Normally at this time of year, the State Board of Education would have
created its annual budget proposal for Illinois public schools.
But this year, board members have yet to see the budget staff members
are writing, causing some lawmakers and education advocates to criticize
the new state board and its close relationship with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"The governor should not be the sole authority on education funding
in Illinois," said state Sen. Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican.
"He is setting it up so his voice is the only one that is heard."
Acting under a new law meant to give the governor more power over the
education agency, Blagojevich replaced seven of the board's nine members
on Sept. 14.
A week later, the board named Randy Dunn, an education professor at
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, as interim state superintendent.
For decades, the State Board of Education prepared its own budget for
public schools, often asking for the amount of money it said it needed,
not necessarily what the state could afford.
That's not as likely this year, said Dean Clark, one of two state board
members not appointed by Blagojevich.
"I think there needs to be a level of independence," Clark
said. "By taking us out of the loop, it takes one more voice away
from the table, and I'm not sure that benefits the children of this
Board staff said Thursday the budget would be completed before Blagojevich's
budget address on Feb. 16.
Dunn said his office is working with the governor's office to create
"It makes no sense for the board to do this in isolation and then
spend months fighting with the governor over it," Dunn said. "We're
opening an era of cooperation. We need a budget that fits with the governor's
overall state budget picture."
A spokeswoman for Blagojevich's budget office said it makes sense for
the state board and governor's office to work together to create a budget.
"We are looking to (the state board) for direction and preparing
the budget accordingly," spokeswoman Becky Carroll said.
Last year, the state board approved a budget proposal for $7.1 billion--
an increase of about $600 million from the previous year.
But the governor proposed an elementary and secondary education budget
of $5.7 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year.
The General Assembly approved a budget last summer that included $364
million in new spending for elementary and secondary schools.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich began a speech in Matteson on Monday pledging he
would "not raise your income taxes."
Some members of the audience, who gathered to hear Blagojevich at a
Martin Luther King celebration, applauded but not Jeff Cohn,
a Rich Township High School District 227 board member who is pushing
for change in public school funding.
"Don't clap at that," he said, shaking his head. "We
want House Bill 750."
Cohn and others who support school funding reform say they will push
a bill this spring to raise income taxes from 3 percent to 5 percent
and funnel money to schools most in need. Currently, school districts
rely heavily on property taxes, which leaves taxpayers in the south
suburbs paying some of the highest tax rates in the state.
In Matteson where Blagojevich spoke at Lincoln Mall, Rich Township High
School District 227 taxpayers paid between $11 and $12 per $100 of their
home's assessed valuation last year in property taxes.
Taxpayers in Hinsdale paid between $6 and $7 per $100 of assessed valuation.
Blagojevich, a Chicago resident, paid about $6.50 per $100 of assessed valuation.
Because homes in Matteson are worth less than homes in Hinsdale, Matteson taxpayers get charged a higher tax rate to make up the difference.
Both communities spend almost $13,000 a year per high school student.
The goal of groups like Cohn's is to shift school funding to the state
income tax, a flatter, fairer system. That way, schools needing more
money would get it from the state, not local homeowners.
Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who represents several south
suburban school districts, made education funding the focus of his inaugural
address last week in Springfield.
But with Blagojevich's pledge to keep the income tax at 3 percent, any
reform bill that includes an income tax increase is likely to be flatly
vetoed by Blagojevich. Lawmakers would have to amass a three-fifths
majority in the House and Senate to override it.
That's a tall order at any time, let alone the year before statewide
elections kick off.
Still, the sponsor of House Bill 750, which would swap higher income
taxes for lower property taxes, says it can be done.
"We will be working both sides of the aisle," said state Sen.
James Meeks, a Blagojevich ally who said he understands Blagojevich
must keep his promise not to raise income taxes. "He would be chastised
more for breaking his promise."
Blagojevich can keep his word and veto the bill, and lawmakers can override
the veto with a three-fifths majority, Meeks said.
That scenario, however, sets up a delicate power play between the executive
and legislative branches. Many legislators already don't trust Blagojevich.
Hand-delivering to him a chance to veto an income tax increase could
backlash if Blagojevich used the opportunity to bash lawmakers and tax-and-spenders.
Meeks, however, sees it another way.
"I could see (House Speaker Michael) Madigan saying that Blagojevich
was too afraid to do what was right," Meeks said. "It's a
win-win or a lose-lose, depending on which argument you want to take."
Blagojevich said while he won't raise income taxes for schools, he will
continue to pump existing state dollars into the state aid formula.
During his past two years in office, schools have received more than
$1 billion in new funding, he said.
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Illinois superintendent of schools says President
George W. Bush's administration needs to fix its No Child Left Behind
education law before expanding it, but he says Illinois schools will
still respond to the challenge.
Bush last week began a push to require high school students to take
the math and reading tests now required of younger students under No
Child Left Behind.
Interim State Superintendent Randy Dunn, a Southern Illinois University
Carbondale administrator who is temporarily leading the Illinois State
Board of Education, told the Southern Illinoisan he was glad to see
the president put more focus on the high school grades but worries that
there are still too many problems with the law.
No Child Left Behind highlights gaps between different student groups'
performances, but it also mistreats some students, particularly those
in special education, with a hard line of success or failure based on
one standardized test, Dunn said.
"Before we start adding to the portfolio of (No Child Left Behind),
we need to address the problems facing it," Dunn said.
But he said that whether those problems are fixed or not, Illinois' schools will respond.
"It may not be a policy that has legs to carry it over the decades,
but it's our charge not to ignore it because it might go away,"
Bush wants to require states to test students annually in reading and
math in grades 3 through 11. The law he signed in 2002 required those
tests in grades 3 through 8, and at least once during grades 10 to 12.
He also wants the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress
administered in every state in reading and math every two years, just
as it is in those subjects in grades 4 and 8.
Bush said last week that the testing would help U.S. students become more competitive, give more meaning
to diplomas and push schools to ensure children are prepared for employment
in technologically advanced jobs.
The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to raise achievement among
poor and minority children and penalize schools that don't make adequate
Nearly 30 percent of Illinois' public schools fell short of meeting the federal achievement
guidelines during the last school year. The Illinois State Board of
Education reported in December that 1,086 schools out of 3,801 statewide
failed to make "adequate yearly progress," about 150 fewer
than failed the previous year. TOP OF PAGE
Future high school students: Sharpen your No. 2 pencils.
President Bush wants annual state reading and math exams to follow you
to high school.
Last week, he touted his second-term agenda to improve the American
high school by using the same testing and consequences that his administration
has used to shake up the elementary grades.
The White House plans to demand state reading and math tests in grades
three through 11. In addition, 12th graders would be required to take
the National Assessment of Educational Progress, now a voluntary exam
that compares schools across the states.
The changes would broaden the federal No Child Left Behind law, which
requires one year of state testing during grades 10 to 12. Under the
law, students in grades three through eight begin taking annual reading
and math tests this spring.
"Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable
for the jobs of the 21st century," Bush said last week, during
his first education speech since being re-elected. "Testing will
allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will enable schools
to track. Testing will make sure that the diploma is not merely a sign
of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."
Improving high schools has become a hot topic, with calls of alarm in
recent months from Bush, governors, employers and college professors.
The reason: Many high school students aren't ready for college or work
after they graduate.
Randy Dunn, interim Illinois schools superintendent, welcomes the attention to high
school reform but is concerned about expanding what he views as an already
Under No Child Left Behind, limited-English and special education students
are expected to meet the same testing standards as general education
students. Dunn calls that unfair.
"I would prefer to see discussions of how to fix the onerous aspects
of No Child Left Behind and get that addressed before expanding (its)
scope to high schools with the testing requirement," he said.
Expanding standardized tests would not be a huge change for Southland
high schools. Many voluntarily give ninth- and 10th-graders ACT-style
exams called PLAN and EXPLORE.
"(Those tests) are used entirely to help us do better on the 11th-grade
exam," Oak Lawn High School Principal Michael Riordan said.
But tying their results to the No Child law would mean more opportunities
for schools to fail to meet the law's targets, triggering expensive
sanctions such as mandatory tutoring or school transfers, according
"We would be under the NCLB hammer if we broaden the scope,"
The expanded testing also would exacerbate the debate on whether tests
are the best way to judge schools.
"That is a somewhat of a way of life now," Riordan said. "The
public judges us on the basis of test scores."
Adding a national 12th-grade exam alarms some educators who worry about
the introduction of another set of education standards. School districts
have increasingly aligned their curriculums to better achieve state
"It's like we're being sent off in 15 different directions,"
Evergreen Park High School District 231 Supt. James Gallagher said.
218 Supt. Kevin Burns would rather see an "exit exam" at the
eighth-grade level to certify the skills of incoming freshmen. He recently
visited a remedial class at a District 218 high school where several
students read at the third-grade level.
"Unless we get them from (the) third-grade (level) to ninth grade,
we'd be labeled as failing," Burns said.
Bush said his high school plan, a mix of consolidated programs and new
money, would cost $1.5 billion. But it may be squeezed quickly, with
a record federal budget deficit limiting domestic spending.
Congress, for example, took Bush's $100 million request for his "Striving
Readers" program and cut it to $25 million this year. Bush now
wants $200 million for the program.
"Many of these ideas are the right thing to do, and they're the
right issues we're probably late getting to them," said
Patricia Sullivan, director of the independent Center on Education Policy.
"But if we're going down this path, we have to have the resources."
Bush won bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind, the controversial
2002 law that has shaped education nationally by demanding that schools
help children regardless of race, wealth, disability or background
and imposing strict penalties for schools that fail to do so.
Democrats say Bush hasn't provided enough money for No Child, making
them wary of supporting his new initiative.
"This is more mandates with no more funding, and I'm troubled by
that," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), echoing the position
of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a key backer initially of No Child
Federal spending on programs covered under No Child law has increased
40 percent since Bush took office, from $17.38 billion to $24.35 billion.
But spending went up only 1.7 percent this year, about the same rate
that the entire Education Department received.
Under the No Child law, schools that receive Title I poverty funds and
fail to make sufficient academic progress face mounting penalties, such
as ensuring students can transfer elsewhere. Holding high schools accountable
the same way as elementary schools may be difficult because a smaller
number get federal poverty aid. TOP OF PAGE
We like the sound of the talk coming from Illinois state Senate President Emil Jones about changing the
way education is funded statewide to reduce reliance on property taxes.
It is, for now, just talk.
Jones, a Chicago Democrat, restated the obvious when he pointed out
that funding inequities result in educational inequities statewide.
As the General Assembly prepares for its final action this session,
Jones called for fundamental changes in school funding, which might
involve reducing property taxes and increasing income taxes and maybe,
Jones' initiative on this issue represents a significant break between
him and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That provides some hope -- slim as it
is -- that something will get done.
Ultimately, something must be done.
We wish the legislature would accept this opportunity -- an annual opportunity,
we might add -- to tackle school funding reform, study how funding issues
relate to quality issues, and then fix our system.
The state keeps putting more money into schools, and local property
taxes are high, yet 82 percent of the state's school districts are in
deficit spending. In district after district, students are not performing
as well as they should be to make their way in the world.
"We must bring about real change to the terrible, terrible, outrageous
funding formula that funds the system of our public schools," Jones
And virtually everybody agrees with him. Democrats. Republicans. Everyone
except the governor, who has insisted that his administration is already
working to in-crease funding. Blagojevich represents the major roadblock
to Jones' call for change.
Blagojevich seems to have locked himself into a position that he will
not raise income taxes. But education funding reform likely can't fly
Besides, the governor seems content to spend his time on superficial,
headline-grabbing issues such as banning snack foods from schools instead
of taking on substantive issues and trying to make a real difference
in Illinois' quality of life.
House Speaker Mike Madigan, also a Chicago Democrat, represents yet
another faction in the legislature, and he likely has his own agenda.
Asked about school funding reform, Madigan seemed to indicate he was
more concerned about budget shortfalls.
Who would have guessed this: We have a Democratic governor, and Democrats
control both houses, yet the chances that they can accomplish something
significant are slim. The time is right for fundamental change, yet
the three top Dems appear to be work-ing at odds with one another.
This bunch seems bent on proving the truth of Will Rogers' assertion:
"I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."
This situation doesn't bode well for much of anything getting done in
this session. We hope to be proved wrong. TOP OF PAGE
WHITTINGTON -- Area legislators got a lesson on good behavior Tuesday
as they attended a breakfast with area educators at the Rend Lake Resort
Sponsored by Southern Illinois Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities/Positive
Behavioral Interventions and Supports, the legislative breakfast gave
Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Reps. John Bradley, D-Marion, and Brandon
Phelps, D-Norris City, the opportunity to learn about the PBIS initiative,
a proactive systems approach to preventing and responding to classroom
and school discipline problems.
Bradley said he can relate.
"I was awfully hyper when I was in school. I remember thinking
I was a big shot when the teacher would send me to the principal's office
with a note," he said.
Bradley said he would shoot off to the administrator's office, up a
flight of stairs, with the note. Turns out the note read: "John's
wild today," Bradley joked. "But I can look back now and see
the kinds of things they used to do to teach me good behavior with positive
Chuck Goforth is the assistant principal of Anna Community District
37, which uses the PBIS approach. Goforth has witnessed a variety of
approaches to solving discipline problems during his 18 years as an
educator, but he said the PBIS approach is different.
