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News Clips

News Clips – February 4 - 10, 2005


Madigan looking into SICA issue / Chicago Sun-Times
Schools oppose call for seat belts in buses / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Bill would require seat belts on buses / Pantagraph
Heat is turned up on school funding / Chicago Tribune
Center might have helped accused school shooter / Peoria Journal Star
Board lets governor make first call on school funding / Daily Herald
Parents: Let the state take over / Daily Southtown
A learning experience / Journal Gazette & Times-Courier
Schools threaten to start slashing / Chicago Tribune
Online classes help students who can't succeed in classroom / Belleville News-Democrat
Students, legislators open up study of genocide / Chicago Sun-Times
Board approves paying students at SHS to inform / DeKalb Daily Chronicle

No Child Left Behind: Conrad says it's time to fix NCLB or 'start over' / Grand Forks Herald (ND)
State analysis finds deficits at charter schools / Sun-Sentinel (FL)
Teachers warm to idea of performance pay / Boston Globe
N.C. hires company to check for cheating / Boston Globe
Study links juice, chubby children /
A Cut for Schools, a First for Bush / New York Times
For Elite U.S. Teachers, Cachet and More Cash /
Washington Post
Group Opposed to Vouchers Cites Shortcomings /
Washington Post
Schools, Missouri argue who pays for special ed / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Parents protest devices that monitor location of students / State Journal-Register
First school bus ads in Scottsdale to run /
Arizona Republic
Ohio gov. may broaden school voucher plan / Boston Globe

Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB
Bush’s High School Agenda Faces Obstacles
Utah Is Unlikely Fly in Bush’s School Ointment
Charter Studies Offer Caution on Achievement
Florida Study Shows Achievement Lags for Racially Isolated Schools in the State
When It Comes to Bullying, There Are No Boundaries
More Governors Want to Rate Early-Childhood Programs
Hearing Offers Range of Views on IDEA Regulations



Madigan looking into SICA issue
Joe Trost,
Chicago Sun-Times, 2/5/05

The state government took its first action regarding the controversial realignment of the South Inter-Conference Association (SICA) on Friday when the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan contacted SICA.

''We have requested information from SICA President Roberta Berry,'' said Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for Madigan's office.

This issue, which has been simmering for the past month, revolves around a proposed SICA realignment that some believe segregates according to racial and economic factors.

''The fact that Madigan's office has requested information gives us a glimmer of hope,'' said District 205 Supt. Kamala Buckner, who represents Thornridge, Thornton and Thornwood. ''This probably surprised a lot of people in SICA because they thought this was a small school issue.''

As first reported in the Sun-Times on Wednesday, a petition set to be filed Monday with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will charge that SICA violated the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.

''Some people thought it wasn't Lisa Madigan's right to get involved, but it is because we use public funds,'' said District 215 Supt.
Bob Wilhite, who represents T.F. North and T.F. South. ''All we have wanted is a fair review, and I hope Lisa Madigan's office looks at this very carefully.''


