January 28 February 4, 2005
TOP OF PAGE
Governor happy with new role in education / Champaign News-Gazette
Education funding reform again moves to head of
class in legislature
/ Decatur Herald & Review
School tutoring standoff ends / Chicago Tribune
chosen as state's best / Daily Herald
Plan: Double tuition rebate / Beacon News
Preschool pledge near / Daily Herald
Million Ticket Goes Unclaimed / CBS2-Chicago
A Fight Over
Reading Instruction in a District Weary of Change / New
Fewer city high school grads than claimed / Chicago Sun-Times
draw raves; education reactions mixed / Rockford Register
to positives / Pantagraph
children into preschool: Blagojevich / Daily Southtown
workers, teachers get lesson on how to deal with poverty
/ LaSalle NewsTribune
taste of reality at high school / Herald News
Laying the pavement
for road to progress / Chicago Sun-Times
address dodges the tough issues / Chicago Sun-Times
level charges / Chicago Tribune
win hearts and minds / St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Few Girls Choose Science, Math / Washington Post
Other States Seek Changes To Federal No Child Left Behind Law
/ The Day (CT)
in City Program to Grow by 52 in September / New York Times
won't miss junk food / Arizona Republic
learning in Russian / Boston Globe
merit pay make the grade? / Dallas Morning News
not always best / Honolulu Advertiser
Utah gets chance
to replace No Child / Daily Herald (UT)
Pay cuts are
asked of Detroit teachers / Detroit Free Press
fails in school case / Detroit News
Baby preschool may open in '06 / Denver Post
'stay the course' of school reform / Cincinnati Enquirer
Super Bowl parade
an issue for schools / Philadelphia Inquirer
cash cow / Boston Globe
Stakes Its Future on the Montessori Way / New York Times
TOP OF PAGE
Governor happy with new role in education
Kate Clements, The News-Gazette
SPRINGFIELD A year ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich delivered a blistering
surprise attack on the State Board of Education in his State of the
State Address and proposed stripping the board of its duties and creating
a new Department of Education under his control.
"Instead of being an independent body that could regulate and support
our schools, the Illinois State Board of Education is like an old, Soviet
style bureaucracy," Blagojevich said in that speech. "It's
clunky and inefficient, it issues mandates, it spends money, it dictates
policy, and it isn't accountable to anyone for anything."
The Department of Education never materialized, and the state board
retained all of its duties, but legislation was eventually adopted to
grant the governor more control over the board's members and budget.
Blagojevich, who will give a new State of the State on Thursday, is
generally happy with the results, said Elliot Regenstein, the governor's
director of education reform.
"I think he feels like things are really moving in the right direction,"
Regenstein said. "In a year I think a lot has changed, and we're
really moving in the right direction now, and I think he's very excited
State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, called the final result "a complete
and total compromise" compared with what the governor had requested.
Regenstein said that was to be expected.
"It's certainly a situation where, as anyone who is familiar with
the legislative process knows, you have to throw in a fair bit of steak
just to get a decent sized hamburger," he said.
After backing off the Department of Education idea, which many called
unconstitutional, Blagojevich pushed a different proposal. That legislation
would have let him replace the entire board at once and remove members
at will, rather than only if they displayed malfeasance, neglect or
incompetence. Its progress was blocked by lawmakers who worried that
it would wipe out the board's sense of independence.
Under the compromise that was finally reached, incoming governors can
appoint five members to the State Board of Education upon inauguration,
and replace the other four members two years later. Blagojevich, however,
was allowed to appoint seven new members immediately, keeping only two
from the previous board.
The state board still hires the state superintendent, but now the person's
contract cannot extend past the end of the current governor's term.
Each new governor's appointees to the state board will hire a new superintendent.
Blagojevich has been quick to take advantage of his increased power.
On the same day he signed the bill into law, the governor appointed
his seven new board members. Their first action was to approve a buyout
of former state superintendent Robert Schiller's contract and to hire
an interim superintendent, Randy Dunn, who was hand-picked by the administration
and refers to himself as "a member of the governor's leadership
The Illinois Constitution provides that the State Board of Education
chooses the chief state education officer, but in engineering Dunn's
appointment, the governor showed that he planned to exhibit much more
control over the board's selection. Blagojevich said he also intended
to propose a permanent state superintendent candidate after conducting
a nationwide search. Those duties are usually handled by the board,
not the governor.
Blagojevich is also exhibiting much more control over the board's budget,
although the administration prefers to call it cooperation.
That has led some to worry that the compromise that was finally reached
has effectively silenced what was once an independent voice for public
"In all fairness to the governor, I don't know that six or seven
months is enough time to determine if this is a good or a bad thing,
but I'm troubled," said state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. "What
ultimately I'm not happy with is that we don't have an autonomous group
giving us a projection of what we need to fund schools."
In previous years, the state board would adopt its own budget proposal,
which would be presented to the General Assembly early in the year and
become part of the debate over education spending. Last year, for example,
the board proposed a $600 million increase in education spending in
several specific areas.
"It is a very realistic request with regard to attempting to address
what the needs are that the school districts have today," Schiller
said of that budget.
In contrast, the governor's budget last year offered a $400 million
increase and did not specify how that money should be spent. The final
state budget included about $389 million in new education money.
This year, the state board has not released its own budget and does
not intend to before the governor's budget address on Feb. 16. Instead,
the board has scheduled some public hearings and is working with the
governor's office to come to a consensus budget that will be included
in Blagojevich's overall spending plan, according to Regenstein. It
will be adopted formally by the board some time after the budget address,
"The philosophy of the board's budgeting process has changed for
the better and more permanently, and that is that the board wants to
work cooperatively with the governor's office on a budget," he
said. "And I think what happened in years past was that the board
was willing to willfully stick a thumb in the eye of the governor and
the General Assembly by proposing budgets with dollar figures that totally
ignored the state's overall budget picture. And I think that what this
board is doing is trying to be more realistic."
But education advocates have urged the board to preserve an independent
In written testimony prepared for today's state board budget hearing,
Illinois PTA President Gayla Boomer called on the state board to "recognize
the real needs of the schools of Illinois and propose a budget that
informs the Illinois General Assembly and the governor what those needs
The State Board of Education must be our advocate for the children
of Illinois and our public schools," Boomer wrote. "You need
to be that voice for excellence and equality, not simply a board that
allocates an inadequate amount of funds proposed by someone else."
Regenstein acknowledged that the new approach has sparked criticism.
"I know that there are some in the advocacy community who really
sort of liked the board's role as a body that would try to beat up on
the governor and General Assembly for whatever level of funding the
governor and General Assembly were able to provide, but those days are
over," he said. "This I think is a much more realistic approach
for the board to take."
State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, said she had not had enough time
to evaluate the changes to the state board and is reserving judgment
"I think our priority has to be making sure that our children get
the education they need, that they deserve, and whatever they do, those
have to be the priorities."
TOP OF PAGE
Education funding reform again moves to head of class
Jennifer Miller, Decatur Herald & Review
SPRINGFIELD - School funding is being thrown into the spotlight again
this session, but education experts and lawmakers have yet to agree
on a solution.
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, fired the first shot in this
year's debate during his inaugural speech in January.
"We must bring about real change to the terrible, terrible outrageous
funding formula that funds the system of our public schools. Inequity
in funding results in inequities in education," Jones said.
Education reformers often point to the state's reliance on property
taxes as the primary source of school funding. As a result, low-income
areas with low property value have less money for schools, whereas wealthy
areas have more resources to spend on students.
Remedies brought up by various lawmakers include tax swaps and increases.
"Frankly, I am not crazy about an income tax increase, because
I think there are other things you can do first," said Max McGee,
former state school superintendent.
Alternatives to tax swaps could include exempting school districts from
local property tax caps to allow more money to flow into specific programs
such as special education or plowing state dollars into select programs,
"Rather than sprinkle rain on the desert, they should just have
a downpour on early childhood education, reading improvement and summer
school," McGee said.
The Illinois State Board of Education is not backing any specific solution.
"We want to be part of that conversation. Depending on the will
of the General Assembly and where that discussion goes, we'll be part
of that work," said Randy Dunn, state schools interim superintendent.
State Sen. James Meeks, I-Chicago, and state Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign,
will present versions of "tax swaps" to the General Assembly
Winkel's plan relies on an income tax increase that would generate $5
billion, using $2.4 billion for property tax relief, or a 20 percent
drop in the education portion of property taxes, he said.
Barring an overhaul of the state's tax code, past General Assemblies
have focused on increasing per-pupil spending as recommended by the
Education Funding Advisory Board in 2002. The board suggested increasing
per-pupil spending to a range of $5,665 to $6,680.
Winkel's plan would increase per-pupil spending to $5,964.
A former sponsor of Meeks' House Bill 750, Winkel said the proposal
has grown beyond simply funding education and includes $2 billion for
the state's general revenue fund.
"There's no way of telling exactly how that would be spent,"
Winkel said. "Actually, more money would go into the unassigned
general revenue fund than would go into education."
Winkel also criticized the proposal because it includes a tax on services,
businesses and pensions of $75,000 or more.
Jim Nowlan, a proponent of HB 750 and professor of political science
at the University of Illinois, said a tax increase is the only way to
solve the education problem.
Nowlan prefers Meeks' proposal but suggests the additional tax increases
will poison the initiative.
"It appears to be more than legislators who run for re-election
can swallow," Nowlan said.
Any tax swap is likely to be doomed because Gov. Rod Blagojevich will
not support a sales or income tax increase.
"The governor will look at any proposal members of the General
Assembly would like him to consider, but his record has been very clear
that he will not support an increase in the sales tax or income tax,"
said Rebecca Rausch, administration spokeswoman.
Winkel already anticipates the governor's veto and is preparing for
a possible override. The governor's budget address will be Feb. 16.
TOP OF PAGE
School tutoring standoff ends
City keeps control, forgoes U.S. funds
Tracy Dell'Angela, Chicago Tribune
Chicago Public Schools will continue to run its own tutoring program
for 40,000 struggling students through the end of the school year, but
it won't use federal No Child Left Behind funds to pay for it.
That means Chicago must find an extra $5 million in an already stretched
budget to cover the costs of offering this after-school program at 287
schools. The Illinois Board of Education has agreed to give Chicago
a $1 million grant to help offset the cost.
Schools chief Arne Duncan threatened to sue the U.S. Department of Education
last month. The agency had barred the district from using federal funds
to run its tutoring program because the district is failing academically.
The district's decision, expected to be formally announced Monday, ends
what had been a bitter standoff between Chicago and the federal department.
The district had been banking on a compromise that would have allowed
it to spend the federal money through the end of the year.
Duncan said he would have preferred not to have to dig into the district's
budget, but he's happy the program will continue uninterrupted. The
district plans to pay for the tutoring with money earmarked for summer
school, with the hope the district can find an extra $4 million in the
next five months without having to cut any summer programs.
"This is the right outcome for kids," Duncan said.
Under the federal law, schools that fail to meet test standards three
years in a row are required to offer free tutoring to low-income students.
All districts pay for this academic enrichment from federal grants earmarked
under No Child Left Behind, the most sweeping education reform in decades.
Private companies, religious institutions, schools and districts are
eligible to run the tutoring programs. But the law bars low-performing
districts, such as Chicago, from running a tutoring program. An entire
district is identified as low performing if it fails to meet goals two
years in a row. This is the first year the sanctions have applied to
The federal government also targeted nine other low-performing Illinois
school districts, which have a total of about 1,000 children in district-run
tutoring, state officials said.
Many of these have already figured out a way to continue tutoring. Cicero
District 99 will turn over management of its program to a specific school
that is allowed to provide tutoring because it is meeting federal goals.
Dolton and North Chicago expect private tutoring companies to pick up
children now served by district programs.
The battle over Chicago's program began in 2003, when the state board
approved Chicago as a tutoring provider even though it was clear the
district soon would fall short of federal requirements. Eugene Hickok,
U.S. undersecretary of education, warned then that the approval violated
the spirit of the law.
Hickok reasoned that allowing Chicago to tutor children was akin to
rewarding the district "because they didn't get it right the first
time." Despite this warning, Chicago expanded its district-run
program this year, which now serves about half of the 80,000 students
receiving the federally mandated service.
Chicago said the law is flawed because the district would not be able
to reach as many students if forced to rely solely on private companies.
The district's program is far cheaper--about $400 per student for about
80 hours of help, compared with the $800 to $1,500 charged by private
But Chicago also tutors students in groups of 15, while outside organizations
offer class sizes of 8 to 12 students per tutor. Chicago budgeted $52
million to cover tutoring this year--about $15 million for its own program
and $37 million for private providers.
Federal officials were far more conciliatory after learning of Chicago's
decision to back off from its threat to file a lawsuit.
"We've always been hopeful of reaching an agreement on this issue
that is so vitally important to Chicago's students," Education
Department spokeswomen Susan Aspey said.
Randy Dunn, interim state superintendent of education, said he believes
Chicago won one concession in its showdown with federal education officials:
The district will not have to repay the estimated $10 million in federal
funds already spent on its own program. If the district doesn't spend
all of its No Child Left Behind money, it would be rolled into next
Although the state board is facing its own budget crisis, it managed
to find an extra $1 million in unspent grant money to help Chicago.
The money comes from a federal grant targeted for school improvement.
"Our goal in the very beginning was for kids not to have an interruption
in service," Dunn said. "From our standpoint, the kids won."
TOP OF PAGE
chosen as state's best
By Erin Holmes, Daily Herald Staff Writer, 2/1/05
Trisha Dean has spent 10 years as an assistant principal.
She'll spend her 11th as assistant principal of the year.
Dean, a longtime fixture in Buffalo Grove High's office, will represent
Illinois as one of 52 administrators nationwide awarded that title for
The annual award comes from the National Association of Secondary School
Principals to recognize exceptional efforts made by administrators.