"Where a lot of other approaches involved the used of canned programs,
this is a systems-based approach that is tailor-made to the needs of
your school. Those needs are determined by the specific data collected
at your school," he said.
For instance, the Anna school once encountered problems as students
were passing through the hallways during congested periods. Using the
PBIS approach, the school made changes in logistics, such as staggering
hallway times for different grade levels. Another PBIS approach resulted
in changes in the schedules so teacher planning times coincided. "That
way, the teachers could get together to discuss any problems and how
those problems needed to be addressed," Goforth said.
Because of that, he said, decisions can be based on actual, factual
information instead of just perceptions or observations.
Dan Anderson is the regional superintendent of schools in the District
2 regional office of education and serves as the Illinois State Board
of Education's administrative agent for the PBIS initiative for the
southern region, serving the lower 30 counties of the state. He said
the PBIS initiative has been in use for six years and is utilized by
about 75 schools in Southern Illinois, with a large degree of success.
He invited legislators to the breakfast to raise their awareness about
Forby said he learned a lesson Tuesday. "I always think of education
as teachers and students in a classroom, but the education of children
takes place in the hallways and outside the schools, too. This approach
sounds like a good way to reach those children with discipline problems
so that they get the education they deserve," Forby said. TOP OF PAGE
Adams Telephone Co-op's rebate puts more students in advanced classes
via the television
Kelly Wilson, Quincy Herald-Whig
Aimee Platt says she'll have a leg up when she enters college next fall
because she's already taken two college courses through an interactive
television system at her high school.
"I'm glad I took them," said Platt, a senior at WestPikeHigh
who got college credit for taking introductory English and psychology
classes last semester. "It's nice having it under your belt going
into next year."
Aimee and other students at nine rural schools can earn college credit,
while simultaneously earning credit toward high school graduation, through
dual-credit courses offered by JohnWoodCommunity
And to make the opportunity even sweeter, especially for parents paying
the bills, Adams Telephone Co-Operative of Golden provides a 75 percent
rebate on the textbooks students need for the courses.
Since 2002, Adams has donated $11,790 to help cover the textbook costs.
This fall, 42 students received textbook rebates totaling $4,100. The
cost of the textbooks ranged from $60 to $114, which meant students
had to shell out just $15 to $28.50 per book. Students also must pay
"That was helpful. My mom was so excited about that," Aimee
said of the textbook rebates.
"The college is very appreciative of Adams'
willingness to step forward and help these dual-enrollment students
with textbook costs," said Larry Fischer, vice president for instruction
"And when we learned that we had more students participating this
year than last, Adams donated above and beyond what it had budgeted for this
program, to be sure each student received the 75 percent rebate, because
sees the importance in investing in the education of young people in
Jim Broemmer, general manager of Adams Telephone Co-Operative, says
he's thrilled the number of students in the program continues to increase.
"We appreciate our partnership with JWCC, which allows us to provide
this opportunity for our rural students," he said.
Pam Leffringhouse, education coordinator for Adams,
says 418 high school students have taken general education classes over
the interactive television system since the fall of 2002.
Interactive television allows students at one or more locations to see
and hear other students and the instructor at a different location.
Nine high schools are connected to JWCC through the network: Liberty, Central, Unity, Barry, Pittsfield, West Pike, Griggsville, BrownCounty and Southeastern.
Adams provides the technical support necessary to connect
"We want to encourage the students to use the ITV," Leffringhouse
said. "To help with the cost of the textbooks ... that's one way
to encourage them to do it. It's a wonderful opportunity."
Doug Bryson, principal at UnityHigh School in Mendon, encourages college-bound students to take
advantage of the dual-enrollment courses.
"It gives them a head start on college," he said. "They'll
have some of their general education courses out of the way so they
can focus on some of the career courses they want to take.
"It's always a plus when you can get your textbooks paid for because
it's not cheap anymore," Bryson added. "This is an incentive
for kids to take these courses and get college credit and high school
credit at the same time."
Kim Pulliam, interactive television classroom facilitator at WestPikeHigh
says some students are apprehensive about using the distance learning
system. But she says students should give it a try.
Those who have taken the dual-enrollment classes are "excited about
being that many credits ahead," she said.
Pulliam's daughter took a dual-enrollment English class at West Pike
last year and now is a freshman at Culver-StocktonCollege in Canton,
"She says to tell all the kids to take advantage of it."
Very carefully, 11-year-old Fatimah Askia rolled the ground beef, onion
and garlic mixture into the middle of the grape leaf, meticulously folding
it before adding hers to the students' growing bounty of ready-to-cook
The ShoesmithSchool sixth-grader was one of 12 Chicago Public Schools students
knee-deep in parsley, nutmeg and mint Tuesday. They were learning to
cook dishes from around the world, courtesy of Oprah Winfrey's chef,
Through Common Threads, a nonprofit launched by Smith last year to teach
children about diversity and cultural differences using cooking and
the arts, the students get to spend time in the kitchen under the tutelage
of such famed chefs as Paul Kahan of Blackbird, Paula Haney of Pili
Pili, and Charlie Trotter of the noted restaurant that bears his name.
"When I grow up, I want to be a chef, so this is good practice,"
said Fatimah. "I like to cook stir-fry the most, and I like to
bake cakes. I really liked making the Indian naan bread, because I'm
Muslim, and we eat a lot of similar food."
Geography, history -- even dance
During the eight-week sessions, children ages 8 to 12 spend two hours
weekly learning about a different country.
On Tuesday, aprons tied and colorful chef hats perched atop heads, they
learned not only to make dolmades, but lots about Greece: its geography, history and culture. They even learned
to do the Hasapiko, a Greek wedding dance.
And what happens when you're at a Greek restaurant, and the waiter brings
out the saganaki, or flaming cheese?
"Opah!" the children all shouted at once. But their next question
had teacher/food stylist Connie Pikulas stumped.
Oprah chef, partner plan center
"I don't exactly know what 'Opah' means," stammered Pikulas,
whose grandparents were Greek immigrants. "I don't know if it has
a direct translation. It's just one of those things you hear Greek people
say all the time!"
The class is held at St.
the RedeemerChurch, 4945 S.
Dorchester in Kenwood
while Common Threads' permanent home is completed. Smith and his partner,
artist Jesus Salgueiro, last year bought the nearby, 100-year-old Shiloh
Missionary Baptist Church with plans to build a community center boasting
a world-class kitchen and art gallery.
In the meantime, donors have ponied up funding and supplies to rehab
St. Paul's kitchen to begin the cooking class.
"It's a fun class," said RaySchool fifth-grader Eleanor Cory, 10. "I liked making
the apple crepes from France, but my favorite was the chicken thing from India."
"I don't know," said PierceSchool fourth-grader Tommy Sargis, 10. "This dolmades
feels a little funny, too squishy."
"What I like most is learning how other people live, what they
eat, how they dance -- like that Greek dance was fun!" said WoodlawnSchool third-grader Shawn Cox, 8. "I'm going to make one
of these dishes soon and surprise my mommy!"
AHS students take
part in hoopla
JOHN KRUPA, The Telegraph, 1/20/2005 ALTON -- Dont be surprised if you see a few familiar
faces in the crowd as President Bush parades down Pennsylvania Avenue after he is sworn in today.
Thirty-four honors students from AltonHigh School trekked to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to attend the 55th presidential inauguration,
scheduled to begin at .
After the ceremony and parade, past and present students of Carl Days
American history and international politics classes will attend a 1,200-student
inaugural ball, followed by two days of touring historic sites, monuments
and museums in the nations capital.
Eighteen-year-old senior Laura Cope, a Bush backer, said she jumped
at the opportunity to see her candidate kick off his second term.
"I was a first-time voter, and I was like, Hey, Im
going to go see the guy get sworn into office. Thatll be
awesome," she said. "Ill probably never see him ever
again, except maybe on TV."
This is the second consecutive inauguration for which Alton High has
sent a contingent to the banks of the Potomac
River. Day took 12
students to witness Bushs first big day in 2001.
An organization called WorldStrides, the self-professed largest provider
of educational student travel in the nation, offers $1,100-per-student
packages, which include tickets to Thursdays official events,
the student ball, airfare, hotel, some meals and the cost of admission
Laura Mann, a spokeswoman with WorldStrides, said 4,600 students from
across the nation signed up for the program this year.
"Weve had a tremendous response on it. People are really
excited to be a part of a moment in history," she said.
Day said he hopes that after the students visit such sites as the WashingtonMonument, the Vietnam War Memorial and the HolocaustMuseum, history will come more alive for them.
"For instance, one of the places we are going is Fords Theater.
And I have talked about the assassination of Lincoln, re-enacted it to a point, and so this time, theyll
just be able to see the place," said Day, a 15-year veteran teacher.
"When I talk about Booth going up the stairs, well go up
the stairs. Theyll see the stage, and theyll see the box."
Senior Josh Williamson, 17, looks forward to visiting the National Air
and SpaceMuseum and checking out the original "Star Trek Enterprise"
stashed in the buildings basement.
"Ive always been fascinated with flight," Williamson
said. "Im excited about seeing all the museums and the stuff
like that. They dont have (museums) like that around here
of that size or proportion."
Cathryn Greenwood, a 16-year-old junior, hopes the experience gives
her a better understanding of her grandfather, who served in the presidential
honor guard under President Eisenhower.
"I cant see him doing the kind of things like the changing
of the guard. And kind of being where he went is a way to form a better,
closer relationship," she said.
But improving her relationship with her grandfather comes with both
a financial and academic price.
Some students had to cover the cost of the trip themselves, while all
will have to make up missed homework assignments.
"Thats whats going to really suck," Williamson
While the trip was open to any of Days current or former honors
students who are still at Alton High, a number of students declined.
Three actually backed out because of worries that terrorists might target
None of those making the trip was concerned about an attack, though,
going so far as to say they were looking forward to trying to spot snipers
on nearby rooftops.
"With all of the security, I mean, they are closing off 100 blocks,
we are going to be in the safest place in the world," said 17-year-old
senior Jessica Lammers.
The trip is particularly special for 18-year-old senior Laura St. Peters,
whose trip is being paid for by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
St. Peters is three years removed from a cancer diagnosis; her
rare form of cancer since has gone into remission.
With her mounting medical bills, the family could not afford to send
her to Washington without the foundations help.
ITASCA -- The Village Board announced this week that security issues
raised by school officials has led to Itasca eliminating schools as
After administrators raised concerns a few months ago about schools
being used for elections, Police Chief Scott Heher began working with
other municipal sites to offer an alternative.
"[Heher] really took the ball and ran with it," said Village
Administrator David Williams. "While we haven't had any incidents
at all, Election Day does present problems with so many more people
out going to the polls. The schools would rather not face any security
issues," he said.
Williams said polling places in Itasca will be set up at the village's municipal complex, the
library and the Park District.
Also, the Village Board this week agreed to place on the April referendum
ballot a request to increase sales tax revenue by a half percent, in
order to pay for such projects as Itasca's downtown redevelopment and other infrastructure needs.
A week ago, committee members discussed a possible increase of a quarter
to one-half percent in order to offset a lack of revenue from other
areas. Sales tax would increase to 7.25 percent from 6.75 percent and
would generate more than $2 million in revenue if the measure is approved
Free Edison conference raises red flags
But District 150 board members say trip is not unethical
By ELAINE HOPKINS of the Journal Star, 1/20/05
PEORIA - Three District 150 School Board members say there
is no conflict of interest in their participation in a New York City conference paid for by The Edison Schools.
The controversial private company is the district's largest vendor of
services, operating four schools under a contract that must be approved
by the District 150 School Board.
Board members Sean Matheson, Mary Spangler and Garrie Allen left early
Wednesday for the Edison conference and are scheduled to return late today.
The board's travel budget pays for their airfare, but Edison
is picking up the rest of the expenses, the members said.
"Somebody has to pay for it," Matheson said Tuesday. "I
don't view it as a conflict. I view it as an opportunity" to learn
more about Edison.
But Terry Knapp, president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers and
a vocal opponent of Edison, criticized the trip.
Edison "will wine and dine them. It's amazing," Knapp
said. "The biggest part of Edison is the marketing."
Matheson acknowledged Edison has a sales agenda in hosting conferences for
board members. "They're not doing this to be nice to you, but it
doesn't mean you can't get educated," he said.
On a 5-2 vote, the board last March approved a second 5-year contract
to operate four District 150 schools for $1.25 million annually. Matheson
and Allen voted for the contract. Spangler, an outspoken Edison
supporter, was not yet on the board.
On Wednesday, board attorney Dave Walvoord said the free conference
likely would not be considered a gift to the board members under state
"It's part of the agreement that Edison is to keep the
board updated on what is going on," he said. "It's part of
their contract that they give information to the board. This isn't like
taking (a junket) to a golf outing. This is strictly business."
Edison officials did not respond to requests for comment or
for copies of the conference agenda.
Board member David Gorenz said the conference is not a conflict of interest
because the board needs more information on Edison.
"We have a contract but need to re-evaluate whether this is worth
the money and the results they're getting."
Board Vice President Alicia Butler also supports the Edison-paid conference.
"Generally, these are information and fact-finding conferences,"
Knapp also questioned why the trip was not publicly mentioned and voted
The School Board has never discussed the Edison
conference at a public meeting and did not vote to send anyone or pay
That's not required, Walvoord said, because the airfare will be approved
as part of the routine financial report.