Schools oppose call for seat belts in buses
Kate Thayer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.– An Illinois legislator pushing for a law requiring seat belts in new school buses is getting resistance from a surprising source: school officials, who say belts in buses may do more harm than good.
Unlike cars, school buses in
Illinois aren't required to have seat belts. State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, wants to change that. He says school buses need seat belts to protect children from side collisions, and that the high, padded seats on buses only protect against front and rear collisions. He's also concerned about preventing children from being thrown from buses in accidents.
``It's common sense if you have a child and they have to belt up to go from here to the grocery store that they should always belt up,'' he said. ``Recent history (of accidents) in
Illinois leads some to say this is something to consider.''
Illinois districts, including Chicago, Glencoe, Skokie, Wilmette and Winnetka, do require seat belts on their school buses.
But much of the state's educational community say that what may be common sense in a car doesn't apply in school buses, where one driver often must oversee dozens of children [em dash] a potential calamity if they all have to get out of the bus quickly.
``The cons outweigh the pros,'' said Becky Watts, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
Lang, who has been pushing for seat belts on buses for years, said he thinks this year the measure (House Bill 187) stands a good chance of becoming law. He said bus accidents in recent years might give his bill more weight. One such accident occurred in August 2003 in Vandalia. One student was killed and another severely injured after both were thrown from the bus.
Watts said a national study actually recommends buses don't have seat belts. The study, conducted in 2001 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said lap or shoulder belts are not safer than current bus designs. It says belts could cause internal injuries, or back and neck injuries.
The report went on to say, ``recommendations for future design standards of school buses will be based on scientific data and not the emotionalism of parents and others who advocate the installation and use of seat belts on school buses.''
Tom Maisch, vice president of government affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, agrees with the study. His organization lobbies for the Illinois School Transportation Association.
School buses already ``are extremely safe,'' Maisch said. ``Riding a school bus is the safest way to get to school.''
Charlie McBarron, communications director for the Illinois Education Association, also doesn't think belts have an advantage over the current situation. However, he said smaller buses, often used for special education students, should require belts.
Illinois law already requires belts on such buses.
``Seat belts don't necessarily increase safety. In fact, they pose safety risks,'' McBarron said. He said it's hard for a bus driver to make children wear the belts, and they limit the number of passengers that can fit on a bus.
Missouri law also requires belts only on the smaller buses. Jim Morris, Missouri State Board of Education spokesman, said the issue of bus belts has come up, but there hasn't been a push to change the law in recent history. He said the state board does not have an official position on the issue, but has not pushed for seat belts because studies cannot prove they are safer.
Five states [em dash]
California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York [em dash] do require that large buses have seat belts, though the rules vary. Florida, for example, requires belts on buses purchased in or after 2000.
Many districts no longer operate their own buses, but instead contract with private companies for bus service. In those cases, the company would have to install belts.
Garry Krutsinger is the superintendent for Vandalia Community School District Unit 203 [em dash] the district involved in the August 2003 accident. He said he ``is put in an awkward position'' when discussing school bus seat belts.
Krutsinger said seat belts probably could have helped in the rollover accident involving his students. The bus skidded off the road near Van Burensburg and fell down a 40-foot embankment.
However, he also said there are a lot of disadvantages to belts, and the current design is safe for most situations. Krutsinger noted the limited capacity of buses with belts and the problem of enforcement.
``There are a lot of factors,'' he said. ``In general, buses are pretty safe unless it is a rollover accident, or a student is thrown from the bus.''
That was the case in the 2003 accident, but Krutsinger said that type of accident is uncommon.
``We never had an accident like that happen before,'' he said.
Lang said his initiative would not be a financial burden because it would affect only new buses and not require belts to be installed in all the buses in the state. The issue will be discussed in a House committee meeting Tuesday.


Bill would require seat belts on buses / Pantagraph
By Phil Davidson, Pantagraph, 2/9/05

SPRINGFIELD -- Though school buses already are considered one of the nation's safest forms of transportation, one Illinois lawmaker is proposing legislation he thinks will make buses even safer: fitting them with seat belts.
On Tuesday, a House panel agreed with state Rep. Lou Lang's proposal, sending the measure to the full House for further action.

The Skokie Democrat's legislation would require all new
Illinois school buses to be equipped with passenger safety belts.

However, one
Central Illinois school superintendent said the mandate would raise costs for a service already proven to be one of the nation's safest.

"While I understand the need for seat belts, it also will increase costs because you won't be able to have as many kids in the seat belts," said Donald Hahn, superintendent of the Stanford-based
Olympia school district. Reduced passenger loads per bus because of seat belts would translate into more buses and more drivers, he said.

Lang, who has unsuccessfully pushed similar initiatives in the past, said his proposal would not include funding to cover the added costs.

"I think if they're going to mandate it they should fund it," Hahn said.

The minimum cost to add seat belts to a bus is about $8,000 and the minimum cost for shoulder belts is $4,000, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Lang said his proposal does not include shoulder harnesses.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says school buses are the safest form of transportation. The fatality rate for school buses is 0.2 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared a rate of 1.5 for cars.

In August 2003, a Vandalia school bus rolled into a ravine and killed one student. Lang said seat belts could have saved the student's life.

Lang, whose suburban-Chicago district is one of the few in
Illinois with seat belt requirements, said that children are required to wear seat belts in other vehicles, including cars, airplanes and amusement park rides.

"Common sense says to me that children are safer in a belt," he said. "I would like to err -- if there's an error at all -- on the side of common sense."

The measure, which was approved on a 17-9 vote, was called too expensive by some lawmakers.