"I was thrilled," said Patrice Johannes, Buffalo Grove High's
principal and the person who nominated Dean for the honor. "I appreciate
what she does. I think it's worth recognition."
Dean is a perfectionist, Johannes said, doing the job well whether it
involves handling the registration for hundreds of incoming freshmen
or overseeing a 50-person staff team.
"She's a very hard worker and very devoted to what she does,"
Johannes said. "It's just very impressive. She's there backing
you, doing her job."
Before coming to Buffalo Grove as assistant principal for student services,
Dean worked in Elgin Area Unit District U-46 and what's now St. Viator
In her role as a Buffalo Grove Bison, she has helped organize an annual
series of parent forums, addressing topics such as drug and alcohol
use and teens' adjustment to high school, and she helped institute a
"Coffee with the Counselors" time for parents to meet with
Dean also was responsible for writing the application that earned Buffalo
Grove High a Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence from the U.S. Department
of Education in 2000.
She had to do a lot of writing to get her current award, too -scribing
essays that detailed how she has succeeded in three key areas: collaborative
leadership, personalization (making school a positive atmosphere for
students) and curriculum instruction and assessment.
But "I like writing, so that's not a problem," Dean laughed.
Parents, staff members and Johannes chipped in, writing letters of recommendation
on Dean's behalf before she sent in the application this fall.
Dean said she "certainly was very pleasantly surprised" by
being named Illinois' assistant principal honoree. She won't be getting
a cash prize - a $5,000 pot is reserved for the national assistant principal
of the year only - but "I'll probably get some dinners out of it,"
She's right. All state winners will be recognized at the National Association
of Secondary School Principals convention later this month in San Francisco.
More locally, the school likely will honor Dean, Johannes said, and
the school board also may recognize her work.
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Plan: Double tuition rebate
Private-school families: Roskam says K-12 tax break should be raised
Ed Fanselow, Beacon News
SPRINGFIELD Families who pay to send their kids to private schools
could be getting some more help from the state, thanks to new legislation
being proposed in the Illinois Senate.
State Sen. Peter Roskam a Wheaton Republican whose district also
includes Aurora's far East Side and parts of Batavia, Geneva and North
Aurora is asking lawmakers to double the amount of money private-school
families can receive under the state's education tax-credit program.
Currently, parents who spend more than $2,250 a year on tuition, books
and lab fees for students in kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible
for $500 in state tax rebates.
Roskam, though, says those dollar amounts which were established
in 1999 are outdated, with tuition in the vicinity of $5,000
at many of the private high schools in the Fox Valley, including Aurora
Christian, Marmion, Rosary and Aurora Central Catholic.
Under his plan, families spending at least $4,250 would qualify for
the new $1,000 maximum.
Parents, he said, "should have the ability, regardless of their
income, to chose the schools that best fit the education needs of their
"The state benefits greatly when parents choose to accept the lion's
share of paying for their kids' educations," he said. "With
the rise of educational costs, it seemed that the state should be doing
a little more to lighten that burden."
State Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, who plans to co-sponsor the bill,
"I'm a huge proponent of public education," said Lauzen, who
like Roskam has sent his children to both public and private schools.
"But the decision of where to send your kids to school has to be
up to the parents, and we should do all we can to make that decision
Although Lauzen and Roskam say the proposal has support from both Republican
and Democratic lawmakers, they concede that they are leery of the chances
that Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, will agree to call the
bill for a vote.
"I'm going to do all I can to see that he does," Roskam said,
"because I think this is something that people from both sides
of the aisle can get behind."
TOP OF PAGE
Preschool pledge near
John Patterson, Daily Herald
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois State Board of Education is poised to reinforce
that all children in Illinois, regardless of immigration status, are
guaranteed access to preschool programs.
Board members are expected to vote on a rule change later this month
to spell out constitutional guarantees of public education. Gov. Rod
Blagojevich will publicly ask the board to do so in his State of the
State address Thursday.
Undocumented children have a legal right to public education, but a
Blagojevich spokesman said state officials were notified last year by
an immigrant rights group of a preschool student being turned away.
Because preschool is not a required program, there was some confusion
as to whether undocumented students were guaranteed access.
"The law itself is not clear, but if the state board and the governor
make it clear, there will be a legal duty by the districts to provide
these services to undocumented students," said Alonzo Rivas, the
staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational
Fund who first brought the situation to the state's attention.
Rivas said a woman contacted him after Summit Hill Elementary District
161 in Will County would not enroll her child. He said the district
required Social Security numbers, thereby eliminating undocumented children.
But the school superintendent said that's not true. While the district
asks for Social Security numbers, it's not a requirement for enrollment,
said Superintendent Keith Pain.
In this case, Pain said the issue was residency and the family could
not prove it lived in the district.
TOP OF PAGE
Winning $14 Million
Ticket Goes Unclaimed
SPRINGFIELD - Illinois' education fund is getting a 14 million boost
because of an unclaimed Lotto ticket.
The ticket was purchased at a Gas City in Frankfort for the drawing
on January 31, 2004.
Lottery winners get one year to claim their prizes. So when no one redeemed
the ticket by yesterday's deadline, it became the largest unclaimed
jackpot in Illinois lottery history and the money goes toward education.
The money will be given to the state's common school fund. Last year,
the lottery contributed $570 million to that fund. It supports education
of children from kindergarten through 12th grade.
A lottery spokeswoman says several people called to say they had the
winning ticket, but none had the correct serial number to prove their
claims. The spokeswoman says one person even forged a ticket with the
winning numbers to try to steal the jackpot.
The winning numbers for that drawing were: 14, 23, 24, 36, 37 and 50.
TOP OF PAGE
A Fight Over Reading
Instruction in a District Weary of Change
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN, New York Times, 2/2/05
ROCKFORD, Ill. - When Dennis Thompson took over as school superintendent
in this struggling factory city last May, he thought he recognized the
gravity of its woes. He knew the district had gone through a divisive
battle over desegregation in the late 1980's. He knew that a decade
under court supervision had resulted in higher taxes and white flight,
without educational gains. As it turned out, he didn't know the half
Using the kind of short-term borrowing that nearly brought New York
City to bankruptcy, Dr. Thompson's predecessors had rung up a cumulative
deficit of $50 million, the equivalent of nearly one-fifth of the annual
budget. The State of Illinois had prohibited the district from issuing
any more debt and threatened to take over its finances. By the summer
of 2004, 30 of the 52 schools had landed in the State Education Department's
categories of "warning," "watch" and "corrective
Years of poor management and powerful unions had left Mr. Thompson with
a work force that included nine full-time grass-cutters and only two
curriculum specialists. He laid off about 360 teachers and aides from
a total staff of 4,000 to reduce the district deficit and transferred
800 others, largely to comply with seniority provisions in the union
contract. He compared it to "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
One of the only bright spots appeared to be the Lewis Lemon elementary
school. With a student body that was 80 percent nonwhite and 85 percent
poor, the school recorded some of highest scores in Rockford on statewide
tests. On a reading test, Lemon's third graders trailed only those from
a school for the gifted.
Lemon's principal, Tiffany Parker, had accomplished all this by embracing
a method of teaching reading known as "direct instruction."
Intended to address the needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds,
direct instruction provides teachers with scripted lessons, heavy on
drilling and repetition, that emphasize phonics - that is, learning
words by sounding them out.
Ericton Lewis moved his son Ericton Jr. to Lewis Lemon after three frustrating
years at a school that did not use direct instruction. By the end of
fifth grade, the boy's second year at Lewis Lemon, he had earned his
way onto the honor roll and grown so proficient as a reader that he
regularly picked up the music magazine Vibe for pleasure.
In the last several months, however, Ms. Parker and Lewis Lemon have
collided with Dr. Thompson and his agenda for reform. Instead of serving
as beacons for what is possible, the school and its principal have been
portrayed as impediments to progress. The superintendent recently transferred
Ms. Parker to a middle school, and has begun phasing out direct instruction
in favor of an approach known as balanced literacy.
In that respect, the battle in Rockford is a microcosm of the debate
nationally over how to teach reading, particularly to at-risk and minority
children. Advocates of balanced literacy - including school officials
in New York City who installed it several years ago - insist that it
splits the difference between the highly traditional style of direct
instruction and the progressive "whole language" method that
eschews phonics and spelling. The handful of pupils who actually need
intensive drilling in phonics can receive it as an "intervention."
In the academy and the pages of education journals, the dispute can
proceed at the level of competing theories and studies. Telescoped down
into a school of 400 children in a city of 150,000, the argument cannot
help but be personal and emotional.
"Do we teach the same skills with balanced literacy? Yes,"
said Robin Paschal, the new reading coordinator at Lewis Lemon. "Do
we want to bring children to a level of mastery? Yes. But in a brain-based
way. Are we addressing that when we use direct instruction? No."
What Ms. Paschal meant became clear in the course of visiting two classes
at two schools. In one of the remaining direct-instruction classes at
Lewis Lemon, the teacher, Janice Butitta, stood in front of 17 fourth
graders, holding a wire-bound manual with a word-by-word script for
the morning's lesson. As they read through a story, each pupil reciting
a paragraph aloud, they were learning the day's vocabulary words - bathroom,
homework, realizing, practicing.
An hour later, across town at the Conklin Elementary School, Kelly Brooks
sat with several of her fifth graders at a small U-shaped table, discussing
one chapter of the children's novel "The Barn." She asked
about the traits and actions of the main characters, and reminded them
to write in their "Reader's Journal" notebook about "someone
you know well and what qualities that person has." As those pupils
moved on to work independently, Ms. Brooks invited another group to
the table with their books.
That the activity in Conklin was more interesting to an adult was beyond
question. And to Superintendent Thompson, Rockford cannot improve its
overall performance without using one reading method for the whole district,
so that all teachers can be trained in it. A retired Army lieutenant
colonel, he also made it plain that he could not tolerate Ms. Parker's
"This is not a curriculum issue alone with her," he said.
"It is a leadership issue. Good leaders need to be good followers
OF her refusal to adopt balanced literacy, Ms. Parker said, "Basically,
what you're going to do is sentence a child to a life of poverty because
you're never going to give some of the most vulnerable kids the tools
to become self-reliant."
After blanket coverage of the controversy in the local paper and a meeting
with Dr. Thompson, the Lewis Lemon parents know the arguments against
direct instruction. Some, if not all, are aware that Lewis Lemon's scores
for fifth graders fall well below those for third graders - something
that district administrators attribute to the limitations of direct
instruction and that Ms. Parker largely ascribes to an inexperienced
teaching corps at the higher grade level. Having seen desegregation
fail, magnet schools falter, superintendents come and go, the parents
have railed against losing the one thing they have seen succeed.
"I'm shocked," Ericton Lewis said. "It's like now all
these kids are going to be lost. I can't understand why they would take
a program that was working and get rid of it. Why fix something if it
TOP OF PAGE
Fewer city high school grads than claimed
Rosalind Rossi, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/3/04
Only 54 percent of Chicago public high school students graduate in four
years -- an alarmingly low rate that has been masked for years by misleading
state calculations, a new study contended Wednesday.
Although Chicago's graduation rate has improved over time, it is far
lower than the 70.7 percent state officials claimed this year, the study
found. And the true rate for black male students is particularly dismal
-- at 39 percent, experts said.
The University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research issued
the sobering new statistics Wednesday, challenging the way the Illinois
State Board of Education has been reporting its four-year high school
Illinois' method of calculating graduates is so prone to manipulation
that "there could be some schools cooking the books'' here, said
consortium researcher Elaine Allensworth. Most of the inaccuracy comes
from the way the state counts high school transfer students, she said.
Transfers who drop out of their new schools are not counted as dropouts
anywhere. But transfers who graduate are counted as graduates of their
WHAT'S BEING DONE
Some steps by CPS to cut dropouts:
Evening classes offered at 10 more schools for a total of 40
Department of Dropout Prevention and Recovery was created
Extra math class for low-scoring freshmen and summer classes for lagging
freshmen and sophomores
How many enter, how many leave
Currently, Allensworth said, Illinois officials compare the number of
kids who enter high school with the number who graduate four years later.
To be accurate, Allensworth recommended tracking kids over time. That
method found that 54 percent of Chicago Public Schools freshmen in September
2000 graduated by August 2004.
That's a clear improvement from a U. of C. calculation of 46 percent
in 1996, but still far lower than the 2004 rate of 70.7 percent claimed
by the state, she said.
Even though Chicago's graduation rate has improved, Allensworth said,
it has not improved as much among African-American students as among
other ethnic groups. At Manley High, an all-black school where the U.
of C. put the graduation rate at around 29 percent, Principal Katherine
Flanagan questioned the accuracy of the U. of C. rates. She also cautioned
that kids enter her school with a host of underlying problems that schools
alone cannot solve. They live in poverty. Many must care for their siblings.
Some have terrible home lives.
"They are not thinking about school. They are thinking about survival,''
The new study also indicated Chicago bucked a national trend by producing
Latino males who graduated at higher rates -- 51 percent -- than black
males, at 39 percent.
'A long way to go'
Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said he started a new Department
of Dropout Prevention last year to help schools tackle the dropout problem.
"Whether we use state data or consortium data, it doesn't matter
to us,'' Duncan said. "Using both data, the same story is told.
One, we're seeing improvement, and two, we have a heck of a long way
State Board of Education spokeswoman Becky Watts questioned some of
Allensworth's calculations but agreed that tracking students longitudinally
produces a more accurate picture. However, she said, the state won't
have the ability to do that until 2006, when it will get a new student
Don Moore of Designs for Change called Chicago's current state-calculated
rate "grossly misleading'' and confusing to local school councils
charged with approving school budgets. The Marshall High local school
council might think the state-reported rate of 70 percent is "not
that bad,'' Moore said, but they would have an entirely different opinion
if they knew Allensworth said it was 41 percent.