Spangler said Tuesday the conference is packed with sessions, even in
the evening, and does not leave time for sightseeing or Broadway shows.
"I would like to learn more about successful schools and districts
that partner with Edison," she said.
Allen said board members need to attend conferences to learn the latest
information. "I don't think you serve people well when you don't
Advocates of a new funding system for Illinois public schools thought their day had come two years
ago. Illinois that year elected Democratic majorities in both the
Illinois House and Senate and put a Democrat in the governor's mansion
for the first time since the 1970s. The Dems for years had been promising
to fix school funding if they won control of state government.
Now, halfway through Gov. Rod Blagojevich's term, proponents of a new
formula for funding the schools stand to be disappointed again in 2005.
Blagojevich came to the south suburbs Monday and repeated his promise
that he won't raise income taxes an integral part of every plan
we've seen to make funding more equitable and reduce the property tax
That means the governor again intends to block any effort by the Legislature
to fix a funding system that hurts the Southland twice, leaving south
suburban public school students behind other suburban kids and imposing
a grossly unfair property tax burden on residents and business owners
Based on what we've seen the last two years, Blagojevich's no-new-taxes
vow will be enough to keep the Democratic majorities in the Legislature
from tackling the funding issue. The view among lawmakers has been that
they won't support a change in the funding system if the governor is
going to veto an income tax increase.
Senate President Emil Jones promised last week that this would be the
year that the Legislature deals with school funding inequities. So it
was significant that Blagojevich came to south suburban Matteson this
week to repeat his no-tax vow. It seemed to be a message to Jones, delivered
in his own back yard.
Last session, Jones aligned himself with Blagojevich when the governor
found himself at odds with House Speaker Michael Madigan over the budget.
Last week, when the new Legislature was sworn in, Jones declared, "There's
an inequity in the (school) funding, and we must deal with that particular
He characterized the existing funding formula as "terrible, terrible
And he's right. For most of the last three decades, the state has failed
to comply with its constitutional mandate to be the "primary"
funding source for public schools. As a result, school districts have
raised property taxes to their legal limits. In some communities, including
the Southland, high property tax rates have driven businesses out of
the area, toward more tax-friendly areas including Indiana and WillCounty.
The exodus of businesses has left homeowners and the remaining businesses
with an even greater burden, and school districts with growing deficits.
For years, proposals have been floated in Springfield to raise the state income tax to increase education
funding and allow school districts to roll back property taxes. But
opponents successfully have labeled any such tax swap as a tax increase,
ignoring the proposed property tax rollback.
That's the perspective Blagojevich apparently has decided to stay with
again this session, as he looks forward to a re-election bid in 2006.
Most of the Southland's lawmakers understand the need for property tax
relief and increased state funding for public schools. But they also
apparently fear that their own governor will hammer them as "tax-and-spenders"
if they support a tax swap proposal. Most of the south suburban lawmakers
face little or no Republican opposition these days, and the Democrats
would like to keep it that way.
So we won't hold our breath waiting for Democratic lawmakers to challenge
the governor on school funding, even though it would the right thing
for them to do. Getting re-elected is the first priority for everyone
in the Legislature, and we haven't seen any signs that anyone in the
Southland is willing to jeopardize their re-election by fighting the
governor on his no-taxes pledge.
Until they do, the funding system as it affects the Southland will remain
"terrible," and property taxes here will continue to rise.
Small high schools
need more help: Supt. Dunn
By John O'Connor, The Associated Press, 1/21/05 SPRINGFIELD Small high schools in Illinois will have increasing difficulty keeping up with academic
demands in preparing students for college and the workplace and meeting
stringent government guidelines, the state schools chief said Thursday.
Interim state schools Supt. Randy Dunn said he suggested high school
reform as one area a largely new State Board of Education tackle as
it develops school-improvement ideas for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"There's a difficulty in providing a comprehensive program in such
high schools," Dunn told reporters at an education reporting seminar
sponsored by The Illinois Associated Press Editors Association and the
"That's not to say that there's not a benefit that comes from that
in terms of a climate and sense of community," Dunn said. "But
having that full complement of courses, it's hard for a high school
of 100 or 200 kids to be able to offer that standing alone."
The board has yet to decide what initiatives to pursue. A new state
law gave Blagojevich more direct authority over the state board last
summer and he responded by naming seven of nine members, who hired Dunn,
an administrator at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Not only have high schools been under pressure to prepare pupils for
college and for more challenging technical careers, but federal accountability
demands are turning toward secondary schools, Dunn said. The thrust
of the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" law is
expanding beyond its elementary-school focus, he said.
Dunn hinted that high school reform would include reviewing requirements
for graduation and beefing up cooperative programs between schools.
He also did not rule out reviewing incentives for consolidating schools,
but said the current package additional state payments for several
years after a merger is strong.
"It does have to be a local determination that this is something
that will be helpful, that there's sufficient community support for,"
Dunn said. "You cannot ram this type of thing down people's throats;
it never works."
In Illinois, where the one-room schoolhouse once ruled and there
were 12,000 school districts in 1940, consolidation has long been a
torturous concept for small communities who rally around the local school.
State law first offered financial merger incentives in 1983, when there
were 1,008 school districts, and this year there are 882.
In Chicago Public
Schools, every student counts
Opinion by Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/21/05
Next fall, as many as 18 new public schools could open in Chicago, offering great new educational options to children
in communities with underperforming schools. This will be the highest
number of new schools launched in a single year and a reflection of
Chicago's commitment to ensure that every child in every school
gets the best education possible.
Mayor Daley announced Renaissance 2010 last June to turn around underperforming
schools by closing and reopening them because he refuses to allow some
schools to fail, when most of our schools are steadily improving. In
this first round of schools created since the mayor's announcement,
Chicago Public Schools received more than 90 separate proposals from
local and national educators with proven track records competing for
the opportunity to open these new schools.
Parents, community leaders and elected officials were involved in planning
these new schools and selecting the education teams, all of which include
local educators. The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on 12 of
the 18 proposed schools next week, four others have already been approved,
and the last two should go to the board next month.
All told, Chicago could have seven new charter schools and 11 other schools,
five of which will have performance contracts outlining specific achievement
goals. Ten of the 18 are high schools and the other eight are grade
schools. Six are in new buildings; the others are in existing CPS buildings
or former private schools that have closed down.
Charter schools in Chicago are working thanks to our thoughtful, measured approach;
we open only a handful each year and we support them and hold them accountable.
While many are outperforming the city average, we have closed down two
of them that were not performing. Not surprisingly, most of our charter
schools have waiting lists, attracting parents with their innovative,
no-nonsense approach to educating.
For communities where overcrowding can impede performance, CPS is adding
four new small high schools in a brand new building in Little Village,
a new charter elementary school in a brand new building in Albany Park
run by one of our existing charter operators, Aspira, and a brand new
school in Marquette Park on the Southwest Side called Tarkington. Tarkington
will be partly staffed with teachers trained through alternative certification
programs and run by the same group that now runs the Chicago Academy
of Urban School Leadership on the Northwest Side and DodgeRenaissanceAcademy on the West
On the Near South Side, in neighborhoods where underperformance has
been an ongoing challenge, three new schools are coming into DuSableHigh
one focusing on the field of medicine and two focusing on leadership.
A new charter elementary school run by the University of Chicago will open in Donoghue, and a new fourth- through eighth-grade middle
school will open at Douglas run by an assistant principal from nearby Pershing magnet
school, which will become a K-3 neighborhood school feeding Douglas.
A new charter elementary school is slated for SouthShore run by Chicago International Charter Schools, which
already operates seven charter schools in Chicago. Over in West Englewood, a new
selective enrollment math and science high school will open at Lindblom,
following a $38 million overhaul of the school.
On the West Side, three new charter schools will serve Humboldt Park/West
Town, Austin, and East Garfield Park/North Lawndale. Respectively, they
will be run by a leading community group, Erie House, a former private
school principal, Michael Lane, and one of Chicago's top law firms,
Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal.
On the North Side, a new naval academy is planned for an underutilized
wing of SennHigh School in Edgewater, and a new school serving grades 6-12 will
open in Arai in Uptown, run by an outstanding group of Chicago public school teachers.
This crop of new schools includes several created under the Renaissance
2010 process as well as several that were in the pipeline already. While
these new schools may take different approaches to educating, they all
share a common commitment to teaching our children the basics, starting
Over the next five years, at least 100 new schools will be created under
Renaissance 2010 serving neighborhoods where they are needed most, using
different school models and cutting-edge educational approaches. No
matter what the approach, however, every new school created in Chicago has the same goal: giving our children the skills they
need to succeed in life. As we work together in the coming months to
successfully launch these 18 new schools in 2005, let us all keep this
goal in mind.
Only one state in the country mandates that students - kindergarten
through 12th grade - attend some form of physical education class on
a daily basis. That state is Illinois.
We are certainly in favor of physical education. And mandating physical
education seems like a good idea, but is it getting the job done for
young people in Illinois? And, maybe more importantly, does the lesson that daily
physical activity is vital to our health stick with kids as they mature
The answer to both of those questions seems to be "no."
Despite being the only state to mandate P.E., Illinois did not fare so well in a recent nationwide study of
physical activity. The 2001 study conducted by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention indicated that nearly 74 percent of Illinois adults do not engage in the recommended level of physical
Actually, about 43 percent of Illinois adults say they are not regularly active, while a full
31 percent are described as inactive. Only 26.1 percent are considered
regularly active. Compared to the national average, Illinois was pretty average with the exception that more Illinoisans
actually fell into the inactive category.
Likewise, the obesity rate among Illinois children is not significantly better than children living
in many states that do not mandate daily physical education courses.
Does that tell us the mandate is a useless tool? No. That tells us that
if we are going to mandate physical education in Illinois, then we should provide physical education classes that
benefit a wider range of students.
Fortunate, that seems to be the goal of Springfield public school physical education teachers, who are reworking
the school district's method of providing gym class.
According to a presentation made at this week's school board meeting,
less emphasis will be placed on teaching kids how to play competitive
sports such as baseball, basketball or even dodge ball.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with those activities, but in the gym
class setting, as anyone who ever took gym class knows, it often leads
to a few kids working up a good sweat and a lot of other kids feeling
frustrated and learning to hate the fact that they weren't very good
at basketball, couldn't hit a baseball or couldn't get out of the way
of a dodge ball.
The teachers say the new concept is to focus on smaller groups of students
and to make sure that all of the students are being active during the
class. More important than learning the rules of a particular game is
to learn why moving around in that game is important to our health.
Stressing healthier eating habits and setting personal fitness goals
are also part of the instruction.
This makes a lot of sense to us. Gym class could be a dreaded and sometimes
humiliating time for those students who did not naturally excel in athletics.
Striving for excellence on the football field or basketball court is
a noble endeavor, but mostly for those kids on the competitive team.
A state that mandates physical education for all of its students must
make sure the PE. curriculum allows all of those students to succeed
in benefiting from physical activity. It should also strive to instill
an appreciation for being active that will last well beyond the 12th
grade. Gym class should encourage a love of physical activity. Too often
in the past it has not succeeded in that goal.
The District 186 physical education teachers deserve praise for embracing
changes and concepts that should make future classes beneficial to many
Lisa Lewis, a health professor, heard her two sons talk about how bad
their high school P.E. class was, so she went to see for herself.
Its been terrible, she said. The teacher was a basketball
coach, and thats basically all they did play basketball
between 40 and 50 kids. Many students, especially those who werent
athletic, just stood on the sidelines of the disorganized game.
Physical education experts say theres little accountability for
P.E. teachers in most schools. They say the classes are often poorly
run, and students dont spend much time in them anyway even
as American children grow fatter and more out of shape.
Nearly one-fifth of all high school P.E. teachers dont have a
major and certification in physical education, according to the most
recent numbers from the NationalCenter for Education Statistics.
Focus on winning, not on health
Often the instructor is a coach more interested in winning games than
in producing healthy students, experts say.
That stigma that a coach cares more about the team than his physical
education class does exist, said George Graham, professor of kinesiology
When a teacher or coach is doing that, its really up to
the principal to get in there and say, 'We want to win ball games, but
the kids in P.E. deserve a good education too.'
The lack of respect for P.E. also appears in the number of students
required to take it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2003,
only 28 percent of high school students nationwide attended a daily
P.E. class, but 38 percent watched television for three hours or more
each school night.
While 71 percent of the nations freshmen were in P.E. at least
one day a week hardly enough to be effective, experts say
those numbers drop to 40 percent by the students senior year.
Participation varies by state
But participation varies widely by state. In Tennessee, for instance, only 18 percent of seniors were enrolled
in a P.E. class, while New York has better than 90 percent participation.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education says Illinois is the only state that requires daily physical education
K-12, while Alabama requires it for K-8.
In California, Kentucky,
New York, South
and Vermont, accountability standards are being developed for health
and physical education programs.
Unless we hold physical education teachers accountable for the
fitness of the student ... theres no way to evaluate who is good
or who is bad because were more concerned with math and reading,
Lewis said. There needs to be some sort of minimal national fitness
standard that would be a very easy thing to establish.
Some schools have done just that like the VictorCentralSchool
just outside Rochester in Victor,
Superintendent Timothy J. McElheran said his teachers are held to specific
goals and judged like any math or science teacher would be.
