disabilities—don’t
meet the “adequate yearly progress” goals set by their states under
the federal law.
But behind the scenes, educators who work directly with English-language
learners have been equally worried about complying with the law’s requirements
for testing such students for English-language proficiency.
In the past, federal law required schools to test the language proficiency
of all English-language learners, but it didn’t specify how to do that.
The NCLB law, a 3-year-old overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, spells out for the first time that schools must test
them annually in oral language and reading, as well as writing. The
law says the English-proficiency tests were supposed to be in place
by the 2002-03 school year, but in many states that didn’t happen.
The act also says states must report English-proficiency scores to the
federal government. And it says states must establish standards for
raising the proficiency of English-language learners and align those
standards with state academic-content standards.
Testing experts say most of the English-proficiency tests used to date
won’t cut it anymore.
“The old tests weren’t anchored in standards,” said Margo Gottlieb,
the developer for a consortium of nine states and the District of Columbia led by the Wisconsin education
department that has created an English-proficiency test. “They had very
low ceilings that weren’t rigorous. We had no idea if a child shown
to be proficient in English would succeed in math or science.”
Like California, up until now, states have tended to test young English-language
learners only in listening and speaking, though they did test older
children in English literacy.
One at a Time
Test developers are now taking pains to produce English-proficiency
tests that will measure the skills of young children in four domains
of English. Representatives of four consortia of states developing tests
said that in kindergarten, at least, the tests will be administered
The consortium that Ms. Gottlieb is working with has devised a separate
version of its test just for kindergartners that will be given individually.
The test is expected to take about an hour if the child knows enough
English to stay with it until the end.
Four of the states in the consortium—Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
and Vermont—expect to roll out that test in grades K-12 next spring.
The Mountain West Assessment Consortium, a group of 11 states, has produced
a version of its English-proficiency test for kindergartners and early
1st graders that will also be administered individually. That test is
estimated to take about an hour and a half.
Two consortia of states have designed versions of their English-proficiency
tests for youngsters in kindergarten through 2nd grade. They are a 14-state
consortium led by the Washington-based Council of Chief State School
Officers and a five-state consortium managed by AccountabilityWorks,
a nonprofit organization based in Washington.
The CCSSO consortium’s English-proficiency test for grades 3-12 will
be ready in the spring, but the K-2 part of the test won’t be out until
next school year.
AccountabilityWorks plans to have its test, which is being developed
by the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, ready for all grades in the
One commercial test developer, Ballard & Tighe, has gone beyond
the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act to include prekindergarten
in its new English-proficiency test.
“What we see is that state and federal funding is being given to pre-K
programs as well,” said Sari Luoma, the director of assessment for the
Brea, Calif.-based Ballard & Tighe. “The need for assessment at
the pre-K level will rise.”
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for State Aid to Schools Uncertain
By Joetta L. Sack, Washington, Education Week, 11/17/04
States will continue to see fiscal challenges in the coming years, a
prospect that does not bode well for increasing their K-12 budgets,
analysts from the National Conference of State Legislatures said at
a post-election meeting here.
Along with Medicaid and other health-care expenses, precollegiate education
is commanding a larger share of state budgets, the analysts said, squeezing
out other programs in a time of revenue shortfalls and aversion to higher
Moreover, the federal government’s huge budget deficit and other pressing
priorities—including the Iraq war, homeland security, tax changes, and Social Security—could
take a big bite out of federal funds available to states, experts at
the Nov. 5 gathering said.
“We clearly are very concerned
about what all this means for state budgets,” said state Delegate John
A. Hurson, a Democrat in Maryland’s lower house who is this year’s president of the NCSL.
The Denver-based NCSL brought its analysts here three days after the
general elections to help dissect how the results might affect state
policy—and to make the case that the outcomes of state-level campaigns
should be looked at in addition to those for federal offices.
“All the oxygen gets sucked up by the race for the White House, but
we happen to think that [states] is where the work is really being done,”
said NCSL senior fellow Tim Storey.
Calling state legislative races the “hidden election,” Mr. Storey said
some noteworthy trends emerged from the results. Among them were the
dominance of Republicans in the South, and the strong showing in some
places by Democrats, who picked up significant numbers of legislative
seats in Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina,
Close Party Splits
But the results did little to ease the close divisions between the two
parties in many states.