"This huge discrepancy, it's similar to cheating on a test. That's
the way we should view it,'' Moore said.
TOP OF PAGE
draw raves; education reactions mixed
Rockford Register News, 2/4/05
SPRINGFIELD Gov. Rod Blagojevich touted his administration Thursday
for increasing education and health-care funding while balancing the
state budget without raising personal income taxes or the general sales
His third State of the State speech, delivered as the state faces a
deficit of as much as $2.1 billion, was light on new policy goals
at least ones that cost money.
After facing two years of criticism for supporting higher business taxes
and fees, the governor said Thursday that he is focused on improving
the business climate in Illinois by streamlining regulations and reducing
the cost of workers compensation.
Heres a look at key points of Blagojevichs address:
What the governor said: He wants the state to partner with local chambers
of commerce to save small businesses money on health-insurance costs.
The proposal would help businesses pool their demand and buy into insurance
plans at cheaper rates.
Reaction: Chris Agnitsch, vice president of governmental affairs at
the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce, said the plan has potential.
Obviously, the governor was trying to heal some of the wounds
hes inflicted on business over the last two years, said
Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo. Thats a little bit of a salve
or an ointment for those wounds.
What the governor said: The states workers compensation
system needs reform, and he wants to crack down on fraud and require
insurance companies to pay doctors directly for claims.
Reaction: It gives immediate relief to workers, said Margaret
Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. Now, if you suffer
a workers comp claim, the doctor comes after you to get payment
resolved (requiring the workers to file insurance claims).
Blackshere said it often takes three to five years for claims to be
reimbursed in full, or for workers to agree to a settlement with their
She said cracking down on fraud through state investigations will show
that most fraud comes from employers and insurance companies, not workers.
Todd Maisch, vice president of government affairs at the Illinois Chamber
of Commerce, said the proposal could help businesses.
Employers pay 100 percent of the cost, he said. So
not only are we paying the cost of the injured worker. Were paying
the cost of the hospital and the doctors, who do very well under the
system. Were also paying for lawyers, which are rampant in the
system. All three of those people make an awful lot of money off the
workers compensation system, and all of it comes out of employers
What the governor said: He called on the Illinois State Board of Education
to require public schools to allow children of undocumented immigrants
to attend preschool.
The state offers only K-12 education to children of undocumented immigrants,
ISBE spokeswoman Becky Watts said.
Reaction: Belvidere Superintendent Don Schlomann said Belvidere schools
so far have been able to allow such children into preschool programs
if they meet requirements, such as low-income levels. He said hes
concerned about whether there would be space for more.
Watts said the change wouldnt result in overcrowding at preschools.
She said in schools that have vacancies, children would be able to get
in. She acknowledged that there are districts in which students would
have to get on a waiting list, but said that even being eligible for
a place on the waiting list is an improvement, because there now is
no requirement to consider the children at all.
Republican leaders took a mixed view of the proposal.
The term undocumented, what does that actually mean?
And to me, it means illegal (immigrants), Senate Minority Leader
Frank Watson, R-Greenville.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, was more enthusiastic.
Shouldnt every kid in the state be getting an education?
I think thats good, he said.
What the governor said: He called on fellow policy-makers to curb the
soaring cost of insurance for doctors, a cost that doctors say is pushing
them to leave Illinois or abandon high-risk practices such as neurosurgery.
Reaction: GOP leaders applauded the move. On Tuesday, they joined with
Illinois doctors and hospitals and promoted legislation that would cap
economic damages in lawsuits against doctors.
They claim that multimillion-dollar jury awards have driven up the cost
of malpractice insurance, though trial lawyers counter that insurance
companies made poor investments.
Whats next: The governor, a Chicago Democrat, has said that he
would veto legislation that caps noneconomic damages. Republicans held
out hope that the governor would change his position.
The fact that he brought it up in a State of the State speech
is a good sign, said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.
What the governor said: He wants to increase staff at state Department
of Veterans Affairs offices by as much as 50 percent. He said it could
help veterans collect up to $400 million more in federal benefits each
Reaction: I dont think weve provided (proper) benefits
and service for a long time, said Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo,
who served in the Vietnam War.
Former Loves Park Veterans of Foreign Wars Cmdr. David Myers said hes
pleased that Blagojevich is focusing on the issue, but said the real
concern is money, not personnel.
Theres only so much money allotted at the federal level,
he said. You can have two people working on your case and that
doesnt mean anything is going to get done.
TOP OF PAGE
Lawmakers: Address short on key details
By Kurt Erickson, Pantagrapy, 2/4/05
SPRINGFIELD -- After two years of squabbling with the General Assembly
and the state's business community, Gov. Rod Blagojevich adopted a more
conciliatory tone Thursday as he outlined his vision for the coming
In a 47-minute State of the State speech, he avoided bashing state bureaucrats
and lawmakers and handed an olive branch to business owners who have
been hit hard by tax and fee increases.
"The last two years have been a very good start, but there's still
more to do," Blagojevich said.
Observers were struck by Blagojevich's largely positive remarks, but
said his speech was devoid of key details that could help guide debate
"Maybe there is an effort to be more amenable in working with us.
I'm hoping that's the case," said Senate Minority Leader Frank
"The problem was: He talked about all these great things, but he
didn't talk about specifics on any of the issues," said state Sen.
Larry Bomke, R-Springfield.
Unlike his 2004 State of the State speech, in which the Chicago Democrat
focused almost solely on eliminating the Illinois State Board of Education,
Blagojevich employed a more shotgun approach to promoting his agenda
for the coming year.
The smorgasbord of issues touched upon included:
Promoting the construction of environmentally friendly wind farms
-- including one in McLean County -- to promote energy independence.
Building a third Chicago-area airport at Peotone.
Boosting the collection of child support payments, increasing
the number of nurses and promoting Illinois' burgeoning wine industry.
Virtually absent from the address was the state's pressing financial
woes. Blagojevich is expected to address his latest plan to dig the
state out of a $2 billion deficit when he unveils his budget proposal
in two weeks.
There also was no mention of changing the way Illinois funds public
schools -- a property tax-based system that has resulted in vast disparities
in spending between poor and wealthy school districts.
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, said he intends to push for
a plan to fix school funding and wants to push through an expansion
of gambling in order to generate cash for the state.
Many of the initiatives outlined in Blagojevich's speech may be put
in place without the need for legislative action.
For example, in a nod to businesses, he called for reforms to control
the cost of worker's compensation.
He wants to help veterans and is asking for a study that could help
identify the best ways to help them secure state services.
His plan to improve the collection of child support in Illinois hinges
on improving the way businesses identify employees who owe money.
And his effort to make sure publicly funded preschools admit the children
of undocumented immigrants hinges on changing rules at the Illinois
State Board of Education.
"There's no substance here," said state Rep. Bill Mitchell,
R-Forsyth. "The governor is his own biggest cheerleader."
But the something-for-everybody speech doesn't mean Blagojevich isn't
facing a few high-profile fights as he heads into the second half of
his term with a re-election bid looming.
Blagojevich acknowledged that Republicans and Democrats remain far apart
on the issue of medical malpractice reform.
"I know the lawyers are well represented around here. So is the
medical society. And the hospital association. And the insurance industry.
All of them wield a lot of influence," he said.
Although lawmakers were dismayed that Blagojevich didn't offer a road
map for solving the medical malpractice dilemma, they agreed his attention
to the problem was a good sign.
"I think he hit the nail on the head when it comes to medical malpractice,"
said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington. "We've got to take some
action on it."
Similarly, the governor raised the thorny issue of workers' compensation
reform, saying he wants to see more done about fraudulent claims.
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said he hopes the governor is
serious about tackling the two issues.
"If he's sincere in his effort, we're willing to work with him
on both medical malpractice reform and worker's compensation,"
said Bill Brady.
TOP OF PAGE
children into preschool: Blagojevich
By Kati Phillips, Daily Southtown Staff writer, 2/4/05
The 4-year-old Mexican girl who was turned away from a Frankfort school
this fall was not named in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's speech Thursday, but
she is the reason other undocumented immigrant children will have access
to state-funded preschool.
Blagojevich called on the Illinois State Board of Education to prohibit
preschools from requiring a child's Social Security number for registration.
The state already has a rule prohibiting K-12 schools from denying students
based on immigration status.
The proposal stems from an incident in October, where officials at Rogus
School are accused of denying a girl access to its preschool because
she could not provide a Social Security number, said Alonzo Rivas, staff
attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Though state law only requires open access to K-12 grades, most districts
had applied the rule to early childhood education. When Rivas reported
this incident to the state, officials said this was the first time it
had come up, he said.
"I think that the policy was needed," he said. "There
needed to be clarification on what students are entitled to receive
these services. Now we know these students are entitled to pre-K services."
Summit Hill School District 161 Supt. Keith Pain said no students have
been turned away from his schools based on immigration status and that
Blagojevich's proposal stems from a misconception.
The girl's family provided a valid lease but failed to show two other
documents that are required to prove residency within district boundaries,
he said. The other documents can include a gas bill, driver's license
or insurance papers.
The district's registration form does ask for an original, county-certified
birth certificate and child's Social Security number. Pain said the
number is requested so the district can identify students if they are
kidnapped and is not required.
"We would not deny an undocumented immigrant from an education
in our district," Pain said. "We would not do that."
The district and the legal defense fund have both since lost touch with
the girl's family. It is unknown if she registered in another school
Over the past two years, the state has funneled $60 million more into
state-funded preschool programs which target at-risk students.
Though enrollment has increased by 17,000, waiting lists are long for
the services, considered crucial for disadvantaged children to succeed
in later grades.
Becky Watts, spokeswoman for the state board of education, said there's
no way to know how many undocumented immigrants will take advantage
of the rule change. She emphasized undocumented students will not get
priority over other students at registration.
The state board is expected to approve Blagojevich's initiative later
TOP OF PAGE
Area social workers,
teachers get lesson on how to deal with poverty
By Kevin Caufield, Michelle Robbins and Steve Depies, LaSalle NewsTribune,
Area social workers and teachers attended a workshop Wednesday as a
step toward alleviating problems associated with poverty.
At a time when Illinois has experienced some of the largest increases
in poverty in the nation during the past several years, it is especially
important for schools and social services to understand the cultural
aspects of poverty, Linda Reabe of the Center for Adult Learning Leadership
in Normal told the group.
Reabe presented information Wednesday on the cultural aspects of poverty
to about 30 social service agency representatives, with a focus on applying
the knowledge to dealing with their clients.
Two other sessions presented by Lynn Reha, co-director of Illinois Center
for Specialized Professional Support, focused on helping students in
the elementary, secondary and post-secondary grade-levels.
In La Salle County, 9.14 percent of the population lives in poverty,
as do 7.26 percent of residents in Bureau County and 5.54 percent in
Putnam County, according to U.S. Census statistics and a study conducted
by the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs, based in
Its easy for us to try to instill our comfort level with
those who dont come from that, Reabe said.
We need to realize those people we are trying to help maybe dont
have the same hidden rules we do.
Reabe said in order to best help those who come to the agencies for
assistance, social service workers had to understand the different priorities
and cultural differences in people from differing economic classes.
For example, realize the concrete survival type of issues will
win out over getting their education or applying for that job,
Communication is crucial, Reabe said. The workers should be sure to
talk to the clients in an adult manner, not as a parent, talking down
to the clients.
While Reabe said agencies must respect that those in poverty often tend
to speak in a more casual manner, social workers must show clients that
there are times when a more formal register is appropriate.
Michelle Nelson of CASA, an Ottawa-based organization which works with
abused and neglected children in juvenile court, said one of the most
beneficial portions of the meeting was an exercise during which the
participants were asked to write out their daily concerns with what
they thought were the daily concerns of their clients.
It really highlights the difference between how you live your
life and the people youre helping, she said.
In the classroom
Teachers from the La Salle elementary school district learned how to
better teach the 55.8 percent of low-income students that are enrolled
in the district at the second part of a series of lectures about the
framework for understanding poverty.
Reha spoke about implementing techniques for teaching students from
poverty. All the teachers attending the second part had participated
in a similar lecture Nov. 30.
I want to further explain how to implement principles and strategies
in classrooms for teaching individuals from poverty how to succeed in
middle class school, Reha said.
Schools usually are a middle-class environment, which means that students
coming from poverty struggle to learn effectively and then become frustrated.
Julie Michealchuck, a Title One teacher for second and third grades,
said she wanted to learn more about teaching students in poverty so
she can help them become successful.
I wanted to help students I work with to the best of my ability,
Michaelchuck said. I dont come from a poverty background
so I need to learn how to approach students and parents and make them
During the workshop, the teachers were given situations that could happen
in classrooms and were told how individuals from the poverty culture
and individuals from the middle class culture would act.
Amy Halm, coordinator of the attendance advocacy program at La Salle-Peru
Township High School, said creating relationships with students and
clients is a fundamental necessity to improve their education or meet
their particular need.
Anytime we can learn more about where the students are coming
from we stand a better chance of creating a successful relationship
with them, she said.
TOP OF PAGE
taste of reality at high school
By Kris Stadalsky, Herald News, 2/04/05
High school students participate in the reality ... or not?
"Welcome to Reality Store," Leslie Stevens welcomed about
220 Minooka High School sophomores recently. "This morning all
of you are 25 years old. You have completed your formal education. You
have secured the job of your choice and your first paycheck is waiting
"Based on choices you made in December, you are going to see if
you can live the lifestyle you are currently used to."
Those words were the beginning of a lesson in real life for over 400
MCHS students. Back in December, each student in the sophomore class
was asked to choose the job they would like to have at 25 years old.
They also had to decide if they were married and how many children they
Based on that information, the Business and Professional Women's Club
(BPW) of Morris created a Reality Store for Minooka High School recently.