State Rep. Ronald Wait, R-Belvidere, said he could not support a proposal that would add costs to school districts when a majority of them are already spending more than they are taking in.

"I just think we've got 80 percent of the school districts already on the (state's financial) watch list and to require another unfunded mandate when we're not sure whether this is going to make (buses) safer or not, I would be opposed to this," he said.

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said the decision to require seat belts should be left to local school districts.

"That's why we elect school board members, that's why they hire administrators, that's why parents join the PTA," he said. "They're very capable of doing this if they think this is a priority for their district."

The legislation is House Bill 187.


Heat is turned up on school funding
Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune, 2/8/05
Lawmakers and school advocates are growing increasingly frustrated with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he is stonewalling on some of the most pressing education issues facing
Blagojevich has yet to harness the power of his office to recommend systemic solutions to problems ranging from hundreds of districts operating in the red to inequities facing disadvantaged students, critics say. Nor is he providing the information needed to solve the problems, they add.
"He has not even acknowledged that we have a (school) funding problem," said Sen. Miguel Del Valle (D-Chicago), the chief supporter of Blagojevich's controversial plan last year to take more control over the Illinois State Board of Education.
Blagojevich's aides say he has poured hundreds of millions into schools, even at a time of severe state budget deficits, and is passionate about issues such as preschool for disadvantaged children. At the same time, he has been firm about not raising the state income or sales taxes, a move tax reform advocates say is needed to fix school finance problems.
"The governor has been clear that he wants to increase education funding without raising taxes, and I think in our view, we've made significant progress doing that," said Elliot Regenstein, Blagojevich's director of education reform.
In fact, statewide 2003-04 school budget figures, expected to be released soon, will show that fewer school districts are operating in the red since the governor infused money into the system, Regenstein said.
But that doesn't satisfy lawmakers and tax reform advocates looking for more significant change--such as reducing reliance on property taxes, which create inequities between wealthy and poor districts.
"He promised upon election he wouldn't raise taxes; however, he's got to do something" about school financial troubles," said Rep. Monique Davis, vice chairwoman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. "You can't just sit there like a bump on the log and it's raining. You have to at least come out of the rain."
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund threatened court action in a Jan. 24 letter to the governor, demanding that Blagojevich fill all vacancies on the state's Education Funding Advisory Board, so that it can recommend per-pupil spending amounts. That recommendation was due Jan. 1. The governor didn't fill the vacancies, in part, because the state had already gotten behind a previous per-student funding recommendation by the board and did not see the need to spend time creating a new recommendation, Regenstein said.

Two board spots are currently open, while three members remain on the board even though their terms have expired.
"In hindsight, we understand ... the importance of this recommendation," he said. The governor's office said the appointments would be made by the end of the month.
A major report outlining school construction needs also hasn't been finished by the governor's Capital Development Board, though it was due to be received by the state legislature by Jan. 1. A board spokeswoman said numbers are still being finalized.
The per-pupil spending and school construction reports are expected to show billions of dollars in needs that are not likely to be met, given the state's continuing battles with deficits.
"If you don't highlight these boards and reports, then people aren't focused on the issues. So it is a way of avoiding the white elephant in the room," said Maria Valdez, regional counsel of MALDEF.
In addition, the new Illinois State Board of Education has yet to recommend a budget for public schools that lawmakers can look to for guidance as they build an overall state budget for 2005-2006.
"We have not been able to get any numbers from the State Board of Education. They are so far behind the eight ball, it's ridiculous," said Rep. Suzanne Bassi of
Palatine, Republican spokeswoman on the House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee.
The state board is meeting Tuesday morning to discuss budget priorities but is not scheduled to approve a budget until after Blagojevich presents his state budget proposal next week.
Meanwhile, the state Senate is taking the unusual step of proceeding with school tax reform discussions without Blagojevich's leadership, with Senate President Emil Jones appointing a special committee to look into tax reform.


Center might have helped accused school shooter
But program fell to state budget ax last year
Matt Buedel,
Peoria Journal Star, 2/8/05
PEORIA - The boy accused of shooting at a student inside Woodruff High School would have been a candidate for a state-funded Children's Home program that fell to budget cuts last fall.