“While the Democrats did manage to do OK at the state level, we are
now in the position of a country that is very, very evenly divided,”
Mr. Hurson said.
Given that reality, analysts said that legislators in many states will
have to find ways to work together on big-ticket items such as the federal
No Child Left Behind Act, which was identified by the experts here as
one of the top issues for state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative
An NCSL task force has been meeting monthly since April of this year
to discuss potential changes to the No Child Left Behind law. The panel’s
recommendations, which are expected to center on the costs of implementing
the law and the viability of states’ testing systems, are due to be
released in late January.
Corinna Eckl, the NCSL’s fiscal-affairs director, said the preliminary
data from states’ fiscal 2005 budgets show that revenues are at about
the same levels they were in fiscal 2002, before states began to see
massive budget shortfalls from the recession.
“I don’t think revenues will have the ability to return to the robust
levels of the 1990s,” Ms. Eckl said. Further, she added, “we are in
a more conservative fiscal climate.”
That conservative climate extended to ballot initiatives related to
school finance that were put before voters around the country on Nov.
2. In general, voters were receptive to measures that increased education
funding—if the proposals did not translate into higher taxes, said Jennie
Bowser, an NCSL program principal. ("Voters Largely Reject Funding,
Policy Shifts," Nov. 10, 2004.)
While the tax-limitation movement may be starting to sputter, she said,
the idea of tax increases for education is still not drawing many votes.
But states will be under a lot of pressure to restore money cut in the
budgets for higher education in the last two years, as most residents
see college as a means of improving their states’ economies, Ms. Eckl
The cuts to higher education have shifted more costs, including large
tuition and fee increases, onto students and their parents, she said.
“There’s going to be additional pressure on lawmakers to relieve these
pressures and give students greater access and more affordability,”
Ms. Eckl said.
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lauded as national model
By Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times staff reporter, 11/16/04
When Principal Karen Kodama enters a kindergarten classroom in Seattle's John Stanford International School, the students pause from learning numerals, greet her
in Japanese and enthusiastically bow to her as a "sensei,"
And on Friday, the school's newest kids on the block — Bantu refugees
from Somalia — joyfully sang a poem in their native Maay tongue.
They weren't in harmony, but they were a hit.
The Latona neighborhood school, now in its fifth year, requires students
to learn math and science in Spanish or Japanese as well as study reading,
writing and social studies in English — an approach called "dual-language
Today the public school is being recognized by the nonprofit Asia Society
and the Goldman Sachs Foundation in a national report, "Schools
for the Global Age: Promising Practices in International Education."
The two groups hope to inspire others to replicate the school's model.
"The Stanford school is probably the most outstanding elementary
school we've looked at," said Michael Levine, director of education
at the New York-based Asia Society, which promotes awareness of Asian
cultures. "It serves as a model for how foreign-language studies
should be taught in America."
Less than three months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
a commission brought together by the Asia Society warned that most Americans,
especially young people, lacked basic knowledge about Asia, even though
it comprised 60 percent of the world's population.
The commission found that more than 80 percent of American adults and
students could not identify India as the world's largest democracy.
One-quarter of college-bound high-school students could not name the
Pacific Ocean as the body of water separating Asia
from North America.
And among K-12 students who are studying a foreign language, fewer than
2 percent study an Asian language, the commission found.
Striving to be bilingual, says John Stanford's Kodama, is "really
an appreciation of other cultures. That in and of itself is important,
as well as having a global perspective of the world."
Applying knowledge of other cultures to solving international problems
— such as terrorism, poverty and environmental destruction — is a critical
skill for the 21st century, according to the Asia Society and the foundation.
"This is so clear after 9/11," said Michele Anciaux Aoki,
director of educational programs at the World Affairs Council in Seattle. After the attacks, federal investigators made public
appeals for Arabic translators. "We are not building the capacity
we need in this country to communicate with the rest of the world on
Moreover, one in six U.S. jobs is tied to international trade, the report states.
Asia overtook Europe as the United States' leading trade partner in 1979. The whooshing sound
of high-tech or food-processing jobs moving to Asia
or South America has been particularly acute in Washington state.