The students are handed a one month "paycheck" based on the
information they gave. Their check stub includes deductions for taxes
and additional funds for their dependents and spouse's job (if they
Then the students headed into the gymnasium, set up with stores they
visit to purchase the necessities and a few options to live their lives.
They have to visit each and every store. There are choices at a few
stores, but many are fixed costs based on their marital status and family
They are required to purchase food for a month, pay utilities, buy a
car and pay insurance, decide to rent or own a home and then pay for
more insurance. At the leisure and recreation store, they chose what
they wanted to spend for a month on entertainment. They could pick from
economy evenings at $15 all the way up to a $10,000 dream cruise for
At the car dealership, many students went for the most expensive, top-of-the-line
vehicles. At the real estate office, some went for the bigger homes
and others opted for an apartment.
Each student was allowed to return a car and a house one time if they
found they could not afford their choice.
Local businessman Terry Danek of Century 21 Danek and Klein was selling
houses. Occasionally he would attempt to sell a student more than they
could afford. Some students bit, but others were smarter. It's the way
the world really is, said Danek, who has been volunteering at Reality
Stores in Minooka and Morris for years.
Student Zach Zieter, who chose to be a pharmacist, picked out a Cadillac
Deville Silverado truck. He said he wasn't surprised by the cost of
insurance for his vehicle. But with a paycheck of more than $4,000 a
month and no dependents, Zieter was better off than a lot of students.
Victor Alberico chose to be a physicist. Due to an error in his paycheck,
he received the wrong salary and was living on about $2,000 a month;
he also had a wife.
"Life is harder than I thought and more expensive," said Alberico.
"I realize that if I am going to survive I will have to be very
That's precisely the kind of lesson that the BPW is hoping for when
they organize Reality Stores for area high schools.
Sallie Johnson, a retired teacher, has been organizing Reality Stores
for 11 years. In addition to Minooka High School, they are held at Morris
and Coal City High schools. Gardener-South Wilmington attends the store
in Coal City as well.
"The most important thing they are learning is budgeting,"
said Johnson. "They don't realize that their parents have so many
things to pay for. They don't understand the price of groceries or clothing."
Johnson says that after one Reality Store, a student approached her
and said she was going home to tell her parents thank you. She didn't
realize the money it took to run a household.
Students also get a chance to spin the Wheel of Fortune. They could
get an inheritance from a dead uncle, get a promotion, lose their job
or pay an unexpected bill.
Volunteer Norma Hedges, Region 7 Director of the Illinois Retired Teachers'
Association, said the best one to land on is a job promotion at $1,200
more a month.
"If they come here (at Wheel of Fortune) in the beginning and get
laid off or fired, they realize that next month they are not going to
have a paycheck," said Hedges.
Reality Stores are run strictly by volunteers about 50 to 60
of them for each program. Minooka High has to have two sessions to accommodate
all of their sophomores.
Local dignitaries and business people are the volunteers. Grundy County
State's Attorney Sheldon Sobol was selling cars and state Rep. Careen
Gordon, D-Coal City, was manning the grocery booth. Volunteers also
included Minooka Mayor Dick Ellis and MCHS Principal Janice Jack.
Volunteer Anita Young, who was working the leisure store, said that
many students came to her first. She tried to advise them to come backwhen
they had their other expenses under control.
"I was impressed with the kids," said Young. "Most made
pretty good choices. Most of them waited until they knew what the bigger
picture was. Some even chose to stay home (instead of going out)."
After about 90 minutes, students were sent into the auditorium to hear
Phyllis Skubic, who is the human resources director for Collision Revision
and has a background in volunteerism, speak about life choices.
"You are probably thinking about classes for your junior and senior
year right now," Skubic said to the students. "The choices
you make in those classes will be directly related to where you go after
graduation. The choices that you make affect your lives forever."
Carolyn Kinsella, media center director for MCHS, has been the liaison
with the BPW since Reality Store came to Minooka seven years ago. Kinsella
likes what goes on at Reality Store and she likes the impact it has
on the students, even though it's an enormous amount of work to put
"It's a lot of work but when I talk to the kids, it's all worth
it," said Kinsella.
TOP OF PAGE
Laying the pavement
for road to progress
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, 2/4/05
In his State of the State address last year, Gov. Blagojevich came out
firing, armed with big ideas and the oversize emotions to go with them.
His primary target was the State Board of Education, which he lambasted
as an ineffectual, bureaucratically hamstrung agency. Pumped up by his
own reform-minded rhetoric, he seemed reluctant to bring his speech
to a close.
Back then, the governor wasn't fending off one attack or challenge after
another from his own party -- from the likes of House Speaker Mike Madigan,
Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Comptroller Dan Hynes, not to mention
his father-in-law, Ald. Richard Mell. That altered climate perhaps was
reflected in Thursday's shorter, milder and more conciliatory State
of the State speech.
With his run for re-election looming, the governor appeared to be in
a mood to mend fences -- with Democrats and Republicans, members of
the business community, Downstaters. Though not lacking in bold themes,
the speech came off as a collection of positive proposals salted with
praise for government officials -- including Mike Madigan -- compared
to last year's resounding, critical oratorio. There were calls for building
"the world's largest" wind farm and making it easier for nurses
to get training and relocate to Illinois. Blagojevich called for efforts
to attract homeland security jobs to the state and to promote the Illinois
wine industry. Yes, there is one.
That this State of the State address kept no one on the edge of their
seat was reflected in the fact that the only time during it that his
audience came out of theirs was when Blagojevich called for "real,
meaningful medical malpractice reform" -- without saying what shape
that reform would take.
But Blagojevich will have an opportunity to get into the specifics of
all his programs -- including those pertaining to health care and education,
and state finances, which he barely alluded to (ditto the unsettled
casino situation) -- when he presents his budget in a couple of weeks.
On this occasion, he was determined to keep things upbeat, whether throwing
his full weight behind Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s worthy efforts to make
the Peotone airport a reality, championing the $2 billion clean coal
power plant being built in Washington County or promising much-needed
reforms in the workman's compensation system that costs employers $6.5
billion a year. Setting up a unit to look into phony worker comp claims
is a major step in and of itself considering that up until now there's
been a reluctance by government to acknowledge, let alone investigate,
fraud. He also made sure to cite the success of his education shakeup
of last year
However much he has been forced to play political dodgeball, Blagojevich
has reason to be optimistic. Job numbers are up, unemployment is down,
there are more people with health coverage and more kids in pre-school.
With a little less combative stance than in the past, who knows how
much he can achieve in the months ahead?
TOP OF PAGE
dodges the tough issues
Opinion by Carol Marin, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/4/05
Bouquets, brickbats and bragging rights. Those are the building blocks
of most political speeches we bother to listen to. Bold ideas and brilliant
prose? Much harder to come by as Thursday's State of the State address
by Gov. Blagojevich amply demonstrated.
The governor was clearly on a charm offensive this time around, in contrast
to last year's speech, when he was just on an offensive offensive.
This speech was loaded with tributes to people and things we were guaranteed
to agree with: the valor of our troops, the nobility of our nurses,
the love of a mother for her children, not to mention the near universal
yearning that those children eat fresh vegetables.
Sign me up.
The governor attacked all the things we all attack: greedy pharmaceutical
companies, skyrocketing health care costs, deadbeat dads, fraud, waste,
red tape, and of course, sex- and violence-soaked video games.
I'm on board.
And count me in, too, when it comes to some of the things Blagojevich
properly bragged about. The minimum wage is up, unemployment is down,
and the size of government has been reduced. And he's done some good
things regarding health care for children.
The problems with his State of the State address were twofold. What
was in it. And what was not.
Among the schemes and dreams Blagojevich outlined were programs to develop
the wine industry Downstate, making September "Illinois Wine Month,"
to build an airport in Peotone and to make Illinois a future hub of
the homeland security industry.
With the exception of making September "Illinois Wine Month,"
just exactly how quickly do any of these other things get done? Not
in time for us to address the $2 billion structural deficit we face
this year, that's for sure.
"We have moved problems from one year to the next," says Kent
Professor Redfield is based in Springfield, where he runs the Institute
for Legislative Studies. He knows a lot about state government and the
crisis it faces.
"Absent a big bump in the economy," says Redfield, "this
is going to be another horrendous budget year."
In fairness to the governor, his budget address doesn't come for another
two weeks. Maybe he's waiting until then to deliver the bad news, to
explain how we will pay our Medicaid bills, fund our schools, deal with
our looming borrowing and pension debt and maintain essential state
What are the options? Not an increase in the sales tax, says the governor.
And certainly not a hike in the state income tax. Nightmares of former
Gov. Dick Ogilvie's failed 1972 re-election bid dance in the head of
every politician who even thinks of uttering that most progressive and
sensible of solutions.
And let's face it. This governor wants to win re-election and use no
new taxes as a big plank in a national platform that takes him down
the road to the White House.
That's fine. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be president when
you grow up.
But growing up politically means tackling the really hard policy issues
that require complex, bipartisan legislative solutions.
What about education? And the gross inequity between schools in richer
vs. poorer school districts? Not to mention our abject failure to fund
education in this state, period. Depending upon whose survey you cite,
Illinois is either well below average or almost rock bottom when it
comes to the money we devote to our schools. What about Thursday's news
there has been a staggering underestimation by the state when it comes
to how many Chicago public high school students actually graduate? A
shocking 54 percent?
What about the transportation crisis at the CTA?
What about the continuing issue of ethics or the lack thereof in state
The tough stuff of government was not in evidence in Blagojevich's state
of the state. A lot of what he suggested didn't even seem to need the
Legislature to get accomplished.
Maybe that was the point.
By tossing a medical malpractice olive branch to the Republicans and
a verbal bouquet to Speaker Michael Madigan, leader of the House Democrats,
the governor did his best to be warm and fuzzy and friendly. Maybe,
given the cold, contentious state of relations between Blagojevich and
members of both parties, that was the best he could do this time around.
But in two weeks, in his budget address, he needs to do a whole lot
TOP OF PAGE
When children level
Chicago Tribune Editorial, 2/4/05
The case of a suburban Berwyn elementary-school band teacher accused
of sexually abusing 16 female pupils between 1998 and 2003 is more than
an exercise in criminal justice. It has raised serious questions about
two powerful forces: the desire of parents to protect their children
and the tendency of institutions to make judgments better trusted to
Before this case goes in toto to Lawyerland, with lawsuits littering
26th Street, it's crucial to note that not all the facts are yet known.
School officials and police offer different accounts of what was alleged
about Robert J. Sperlik Jr. and when. The 45-year-old teacher, now jailed,
allegedly restrained girls and improperly touched them. Some Berwyn
parents, though, suspect a witch hunt and have asked whether the charges
Cops and courts will resolve those clashing views of what occurred.
What should rivet officials of every school, every organization and
every institution that deals with kids is the question of whether school
officials had reason to suspect abuse but didn't aggressively react.
Berwyn Director of Public Safety Frank Marzullo has said school personnel
records show that officials of South Berwyn School District 100 had
reprimanded Sperlik in 2001 for "inappropriate touching" of
pupils, but didn't notify police or the state Department of Children
and Family Services as required by law.
That explosive but vague phrase "inappropriate touching" has
sparked copious speculation and innuendo that will be easier to evaluate
when district records become public. Same for what Berwyn police say
is a letter written several years ago by one of Sperlik's pupils, reportedly
alleging that Sperlik had abused her. The family of the girl, now 15,
has filed a federal lawsuit accusing District 100 officials of inaction
after receiving the letter.
Neither school officials nor the police have released the letter, and
the girl's family doesn't have a copy. Thomas Melody, the school district's
attorney, says the letter doesn't mention alleged sexual abuse and adds
that officials didn't believe contact between Sperlik and pupils warranted
notification of police or DCFS. "If it appeared to us that something
bad was happening to a kid, we would have reported it," Melody
says. "We understand when we have to report to DCFS."
School officials may indeed understand a 30-year-old state law that
requires them to report suspected child abuse or neglect to police and
DCFS. Last year, in Cook County alone, schools made 5,008 such reports,
according to DCFS.
As well they should. If the crisis involving abuse by clerics of the
Roman Catholic and several other churches teaches anything, it is that
superiors who kept quiet created nothing but problems for themselves.
Inaction by bishops who ignored serious allegations against clerics
set up still more innocents for future attacks by the predators--and
invited massive damage awards.
Someone who works with children and is guilty of improper contact should
be rooted out. Or, if not guilty, he or she should be exonerated. Sperlik,
it appears, wound up with some sort of reprimand--but with no outside
judgment of his culpability or innocence.
Police and child-welfare workers frequently field such reports and over
the last 15 years have become more adept at distinguishing fact from
fiction. Early on, what, exactly, would have been wrong with Berwyn
school officials' calling police and DCFS, reporting that they had received
some sort of accusation (if those turn out to be the facts), and inviting
the designated professionals to decide whether criminal conduct occurred
or whether no legal action was required.
Sexual-abuse crises should teach all who work with children that the
last thing they want to possess is evidence they haven't shared. Not
only because their silence may be illegal, but because those who entrust
their children to them expect them to work in the sunshine.
When all the facts and documents become public, the actions of Berwyn
school officials will, or won't, be judged legal, responsible and reasonable.
Those are three different standards.
But quite apart from the murky Berwyn case:
Anyone, anywhere, who says, "We handle accusations of possible
child abuse ourselves" invites public suspicion. That lesson ought
to reverberate wherever adults supervise kids.
TOP OF PAGE
School laptops win hearts
A five-year, $1.75 million Apples-for-everyone deal met resistance but
now is embraced
BY MEGAN BOLDT, Pioneer Press, 1/30/05
Geography has never been Katie Kubacki's favorite subject.
But now the eighth-grader at Lake Elmo's Oak-Land Junior High finds
the material more appealing thanks to a school-provided laptop. Instead
of just writing a report about Switzerland, she used the laptop to research
the country and make a movie for a project.