Teachers innovate to encourage exercise
Its no longer the coach with the whistle around his neck,
he said. Our physical education teachers are highly trained professionals.
Victors nationally recognized program includes rock-climbing,
kayaking, cross-country skiing, archery and aerobic dance as options
They take what theyre doing very seriously, he said.
More P.E. classes eliminated
But not all do, and a new federal education law doesnt give schools
The thought in some schools is, 'If we eliminate P.E., then they
will have more time to do better educationally,' but theres nothing
to suggest thats the case, Graham said.
Kids just like adults at work need breaks and they
need time on their own.
Lewis has seen the poor state of physical education not only in her
sons school, but also at MiddleTennesseeStateUniversity where she works. The school recently dropped requirements
for health and P.E. from the core curriculum.
MTSU general education director Bill Badley said the P.E. requirement
went from four hours to zero when the school decided to add classes
to the core curriculum while lowering the total number of classes needed
Lewis wasnt able to stop the changes at MTSU, but she was able
to make a difference at her sons school.
I went to the class and actually helped the physical educator,
Lewis said. The non-athletes, theyre the ones who need it
NASPE president Dolly Lambdin said the cuts in secondary schools and
colleges intensify the problem that begins at a young age.
Whatever belief we teach (children) in elementary school, middle
school and high school, those beliefs will carry over in college,
she said. We cant continue the model (that) we have to fix
things later. It doesnt work on your car and it doesnt work
on your body. Physical maintenance is the key. TOP OF PAGE
SALEM -- There were hints of trouble, but the father missed
them. His affectionate son had transformed into an angry, door-slamming
menace. The boy's childhood friends were replaced by a rougher crowd.
Police warned that the new friends were dangerous.
For more than a year, the father lived in ignorance. Salem's school superintendent, Herbert Levine -- guardian
of 5,000 students, holder of a doctorate in education, overseer of students
for 36 years -- overlooked the powerful drug addiction of the teenager
living in his own house.
"I didn't know that my kid was in trouble," Levine said Thursday,
still sounding surprised seven months after he discovered his son, Joel,
could not get through most days without inhaling the prescription painkiller
Now the father who feared he might lose his son is crusading to save
other daughters and sons on the NorthShore, where dozens of people die each year of OxyContin and
heroin overdoses. Levine has suggested that Salem schools start randomly testing students for drug use.
The proposal has ignited a firestorm in the city, and the American Civil
Liberties Union of Massachusetts has threatened to sue if Levine's idea
takes flight. In classrooms and in school hallways, students are debating
the merits of drug testing.
"I don't see the point of it," said Christina Davies, a SalemHigh School freshman. "Just because the superintendent's son
did drugs, everyone in the school shouldn't be [required] to take a
Other students were less alarmed at the possibility that they would
have to submit urine samples for testing. "I have no problem with
it," said freshman James Burnes.
Denise Royal, the mother of a Salem High student, said drug testing
could be comforting to parents. "I'd rather know than not know,"
State education and public health officials say they do not track whether
schools test students for drugs, but the ACLU believes Salem High would
be the first school to require random tests. Jerry Luster, senior vice
president of Calloway Drug Testing Laboratories in Wakefield, said other schools have expressed interest in random
drug testing -- but so far there have been no takers.
"Everyone knows there's a problem out there but I don't think anybody's
taken that first step," Luster said.
Levine, who is retiring in June, wants to act quickly. He is creating
a task force of school and community leaders to consider ways, including
random drug testing, to combat the increasing drug problems in Salem. Once the task force drafts a proposal, the city's school
committee will decide whether to implement it.
"It struck me, almost like an epiphany but over a period of time,
that we're just not doing enough," Levine said.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that schools can test students who participate
in extracurricular activities for drugs. But the ACLU of Massachusetts
argues that the testing would violate the state constitution, which,
the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled, provides even greater protection of individual
freedom than the federal constitution.
The ACLU equates random drug testing with illegal search and seizure;
it also argues that forcing students to urinate in front of a tester
is a violation of privacy. Students could also be required to provide
details about any medicine they take that might alter the test results,
said Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney for the ACLU. Wunsch questioned the
effectiveness of drug testing.
"I think the reality is most kids who participate in extracurricular
activities have less of a problem relating to drugs and alcohol than
kids who don't participate," she said.
Levine acknowledges that state courts will ultimately have to decide
whether random drug testing is unconstitutional in Massachusetts. "It may be," he said. "We won't know
that until someone tests it."
But schools, he argued, must dedicate themselves to protecting students
from drug abuse.
"Is the ACLU going to go to the funeral of the next kid on the
NorthShore who overdosed on OxyContin or heroin and say, 'Hey,
I protected his privacy?' " he asked.
Joel Levine, a soft-spoken 19-year-old, supports his father's call for
drug testing. Last week, he gave an emotional speech about his addiction
to a packed Salem High auditorium for a drug forum organized by his
"I am Joel and I am a recovered drug addict," he began, and
when he stopped speaking and hugged his father, the 1,200 parents and
students in the audience broke into thunderous applause and rose to
Joel Levine said he believes random drug testing might save lives. But
the Salem State College student expressed doubts about whether testing
would have made him kick his own habit.
Joel, who grew up playing baseball and started at second base for the
Peabody High School Tanners, said that even if he had failed a drug
test in high school and gotten kicked off the baseball team, he would
have kept feeding his addiction.
"The drug was too powerful," he said. "It was the only
thing I did. At the time, I loved that more than I loved baseball."
OxyContin is sold on the street for about $80 a pill. Users pull off
the outer covering and snort the powder inside.
In the Levine household in Peabody,
deliverance came after two of Joel's friends called his parents to tell
them bluntly that their son was in trouble. One night last June, when
Joel returned home from a class at SalemState, his father was waiting. As soon as Joel walked in the
front door, his father turned off the television.
The father confronted his son, asking if he was addicted to OxyContin.
At first, Joel denied that he was using drugs. But finally, he put his
head down on the sofa and started crying. "This is so hard,"
he recalled saying.
The next day, friends drove Joel Levine to a detoxification center,
where his parents were waiting. Over the next week, as his body craved
OxyContin, he suffered backaches, leg cramps, cold sweats, nausea, and
diarrhea. Then he spent weeks in rehabilitation, learning to wean his
brain from the drug.
Joel said he has been clean for seven months, and he counsels others
trying to overcome their addiction. He is taking classes at SalemState. His father hopes he can accomplish through his work
what he was slow to realize at home.
"We were a textbook case of not reacting immediately," he
said. "I was afraid we were going to lose him." TOP OF PAGE
Its a long-overlooked issue that has finally arrived on the State
House agenda: reshaping the day for Massachusetts students.
In last week's State of the State speech, Governor Mitt Romney embraced
the idea of a longer school day, though initially only for failing districts.
Also last week, Attorney General Thomas Reilly stressed the importance
of after-school programs during an appearance before the Greater Boston
Chamber of Commerce. And the legislative leadership has expressed a
willingness to consider new approaches.
Indeed, more school time has become a favored nostrum on the television
series "The West Wing."
That's all gratifying for Chris Gabrieli, a venture capitalist and past
(and possibly future) political candidate, who has been working for
years to promote more learning time in his role as chairman of both
Boston's After-School for All Partnership and Massachusetts 2020, a
nonprofit foundation. His efforts have helped boost the number of Boston kids in after-school programs from 25,000 to 50,000,
which means about half the student population now participates.
"I am really glad Romney has embraced this," Gabrieli says,
adding that he hopes the issue won't take on partisan overtones. "This
is not something that ought to be politicized."
Educational experts say the current school schedule, long locked in
at six hours a day, 180 days a year, no longer makes sense.
"I view offering a longer school day for those who need it as one
of the last frontiers of education reform," says Paul Reville,
executive director of MassINC's RennieCenter for Education Research & Policy.
Currently, when you include summer and vacations, American kids spend
80 percent of their waking hours out of school. Even on school days,
they actually devote almost as much time to watching TV or playing video
games (5.5 hours) as they do to class (6 hours), says Gabrieli.
Meanwhile, the unsupervised time between
and is a period rife with potential perils for teenagers.
"Engaging kids for more hours is the number one way to reduce smoking,
drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy, and violence," says Gabrieli.
In an era when most mothers work, a more structured day would help parents
who have to worry about afternoon child care or activities.
Policy-makers could approach the matter either by offering after-school
programs or by extending the actual school day. Either way, educational
programming should be part of the effort.
Certainly in most other developed countries, kids spend more of their
time in school than do kids in the United States. In contrast to our 180-day school year, many of our
competitors have 200 days or more. And while American students spend
an average of 1,460 hours in core academic classes during their high-school
years, German and Japanese pupils spend more than double that time.
One explanation for the achievement gap between kids from middle-class
families and those from poor families is the difference in what they
do after 2; as Gabrieli notes, many kids from upper- and middle-class
homes are already in some sort of afternoon program, while fewer less
affluent students are.
A longer school day is one tool charter and pilot schools employ; 69
percent of the state's charter schools have at least 15 percent more
school time than the traditional public schools. And seven of the nine
high schools that the RennieCenter identified in 2003 as the state's best-performing urban
high schools had extended learning time. Even if that extra time were
only used for tutoring or helping with homework, it would help improve
Meanwhile, both the 1983 "A Nation At Risk" report that raised
the alarm about poor educational quality in the United States and the Commonwealth's 1993 education reform act called
for expansions of the school year. "Zero has happened," Gabrieli
That's a shame. The time has come for a more structured day and a longer
year, and not just in the underperforming districts. There is, of course,
a question of resources. But by staggering teaching hours and aggressively
enlisting community organizations, college students, and volunteers,
much could be done.
"For at most 20 percent more, you could extend every school day
to 5 or and lengthen the school year some," says Gabrieli.
After a decade of hard work, Massachusetts has boosted most of its kids to a level of minimum competency.
As we begin to focus on proficiency, more structure and more learning
time should be essential parts of that effort. TOP OF PAGE
RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's school superintendents endorsed legislation Tuesday
directing the state Board of Education to seek a waiver from the federal
No Child Left Behind Act.
The waiver tops the Virginia Association of School Superintendents'
priority list for the 2005 General Assembly.
Loudoun County School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, president
of the association, said the state's own public school accountability
program is working well. He noted that 84 percent of schools are fully
accredited, up from 2 percent when the Standards of Learning program
began eight years ago.
"That is why we should be allowed to stay the course rather than
be detoured by the cumbersome and, in many cases, counterproductive
federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act," Hatrick
The law, which took effect in 2001, requires schools to meet benchmarks
in at least 29 of 35 separate categories to make "adequate yearly
progress." Those goals also must be met by smaller student subgroups,
including those with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.
As a backup in case the waiver effort fails, the superintendents also
endorsed several proposed revisions to the state's plan for implementing
No Child Left Behind. The changes include giving students with limited
English proficiency more time to take tests used to measure yearly progress
and including retaken tests in determining whether a school makes the
The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the revisions Wednesday.
The superintendents' other legislative priorities include measures to
address a shortage of school administrators, protecting a school construction
fund from being tapped for other expenditures, full funding of the state's
share of basic education services, and approval of the 3 percent raise
for teachers proposed by Gov. Mark R. Warner.
Prince Edward County School Superintendent Margaret V. Blackmon, president-elect
of the association, said Virginia's average teacher salary last year
was $2,809 below the national average even though the state ranks 10th
nationally in per capita income.
"We therefore have the financial ability to pay our teachers better
salaries," she said.
Blackmon said Virginia has lost ground in recent years. In 1990, Virginia lagged only $423 behind the national average in teacher
Judged solely by recent statewide tests, fourth graders in Mississippi and Colorado would appear to be the best young readers in the nation.
In both states, 87 percent of fourth graders passed their exams.
But Mississippi came in dead last among the 50 states when fourth-grade
reading was examined using a different standard, a newly mandated but
decades-old test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress,
or N.A.E.P. On that test, only 18 percent of Mississippi's fourth graders achieved proficiency. Colorado's proficiency rate fell to 37 percent on the national
test, but that score was high enough to rank fifth in the nation.
Such comparisons of performance on state tests versus national tests
have never been possible before on a nationwide basis. The N.A.E.P.,
known as the nation's report card, used to be voluntary for states.
In 2003, it became mandatory. The comparisons suggest how widely the
definition of "proficient" varies from state to state, as
each administers its own exams and sets its own performance standards.
And those standards matter more today than ever, because they factor
into the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, which requires
that all students reach proficiency on state reading and math tests
by 2014. States are also judged on yearly progress toward that goal,
and harsh penalties, including the loss of federal aid, await those
that fail to bring all students to a proficient level.
"No Child Left Behind leaves a fairly crucial decision" about
defining proficiency up to the states, said Ronald A. Skinner, research
director of Education Week, which published the state and national scores
side by side recently in an annual survey of schools. "Certainly
those states that have set the bar lower will have an easier time meeting
the mark and avoiding federal sanctions for their schools. It's going
to be tough on states that have put tough standards on their students."
Researchers and educators say the new data will make it possible to
address questions they could not answer before.
"When you compare yourselves using N.A.E.P., you're able to compare
yourselves to a much more expansive and comprehensive national base,"
said Douglas E. Wood, executive director of the National Academy for
Excellent Teaching at Teachers College at Columbia University. "It
seems to me that offers us additional information by which to make policy
In Mississippi, Kristopher J. Kaase, the director of the Department
of Education's office of student assessment, said the state had traditionally
used its own definition of the word proficient.