Dione Alexander, 15, reportedly was released from a juvenile corrections facility one day before the Jan. 26 shooting and would have been eligible for the
Juvenile Day Reporting Center, which was shuttered Sept. 30 because of budget shortfalls in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

"When we had our
Day Reporting Center, all kids that were discharged from the Department of Corrections would have been in our program for six to eight months," said Arlene Happach, CEO of Children's Home, which operated the center at 404 NE Madison Ave. with state grants.
"It's quite a change from the Department of Corrections to public school," she added. "We always felt that down time was pretty important."
Alexander faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly shooting at a fellow freshman in a crowded school hallway. No one was injured, but Alexander was charged as an adult with aggravated discharge of a firearm in a school, unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Day Reporting Center, designed to integrate former inmates back into the community, focused on providing general equivalency diplomas, job training and counseling for substance abuse or mental health issues, among other services.
Peoria center was one of three such facilities in the state that closed last fall after their original five-year contracts expired. Peoria, Rockford and Chicago were chosen as locations for the centers because of their accessibility and relatively high juvenile crime rates.
Dede Short, spokeswoman for IDOC, said her department, a prisoner review board and parole officers decided whether juvenile offenders were sent to the centers or re-enrolled in public schools.
Short could not comment specifically on Alexander's case, which according to court records includes convictions for possessing a stolen car and attempted possession of a controlled substance, but she said not every juvenile released while the day centers operated were assigned to those facilities.
The review board, IDOC and parole officers still play a role in the fate of parolees by determining whether the former inmates are better suited for GED programs or the mainstream education system.
"With our parole program, they do meet face to face with their parole agent," who in turn refers inmates to appropriate community-based programs for help reorienting to society, Short said.
Meetings with parole officers are required at least once a month, but on average occur two to three times per month and sometimes more often, depending on individual cases.
"There's all kinds of help out there for substance abuse, mental health and other problems," Short said.


Board lets governor make first call on school funding
By Sara Burnett, Daily Herald Staff Writer,

The independent state agency that oversees funding for
Illinois schools won't say how much money is needed for education for next year until Gov. Rod Blagojevich announces how much cash is available - a reversal that is fueling critics who say the board is nothing more than an arm of the governor's office.

In the past, the state board of education has outlined before the governor's annual budget address how much money the state should give schools. Often, its recommendation called for far more than state officials ended up providing.

But this year, the board will instead present "priorities" to the governor's office. It will not send over specific dollar amounts until Feb. 17 - one day after Blagojevich makes his proposed 2006 budget public.

State Sen. Dan Cronin, a Republican from Lombard who sits on the senate education committee, said this "lack of independence" is exactly what lawmakers feared when they gave Blagojevich, a Democrat, the authority last year to replace seven of the nine board members and the state superintendent.

"You could get a bunch of eighth-graders to do this," Cronin said. "It just seems they're abdicating their responsibilities."

Rep. Suzanne Bassi of
Palatine, the top Republican on the committee that oversees education money, said she is "extremely disappointed."

New board members said they haven't had enough time since being appointed to produce a detailed budget proposal but will do it earlier in future years.

Yet, some members also said this process makes more sense.

"In the past, the board would put out some number that, frankly, was probably a little bit unrealistic. It would only serve to antagonize the governor's office," the board's new chairman, Jesse Ruiz, said Tuesday. "We don't want to go down that road."

The board did agree Tuesday on some general priorities.

It said the top goal should be raising the foundation level of funding that the state guarantees for each student, now set at $4,964. But members did not suggest a specific amount.

Next on their list was increased funding for early childhood education, special education and other specific programs required by law.


Parents: Let the state take over
Call for cuts, tax hike rile residents in beleaguered Calumet Park SD 132
By Kati Phillips, Daily Southtown Staff writer, 2/9/05

Years of administrative turnover and fiscal mismanagement caught up with
Calumet Park School District 132 this week.
Parents and residents declared they would rather have the Illinois State Board of Education take over than trust district leaders with their tax dollars.

During an often raucous community forum Tuesday at
Burr Oak Academy, residents promised to express their distrust at the polls by voting down a proposed tax hike and bond issue that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $220 more per year.

The two measures and $700,000 in budget cuts are needed to prevent the district from asking the state for financial oversight next school year, according to financial adviser Rob Grossi.

Asking for state oversight is a drastic step for school districts that pride themselves on local control.