"It makes class a whole lot more interesting," Kubacki said
of her laptop.
Kubacki isn't alone. One year after Oak-Land administrators handed out
about 1,200 laptops, students and teachers are still giddy about having
a computer they can use in class and at home.
Many residents were angry when the Stillwater school district entered
into a five-year, $1.75 million deal with Apple Computer in September
2003, saying they felt the plan was poorly communicated and pushed through
"I don't think people thought it was OK the way that it was done,"
said Lu Shaughnessy, a Stillwater resident and parent of four.
But the public controversy appears to have died down, even among former
opponents like Shaughnessy.
"I'm pleasantly surprised," said Lake Elmo resident Julie
Bunn, who was skeptical of the proposal at first but now says she's
impressed by how well teachers have integrated the equipment into their
curricula. "If anything, it's been a significantly positive experience
for our daughter."
Now, it's not so much a question of whether the program is worth it.
It's a question of whether Stillwater can afford to continue and expand
the laptop initiative.
"To be honest, it's going beyond my expectations," said Principal
Tom LeCloux. "I'm seeing firsthand that student engagement has
significantly increased, behavioral issues have decreased and students'
attitude toward school has generally improved."
LeCloux's observations were supported in a study released in November
by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, which found students
and teachers had positive things to say about the laptop initiative.
But the study did not include any details on academic achievement, saying
gains and losses could not be measured in such a short time.
NCREL provides research-based resources to educators and policy-makers
in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
About three-quarters of Oak-Land students reported a more positive attitude
toward school, the study found. Some of the reasons students gave for
their excitement were better grades, better preparation for life, more
access to information and improvements in teaching and learning.
The 25 percent with negative comments usually gave short answers for
their reasoning, something like, "I don't like computers."
Others said the laptops were distracting, the money for the machines
should have been used for other things or that the laptops should have
been placed in the high school.
Teachers also reported that homework completion in most classes was
higher, the study found.
LAPTOPS IN THE CLASSROOM
Ben Peterson, a ninth-grader, said the laptop helps him take better
notes. He can type faster than he can write, and the 14-year-old said
it's easier to work with computerized notes.
"I'm more organized," Peterson said. "I don't lose stuff
like I used to."
Peterson also likes using it in German class, where students connect
headphones to their laptops so they can hear and read German newspapers
online. Peterson said it helps him learn the language while learning
about international news.
Debbie Drew, the school's video, theater and debate teacher, said "it's
a dream come true for me. In video production, we've been using computers
from day one. But we only had six computers, so kids were waiting. Now,
we can all be doing the same thing at the same time. And they can bring
their work home."
Some were concerned that classroom management would be diminished with
the machines, but band teacher Robin Vought said that's not the case.
"We're still the adult in the classroom," she said.
Plus, it's helping students prepare for the real world, whether they're
college-bound or not, Drew said.
"What office in the country doesn't have computers now?" she
The laptops aren't only getting students excited. The staff feels reinvigorated.
"This has given me, personally and professionally, a shot in the
arm," Vought said. "We need to stay motivated, otherwise the
students won't stay motivated."
The idea of handing laptops over to junior high kids had some concerned
the students would damage the machines or misuse their Internet privileges.
LeCloux said five of the 1,250 machines were disabled or lost over the
past year. There have been cases of inappropriate use, ranging from
downloading games to obtaining questionable material, LeCloux said.
Oak-Land administrators download filtering software if a student is
caught misusing the machine or if a parent requests it.
At least three reports were made to the Washington County Sheriff's
office last year concerning the laptops. Two reported their laptops
were stolen, but the machines were later found unharmed.
The third report was made in May after someone found threats against
a teacher on a student's laptop. LeCloux met with the parents and dealt
with the student accordingly.
"They have ownership with these laptops," Drew said. "I
don't think that was the case with the machines in the computer lab.
They weren't theirs, so they didn't take as much responsibility for
With parents asking if the program can be expanded to Stillwater Junior
High and Stillwater Area High School and if it can continue at
Oak-Land after the lease with Apple is done in four years the
big concern for the district is money.
The roughly $340,000 per year it costs to operate the program is being
paid with money from a technology levy not the general fund.
But with the school district facing a $4 million budget shortfall for
next school year, expanding the program could be a tough sell.
George Thole, chairman of the school board and one of the two board
members who voted against the proposal in 2003, said his concern remains
the same. He wonders where the money will come from to continue the
"I have no problem with laptops, I just want to know how we're
going to finance this," Thole said. "If it's good, you definitely
want to keep it going. But can you?"
TOP OF PAGE
Decoding Why Few
Girls Choose Science, Math
By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Staff Writer, 2/1/05
In Sarah Wise's section of a computer systems laboratory at the elite
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the 18-year-old
senior is the only girl.
That's a better ratio, though, than in 17-year-old David Banh's computational
physics class at the Fairfax County school. It has only boys.
There aren't any girls in the school's top mathematics class, either,
the one with seven students who must be invited to enroll. Senior Rachel
Miller, 17, who took algebra in fourth grade, was asked to join, but
she decided biology would be more fun.
Ask teachers, administrators and students at Thomas Jefferson -- where
about 55 percent of the 1,694 students are boys -- why such discrepancies
exist in these classes, and they will say it has nothing to do with
So what explains it?
"It's a fabulous conundrum," said Josh Strong, the school's
division manager for science and technology.
The issue has new relevance since Harvard University President Lawrence
H. Summers roiled the academic world last month by suggesting that the
country's shortage of elite female scientists might stem in part from
"innate" differences between men and women. Critics accused
him of saying that women are not genetically capable of doing math and
science as well as men; Summers said he was misunderstood.
The notion that girls and boys cognitively develop differently is hardly
rocket science. "Any elementary teacher can tell you that a class
with 15 boys and five girls is very different from a class with 15 girls
and five boys," wrote Scott Hollinger, principal of McAuliffe Elementary
School in McAllen, Tex., in an e-mail response to questions about the
Young boys are more physical and seem more spatially aware at a younger
age, while girls are more social and learn language faster, educators
say. (Thomas Jefferson once was 65 percent male, and the admissions
test was made more verbal, although other factors helped bring in more
girls, and the challenge remains to bring in even more, according to
Principal Elizabeth Lodal.) But because girls and boys develop differently
on average, research suggests that they can be directed to develop in
"Experience matters," said Susan Levine, a psychology professor
at the University of Chicago.
Harvard University Professor Kurt Fischer, who is director of the university's
Mind, Brain and Education Program, said none of the developmental differences
mean anything about actual abilities.
Teachers and scientists say that there are greater differences in learning
styles within each sex than there are between the sexes and that any
school or teacher that doesn't approach students as individuals is missing
At Thomas Jefferson, nobody says girls, in general, can't do what boys
in general can do academically -- if they want to. "It's not an
issue of innate capability," said physics teacher John Dell.
But in some subjects, it appears they don't want to. Although all Thomas
Jefferson students are required to take computer science, the more advanced
elective courses are heavily populated with boys, as are advanced physics,
engineering and math, teachers and students say; biology and chemistry
classes are more attractive to girls, as are the humanities.
Students, teachers and administrators attribute class enrollment to
factors including personal interests and personality, levels of exposure
at younger ages and the subtle -- and not so subtle -- stereotypical
signals sent by adults.
Boys, for example, are more often exposed to computers and blocks at
an earlier age than girls -- perhaps because they like them more, perhaps
not -- and thus come early to engineering, a subject that requires early
interest for proper sequential course enrollment, teachers said.
Girls are usually more social -- something Jan Taylor, an engineer turned
school counselor at Thomas Jefferson, believes is "hard-wired"
-- and physics and math are commonly seen as more individual pursuits.
Biology, on the other hand, is usually seen as more collaborative, students
Boys, Dell said, are more generally programmed for conflict, and part
of scientific endeavor is to challenge conventional wisdom with an argument.
And boys don't mind being wrong as much as girls, both boys and girls
"I like to be safe rather than put myself out there," said
16-year-old junior Beth Martin.
Many girls find some classroom environments intimidating. Take, for
example, the computer systems labs. All day, nearly all of the chairs
are occupied by males. The teachers admit testosterone rules the room.
The atmosphere "is intense," and many girls don't see the
room as "friendly," said Strong, who is considering moving
the computers to the back of the room to make it more welcoming to girls.
One traditionally male-dominated laboratory already has attracted more
girls by taking "gender out of the classroom," said Rick Buxton,
director of the prototyping laboratory, where students often use heavy
equipment to build things.
Buxton stopped making assignments by sex -- "We stopped saying,
'You can't do that because of your size' " -- and banned profanity
and off-color jokes. Now enrollment is split evenly.
"The girls began to see it as a safe place," Buxton said.
"They like working with their hands as much as anyone else. Give
them an environment they are comfortable in, and they will come."
It was one teacher's insistence on calling on boys more often than girls
that helped lead to the creation in 2001 of Tomorrow's Women in Science
and Technology, aimed at helping empower women at the school.
Now TWIST, along with two other organizations for girls, helps mentor
young elementary and middle school girls.
Part of the goal is to help them overcome social pressures, which weigh
more on girls. Lisa Marrone, 16, a junior, said in middle school she
was torn between academics and not "having a reputation for being
a bookworm." When she got to Thomas Jefferson, she realized she
could be social and smart.
Dell said that critics might be looking at the whole issue of sex in
science wrong. "Physics and math are traditionally lonely pursuits,"
he said. "Society places value in having a good pool of physicists
and mathematicians. But just because the country has a desire to have
this pool, that doesn't mean it is a natural choice for an individual."
The natural choice for Rachel Miller this year was to take a break from
math. She took AP calculus as a freshman, multivariable calculus and
linear algebra as a sophomore and complex analysis and differential
equations as a junior.
While the boys on her math level joined the top class, she decided to
take a break and have some fun. "High school," she said, "is
a time to explore."
TOP OF PAGE
States Seek Changes To Federal No Child Left Behind Law
Education commissioner calls current testing for special education students
'inappropriate, ineffective and unfair'
By DAN PEARSON, The Day Education Reporter, 2/3/05
Hartford The state Department of Education has joined other states
in asking the new U.S. secretary of education to consider a range of
suggestions for improving the No Child Left Behind law.
In a letter sent Jan. 14, state Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg
told Education Secretary Margaret Spellings that she was pleased
that Spellings had told a U.S. Senate committee that individual states
need flexibility in carrying out the law.
Spellings, who was confirmed as secretary this month, told the committee
that her administration must engage those closest to children
to embed these (NCLB) principles in a sensible and workable way.
Sternberg said Spellings' remarks were encouraging because the law has
fundamental strengths but needs improvement.
This is not one voice crying in the wind; there is a movement
across the country, Sternberg said Wednesday. We don't want
to abandon the law. We want to make it more reasonable.
Established in 2001, the No Child Left Behind law seeks to increase
accountability for student achievement by penalizing schools and districts
that fail to meet performance levels on standardized tests. In Connecticut,
the tests include the Connecticut Mastery Test, administered to grades
four, six and eight, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test,
which 10th-graders take.
Many groups have criticized the law, believing it demoralizes students,
requires fruitless clerical work and creates arbitrary penalties that
ensure poor districts will fail. Several states have asked to change
the law, and nine legislatures have introduced bills challenging aspects
In her letter, Sternberg said Connecticut should be allowed to continue
to test in alternate years because testing in grades three, five and
seven, as is proposed, would cost millions of dollars but provide no
new data on student achievement. She said Connecticut would like to
base achievement on a group of students' performance over time instead
of the year-by-year snapshots now used by the federal government.
She said this would convey accountability for the same set of
In the letter, Sternberg said that special education students should
be permitted to test outside their grade level, as determined by professional
staff. Sternberg said NCLB's current testing procedures for special
education students are inappropriate, ineffective and unfair.
Currently, NCLB requires states to test English Language Learners in
their primary language. Sternberg said the logic and effectiveness of
this approach is questionable, as there are 160 primary
languages and dialects spoken in the state's public school system. Developing
tests for these students would cost tens of millions of dollars. Sternberg
requested that foreign language students be given three years before
they are tested in English.
Sternberg said Spellings' office responded to the Jan. 14 letter by
indicating it would try to arrange a meeting. She also said that by
April 1 her office must submit a detailed list of NCLB suggestions to
the assistant secretary in the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary
TOP OF PAGE
Small Schools in
City Program to Grow by 52 in September
By ELISSA GOOTMAN, New York Times, 2/2/05
Fifty-two new small middle and high schools, many with themes like sports
management, coastal studies and "arts, imagination and inquiry,"
will open in September, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday.
Among the new schools are 27 high schools, 14 middle schools and 11
schools that combine 6th through 12th grades. They would bring to 157
the number of small public and charter schools the mayor has created
in the last two years as a centerpiece of his effort to overhaul the
city school system.
"For too long, our high schools did not prepare even a majority
of students for graduation," Mr. Bloomberg said, calling the new
schools "a crucial part of our strategy to close the achievement
Only seven of the new schools will be placed inside large high school
buildings, a practice that has bred tension at schools throughout the
city. The small schools-within-schools, each with their own principals,
themes and learning philosophies, have struggled to coexist with one
another and with the large traditional high schools that are their hosts.
It is not yet clear where 16 of the new schools will be located, which
could make it difficult for students to decide whether they want to
Officials have assigned all but one of the schools to particular boroughs.
The largest number, 22, will be in the Bronx, while Staten Island will
have just one. Still, the fact that some of the school sites have not
been announced fed into a common criticism of the mayor's small schools
plan: that it has been pushed ahead too quickly.
"They'd have much more credibility if they said, 'We're starting
36 schools,' not 52 schools," said Randi Weingarten, president
of the United Federation of Teachers.
But Ms. Weingarten indicated that she was generally pleased with the
effort to place most of the schools in leased buildings, new buildings
and middle schools with extra space.