"We call it solid academic performance required for success at
the next grade level," Mr. Kaase said. "Step away from that
for a moment. Who's ready to move on to the next grade level? At least
a C student. I don't think anyone would have any qualms about that.
Would they be proficient according to N.A.E.P.? Probably not."
The smallest disparities between results on the state and national tests
were found in a variety of states across the country, including Massachusetts, Maine,
Wyoming, South Carolina, Vermont and Missouri.
The largest disparities were in the South. In Alabama, for instance, 72 percent of fourth graders were proficient
on the state's math test, but only 19 percent passed N.A.E.P. at the
In New York, the gaps between state and N.A.E.P. scores were much
smaller, but the state did not fare as well as Connecticut or New Jersey on the national test. Thirty-five percent of eighth
graders in New
York were proficient on the N.A.E.P. reading test, compared
with 45 on the state test. Thirty-three percent of New York fourth graders were proficient on N.A.E.P.'s math test,
while 78 percent passed the state math test.
Mr. Kaase said that No Child Left Behind has made Mississippi wary about raising standards.
"What is already a challenging goal - reaching 100 percent proficient
by 2014 - you can make it much more challenging or nearly impossible,
depending on what you do," he said. "It becomes a delicate
balance. But we do feel we need to continue to press. We're not satisfied."
Colorado's definition of proficient, a state official said, was
changed to comply with No Child Left Behind, which requires that results
be reported in three categories. The state had for years reported its
test results in four categories: unsatisfactory, partially proficient,
proficient and advanced.
To meet the new requirements, Colorado grouped its partially proficient students with the proficient.
"We had a dilemma," said William J. Maloney, the commissioner
of education. "We would have had to throw our whole system in the
Dumpster just to accommodate the N.C.L.B. So we said: 'Here is Colorado. For the purposes of the feds, we combined proficient
and partially proficient.' "
Unlike Mississippi and Colorado, Missouri
adheres to a strict definition of proficient that aligns closely with
the N.A.E.P., or surpasses it. In 2003, eighth graders in Missouri did better on the N.A.E.P. reading test than on the
state's own exam.
"We've tried to look at it as 'How can we best serve our kids?'
instead of trying to play some numbers game against federal law,"
said Bert Shulte, the deputy commissioner of education in Missouri.
But Mr. Shulte realizes the long-term risks of Missouri's decision. "It makes it harder for us to achieve
a federal numerical goal," he said. "But in terms of what
it says to students when they achieve proficiency, it is a better-grounded
Some educators and policy makers say that rather than focusing on a
state's performance on a single test, the goal should be improvement
"On the one hand, you can say, if there's a huge disparity, if
a state is telling parents that 80 percent of students are proficient
but on N.A.E.P it's 20 percent, they're lying," said Kati Haycock,
the director of the Education Trust, a group that advocates standards.
"While that may at some level be true, in order to make progress
in education you have to have near-term goals that are achievable. So
if you're a state with really low achievement and you say, 'I've got
to set my state's bar where N.A.E.P. is, and make it under N.C.L.B.'s
timeframe,' I think educators would throw up their hands and say, 'We
can't get that far.' "
Ms. Haycock cited North
and Texas as examples of states that have shown the biggest gains
on the N.A.E.P. over the last 10 years while having low-level state
Mississippi fits into that picture as well. In 2003, for instance,
the number of fourth graders scoring at or above the proficient level
on the N.A.E.P. math exam more than doubled to 17 percent, from 8 percent
in 2000, while 74 percent of fourth graders were deemed at or above
the proficient level on the state test.
"And so, where a mismatch as large as you see in some states may
be worrisome, considering near-term targets, I think the evidence would
not suggest that's a bad thing," Ms. Haycock said.
Mark Musick, the president of the Southern Regional Education Board,
an organization that advises 16 states on education policy, said he
has been arguing for years that "the states should look to N.A.E.P.
and any other information, take it and see if the results are telling
them basically the same thing."
Mr. Musick, a former chairman of N.A.E.P.'s governing board, added,
"If there's some wild difference, then they should try to figure
out why that difference exists."
TOMORROW at , several hundred
thousand bleary-eyed high school students will pick up their #2 pencils
and go down in history, the last generation required to confront the
analogy section of the SAT. You remember: "Discard: eviscerate
as jettison: heave," or is it "dump: ditch?" Hmm.
In its infinite wisdom, the College Board has decided that it's time
for a little nip and tuck. Apparently, the SAT needs some straightening
out, and students need less coddling, so there will be harder math problems,
an essay, more reading comprehensions, and, gasp, grammar. Try asking
your 16-year-old what he would do with a semicolon; that should provide
some mirth at the dinner table.
And suddenly the Board has developed a conscience. The old SAT, it seems,
is unfair to those unfortunates who can't afford tutors. It's time for
a fairer test. This explanation, however, doesn't seem to float. Jon
Zeitlin, general manager of SAT programs at Stanley Kaplan suggests:
"Like all standardized test questions, the new writing sections
are as bland and as predictable as a middle-aged accountant."
The Princeton Review confirms that the new deluxe version is even more
coachable and, as if that isn't bad enough, more unfair and a more harmful
force to women, minorities, the poor, and education in general. Oh,
But could there be even more to the story? Some Draconian, Halliburtonian
twist? Is it just a coincidence that in 2003, the University of California college system announced that it was considering dispensing with the
SAT, after research confirmed that the test wasn't doing its job? Hundreds
of thousands of College Board consumers -- sorry, applicants -- going
down the drain, and the Educational Testing Service, which isn't some
pie-in-the sky nest of do-gooders but a serious business, the creators
of over 500 tests for everyone from wannabe CIA agents to golf pros
and barbers, got nervous.
In order to accommodate the new sections, the analogy will become: (a)
dust, (b) history, (c) kaput, and thousands of years of intellectual
tradition will go down the drain. So sorry to those Indian scholars
who introduced them in their sacred texts; tender regrets to those who
later took them to heart: Plato, Aristotle, Aristophanes, and St. Paul
-- a none too shabby lot who actually developed a method of thought,
a philosophy, a way of understanding the world, all based on analogies.
But if ETS, as they tell us, is only trying to do its job, it doesn't
mean I have to continue to do mine. After 30 years of working with hundreds
of students on the SAT, I'm considering throwing in the towel. The analogies
were the only section of the SAT that suggested thinking could be entertaining,
at times like a game or a puzzle, something you could actually figure
out if you put your mind to it. They were like juggling, croquet, or
billiards: one idea ricocheting off another and, in the process, that
great eureka moment when you sunk it.
The analogies suggested a revolutionary concept: Academic performance
can be playful, even fun. But, alas, the analogy has come to this: a
quaint, dusty notion suggesting relationships between two sets of objects
are not as important as completing a few more reading passages, then
interpreting them as millions of others do, in the most conventional
Adios, analogies, but before you vanish, some respectful consideration
must be paid. Let us reflect on those days 5,000 years ago in India,
when those teachers, known as Enigma Makers, offered puzzles, paradoxes,
puns, and analogies to their students to interpret and solve.
They might have taught the Upanishadic notion of God by instructing
them to dissolve salt in water and taste it from the surface, the bottom,
and the middle. "It is always salty. How are the two connected?"
Pause. "The universal being, though invisible in all of us, while
invisible like the salt, lives in all of us."
These questions followed the Indian tradition of the philosophical enigma,
calling for interpretation. No multiple choice answers allowed. Students
were taught to use their ingenuity in the hope that the act of coming
up with the solution would be a more transformative and profound experience
than merely memorizing texts.
But when you got to go, you got to go. It doesn't seem to matter to
the College Board that the study of analogies led to the development
of science, ethics, art, and politics; that they taught us about associations,
relationships and connections; and that they promoted a new kind of
creativity, a new way of understanding the world.
As a matter of fact, the College Board might do well to reflect upon
one of the earliest analogies from the Upanishads: "There are many
in the world, who, puffed up with intellectual conceit, believe that
they are capable of guiding others . . . but they are devoid of deeper
understanding; therefore, all that they say merely increases doubt and
confusion in the minds who hear them. Hence they are likened to blind
men leading the blind."
Wis. student sues to end summer homework
By Ryan Nakashima, Associated Press Writer, 1/20/05
MILWAUKEE -- A student whose vacation plans were spoiled has sued
to end summer homework in Wisconsin, claiming it creates an unfair workload and unnecessary
Peer Larson, 17, had lined up a dream camp counselor job last June,
but honors pre-calculus homework turned his summer into a headache.
"It didn't completely ruin my summer, but it did give me a lot
of undue stress both at home and at work," the high school junior
said Thursday. "I just didn't have the energy or the time for it."
Larson and his father sued in Milwaukee County Circuit Court seeking
the end of summer homework across the state. They argue that homework
shouldn't be required after the required 180-day school year is over.
"These students are still children, yet they are subjected to increasing
pressure to perform to ever-higher standards in numerous theaters,"
the suit said.
School administrators have told the family that honors courses require
some summer work.
Whitnall School Superintendent Karen Petric told the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel the district did its best to address the Larsons' concerns.
"I strongly believe the district acted appropriately and didn't
do anything wrong," she said. "Court is not the place to solve
While students will probably root for the Larsons, lawyers contacted
Thursday questioned the suit's legal grounds. Larson and his son had
acted as their own legal counsel.
"This is the sort of thing that has been traditionally handled
by school boards," said attorney Thomas R. Schrimpf. Another attorney,
Timothy Baldwin, predicted the case would be dismissed.
The Jan. 10 lawsuit names a math teacher, three school administrators
and the state's superintendent of public instruction. Wisconsin's attorney general's office will assign a lawyer to
respond to the suit, said spokesman Brian Rieselman.
Va. Requesting Exemption From 'No Child' Rules
State Tests Hindered, Some Say
By Rosalind S. Helderman and TaraBahrampour, Washington Post Staff Writers, 1/20/05
RICHMOND, Jan. 19 -- Virginia's Board of Education voted Wednesday to
request exemptions from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law
to give the state more flexibility in improving student performance.
Republicans in the General Assembly have introduced bills that would
direct the board to request such exemptions. The legislators say the
federal act disrupts the state's Standards of Learning testing program,
put into place in the 1990s.
The board decided Wednesday to request that the U.S. Education Department
exempt Virginia from 10 areas of the law.
Last week, President Bush visited a FairfaxCounty school to propose extending his signature education
initiative into high schools.
The Education Department had rejected some of Virginia's requests during earlier negotiations authorized by
the board. But since Margaret Spellings, Bush's nominee to be secretary
of education, said recently that she was committed to making No Child
Left Behind "workable," educators have expressed new hope
about fine-tuning the program.
"I am cautiously optimistic that there will be some opportunities
to obtain more flexibility," said Thomas M. Jackson Jr., president
of the board.
U.S. Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said it would be inappropriate
for her to comment before studying Virginia's proposals. "This law is about every child learning
and being able to read and do math at grade level," she said. "We
will continue to work with Virginia, as we have all states, on the law's implementation."
Educators and officials in various parts of the country have complained
about the impact of the federal law, but leaders in Virginia have been among the most vocal, said Scott Young, education
policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Virginia's action could force the Education Department to clearly
lay out how much flexibility it will allow, Young said.
The federal law requires yearly testing of students in grades 3 through
8 and dictates serious consequences for schools that do not meet a formula
for progress. Subgroups of students, including minorities, disabled
students and students with limited English skills, must show yearly
improvement, and all students must pass math and reading tests by 2014.
Virginia's system requires that 70 percent of all students pass
state standardized tests and does not hold schools specifically responsible
for the progress of groups that have traditionally underperformed.
State education leaders have applauded No Child Left Behind's emphasis
on looking at achievement by subgroup. Their exemption requests include
greater flexibility in the testing of special education students and
children with limited English skills. They would also like to be released
from the law's requirement that only a student's first attempt at a
test be counted when assessing a school's annual progress. Jackson said the policy ignores successful efforts to help students
pass subsequent tests.
Virginia would also like to be able to modify the pattern of
sanctions imposed against schools that have not met the law's standards
for progress -- such as offering private tutoring to students before
allowing them to change schools instead of the other way around.
The push in the General Assembly for No Child Left Behind exemptions
represents an endorsement of the board's action by some of the legislature's
most conservative members.
House Republican Caucus leader R. Steven Landes (Augusta) is sponsoring one of several bills requesting flexibility
in areas of the law considered "duplicative" of Virginia's system or "lacking in cost effectiveness."
"In Virginia, we've already got a system in place that's working,
that is well thought out and actually has evolved," he said. "No
Child Left Behind just forces another layer which doesn't meld or fit
well with our program."
Landes said his bill is an attempt to work with regulators rather than
reject the federal law -- and about $350 million in federal education
"The Republican Party is a diverse party and a big party, and I
think we can disagree agreeably about divergent views," he said.
At the same time, said Del. Gary A. Reese (R-Fairfax), Virginia's leaders are poised to offer critiques of the federal
law because they engaged in a long fight to gain credibility for the
state's own school accountability rules, the Standards of Learning tests.
"I fought in the trenches for SOLs for 10 longs years and had parents
and teacher stand up and tell me SOLs were terrible and horrible; in
truth, they turned out to be right for Virginia," he said. "We
may easily be heard where others might not."