Aoki, a leader in a coalition called International Education Washington,
says the state should require high-school students to take foreign languages
to graduate. Generally, only students who plan to attend four-year colleges
and universities need to have taken at least two years in one foreign
Nationwide, some 304 dual-language immersion programs exist in 26 states,
according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics.
Their numbers grew sharply starting in the early 1990s, but nearly all
of them offer only English-Spanish programs.
A recent survey by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public
Instruction found very few schools offering language instruction in
Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Japanese.
Those that want to offer dual-immersion programs often can't raise enough
money to put a bilingual instructional assistant in every classroom,
as Stanford International does.
And raising money has been part of Stanford International's success.
An annual breakfast at the W Hotel has raised $60,000, which the elementary
school splits with Hamilton International Middle
The Goldman Sachs Foundation awarded the school $25,000 last year, while
several foundations gave $150,000 in grants, including money to support
international artists-in-residence. And the school's parents raised
Kodama has a grants committee of parents and staff members who raise
money so the school can conduct videoconferences with children in other
nations. Last month, the school mailed videotapes to a "sister
school" in Japan, with students introducing themselves in Japanese and
showing off watercolor self-portraits and Japanese calligraphy.
Despite the buzz the school has generated, Kodama said her staff is
still learning by trial and error. Last year was the first time the
school's fourth-graders took state tests. Native Spanish speakers did
poorly on the math test, which prompted teachers to start giving them
math homework in Spanish and English.
"We're not there yet," Kodama said, but "we're willing
to share what we've learned with others so they don't have to reinvent
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Conferees Pass Compromise for 6.5 Million Special Education Pupils
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO, New
WASHINGTON, - A House-Senate conference committee gave near unanimous
approval to major changes in the law that governs special education
for 6.5 million disabled students, charting new ways for schools to
identify children for extra help more swiftly, reduce legal challenges
by dissatisfied parents and make it easier for schools to remove disruptive
students whose misbehavior is not caused by their disability.
The bill, widely expected to have votes by the full House and Senate
on Friday, stopped short of more sweeping changes proposed last year
in a House bill.
That version, which school administrators and state officials supported,
drew bitter opposition from the parents of disabled children and their
It would have let governors limit states' reimbursements to lawyers
who won suits on behalf of disabled children and would have let schools
remove disabled children who violated codes of conduct, whether or not
their misbehavior was related to medical conditions.
Instead, after weeks of House-Senate talks, a more moderate approach
that passed the Senate with a bipartisan majority in May prevailed in
"A nation, at its best, is evaluated by how it cares for its children,"
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education,
Labor and Pensions Committee, said. "This is really about hope
for children that, too often, don't have it."
Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who is the departing
chairman of the committee, said the bill met "four basic goals:
make sure students are learning, free teachers from burdensome bureaucratic
requirements, help parents and schools work together better and create
the safest classroom environment possible for all students."
The bill would broaden the ways for schools to identify special education
pupils, allowing schools to reach children in earlier grades and, the
lawmakers said, reduce the relatively high share of minority children
who are tracked toward special education.
It would also give districts the flexibility to spend up to 15 percent
of federal special education money on services to children who are not
in special education, but who may need extra help to succeed in regular
Regarding the contentious issue of classroom discipline, the compromise
bill maintains federal protections that require schools to show that
a disabled child's misbehavior is not a result of a disability or of
the school's failure to provide services that could have prevented the
outburst. But if a review determines that the misconduct is unrelated
to the disability, the school could expel the pupil.
Diane Smith, senior disability legal specialist at the National Association
of Protection and Advocacy Systems, said her organization was more relieved
than pleased by the compromise bill.
"Obviously, it's a vast improvement over the House version,"
Ms. Smith said. "It's not an improvement over current law. But
it's the best we're going to get."
Advocates and parents of disabled children, who packed the hearing room
on Wednesday, complained that they were unsure of exactly what was agreed
to, because summaries of the major points were distributed only to the
news media and not the public. The precise language of the compromise
accord was not released at the hearing.
"You can't get a copy," said Marilyn Arons, founder of the
Parent Information Center of New Jersey, who had traveled here for the
Ms. Arons said her group had hoped to see the law explicitly permit
parents to represent their children at legal proceedings, a point that,
as far as she could tell, the bill did not ultimately address.
She said, "We are sitting here absolutely appalled and devastated."