"It clearly appears that they have learned from some of their mistakes,"
Kristen Kane, chief executive of the Office of New Schools, said she
expected that at least 14 of the undetermined locations would be finalized
before March 1, when student applications are due. She also said the
decision to place so few schools in large high school buildings did
not represent a policy shift, but rather the reality that most of the
space in such schools had already been filled.
Ms. Kane said, however, that two large, deeply troubled Bronx high schools,
Walton and Evander Childs, will not accept ninth-grade classes next
year. Both schools have continued to exist with several small schools
inside them; Walton is expected to get a fourth small school next year,
but officials did not say which one.
Eva S. Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council Education Committee,
praised the mayor's efforts to take on the tricky issue of high school
reform, saying he deserved credit. But she suggested that his administration
had uncritically embraced the idea that new small schools were the answer,
although previous efforts to create small schools in New York City had
yielded mixed results.
"They have latched onto the small- schools movement as the answer
to all of our hopes and fears," Ms. Moskowitz said.
"Why is this movement going to work where the previous movements
have had at best uneven results?" she asked.
At the news conference about the new schools yesterday, Schools Chancellor
Joel I. Klein recited statistics that he said showed that small schools
were better. Their average attendance rates of 91 percent are above
the citywide average of 83 percent, he said, while 93 percent of their
ninth graders but only 68 percent citywide are promoted to the 10th
"As the song says, 'We've only just begun,' but that's one heck
of a beginning," he said.
But some successful large schools have similarly high, even higher,
attendance rates, and promotion to the 10th grade is based not on a
standard citywide test but on the number of classes students pass.
Though eighth graders have already selected the high schools they would
like to attend next year, they can submit new applications listing the
The mayor's enthusiasm for small schools is shared by charities like
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave $58 million to create
the schools in New York City. Yesterday, that enthusiasm was echoed
by principals, students and representatives of nonprofit groups who
helped to plan the schools.
Clyde Cole, who will be the principal of the Urban Assembly Academy
of Business and Community Development in Brooklyn, said he hoped his
all-boys 6th-to-12th-grade school "really speaks to the entrepreneurial
spirit of boys of that age."
Antoine Powell, 18, was part of a student-led group that planned the
Leadership Institute, a school that he said would "give a sense
of how to survive in a community."
Other new schools set to open include the Rachel Carson High School
for Coastal Studies and the High School of Sports Management, both in
Brooklyn; the Sports Professions High School and the Theater Arts Production
Company School, both in the Bronx; and, in Manhattan, the High School
of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry, which the Lincoln Center Institute
will help run.
TOP OF PAGE
won't miss junk food
Sales study builds support for ban bill
Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic, 2/2/05
Schools that made healthy changes to their snack bars and vending machines
during a five-month state study saw "no negative financial impacts."
The fear of losing money has been the main reason that school districts
have resisted banning junk food and soft drinks.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne released the results
of an eight-school study on Tuesday that tested a ban on soft drinks
and junk food during the school day and threw his weight behind a bill
that would halt the sale of junk food in public schools.
"If you sell it, they will buy it," Horne said. "If you
sell unhealthy things, they will buy that. But if you sell healthy foods,
then they will buy that." advertisement
Schools and districts make tens of thousands of dollars annually through
contracts with soft-drink companies and candy sales. The money pays
for field trips, school clubs and athletic events.
Horne's study comes as schools across the United States are under pressure
to provide healthier snacks because of rising rates of childhood obesity.
School districts in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City have banned
soft-drink sales along with sales of other junk food over concerns about
Horne hopes the study will pave the way for the passage of House Bill
2544, a measure introduced last week by Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa,
that would require schools to ban soft drinks and offer healthier food
at snack bars and in vending machines during the school day.
The legislation would prohibit schools from renewing or making new contracts
with vendors for foods of "minimal nutritional value" which
include soft drinks, candy, chewing gum and licorice. Vending-machine
companies oppose the bill, saying schools should make that decision.
Critics in both the vending and soft-drink industry find fault with
the school nutrition study, saying it was too short to measure effects
on student health.
Stephanie Rimmer, a lobbyist for the food and beverage industry, calls
the study's findings "preliminary" and not a good basis for
Rimmer said some schools in the study may have seen a jump in revenue
simply because they increased their snack offerings for students.
Horne said the study was an "apples to apples" comparison.
Nine more schools will take part in another similar study, which will
begin in the fall.
A principal whose school took part in the study called it a positive
Monte Vista Elementary School in east Phoenix averaged about $500 to
$1,000 a month in snack-bar sales before the study. The 900-student
school substituted granola and peanuts for candy bars and offered water
instead of sugary sports drinks.
Principal Kathi Frankel said the school made $500 more in snack sales
over the course of the study. She, like other school officials whose
schools participated in the study, plan to continue offering healthy
Not all schools saw increases.
Stanfield Elementary School,which is west of Casa Grande, saw a dip
in sales as did Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson. State Department
of Education officials said that was because both schools had fewer
vending machines available to students during the study. Stanfield shut
vending machines off during mealtimes.
One school that took part in the study, Mountain Trail Middle School,
saw its vending-machine sales bring in about the same amount, $230 a
month, as last year.
Snack-bar sales from August through December were $12,576, which is
about $4,500 behind last year, said Principal Jim Lee. The state excluded
the school's snack-bar sales in its final report because state officials
said external factors impacted sales. The snack bar was closed for a
few days in October and November due to vandalism. This was the only
snack bar excluded from the report.
Lee said he supports the change to healthier offerings.
"If it accomplishes the goal of healthier kids, I'm all for it,"
Lee does believe some of the revenue dip is due to the different snack
choices, but he believes revenues will return in the long run.
Mountain Trail, near Cave Creek and Deer Valley roads in Phoenix, stopped
serving anything with sugar or lard as a first ingredient during the
school day to its 900 students. Instead of lollipops and candy bars,
the snack bar offers crackers, sunflower seeds and Corn Nuts.
While this sounds strict, the campus is not all granola and raisins.
The guidelines are loose enough to allow Famous Amos chocolate chip
cookies, Rice Krispies Treats and Mini Oreo cookies.
And candy and soft drinks haven't been banned. Students can still buy
them after school in the snack bar, which is run by the parent-teacher
Mom Carrie Salevitz, who volunteers at the snack bar, has seen a big
change in the kids' behavior this year.
Last year, "these kids were wild, and after they were out here
10 minutes, you would not believe the noise level," she said.
This year, students are more courteous and patient, she said. And her
eighth-grade son, who last year could make a meal from the snack-bar
offerings, now eats in the cafeteria, she said.
Snack bars like the one at Mountain Trail are common at Arizona middle
and high schools.
As long as the food is served outside the cafeteria, it doesn't have
to meet the federal requirements for fat and calories that school lunches
must follow. The snack sales have continued despite a 2001 U.S. Department
of Agriculture report that warned that snack foods compete with lunch
and may contribute to the trend of unhealthy eating among kids.
Students have mixed opinions about changing school snack bars.
Eighth-grader A.J. Burkett, 14, who attends Mountain Trail, sometimes
misses candy and thinks schools should be able to sell sugary sports
drinks during lunch.
Carolina Gonzalez,14, isn't concerned. Candy is still available in the
snack bar after school, she said.
She went from eating candy bars and Skittles during lunch to munching
on Corn Nuts and drinking bottled water.
"People started getting used to this," she said.
TOP OF PAGE
learning in Russian
By Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press Writer, February 3, 2005
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The littlest students at one Anchorage school are
learning their lessons in Russian, the complex tongue of Alaska's former
owner and a language increasingly important for improved international
Kindergartners and first-graders at Turnagain Elementary School attend
two three-hour sessions a day -- one in Russian, one in English -- in
a program described by foreign language experts as a first for a public
school in the United States.
It's serious stuff tackling the 33-letter Cyrillic alphabet and many
consonant sounds not found in English. Russian is spoken as a first
language by 170 million people; it's a second language for at least
100 million more.
"This language takes so long to learn, so this is a great way to
do it," said Janice Gullickson, coordinator of the Anchorage School
District's world languages office. "We envision a grand product."
The age of the students is what makes the Alaska program unique, experts
say. Many schools nationwide offer Russian as a second language to middle
and high school students.
"What Anchorage is doing is indeed new," said Dan Davidson,
director of the Washington-based American Council of Teachers of Russian.
"I think Alaska has really hit on what we'd like to view as a new
The program is being launched with a $490,000 three-year grant from
the U.S. Department of Education's foreign language assistance program.
Officials with the 49,000-student district plan to expand it each year
at the 365-student school, ultimately offering it in all grades.
Two Russian natives are among the four teachers assigned to the program.
On a recent January morning, Katerina Huelsman held up flash cards before
16 attentive first-graders.
"SLOO-shai-teh mee-NYA," she said. Translation: "Listen
Up went a card showing slumbering children and up went a dozen hands.
"Spaht!" called out a girl, correctly pronouncing the word
for "to sleep."
Only six of the students come from Russian-speaking homes. About 5,200
people -- less than 1 percent of Alaska's population -- claim Russian
as their primary heritage, according to 2000 census figures. Still,
the program was born in a state with long ties to its Slavic neighbor.
The link began thousands of years ago with Siberian nomads who are believed
to have migrated over the Bering Strait. Eighteenth-century Russians
explored the Alaska coast, imparting geographic names and remnants of
their culture that remain today. Traders established the earliest modern
settlements in the territory purchased by the United States for $7.2
million in 1867, almost a century before Alaska was admitted as the
The relationship took on boundless promise with the end of the Cold
War, said Elena Farkas, coordinator of the Russian Immersion program.
Farkas campaigned for such a program for more than a decade, almost
from the time she arrived from Magadan, Anchorage's Russian sister city
The way she sees it, the new program is building a corps of future ambassadors.
"The time is right," she said. "People look at Russia
differently, not as an enemy anymore. We need to establish a national
relationship with Russia -- and one way to establish a relationship
is to know the language and culture."
Russian -- along with Arabic, Chinese and Korean -- are identified as
the most crucial languages to learn in international relations, said
Davidson of the Russian teachers council, a division of the nonprofit
American Councils for International Education.
Mastering those languages is critical for improving international relations
and the same skills are greatly needed in trade, research, fisheries
and oil development, Davidson said.
Aside from the global implications, language immersion exposes students
to a rich cultural experience, said Tom and Meg Kibler, who enrolled
their 5-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, in one of the two kindergarten classes
offered through the program. Their fourth-grader daughter, Haley, also
gets brief lessons in Russian through Turnagain's program for non-immersion
"I want our girls to know the world is bigger than Anchorage or
Alaska or the U.S., for that matter," said Tom Kibler, a former
Russian linguist with the Army who now leads language classes for parents
of immersion students. "The more we learn about different cultures
and people, the more we recognize we have so many similarities."
Kaitlyn just likes Russian.
"It's fun, really fun, to learn a different language," she
TOP OF PAGE
Will teacher merit
pay make the grade?
$5,000 or not, groups hate Perry's proposed incentive plan
By TERRENCE STUTZ, The Dallas Morning News, 2/2/05
AUSTIN Would the promise of an extra $5,000 a year spur teachers
to get more out of their students on testing day?
Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders think they know the answer.
They're poised to create one of the few state merit pay programs for
teachers as part of a big education package to be considered in the
next few months. They would make millions of dollars in bonuses available
to the state's 300,000 classroom teachers, to be doled out based on
students' standardized test scores.
It's an idea without much of a track record education analysts
say no state has a comprehensive merit pay program, though several are
exploring the concept. In Texas, less than 4 percent of districts in
a recent survey said they have performance-based incentives.
What's more, the few districts and states that have tried it have often
scaled back or abandoned it because of cost constraints and mixed results.
The idea is anathema to Texas teacher organizations, which say that
all teachers not just a select few need a pay raise. They
also fear adding a temptation to cheat on standardized tests. But Mr.
Perry said the way to encourage strong teachers is to reward their work.
"Excellence should not be rewarded the same as mediocrity,"
he said in his State of the State address last week. "Otherwise,
mediocrity becomes its own incentive. When money follows results, we
will get more results for our money."
In Texas and most other states, salaries are based primarily on years
of experience. The longer a teacher works, the more he or she is paid.
Legislative leaders haven't fleshed out their plan. But part of the
governor's $500 million proposal last year would have allowed teachers
to compete for annual bonuses of $5,000, a tidy sum in a state where
the average salary is around $41,000. In his State of the State address,
he raised that to $7,500.
In fighting merit pay, teacher organizations point to the lack of research
showing that bonuses motivate teachers to get more out of their students.
"The assumption is that most teachers are lazy, that if you suddenly
offer them extra money, they will teach better," said John Cole,
president of the Texas Federation of Teachers. "It's a ridiculous
Mr. Cole said that while his group backs financial incentives to help
fill teacher shortages such as in math and science and
for teachers who agree to work in low-performing schools, the federation
draws the line at using test results to distribute bonuses.
"This is just another scheme to deflect attention from the Legislature's
failure to provide proper funding for Texas schools," he said.
Mr. Cole also raised concern that linking pay to standardized test results
might increase cheating on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Legislative backers of merit pay dismissed the concern. Cheating on
the TAKS carries too many risks for teachers, they say, such as loss
of their state certification and possible jail sentences.
The idea of incentives, while never widely tested, is not new. California's
once heralded merit pay program was discontinued in 2001 after more
than $800 million in bonuses were paid out over two years. The program
fell victim to the state's budget crisis before it showed any impact
on student achievement.
Texas had a "career ladder" for teachers for nearly a decade,
allowing them to earn extra pay based on performance appraisals and
professional development. Teachers complained, though, that the administrators
handing out the funds weren't impartial, and state and local funds fell
short. The program was abolished in 1993.
Legislative leaders such as Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence
Shapiro say such pitfalls can be avoided. And she insisted the climate
"It has worked in other states and even in several districts in
Texas," the Plano Republican said. "The only people who truly
disagree with this concept are the teacher unions themselves. Individual
teachers have told me it would be a great opportunity for them."