A series of unsavory revelations about the U.S. Department of Educations
efforts to sway the public in favor of its major school improvement
measure could stain the laws reputation and cast doubt on future
information from the agency, say many observers, including supporters
of the law.
In the latest disclosure about the departments public relations
efforts, the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams acknowledged
this month that he had accepted some $240,000 in federal money for ads
on his syndicated television show and for other help in promoting the
No Child Left Behind Act in various forums.
Mr. Williams was a subcontractor under a wide-ranging, at least $700,000
contract between the Education Department and Ketchum Inc., a leading
public relations firm based in New York City. Mr. Williams contract
called for the commentator, who is African-American, to help the departments
outreach to minorities about the school law by providing time for Secretary
of Education Rod Paige and other officials on his TV show, and for him
to influence other members of the media to give favorable attention
to the law.
Disclosure of the deal in a Jan. 7 story in USA Today brought down a
torrent of criticism on the department and Mr. Williams.
President Bush said in an interview with USA Today late last week that
he had serious concerns about the matter.
All of us, the Cabinet, needs to take a good look and make sure
this kind of thing doesnt happen again, he told the newspaper.
Education groups were concerned the controversy would taint public opinion
about the education initiative itself.
It tarnishes the Department of Educations credibility and
the particular program this was aimed at, said Ross Weiner, the
policy director for the Education Trust, a Washington-based organization
that promotes raising achievement for all students and strongly supports
the law, the centerpiece of President Bushs education agenda.
This administration knows there are a lot of people who are skeptical
of its motivations on No Child Left Behind. All this does is feed that
fire of skepticism.
Secretary Paige called last week for an expedited investigation by the
departments inspector general, but defended the contract in a
statement. All of this has been reviewed and is legal, the
statement said. However, I am sorry that there are perceptions
and allegations of ethical lapses. The Education Department declined
to discuss the matter further.
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill called for a variety of investigations.
Late last week, Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa,
the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate
subcommittee that handles education appropriations, asked that the Education
Department turn over records of recent public relations contracts.
A Con Game?
The payments to Mr. Williams caused a huge outcry among media-ethics
experts, public relations specialists, and education and government
groups, among others. But the contract was only the latest example involving
the Education Departments use of questionable public relations
tactics to promote the No Child Left Behind Act and other programs.
In 2003, the Ketchum firm produced a video news release
for the department promoting the federal law. The video package purported
to be an independent news report about how many parents give the law
an A-plus, with an ersatz news reporter who signed off
with, Im Karen Ryan reporting.
An Education Department spokeswoman defended the video news release
at the time, saying such packages are standard PR tools.
Some news shows ran the Ketchum-produced package.
In two recent cases involving video news releases produced elsewhere
in the Bush administration, the Government Accountability Office, the
watchdog arm of Congress, has concluded that the packages constituted
covert propaganda and were illegal under federal law.
At least one other video news release featuring the same narrator, Karen
Ryan, purporting to be a reporter has been produced for the Education
Debra Silimeo, a senior vice president at the Washington-based public
relations firm Hager Sharp said in an interview that her firm has a
five-year contract with the NationalCenter for Education Statistics, the departments statistical
arm, that is worth $700,000 to $800,000 a year. Under that contract,
Hager Sharp sent out a video news package regarding math and reading
results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2003.
A few stations aired the material, but since the GAO first
held last year that federal Medicare video news releases were inappropriate,
we will not do that again, Ms. Silimeo said.
The original proposal submitted by Ketchum to the Education Department
for promoting the No Child Left Behind Act discusses the public relations
agencys extensive experience and promises to help the department
with a solid, evidence-based, cost-effective strategic plan
to meet its business goals.
What got more attention when the document was released last year, under
a Freedom of Information Act request by the liberal advocacy group People
for the American Way, was the revelation that as part of the contract,
Ketchum was compiling monthly ratings of individual reporters on whether
their coverage of the No Child Left Behind Act was favorable or not.
("This Just In: No Child Law Works Well, Says Ed. Dept.
News Video," Oct. 20, 2004.)
The department itself spent $500,000 in 2003 to hire a strike
team of political operatives to work solely on publicity surrounding
the K-12 education law. ("Ed. Dept. Invests $500,000 In Team to
Tout Its Agenda," May 28, 2003.)
This just feeds the cynicism that this is all a kind of a con
game, said William L. Taylor, the chairman of the Citizens
Commission on Civil Rights, a private Washington group that monitors the federal government on civil
rights issues. Mr. Taylor is a supporter of the No Child Left Behind
Act, which calls for greater public school testing and accountability
and mandates penalties for schools that fail to meet achievement goals.
The real question now is, is there going to be buy-in to the whole
notion of education reform by the people in the school systems,
In the case involving Mr. Williams, matters seem to have been clouded
by the fact that the one-time Republican aide has both a media-punditry
career and a public relations business.
Mr. Williams established himself as a prominent black political conservative
largely through his role defending Clarence Thomas during the U.S. Supreme
Court justices combative Senate confirmation hearings in 1991.
Mr. Williams had worked for Mr. Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, as well as for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina
His career as a commentator has included a newspaper column, regular
appearances on CNN and elsewhere, and his own syndicated TV show, The
Right Side with Armstrong Williams.
The show, which is produced by Right Side Productions and airs mainly
on small stations around the country, is a subsidiary of Mr. Williams
Washington-based public relations firm, the Graham Williams Group.
Under the Ketchum contract, the $240,000 subcontract to Mr. Williams
primarily paid for two 60-second television ads promoting the No Child
Left Behind law to be run on The Right Side. The show bought
its TV time on some outlets, then recouped the money by selling ad time
on its own, a not uncommon arrangement.
The contract also called for Mr. Williams to comment on the No Child
Left Behind Act, a program in which he says he was a strong believer,
in media appearances elsewhere.
After the contract was revealed by USA Today, Mr. Williams did numerous
interviews in which he apologized, repeating the mantra I used
bad judgment. He said he had disclosed the Education Department
paid for the advertisements on his TV show, but did not note the payment
in his columns or in other media appearances where the school law came
Mr. Williams declined to be interviewed about the flap last week.
On his Web site, he penned an apology, saying that in hindsight the
payment represents an obvious conflict of interests. But
Mr. Williams added: People have used this conflict of interest
to portray my column as being paid for by the Bush administration. Nothing
could be further from the truth. People need to know that my
column is uncorrupted by any outside influences.
Since the arrangement was uncovered, Tribune Media Services has dropped
distribution of Mr. Williams column, and some TV outlets have
ended their relationship with him. Politicians, newspaper editorials,
and some groups have called for Mr. Williams to return the money.
However, in a online chat last week on The Washington Posts Web
site, Mr. Williams said he would not refund the payment because he had
provided the services called for in the contract.
Both Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio,
the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and
its ranking Democrat, Rep. George Miller of California, have called for investigations by the GAO and the Education
Departments inspector general. Congressional hearings on the matter
could surface as well.
In his statement, Mr. Paige said his staff had reviewed the contract
and said the money paid to the Graham Williams Group went for the costs
of the ads created and nothing more. But Mr. Paige did not
address the language in the contract calling for Mr. Williams to use
his influence in other ways and to make time for officials on his show.
Rep. Miller fired back with a statement calling the deal with Mr. Williams
illegal and unethical.
Secretary Paige and President Bush cannot even bring themselves
to admit they were wrong, apologize to the taxpayers, and pledge that
no such covert propaganda efforts will be conducted again, the
Secretary Paige, who is set to leave the department this month to make
way for his designated successor, White House policy aide Margaret Spellings,
expressed dismay at the furor stemming from the arrangement.
That a public relations contract has caused the good work of this
department to come into question is deeply disturbing to me, Mr.
Paiges statement said. And it is certainly not the legacy
I wish to leave behind.
The department did not reply to numerous calls and e-mails last week
seeking further comment. Ketchum referred all inquiries to the Education
It remains unclear whether the idea to tap Mr. Williams for a contract
to promote the school law originated with Ketchum or with the department.
It was also unclear who in the department ultimately gave the go-ahead
Public relations experts say that under such a major contract, Education
Department officials would have known the details of the plans to work
with Mr. Williams.
Somebody at the department has to approve it, said Judith
T. Phair, the president of the Public Relations Society of America,
a New York City-based organization for the profession. Certainly,
the department would know.
The Reasonableness Test
Alex S. Jones, the director of the ShorensteinCenter on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at HarvardUniversity, called the arrangement one of the stupidest public
relations moves Ive ever heard in my life.
I find it frightening that the government would have no better
judgment than this, he said. The result, he said, is that information
on the No Child Left Behind Act is compromised and discredited.
Ms. Phair said the Education Department should be doing mea culpas and
admitting to any other questionable public relations arrangements.
Some observers said that not only was it disingenuous for Mr. Williams
to pass off his opinions as independent when he was being paid by the
department, but that it was a bad investment of taxpayer money to underwrite
a supporter of the measure.
This is sort of an ethically challenged, possibly legally dubious
use of public money, but its also suspect from a point of view
of reasonableness, said Andrew J. Rotherham, the director of education
policy at the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute, which is
affiliated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. It
makes sense that you would try to figure out ways to engage the media,
but focusing efforts on the ones already avowedly on your side seems
But Ms. Phair said the department may have been trying to shore up support.
Much of what Bush did during the election was conserving the base,
she said. Sometimes you do go after those people who are pretty
much on board to make sure theyre solidly behind you.
Texas Takes Aim at Tainted Testing Program By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, Education Week, 1/19/05
Responding to a potential cheating scandal uncovered by a recent newspaper
investigation, Texas officials last week announced a sweeping review
of test security and plans for a new monitoring scheme for the state
accountability system, which has served as a model for other states
as well as the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
We take cheating very seriously in our state, and we will be taking
whatever actions are necessary to maintain the integrity of our testing
program, Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley said at a Jan.
10 press conference called to outline the states response. This
whole situation is embarrassing, but were not putting our
heads in the sand over this.
The move came after an analysis of test scores by The Dallas Morning
News found that results at as many as 400 schools out of 7,700 statewideincluding
one celebrated Houston elementary schoolwere suspect. The newspaper,
which used a regression analysis of all school-level results on the
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for 2003 and 2004, outlined
unlikely leaps in TAKS scale scores from one year to the next or students
inability to maintain high levels of achievement as they advanced in
school. The analysis compares relationships between variables to gauge
or predict consistencies, such as a schools performance in reading
over several grades.
Ms. Neeley said the newspapers use of scale scoresthe average
score a school achieves on a given test, as opposed to passing rates,
may not provide the most accurate measure of how a school is performing.
The commissioner acknowledged, however, that the state must devise a
common formula for identifying questionable results.
Although reports of cheating on standardized tests are not uncommon
across the country, the extent of the allegations in Texas appear to be unprecedented, observers say. The latest
claims have renewed appeals from experts for states to institute better
oversight of testing systems.
This is an ethical failure on the part of the U.S. education system, not just on Texas, said Daniel Koretz, a testing researcher at HarvardUniversity. There isnt an expectation in this country
that we will carefully evaluate the impact of holding people accountable
Texas has long used test scores to determine whether schools
are making enough progress in raising student achievement, and for issuing
penalties to those that fail to do so adequately. Under the federal
law, state test scores are a central factor in whether schools meet
adequately yearly progress.
Texas does not regularly monitor or review school or district
results on the statewide assessment, according to Debbie Graves Ratcliffe,
a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. Since it began testing
more than two decades ago, the state agency has conducted limited reviews
of school data, primarily to find instances in which large numbers of
students were exempted from taking the test or absent on test day. It
has also investigated specific allegations of cheating or cases of significant
Districts are primarily responsible for monitoring their results and
investigating any irregularities or allegations of impropriety. They
can then refer cases to the state agency for further review or action.
The state probes only a handful each year.
Texas limited monitoring is standard practice throughout
the nation, according to George Madaus, a senior fellow with the National
Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy, a private body based
The whole testing situation is almost totally unregulated,
said Mr. Madaus, who, along with other researchers, has pushed for better
monitoring for years. Were dealing with a very useful, but
a very fallible, technology.
Officials in Pittsburgh and Indiana, however, recently announced the hiring of independent
contractors to monitor their testing programs and make recommendations
for detecting potential cheating.
Commissioner Neeley said Texas,
too, would hire an outside expert to review its testing policies and
procedures and would craft measures for analyzing test results for the
nearly 3 million students in grades 3-11 who participate in TAKS each
Educators found to have cheated, or those who failed to report cheating,
could face disciplinary measures, ranging from a formal reprimand to
suspension of their professional certificates to jail time, she said.
National Model Tainted
The states plan followed similar announcements by superintendents
in Houston and Dallas, Texas largest school districts. The Dallas Morning News
analysis found irregularities in dozens of schools in those districts.
In Houston, Wesley Elementary, which gained national acclaim under
then-Superintendent Rod Paige for getting nearly all students from the
poor neighborhood it serves to grade level in reading, was among those
accused, along with two other affiliated schools that form a charter
school district known as Acres Homes. Mr. Paige is wrapping up four
years as the U.S. secretary of education.