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Burnley wants to lean on state
The Detroit schools CEO's plan to get out of bankruptcy centers
on borrowing $200 million.
By Christine MacDonald, Detroit
Detroit Public Schools CEO Kenneth Burnley released more details Wednesday
on his plan to lift the district out of bankruptcy, which hinges on
the state letting it borrow about $200 million this year to cover its
Burnley said borrowing buys time by eliminating this year's
problem and prevents more severe cuts.
If the Legislature doesn't give him the OK to borrow the cash, it would
mean the worst-case scenario of running another year in deficit along
with 4,700 job cuts and up to 40 school closures this summer, he said.
"That would cause a huge community upheaval, more than we can bear,"
Burnley said. "You don't want to go so far as to jeopardize what we do."
Those cuts would likely send more of the district's 140,700 students
fleeing to nearby districts and charters and exacerbate the district's
financial situation, he said. School financing in Michigan is based on the number of students, so when a child
leaves, so does his or her funding at about $7,100 per student in Detroit.
If DPS is allowed to borrow, the district would pay an estimated $20
million a year over the next 15 years to pay off the loan -- at an estimated
interest of $100 million.
Burnley said the district would only need about 2,000 job cuts.
If the district can't borrow the money, it wouldn't resort to major
layoffs until this summer in hopes of having more staffers take advantage
of early retirement offers, which would avoid more expensive unemployment
costs for the district, said Bob Moore, the district's deputy CEO.
Others question if borrowing is the right solution and argue that deep
cuts need to be made for the district's long-term health.
"Bonding is just a stopgap that leads to further deficit,"
said Dan DeGrow, superintendent of the St. Clair Intermediate School
District, who while in the Legislature helped lead the 1999 takeover
of the district.
Controversy continued Wednesday over the district's financial woes,
with the board meeting cancelled for security reasons, officials said.
Dozens of protesters rallied at Martin Luther King Jr. High
calling for Burnley's resignation.
Burnley announced Monday that Detroit's finances were worse than originally projected. The
district ended last fiscal year in June $48 million in the red despite
nearly depleting its rainy-day fund. And this year, $150 million needs
to be trimmed. Together, that $198 million is 13 percent of the district's
$1.5 billion budget.
The district has already cut about $76 million in part through 2,100
layoffs and five building closures.
Administrators must present a plan to the Department of Education in
90 days that outlines how they will balance the budget over the next
two years. The state can withhold state funds or appoint a receiver
if no plan is presented and the district doesn't follow through.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm is open to reasonable plans to help Detroit, said her spokesperson. But the Senate Majority Leader
Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, has said through his staff that he is skeptical
of bonding as a solution.
The reasons for the budget problems include an increase in health care
and retirement costs and three years of frozen or reduced state funding,
The district also underestimated how many students it would lose this
year by about 3,800 students. It lost 9,300, which cost $66 million.
Some, including union officials, criticize Burnley for not acting sooner to make cuts.
For example, in June he said they could lay off up to 3,200 employees,
but only let go 2,100.
"That is what we felt we could do; now we are going to have to
do much more," he said.
Others are blaming the 1999 state takeover when the district had surplus
funds. In June 2001, the district had a $90 million rainy-day fund.
"You had a surplus and the district was supposed to be in such
worse shape," said the Rev. Joseph Jordan, president of the Council
of Baptist Pastors of Detroit. "It is worse (now)."
But DeGrow disagreed, saying that districts across the state and nation
are facing similar problems. If there is any state blame, it should
be that Michigan has had stagnant school funding over the past three
Some say the severity of Detroit's
deficit is the largest they've seen nationally this year.
"Detroit Public Schools seems to have the most dire situation,"
said Henry Duvall, spokesman for the Council of Great City Schools in
But financial woes and student loss are not new for the district.
From 1974 to 1975, the district lost nearly 7,700 students, bringing
the student count to 247,600.
And John Porter, a former Eastern Michigan University president, became Detroit's superintendent under similar circumstances in 1989,
with a $160 million deficit. He closed 19 schools and a group of businesses
paid his salary in order the save the district money.
Porter said the problem is not insurmountable if the community narrows
the focus on three or four areas that can be improved.
"This is not Ken Burnley's problem, this is our problem,"
he said. "We can't as a state let 140,000 students ... be denied
a quality education."
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