Senate leaders included incentive pay in the school finance plan they
unveiled this month. Initially, they would like to see about $150 million
a year earmarked for merit pay.
"We'd like to see a program that is campus-based," Ms. Shapiro
said. "If a campus is doing a really great job ... we want to reward
the whole teaching team."
A recent survey of school districts in the state found that about 11
percent have some type of incentive pay plan, said Mary Regan of the
Texas Association of School Boards. Most are based on teacher attendance.
Just under 4 percent of districts in the survey 26 districts
indicated they had a group bonus program based on student performance.
One of those is the DeSoto district, which pays bonuses to all employees,
not just teachers, when students meet certain performance goals.
"Not many districts have true performance pay, linking test scores
to bonuses," Ms. Regan said. By contrast, she noted, about half
of the 1,040 school districts in Texas offer cash stipends for teachers
certified in shortage areas.
DeSoto paid bonuses of nearly 1.5 percent in each of the program's first
four years. This year, though, TAKS passing rates fell as they
did in many districts because the test was made more rigorous.
Robyn Rumsey, a science teacher at the DeSoto High School freshman campus,
said the program has been very popular among teachers.
"It hasn't been a huge amount of money, but it was a nice check
that most of us appreciated," said Ms. Rumsey, who has taught in
DeSoto for 12 years.
But one of the keys to that popularity, she said, is that all employees
benefit from success, not just a few.
"Everybody on campus contributes to the success of students,"
she said. "If you give out rewards for individual effort, I think
you'd see teachers competing to get the students most likely to succeed.
I'm not sure there's a fair way to do that."
Jennifer Azordegan, a policy analyst with the Education Commission of
the States, agreed that one of the problems with merit pay is determining
how much influence a teacher's style and practices have on student growth.
Too many other factors, such as family background and previous educational
experiences, are at work, she explained.
"There's no doubt that a teacher has a huge impact on a student's
performance. But when you get to defining how much that really is and
whether it can be affected by the level of pay that's where people
get a little uncomfortable," said Ms. Azordegan, whose organization
is a national clearinghouse for education policy and school reform.
North Carolina has a limited merit pay plan that rewards all teachers
in each school rated "exemplary" under the state's accountability
system. The $1 million program pays bonuses of $1,500 to those teachers
and $750 to teachers in schools that meet projected academic growth,
based on test scores.
All eyes on Denver
An incentive pay plan in the Denver public school system is perhaps
the most closely watched program of its type in the nation. Voters are
being asked this fall to approve a $25 million property tax increase
to fund the program.
A pilot program involving 12 campuses resulted in student achievement
gains at most of the schools. But the program is voluntary for teachers
and was created only after the Denver Classroom Teachers Association
Texas lawmakers should not expect similar enthusiasm here, said Donna
New Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association. Too
many teachers would be left out of a merit pay plan that relies mostly
on TAKS scores, she said.
More than half of Texas educators teach subjects not measured on the
TAKS. That includes groups not tested, such as students in pre-kindergarten,
kindergarten and the first, second and 12th grades. Many subjects
foreign languages, physical education, vocational education, music,
art, speech and drivers education are not tested.
Merit pay supporters said they would include teachers of untested subjects
in their program, probably by rewarding all teachers at a campus that
shows achievement gains from one year to the next. Senate leaders have
also said they would support an across-the-board pay hike for all teachers
as part of their school improvement package.
TOP OF PAGE
Nearby school not
By Treena Shapiro, Honolulu Advertiser Education Writer, 2/3/05
With two daughters at Royal Elementary near downtown and one daughter
at the Education Laboratory in Manoa, the Tokushige family spends few
daylight hours during weekdays at their home in Kane'ohe.
But the benefits of having their girls in schools outside of their neighborhood
outweigh the advantage of having them attend school closer to home,
said their father, Michael Tokushige, a life insurance agent.
Not only is he pleased with Royal Elementary, but its proximity also
makes family life easier after school when the girls participate in
extracurricular activities at the Nu'uanu YMCA and at the Lab School.
"It would be too hard for us to go to school and pack everybody
up and go back to Kane'ohe in time," he said.
The trade-off is that the girls have not formed bonds with other children
in the neighborhood. But even without a close neighborhood friend, they
are not wanting for friends, Tokushige said. "They're well adjusted,
they have friends at school, at aikido, ballet; they just don't have
that one close pal that we used to have when they were younger."
As a March 1 deadline nears to apply for a "geographic exception"
to get into a public school outside the neighborhood, parents around
the state can consider what might be the best fit for their child.
Parents list a variety of reasons for selecting geographic exceptions,
such as an interest in programs not offered in every school, such as
ROTC, video production or certain foreign languages. They may prefer
a school closer to their workplace or to after school caregivers. Sometimes
they opt for a school they think will give their child a better chance
of academic success.
While students eligible for transfers under the federal No Child Left
Behind Act have the highest priority students are allowed to
switch from a poorly performing school to a better one students
who do not qualify can also get into different schools if space is available.
According to Karl Yoshida, the director of the Department of Education's
information resource branch, the DOE usually accepts 6,000 to 8,000
applications for geographic exceptions each year, a number that doesn't
include those students who were accepted in past years.
Once students are accepted to schools on geographic exceptions, they
do not have to reapply.
The number also does not indicate how many children actually use the
geographic exceptions, since many parents apply for transfer to several
schools, but select only one.
This year, 692 geographic exceptions were given to those transferring
from schools that are not meeting the NCLB standards. While still a
small fraction of the 55,000 students eligible for the transfers statewide,
the number has been steadily rising from the 21 in 2002 and the 147
Yoshida isn't sure why more people are opting for the NCLB transfers.
"Maybe the word is getting out. With all the publicity focused
on No Child Left Behind and schools meeting 'adequate yearly progress,'
more parents are interested," he said.
Patricia Dang, the principal at Kapalama Elementary School in Kalihi,
which accepts several geographic exceptions each year, said few of the
transfers are related to NCLB. "With the NCLB, we've seen very
little change with the flow because they would have come here one way
or another," she said.
Situated at the bottom of the Likelike Highway and near downtown, the
school is a convenient drop-off point for families coming from the Windward
side, and an easy detour for those coming from the Leeward side.
In many cases, the children's grandparents live in the neighborhood,
which makes it easy for them to watch the children after school.
But besides convenience, Dang said a lot of parents choose Kapalama
because of tradition.
"They came here and they had a good experience, and they want their
children to come here," she said. "They have since moved out,
but they always come back to roost."
TOP OF PAGE
Utah gets chance
to replace No Child
Jill Fellow, DAILY HERALD, 2/4/05
The federal government agreed to give the Utah State Office of Education
its chance to prove that the state assessment system meets the standards
to replace No Child Left Behind as the main student testing and evaluation
program in Utah.
State superintendent Patti Harrington received a letter last week from
Ray Simon, a deputy in the U.
S. Department of Education. The letter invited the state to amend its
accountability plan by April 1. If the plan is approved and the state
receives a No Child Left Behind waiver, the Utah Performance and Assessment
System for Students will trump the sometimes cumbersome and frustrating
federal system and put local authorities back in control of the state's
"It's a huge step," Harrington said. "I hope the secretary
(of the U.S. Department of Education) is ready to listen, step back
and let us decide the process."
Utah did not have a completed assessment program when the federal assessment
laws were passed in 2001, but now that U-PASS in complete and implemented,
Laurie Lacy, the state's No Child Left Behind coordinator, said it is
time to have only one assessment system.
"Now that we are further down the road, it is time to bring the
two systems together and have one," Lacy said. "U-PASS can
take that role."
The leaders of local districts and schools are eager to see testing
and evaluation of the states kindergarten through 12th-graders back
in the hands of local governments.
Darrin Johnson, the principal of Hillcrest Elementary School in Orem,
said he supports local control of education because local leaders know
what works best for their community.
"Local government allows funding and effort to go toward programs
that help the specific local need," he said.
He said he supports U-PASS because it is an example of a locally generated
program -- made for Utahns by Utahns.
Harrington said the main difference between NCLB and U-PASS is how test
scores are evaluated.
For example, NCLB compares this year's fourth-graders to last year's
fourth-graders and expects to see an improvement in scores.
"The federal law compares apples and oranges," Harrington
But U-PASS "compares your scores this year against your scores
last year," she said.
Ray Morgan, the assistant superintendent of the Provo School District,
said when local governments see such a problem in their school systems,
they want to have the authority to fix it.
"The assessments that we see valuable are the ones that guide instruction,
the ones that are not just pass or fail but actually show us what is
missing in the classroom," he said. "We know that is what
we want, and the local organizations want to be able to say, "This
is the type
of assessment we want to use to measure our students' growth.' "
He also said local governments are able to offer specialized funding
for specific needs and programs.
The Utah Legislature is setting a positive precedent for creating an
academic program first and then the assessment, he said.
For example, Utah districts were given resources last year to start
an intensive reading program from kindergarten through third grade.
Then this year, bills are being presented in the legislative session
to create a benchmark exam to test these results in third-graders.
"That makes sense for Utah," he said. "The local government
supplied the funding, and now it is testing the results."
Christine Kearl, the state associate superintendent of student achievement
and school success, said not only is U-PASS the better of the two systems,
but the state has a legal right to use it.
"It is our constitutional right at the state level," she said.
"It is the state's right and responsibility to educate its population."
TOP OF PAGE
Pay cuts are asked
of Detroit teachers
Request comes day before plan is due
BY CHASTITY PRATT, FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER, 2/4/05
Detroit school officials have asked most of the district's 21,000 workers
to agree to a 5- to 10-percent pay cut -- some just a day before the
district was supposed to file a plan to eliminate its $200-million budget
Heads of most of the unions were told last month that workers needed
to approve the cuts to end this year in the black.
In addition, an emergency meeting was called Thursday to tell principals
that they would be forced to take a 10-percent wage cut. Principals
are not represented by a union and are some of the highest-paid workers
in the district. A few months ago, they had to start paying 20 percent
of their benefit premiums.
Paraprofessionals, who are among the lowest-paid workers at about $7
to $12 per hour, also met about the requested pay cuts on Thursday.
The district's deficit elimination plan is due to the state today and
will include pay cuts. The state Department of Education's approval
is required in order for the district to refinance its debt.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers' response Thursday to the wage cuts?
"Hell, no," said Janna Garrison, president of the union. "Our
salaries are not the reason for this budget deficit."
Whether unions agree to the wage cuts, layoffs are still planned. Regardless,
some of the union workers were willing to take the pay cut rather than
face threats of larger cuts. All of the district's unions are facing
contract negotiations because all pacts have expired, except the DFT's,
which expires in June.
The 372 layoff letters that teachers received on Christmas Eve also
left employees shaken, union leaders said.
Engineers voted on Sunday to accept a 5-percent wage cut and reductions
in benefits, said Gary Lucy, vice president of International Union of
Operating Engineers Local 547.
"Once again, the union members have sacrificed to try to maintain
the Detroit Public Schools to help deal with the schooling of our children,"
District officials did not comment on the requested pay cuts, citing
concerns about ongoing or imminent contract negotiations.
Diann Woodard, president of the Organization of School Adminstrators
& Supervisors, which represents about 500 administrators, said she
was not contacted about a wage cut.
However, Woodard, whose union used to represent principals until they
lost union representation in the early part of the state takeover, said
that such cuts could push principals and talented workers to leave the
"This has so demoralized people," she said.
TOP OF PAGE
fails in school case
No legal right to attend alternative program, three-judge panel decides.
By David Shepardson, The Detroit News, 2/4/05
NEW BALTIMORE -- Michigan's high school dropouts have no legal right
to attend an alternative high school, a federal appeals court ruled.
The ruling came in the case of a teen charged in the October 2000 murder
of a 16-year-old killed during the robbery of a New Baltimore pizzeria.
The accused teenager, Matthew Daniels, sued Anchor Bay School District
for preventing him from attending classes at an alternative high school.
Daniels was one of three men arrested in the murder of Justin Mello.
By the time charges against all three were dismissed, Daniels had spent
a month in jail.
Daniels dropped out of high school and enrolled in Skill Quest eight
months after he turned 16. After his release from jail, Skill Quest
refused to allow Daniels to return to reenroll.
"There is no question that Daniels had the right to attend his
local public high school," the three-judge appeals court ruled
in a Jan. 24 decision. "We conclude, however, that he chose to
forgo that right when he dropped out of Anchor Bay high School."
Daniels' previous claims were dismissed by a Detroit federal judge.
TOP OF PAGE
Baby preschool may open in '06
By Manny Gonzales, Denver Post Staff Writer, 2/3/05
Littleton - Joseph Struessel's little brain is a vacuum of sounds, sights
and touch. At 7 months old, he's ready to start his education, says
his mother, Stacey Struessel.
Joseph won't have to wait much longer to get his chance in a classroom,
as Littleton school officials pursue a new public school for children
ages 6 weeks to 3 years.
State officials say it would be the first of its kind in Colorado. School
officials hope construction will begin next month.
"Even though they can't verbalize ... I've seen in my own child
and in other children that there's a lot going on in their brains -
a lot more than we often give them credit for," said Struessel,
31, of Englewood.
The Village 2 & Under would provide schooling and care for 40 infants
and toddlers. The concept is based on research that shows a critical
period of development in a child's brain occurs in the first three years.
Struessel is one of the parents already on a waiting list for the school,
which will be housed in a proposed $900,000 wing of The Village for
Early Childhood Education in Littleton - a preschool already serving
more than 300 3- to 5-year-olds.
While a variety of programs for infants exists in public schools and
day-care centers, The Village 2 & Under would be the first dedicated
public school for this age group, according to the Colorado Department
of Human Services.