According to the newspapers analysis of 2003 reading scores, Wesleys
5th graders were among the top performers in the state, scoring in the
top 10 percent for the grade level. The following year, as 6th graders
at Houstons M.C.WilliamsMiddle
they fell to the bottom 10 percent in that subject and on the mathematics
test, a trend that was not repeated elsewhere in the state.
A Dallas Morning News investigation has found strong evidence
that at least some of the success at Wesley and two affiliated schools
comes from cheating, the newspaper said in an article dated Dec.
A former Wesley Elementary teacher, Donna Garner, had reported to the
Houston school board 19 months earlier that teachers at the
school were encouraged over several years to cheat, according to state
and district documents.
In November, the district appointed an independent counsel to investigate
Ms. Garners claims.
The school attracted considerable attention throughout the 1990s, particularly
for its adherence to Direct Instruction, a scripted commercial reading
program. Its principal at the time, Thaddeus Lott, was hailed in news
stories for helping his students beat the odds.
As governor of Texas, George W. Bush drew on the districts purported
success to support his educational accountability program, which became
a national model and the basis for the No Child Left Behind Act instituted
after he became president.
Wesley Elementarys success prompted accusations of cheating then
as well, but the claims were dismissed after a state investigation.
In a 1998 interview with Education Week, Mr. Lott chalked up those challenges
to ignorance, saying it is racist to assume
that poor minority children cant learn.
Mr. Lott was not available for comment last week.
After the latest charges, Abelardo Saavedra, who recently took over
as the superintendent of the 212,000-student Houston district, said in a statement to The Dallas Morning
News that the district agrees that the performance of Wesley and two
other schools that form the school systems Acres Home charter
district was highly questionable.
Mr. Saavedra announced Jan. 6 that the district would establish an inspector
generals office to institute new controls over test procedures
and to investigate any suspected wrongdoing. The districts internal
auditor, Robert Moore, a certified fraud examiner, will head the office.
The Houston district is also planning to hire outside monitors to
visit schools on test days, some assigned to specific schools and others
randomly throughout the district. Commissioner Neeley said the state
was considering a similar strategy.
District superintendents in Dallas
Worth, where the newspaper found a number of cases of questionable
test-score trends, have also unveiled plans for stricter monitoring.
But some critics say the measures may be inadequate, given the states
and districts interest in showing that student achievement is
To think the TEA is going to monitor the quality of data from
districts is like asking the fox to guard the chicken coop, charged
Walter M. Haney, a professor of education at Boston College who has
worked to debunk what he calls The Texas Miracle in raising
student achievement. Even if theres not outright fraud,
where people become so obsessed with raising test scores on one relatively
narrow test, cheating and other improprieties are likely to occur.
Visiting a high school in suburban Washington last week, President Bush offered an introduction hes
used many times for his outgoing secretary of education, Rod Paige.
Mr. Bush stressed that, four years ago, he decided to pick someone on
the front lines of educationa district superintendentfor
the top federal job in the field.
That contrasts with his choice of Margaret Spellings, whose experience
has been behind the scenes, to succeed Secretary Paige. Ms. Spellings,
now the presidents chief domestic-policy aide, appears headed
for easy confirmation in the Senate, possibly as soon as this week,
when President Bush begins his second term.
She has won strong votes of confidence from both sides of the political
aisle, as well as from national education groups. And yet, at least
some educators outside the Washington political and policy orbit have misgivings about the
background shell bring to the job.
Why would the president select a person who is not a teacher,
or a superintendent, or a principal, or someone trained in the education
field? Diane Schroeder, a reading specialist and language arts
teacher in Greenfield, Wis., said last week.
[T]o understand the workings of schools, especially teachers,
parents, and the needs of children, the secretary of education should
have had experience as an educator, said Cheryl F. Blue, an assistant
superintendent in Plattsmouth, Neb. Sitting in an office does
not give the individual the perspective of the challenges facing
Ms. Spellings would not be the first education secretary without a professional
experience in schools or academe. Take Richard W. Riley, a popular education
secretary who served for eight years under President Clinton. He had
made a name for himself as an education governor in South Carolina, but had not been an educator.
And by no means is there a consensus even among working educators that
Ms. Spellings may not be highly qualified, to use the label
the No Child Left Behind Act expects the nations teachers to merit.
I have heard that Ms. Spellings is a sharp woman who listens well
and has the ability to make informed decisions, said Carol Kelly,
an adjunct education professor at the University of Denver
in Colorado and a former school principal. It appears she
is quite well versed in todays educational issues. I dont
believe that lack of an advanced degree or experience as an educator
should disqualify her from serving as U.S. secretary of education.
A Department of Education spokeswoman declined an Education Week request
to interview Ms. Spellings, saying the presidents nominees would
not grant interviews before confirmation.
Veteran Bush Aide
Ms. Spellings, 47, was named in November to replace Secretary Paige,
who tendered his resignation shortly after the 2004 election.
She was considered a principal architect of Mr. Bushs education
agenda during his first term, especially the No Child Left Behind Act,
his flagship initiative. Ms. Spellings has been the presidents
top domestic-policy adviser since he entered the White House, but their
work together goes back much further.
When he was the governor of Texas, Ms. Spellings was his chief education aide, and she
worked on his election campaigns, including his 2000 presidential bid.
Before that, she was the chief lobbyist for the Texas Association of
School Boards. She also worked on education matters as an aide in the
Ms. Spellings earned a bachelors degree in political science from
the University of Houston. She would be the first U.S. education secretary without an advanced degree.
The nominee is known to have a close working relationship with the president,
and she is expected to have his ear in a way that observers say Secretary
Paige never has. That access could be an important plus to her serving
in the Cabinet.
Yet, as with several other of President Bushs second-term Cabinet
nominees, moving a White House aide to become an agency head has its
downsides. Some analysts have noted that the president wont benefit
from the fresh perspective that might be offered by a new face with
When explaining his choice of Ms. Spellings in November, Mr. Bush emphasized
his personal experience working with her.
Ive known Margaret Spellings for more than a decade,
he said. I have relied on her intellect and judgment throughout
my career in public service. ("President Picks a Trusted
Aide for Secretary," Nov. 24, 2004.)
He highlighted her work with him at the White House and the governors
mansion, as well as her other experience in Texas.
Ms. Spellings won unanimous approval on Jan. 6 from the Senate Health,
Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, with enthusiastic backing
from key Democrats.
At her confirmation hearing earlier that day, she said: From parent
to policymaker, I have seen education from many angles, and often been
in the other persons shoes.
Ms. Spellings also stressed that she would pay close attention to the
concerns of educators and other stakeholders in education.
But Charles A. Bloomfield, the principal of LehighValleyChristianHigh
in Allentown, Pa., has expressed dismay about Ms. Spellings credentials.
I have to wonder why the education community isnt protesting
loudly that the new secretary is a person with just a bachelors
degree, and that in political science, not education, he wrote
in a letter to Education Week, published in the Jan. 5 issue. Too
bad. One would think that the position would require advanced and related
Two former education secretaries interviewed last week suggested that
such degrees and experience are not necessarily a recipe for success.
Shirley M. Hufstedler, who served as the first education secretary,
from 1979 to 1981 under President Carter, emphasized the primary importance
of political and management skills.
Part of that includes how much time she has spent to become really
savvy on what goes on [Capitol] Hill, or inside the [Washington] Beltway, said Ms. Hufstedler, 79, a former federal
appellate judge who is now a lawyer in private practice in Los Angeles. Thats a big help. Shes not
going to be teaching.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee,
a Republican who was education secretary from 1991 to 1993 under President
George H.W. Bush, recalled his experience early on as secretary.
One of the things I found in my first Cabinet meeting in 1991
was that the education secretary sits at the end of the Cabinet table,
and is the last to be evacuated in case of an emergency, he said.
The senator suggested that Ms. Spellings long-standing association
with Mr. Bush is a major asset that will ensure education stays
on the front burner with the president.
I think Margaret will be an excellent education secretary,
said Sen. Alexander, 64. She knows and understands [the presidents]
education policies better than almost anyone. Two, she has had experience
on the ground in Texas with the school boards association and with Governor
Secretary Paige, despite having been a longtime education administrator,
has sometimes ruffled feathers in the education world, such as when
he referred to the National Education Association, the nations
largest teachers union, as a terrorist organization
because of its efforts to resist the No Child Left Behind law. He later
apologized for the remark.
Amy Stuart Wells, an education professor at Teachers College, ColumbiaUniversity, said that Ms. Spellings seems like an improvement
over Paige, because shes more conciliatory. Ms. Wells said
she has been impressed, for instance, with the secretary-designates
language about educators as professionals.
Based on what she has said, she just has more respect for the
complexity of public education, Ms. Wells said. I dont
think shell be calling the teachers association a terrorist
Ms. Spellings experience with the Texas school boards group was encouraging to Ms. Wells,
who noted that such work requires understanding and responding to a
You have to think about the issues from different perspectives,
To some educators, Ms. Spellings remains something of a mystery.
Margaret Spellings is an unknown to many in North Dakota, said Justin J. Wageman, an education professor
at North DakotaStateUniversity in Fargo. From what I read and hear, however, she seems
to have a solid reputation as an individual who will reach out to diverse
groups, while still maintaining the current administrations stance
on the issues.
Julie Blaha, a middle school teacher in Champlin, Minn., said she and her colleagues really havent given
much thought to the person poised to be the next leader of the federal
Department of Education.
I havent heard one colleague comment on [her confirmation].
Not one, said Ms. Blaha. When it comes right down to it,
as long as George W. Bush is president, I think most teachers expect
things to continue down the path blazed by Secretary Paige.
Ms. Blaha, who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
last year, added: I hope Ms. Spellings will take the time to seek
out and listen to those of us on the front lines of education, not just
those Beltway insiders. TOP OF PAGE
A federal judge in Georgia has declared that a districts practice of labeling
evolution a theory, not a fact on stickers placed on science
textbooks amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper last week ordered officials in the
CobbCounty school system to remove the stickers immediately. They
have been affixed to texts for middle and high school biology classes.
The case has been closely watched, in part because similar legal disputes
have arisen recently in at least two other school districts, including
one in Dover,
Pa., where a group of teachers has objected to a proposal
that they introduce students to the concept of intelligent design.
That belief holds that an unspecified creator, or designer, played a
role in the development of natural phenomena, including human life.
The CobbCounty stickers stated: This textbook contains material
on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin
of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind,
studied carefully, and critically considered.
That language was approved by the 102,000-student districts school
board in 2002, after parents complained that a new set of science textbooks
favored the theory of evolution too heavily over religiously based views.
Another group of parents later sued to remove the stickers, saying they
amounted to promotion of religion in public schools.
Judge Cooper, sitting in Atlanta,
ruled that, even though the sticker did not specifically advocate or
even mention faith, a reasonable person would interpret its message
as being supportive of religion. The sticker conveys an impermissible
message of endorsement, and tells some citizens that they are political
outsiders while telling others that they are political insiders,
he said. The school board has effectively improperly entangled
itself with religion by appearing to take a position.
Moreover, the stickers mislead students into thinking that evolution
theory is only a highly questionable opinion or hunch,
the judge wrote, rather than the dominant view of lifes
origins, widely accepted by the scientific community. The sticker also
plays on the colloquial or popular definition of a theory,
he said. Scientists typically define theories as explanations that have
been thoroughly vetted and supported through several lines of evidence.
("Pa.School Officials, Science Groups Split Over New Biology Curriculum,"
Dec. 1, 2004.)
In a statement, CobbCounty school officials voiced disappointment with the ruling,
calling the stickers a reasonable and evenhanded approach.
The school board has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.
Other Districts Watching
Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the Oakland, Calif.-based NationalCenter for Science Education, which supports the teaching of
evolution, saw the ruling as particularly significant. Unlike previous
evolution cases, he noted, the court rejected a statement with language
that critics believe indirectly, rather than explicitly, promoted religion.
The sticker used what amounted to code words, Mr. Branch
argued, by attempting to imply that evolution is a flawed theory.
Other districts nationwide would be reluctant to use such disclaimers,
as a result of the ruling, Mr. Branch predicted. But, he also noted
that the decision was narrowly worded and might not directly
affect other situations, such as the dispute in Pennsylvanias Dover district.
That case stems from the 3,600-student districts decision last
fall to revise its science curriculum to state that students will
be aware of gaps/problems in Darwins theory and of other theories of evolution, including,
but not limited to, intelligent design.
Dover school leaders also approved an additional, four-paragraph statement,
further explaining the districts position on evolution and intelligent
design, which was to be read to students as they were introduced to
studies about the origins of life, possibly as soon as last week. In
Dovers biology classes, that topic is taught in 9th
But after seven science teachers in the district objected to reading
the statement, Superintendent Richard Nilsen on Jan. 7 agreed to have
administrators read it to students instead, while teachers stepped out
of their classrooms. The district also planned to allow students who
object to the statement to leave temporarily as well, said Brian Burch,
a spokesman for the ThomasMoreLawCenter, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based nonprofit group representing
The teachers objections arose about a month after the American
Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Americans United for Separation
of Church and State, a Washington advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., seeking to halt the use of the intelligent-design language.
Witold J. Walczak, a lawyer for the ACLU, said he expects that case
to go to trial this spring. TOP OF PAGE
Up With Urban Districts to Run Local Schools Partnerships Seen as Growing Trend
By Debra Viadero, Education Week, 1/19/05
Baltimore - Amid a sea of teenagers in baggy pants, denim jackets,
and white T-shirts, its easy to pick out the students from BaltimoreTalentDevelopmentHigh
Theyre the ones in the intense yellow T-shirts emblazoned with
the name of their school.
What really sets them apart, though, are the words underneath the school
name. They read: A Partnership with JohnsHopkinsUniversity.
Thats because this public high school, which opened in September,
is the product of an unusual collaboration between the citys school
system and its premier private university.
For most universities, running a public school is as foreign an enterprise
as operating a gas station. Yet its happening in a growing number
of citiesincluding Philadelphia; Chicago;
City; Worcester, Mass.; and East Palo Alto, Calif.where universities are venturing out of their ivory
towers and into the messy real world of public schools.
For some period of timeat least since the 1960sgetting
involved in K-12 schools was not at the forefront of universities
missions, said Nancy W. Streim, the associate dean for educational
practice at the University of Pennsylvanias graduate school of education. Its
still not, but I think that began to break down when universities began
to find students not coming to them as prepared as they would like them
The private University of Pennsylvania, which runs the PennAlexanderSchool, a public pre-K-8 school in its own back yard in Philadelphia, last year hosted what is widely considered to be the
first national conference on these new school-university partnerships
that run precollegiate schools. It drew 150 participants from 35 universities
and school districts.
Shaping a School
For Johns Hopkins, the attraction in getting more deeply involved in
school operations was a chance to help shape a school from scratch and
use it to try out its own nationally known program for educational improvement.
Hopkins researchers developed the program, known as the Talent
Development model, more than a decade ago. They had tried it out in
Baltimore-area public high schools, but never before in a brand-new
school and never with the kind of control they have now over school
Baltimore Talent Development High, one of four schools that the 88,400-student
district has opened up to outside operators over the past two years,
is not a charter school in the sense that it operates free of city school
rules. But the university still has considerable leeway under the terms
of its four-year contract with the school system.
We use Baltimore city public school teachers, but we get to select them,
said Robert Balfanz, the Hopkins education researcher who is co-leading the project.
We use Baltimore principals, but we select them; we can have our own
curriculum, and we dont have to use district professional development.
This gives us a chance to marry a whole-school reform model with being
able to get a highly motivated faculty.
The school opened with 150 9th graders. Taking all comers on a first-come,
first-served basis, the school will add a grade a year for the next
three years, ending up with a small school of no more than 600 students
in grades 9-12. The school is housed in a wing of HarlemParkMiddle
a sprawling building constructed in the 1960s that is on the citys
west side, and has seen steadily declining enrollments.
Colleges and universities elsewhere give different reasons for entering
the K-12 arena. The University of Pennsylvania and ClarkUniversity in Worcester, Mass., for example, figured that establishing outstanding
public schools could revitalize the deteriorating urban neighborhoods
that surround them.
As Thomas Del Prete, the director of the HiattCenter for Urban Education at Clark,
put it: The university recognized some 12 to 15 years ago that
its vitality and possibly its future depended on the vitality of the
According to Mr. Del Prete, the Main South neighborhood, near where
sits, was one of the citys most impoverished communities, a place
plagued by absentee landlords, drug problems, prostitution, and severe
housing shortages for families.
Clark began its campaign to improve the area by first promising
free tuition to attend Clark for residents who had lived there at least five years.
Then, in 1996, it launched a partnership with the Worcester city schools to establish the University ParkCampusSchool, a grade 7-12 public school that now enrolls 215 students.
Across the country at StanfordUniversity in Palo Alto, Calif., Linda Darling-Hammond said university educators had
two reasons for applying for a charter to open East Palo AltoHigh
First, the university felt a moral obligation to replace a public high
school that the East
Palo Alto community lost when the school system became desegregated
25 years ago. And second, the university was seeking a teaching
hospital environment where student teachers could observe best
practices while getting exposure to the real-world problems of urban
schools serving ethnically diverse, mostly poor students.
Unless you want to prepare students to, in many cases, teach in
ways that are less effective than what we know how to do, there arent
a lot of schools you can turn to, said Ms. Darling-Hammond, a
Stanford education professor.
The growth of opportunities for charter schooling has also fueled some
of the universities interest, observers say, as has increasing
public pressure on urban higher education institutions to show they
are good neighbors.
The University Cachet
For public school systems, university involvement offers a way to tap
into desperately needed resources and expertise.
When I went for the interview, they told me I would have supplies,
so that was exciting, said Edward Bryant Jr. a mathematics teacher
Mr. Bryant, who is working toward a doctoral degree in math education,
also said he believed the new administrators selected by Johns Hopkins
would allow me to be the expert in my subject that I am,
rather than prescribe lessons for him.
Hopkins also pays for facilitators to work at the school and
provides professional development that teachers receive in the summer
and during the school year. As in many such efforts across the country,
the school also gets start-up funds. In the case of Talent Development
High, the additional infusion amounts to $400,000 over four years that
comes from local and national foundations.
Students say the universitys presence also lends a certain cachet
that other public schools lack. Some of the 9th graders travel as much
as 1½ hours by city bus to attend the school, which is in a very poor
part of Baltimore.
The kids understand theres a certain expectation when a
college is involved, said Cheree Davis, a social studies teacher
at the school. They came in with huge expectations of us which
we just have to keep up.
We already feel like we are in college, anyway, echoed 9th
grader Aleah Stinson, who is hoping the school will give her a foot
in the door toward earning a scholarship to attend Hopkins.
But students also pay a price for the choice they make in coming to
Talent Development High. With their vivid yellow shirts, they sometimes
get singled out for harassment by the regular middle school students
who share the building with them.
Still, said Ms. Stinson, I tell them, getting an education in
a uniform is better than getting no education at all in your regular
A Frightening Thing
Universities, for their part, are putting their reputations on the line
in taking on the responsibility of operating public schools.
Its a frightening thing for a university to find itself
running schools, said C. Kent McGuire, the dean of TempleUniversitys education school and a former assistant U.S. secretary of education in the Clinton administration. And I cant suggest that
an education school has all the knowledge and skills it needs to pull
TempleUniversity is providing support to six public schools in its Philadelphia neighborhood. Two years into a contract between the
university and the city school district, the Temple-managed public schools
are so far keeping pace with the district at large in students
And ClarkUniversitys 8-year-old University ParkCampusSchool in 2003 was ranked as the only high-performing urban
high school in Massachusetts.
Yet for many such efforts, including Baltimores, it may be too
soon to tell whether universities can do any better job managing public
schools than local districts can.
In Philadelphia, district officials said Temple and the University of Pennsylvania have already shown that they can do this at the
same level we are doing, said Ellen K. Savitz, the districts
chief development officer. But the next question, she said, is Can
they, in fact, do better on the same amount of money we get?
If not, Ms. Savitz said, why not give the additional
money to our own schools? TOP OF PAGE
Falls Church, Va. - President Bush last week renewed his pledge to expand
educational accountability in U.S. high schools, promising to seek as much as $1.5 billion
in his next budget for improvement in those grades.
Barely more than a week before his second inauguration, Mr. Bush used
a visit to a suburban Washington high school to show that the education proposals he
outlined at the Republican National Convention last summer remained
high on the domestic agenda for his new term that begins Jan. 20.
This is one of the first stops in the year 2005 for me,
the president said on Jan. 12 to students, teachers, and invited guests
in the gymnasium here of J.E.B.StuartHigh
which has 1,400 pupils from more than 70 different countries. And
theres a reason its one of the first stops. ... [w]e are
dedicated to doing everything we can at the federal level to improve
The backbone of his high school initiative is a plan to
require reading and mathematics tests in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act, the signature education initiative
of President Bushs first term, requires testing in those subjects
predominantly in the elementary and middle grades. The law currently
requires testing only once at the high school level, and states are
allowed to pick which grade is to be tested.
During his 40-minute speech, Mr. Bush spoke with passion at times about
his administrations refusal to retreat from the accountability
demands of the 3-year-old federal law.
Listen, Ive heard every excuse in the book not to test,
he said. My answer is, how do you know if a child is learning
if you dont test?
The White House said the presidents fiscal 2006 federal budget
proposal, which is likely to be released in early February, would contain
the request for $1.5 billion for the high school initiative. Not all
of that money would be new, as the initiative would roll some existing
programs in with the proposals Mr. Bush announced last year and campaigned
on in the fall.
The president said the plan would provide $250 million in the next fiscal
year to the states for the additional testing, which aides to Mr. Bush
have had to clarify in the past would be neither an exit test nor a
federally designed test. ("Bush Test Proposal for High Schoolers
Joins Wider Trend," Sept. 15, 2004.)
The initiative also proposes funding for teachers to analyze the grades
of incoming 9th graders so that an individual learning plan could be
created for students at risk of falling behind their peers.
In addition, the initiative includes the presidents request to
increase funding for his Striving Readers program, an adolescent-literacy
program, to $200 million. The money would be used to help more than
100 school districts train teachers in methods to teach literacy to
middle and high school students. Mr. Bush requested $100 million for
that program for the current fiscal year, but Congress approved only
Another $120 million will be proposed to improve high school math by
training math teachers in methods that Mr. Bush said in his speech were
proven to succeed.
In his speech, Mr. Bush frequently referred to his host school, Stuart
High, which is in the 166,000-student Fairfax County, Va., school district. The school struggled with low test
scores and poor achievement several years ago, but now is meeting all
state and federal education standards.
By focusing on results and stressing the importance of reading,
by making sure that the measurement systems focus on each individual
child, by not tolerating excuses for failure, this school has been turned
around, Mr. Bush said, to applause. And how do we know?
I know because you measure.
He added, I want other schools who have got a student population
as diverse as a StuartHigh
to know that success and excellence is possible.
Education advocates said last week that they supported a focus on improving
Even if we give kids a strong start, we need to continue with
good teaching and rigorous content through middle and high school,
said Susan Traiman, the director of education and workforce policy for
the Washington-based Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive
officers of many of the nations largest corporations.
We are encouraged by the fact that he has turned his attention
to secondary education, Michael Carr, the associate director of
public affairs for the Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary
School Principals, said of the president. The literacy program and individualized
plans for students who have below-grade-level skills are also positive
initiatives, Mr. Carr said.
However, Mr. Carr and Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education
Association, said last week that more testing along the lines required
by the No Child Left Behind Act was problematic.
All it does is put in place more paper and more bureaucracy,
said Mr. Weaver in an interview.
Mr. Carr said that measuring students in the same grade from year to
year does not help teachers improve, because the same group of students
is not being measured.
That is where No Child Left Behind has not gone far enough,
he said. I would have to guess this initiative isnt going
to be much different, so Im not sure its going to be far
enough. TOP OF PAGE
Two federal education grant programs promoting sexual abstinence have
been shifted to an agency now led by a strong supporter of abstinence
education, a move that is raising concerns in some quarters.
The Administration for Children
and Families within the Department of Health and Human Services will
now oversee the $50 million Title V grant program and the $104 million
Special Projects of Regional and National Significance Community-based
Abstinence Education grant program. The ACF is headed by Wade F. Horn,
an assistant secretary of the department who is known for his advocacy
of abstinence programs for students.
Harry Wilson, the associate commissioner of the ACFs Family and
Youth Services Bureau, said the programs would be more effective under
the ACF because the agency already deals with youth problems.
It seems like a natural fit when we are already dealing with children
in vulnerable situations, he said, adding that the decision was
made by outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson
along with other administration officials. The Title V program was moved
under ACF in June last year, while the SPRANS grant program was transferred
But Marcella Howell, the public-policy director for Advocates for Youth,
a Washington-based group that supports comprehensive education on sexuality,
said she was worried about moving the programs to an agency that
is by nature more political than the one that previously administered
the grants. The Health and Human Services Departments Maternal
and Child Health Bureau had administered the two programs.
Supporters of an abstinence-only approach to sex education believe that
the bureau did not administer the programs as narrowly as Congress had
defined them. For instance, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau sometimes
gave grants to groups that also promote the use of condoms.
Mr. Horn has often been quoted saying that he believes sexual abstinence
is the only effective way for a teenager to avoid becoming a parent
or getting a sexually transmitted disease. Before taking over the ACF,
he headed the National Fatherhood Initiative, a conservative nonprofit
organization that seeks to confront the problem of father absence.
Ms. Howell said several concerns
have been raised recently about abstinence programs funded by the federal
government. A report released in December by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.,
said that curricula used by several such programs blur science and religion
and feed students erroneous information, such as that touching another
persons genitals can result in pregnancy. ("Abstinence-Only
Curricula Misleading, Report Says," Dec. 8, 2004.)
You are taking two programs that were administered by public-health
entities who at least addressed some of our concerns and now shifting
them to an agency where the head has already made clear statements about
his views on marriage and sexually transmitted diseases, Ms. Howell
said. She added that the shift in supervision could result in the award
of grants to programs that were not designed around research or based
Mr. Wilson of the Family and Youth Services Bureau said ideology would
not interfere with the agencys decisions on awarding grants. Our
job at the federal government is to run programs the way Congress intends
them to be run, he said, adding that the competition for the grants
would be fair and open to all.
Under the grant programs eight-point definition of abstinence
education, grantees have to teach, among other principles, that abstinence
is the expected standard for school-age children, that a
mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage
is the expected standard of sexual activity, and that nonmarital sexual
activity could have harmful psychological and physical effects.
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Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777