Just over half of The Village 2's infants and toddlers will be from
low-income families. If they qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches,
they can attend the school at no charge, said Deborah McVeigh, The Village's
School officials are still trying to determine what to charge parents
who don't qualify for assistance.
"We've looked around to see how much some day cares have charged
for infants, and it's around $250 a week," McVeigh said. "That's
really expensive. ... I'm not sure if we'll go that high."
The Village 2 would expose infants and toddlers to a variety of approaches,
including language development and social interaction, McVeigh said.
"A lot of it will involve highly trained staff talking to the infants
and toddlers, stimulating the thought process, using open-ended questions
and helping children understand," McVeigh said.
Social interaction plays a role in how infants learn language, according
to a recent study completed by the University of Washington's Center
for Mind, Brain & Learning. There, neuroscientists had 9-month-old
American infants listen for less than five hours to Mandarin spoken
by native Chinese. The infants were then able to distinguish phonetic
elements of the language.
But a second group of American infants who heard the same language while
watching a DVD or listening to an audiotape did not recognize phonetic
The Village 2 & Under has not yet raised enough money to begin construction,
McVeigh said. School officials have raised hundreds of thousands of
dollars in donations.
The city of Centennial, which is home to a third of The Village's current
students, pitched in $100,000. And the cash-strapped city of Littleton
has provided more than $275,000 for the school.
The funding from both cities comes from Community Development Block
Grants provided by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Greater Littleton Youth Initiative ponied up $50,000, and Littleton
Public Schools gave $150,000 from a soft-drink company contract.
Arapahoe County commissioners will consider adding $200,000 in block-grant
funding on Tuesday. The county's community services division has already
recommended the funding.
"The Village has done far more than just run a head- start program,"
Community Services Division Director Jim Taylor said. "They have
worked with parents of low-income families, taken food to them on Thanksgiving
and reached out to them, helping them with life skills."
McVeigh is seeking donations to pay for the school's operating budget,
which she has been doing since The Village opened 10 years ago. While
the school operates under Littleton Public Schools, it receives no operating
funds from the district.
If Arapahoe County approves the $200,000 grant, construction costs would
be covered, and The Village 2 could be operational in 2006, McVeigh
TOP OF PAGE
'stay the course' of school reform
By Ben Feller, Associated Press, 2/1/05
WASHINGTON - Margaret Spellings said Monday her role as a parent of
school-age children will help guide her views in her new job as secretary
"In carrying out my duties to the American people, I will be carrying
out my duties as a mom," Spellings said in her first public comments
as secretary. "And there is none more important than to provide
a quality education to our children."
As Bush's domestic policy chief in his first term, Spellings helped
write the demanding education law known as the No Child Left Behind
Act. The law requires yearly gains among all students.
Many education leaders say they struggle with the law, from getting
top qualified teachers in every class to finding room for students who
are promised transfers.
Spellings said the law has been a success.
"When you signed No Child Left Behind into law three years ago,
it was more than an act - it was an attitude," Spellings told the
president after she took the oath of office. "An attitude that
says it's right to measure our children's progress from year to year
so we can help them before it's too late. An attitude that says asking
children to read and do math at grade level or better is not too much
"We've learned a new equation - accountability plus high expectations
plus resources equals results," she said. "We must stay the
Bush said Spellings was "instrumental" in helping to get his
signature education reform passed and will help extend accountability
standards to high schools.
TOP OF PAGE
Super Bowl parade
an issue for schools
One Phila. official says canceling classes is not an option. Flexibility
was hinted at, though.
By Susan Snyder and Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writers, 1/31/05
In 1983, the last time Philadelphia had a championship team in one of
the major professional sports, the city held a celebratory parade during
school hours - and a lot of students attended.
One news account noted that only 300 of South Philadelphia High's 3,000
students went to class that June 2. Some schools, such as St. Maria
Goretti High, closed a few hours early so that students could watch
the parade for the NBA's 76ers.
Today the city is expected to announce how it will celebrate if the
Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
But just how schools would handle such a victory is uncertain. Most
districts, including Philadelphia, seemed to be taking a hard line on
"There's been no discussion of school closings," said Debra
Kahn, the city's education secretary. "It's really not under consideration."
But Paul Vallas, the Philadelphia district's chief executive officer,
threw out this bone: The dress code will be relaxed Wednesday and next
Monday (Thursday and Friday are staff development days, with no classes)
so that students can wear shirts, hats and other items bearing the Eagles
logo or colors.
Last week, Vallas said no decision had been made on whether the district
would allow parents to take their children out of school for a parade
without risk of academic penalty: "I'm not prepared to say. We'll
make a final decision on that next week."
Roman Catholic schools in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia
also would remain open, spokeswoman Donna M. Farrell said. But those
schools, too, might allow students to wear Eagles garb, she said.
"Our schools will be open - for safety reasons and because we respect
the fact that our school families make sacrifices to pay tuition to
send their children to school, not to attend parades," Farrell
In Cherry Hill, spokeswoman Susan Bastnagel said canceling classes for
an Eagles rally wasn't on the radar screen.
Not all school systems have ruled out closing. Bensalem Superintendent
Victoria Gehrt planned to ask school board members and administrators
whether a day off would be in order.
Parents also are discussing the issue.
Just the other day, Villanova resident Esther McGill asked her daughter's
vice principal whether Waldron Mercy Academy would close for an Eagles
"He just laughed and said he hadn't thought about it yet,"
McGill, whose husband is going to the Super Bowl and whose family are
major Eagles fans, has been thinking about it, although she has not
reached a decision.
McGill said she would wait to find out the school's policy and whether
her children would be penalized if she kept them out.
Karen D'Amore, parent of two children in the city school system, including
one at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), said
she wished the district would close.
"I think if there were a parade, it would be unfair if the kids
were in school," she said. "It would go right by CAPA"
on Broad Street. "It would be kind of a tease."
Dottie Polsz, whose children attend Patterson School in Philadelphia,
remembered when her father took her out of school to attend a parade
for the Flyers; they won the NHL's Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. She
loved it, but she would not advocate closing the district.
"Leave them in school. Education is important," Polsz said.
At Benjamin Franklin High in Philadelphia, senior Hassan Johnson said
an Eagles celebration been a hot topic in his school.
"It's the first time in 24 years. We should not have school. We
should march," said Johnson, 18. "That's what people are saying."
Albert Kruco, 15, a ninth grader, was a bit more circumspect: "Who
would say no? I want them to [close], but I don't think they will, and
I don't think they should. It's not that monumental."
School systems in several cities that have had Super Bowl winners, including
Boston (2002 and 2004), Tampa Bay (2003), Baltimore (1971 and 2001),
Denver (1998 and 1999), Pittsburgh (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980) and St.
Louis (2000), said they had not closed schools, though some faced community
"A lot of people asked us to, especially with the first Super Bowl
victory," said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for the Boston Public
Schools. "We're in a climate where you get snow days, too. We just
couldn't take the chance of giving kids an extra day off."
The public schools in Denver allowed parents to take their children
out of school for parades without penalty.
In Hillsborough County, one of the home districts to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
the parade was held in the late afternoon and school officials felt
that students would be able to catch most of it after classes, spokeswoman
Linda Cobbe said.
The Monday after the Buccaneers' 2003 victory, area school districts
reported high absenteeism among teachers and students, according to
TOP OF PAGE
Preschool as cash
Boston Globe, 1/31/05
Massachusette taxpayers could get a lot out of preschool. A new study
finds that for every $1 spent on two years of preschool for 3-year-olds,
the state would recoup $1.18 in savings and additional revenue.
Study coauthor Clive Belfield, an economics professor at Queens College
in New York, says send children to preschool now and they'll cost less
Belfield created an economic model for Strategies for Children, a local
advocacy group. In this plan, the state would create 43,000 new preschool
spots and upgrade the quality of 13,000 existing spots. Access would
be universal, not just for low-income children. The total cost: $578
million. The total benefit: $680 million, yielding what the study calls
"positive economic returns."
One can almost hear Mark Twain sputtering his famous quotation about
lies, damned lies, and statistics. But Belfield's thoughtful analysis
relies on conservative estimates.
Take special education. Belfield estimates that providing these K-12
services has a present value of $5 billion for one entering class of
children going from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Various studies
show that a high-quality preschool program could steer some children
away from special education, resulting in a savings of $35 million to
$49 million over time.
Other money would be saved because fewer students would repeat grades
and because they would be less likely to incur health, welfare, and
criminal justice costs over time. Tax revenues would increase because
some parents would work while their children were at preschool, and
eventually many preschoolers will go on to earn more than they would
have without preschool attendance.
Preschool is not a magic pill. But it can shield children from early
academic failures that snowball into later underachievement.
The focus on preschool's benefits has mostly been on disadvantaged children.
But other children also gain. And a critical mass of preschoolers amplifies
the positive effects. Belfield notes that administrators from schools
with more former preschoolers report fewer discipline problems. Belfield's
model is smaller and less expensive than the plan proposed by Strategies
for Children, which includes spending on an early education department
plus professional development and higher salaries for preschool teachers.
But as even the most skeptical legislators plan for the state's new
department of early education and care, which was approved last year,
they should ask Belfield's question: Could universal early education
save the state money?
Ultimately, an investment in high quality early education could pay
off for children and for the state's economy.
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Public School Stakes
Its Future on the Montessori Way
By Richard Courage, New York Times, 2/2/05
PRINGFIELD, Mass. - The old brick public school is sandwiched between
Interstate 91 and the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center.
The surrounding neighborhood is run-down and starkly commercial. The
available playground space is filled with parked cars.
Yet the Alfred G. Zanetti School consistently has one of the longest
waiting lists under Springfield's districtwide program of school choice.
Zanetti owes its popularity not to some new approach to education, but
to the methods developed by the Italian physician and educator Maria
Montessori almost 100 years ago. It is one of only 245 public Montessori
schools in the nation, most of them charter or magnet schools.
Dr. Montessori believed that learning is a natural process. Montessori
teachers see their primary role as creating rich environments where
children teach themselves by manipulating specially designed materials
and interacting in mixed age groups.
John Vazquez is thrilled at how articulate and independent his children
- Johnny, 3, and Katia, 4 - are becoming.
"Everything you see on those 'practical life' shelves you could
find in your home," he says, pointing to neatly arranged trays
displaying tweezers, dried beans, cutting boards, apples, plates and
pitchers. "When Johnny gets home now, he wants to pour his own
juice. I learned the hard way not to help, to let him do it himself."
It wasn't always this way at Zanetti. Until 1999, it exhibited "the
classic symptoms of a failing urban school," said Josh Bogin, director
of the city's magnet school program. It had low test scores, high absenteeism
and a student turnover rate of almost 50 percent a year.
To reverse things, Peter Negroni, the superintendent at the time, decided
to turn it into a Montessori school.
The school's transformation entailed retraining teachers and equipping
classrooms with special materials, thanks in part to a grant for magnet
Most teachers transferred or retired rather than take additional preparation,
and the incoming principal, Analida Munera, had to hire 41 new teachers.
After only eight weeks of a multiyear training program, they faced rooms
full of pupils.
In the first year, 1999, only prekindergarten through second grade students
were in Montessori classrooms, so the school operated with two very
different educational philosophies. The strain of transition caused
some teachers to leave. Others quit as a result of temporary layoffs
faced each year by the district's teachers lowest in seniority.
Today, Zanetti's Montessori program extends from prekindergarten through
eighth grade, and the school's turnaround is evident. Its demographics
have begun to approach those of the city as a whole. Of 478 pupils,
41 percent are Latino, 37 percent African-American, 19 percent white,
and 3 percent Asian or American Indian. Seventy-three percent come from
low-income families, a drop from 98 percent in earlier days.
Ms. Munera reports steady academic progress.
"Assessment, all the way down to the youngest classrooms, exhibits
a record of success," she says, citing improvements in scores on
city and state tests, especially in English language arts. The turnover
rate has dropped to 5 percent.
A visitor to Siobhan Conz's Elementary 1 classroom, for 6- to 9-year-olds,
observes A'kala pensively locating New York on a United States puzzle
map. Joseph and Rosa kneel at low tables nearby, matching sound-alike
words. Alexander reads "Lyle the Crocodile." Sheyla works
with a square grid of tiles numbered 1 to 100. Periodically, without
prompting, a child puts one activity away and selects another. The visitor
Ms. Conz moves purposefully from area to area. At one table, she shows
Chris, an 8-year-old, how to demonstrate "word dominoes,"
a language game, to Monique and Elizabeth, both 7. "You present
like I usually do, so pull your chair to this side of the table,"
she tells Chris.
Anitra Ruth, one of the teachers in the "Children's House"
for 3- to 6-year-olds, said: "Multi-age classrooms are a huge benefit
as older and younger children help and learn from each other. The experienced
ones are my role models."
Some older students remember the transition.
"We used to all have our own desks," said Virginia Leonor,
13, an eighth grader. "Teachers wrote stuff on the boards, and
we copied it in our notebooks." She prefers the new system but,
with a shy grin, acknowledged that 10 years is a very long time to stay
in any school.
Tamonique Johnson, also 13, recalled seeing the new materials for the
first time. She especially liked doing long division with test tubes
and colored beads. "It was easier to find the answer, but it was
a longer process," she said. "You really got it after that."
The school's academic successes have not insulated it from broader problems
in the district. Drastic budget cuts have led to increased class sizes,
reduced benefits and two years of frozen salaries, which in turn have
driven more trained teachers away.
These problems are not likely to go away soon. Springfield entered financial
receivership last summer, a result of its worst fiscal crisis since
Ms. Munera worries about replacing the trained teachers. Her vision
of the school's future rests largely on establishing a Montessori training
center at a local college.
Teachers also resent curriculum and testing mandates that undercut their
professional judgments about children's individual needs. Rebecca Lauterbach
calls standardized testing "a dark cloud" creating pressure
to "force-feed facts instead of inspiring love of learning."
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