"If this board is still there in 57 days, I'd rather the state come in," said parent Michael Winston, counting down to Election Day.

District 132 has a history of financial problems and instability. It has spent more than it has taken in five of the past six years. It also relied on a $700,000 state bailout in 1999 to keep from going bankrupt and is on the state's financial watch list.

First-year Supt. Doris Hope-Jackson, the eighth school chief in 10 years, asked Grossi in the fall to put together a financial plan to keep the district solvent. He recommended a three-step plan, with cuts and two ballot measures to increase tax payments and the district's borrowing power.

Jackson has proposed the school board not fill 13 to 14 positions next school year to save about $800,000. The jobs include one administrator; teachers of physical education, reading and music; library aides and a social worker.

But the suggested cuts did not please many parents, who said their children already go without books and extra reading help.

School board member Barbara Thomas, who worked for the district for a decade, said the district should have cut costs before asking voters to clean up the district's budget.

"They didn't mess it up," she said.

If the referendum measures fail and the district asks for state help, several scenarios could unfold, said Grossi, based on his experience with the financial crisis at
Hazel Crest School District 152.

State officials could give
Calumet Park School District 132 an emergency loan and then impose a tax increase to pay it off, he said.

The state also could appoint a five-member financial authority board made up of two local residents and three non-residents to balance annual budgets and negotiate teacher and custodial contracts, he said.

The financial authority board would oversee, but not replace, the school board, said Grossi, who serves as the chief financial officer of the financial authority board in District 152.

Or the state could encourage District 132 to merge with a neighboring district, keeping kids in their home schools or transferring them to neighboring schools with space.

In that case, the neighboring school district's tax rate and teachers' salaries would be applied to
Calumet Park School District 132, he said.

"The children will be attending school next year," Grossi said. "The uncertainty is who will run the school district."

The community forum nearly imploded about 30 minutes into community discussion when a man hurled insults at officials, including calling Jackson an outsider.

The outburst prompted
Jackson to put on her coat and stand by the gym door ready to leave for the last half hour of the forum. She was offended by being called an outsider, she said, because she's been spending weekends trying to get the district back on track.

"I won't be disrespected," she said.

Jackson's move to leave the forum did nothing to build trust with many residents in attendance, including Vanessa Davis, the mother of twin boys.

Davis said administrators need to show her how raising taxes will help her kids learn to read.

"I didn't come here to see her walk out," she said.


A learning experience
State school superintendent travels to collect feedback from local educators
By KRISTA LEWIN, Journal Gazette & Times-Courier Staff Writer,

MATTOON -- Interim State School Superintendent Randy Dunn wants to change the role of the Illinois State Board of Education from primarily reactive to more innovative and focusing on key points affecting schools throughout the state.

Dunn visited with administrators, school board members and teachers Tuesday afternoon at
Riddle Elementary School. Earlier in the day, he spoke to a group of about 25 education students at Eastern Illinois University.

Dunn is visiting school districts throughout the state to get feedback from teachers on what they believe are the core issues in their field today, and on their frustrations.

The information he gathers will help as he and Illinois State School Board officials work for change, Dunn said. His goals include fewer state school rules and a more user-friendly atmosphere at the classroom and school district levels.

"We want to serve school districts in a better way," Dunn said.

Dunn discussed legislation, signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich last September, that gives the governor more control over the ISBE than any past governor of
Illinois. Dunn was appointed interim school superintendent and began working to accomplish the goals the governor assigned him and a committee.

"We think the role of the ISBE is to be more innovative as an agency," Dunn said. "Most (governmental) boards around the country tend to be reactive: Legislation is passed and then they react."

Dunn wants the ISBE to be creative and choose four areas of education that would become its signature. This is not going on in other state agencies, but Dunn believes it should be.

A goal set for Dunn — which has already been completed -- was to clear the backlog of 7,000 pending teacher certifications. Dunn said although that goal was reached, he is searching for a permanent solution for the process. He said teachers waiting for certification are affected most due to the backlog.

"We can't be in the same position again," Dunn said. "We need to streamline the process."

A more extensive project, which Dunn said will benefit school districts, is to remove many of the unused or outdated rules governing k-12 education. Hundreds of pages of rules will be replaced, rewritten or removed, he said.

"The governor pointed out that there were a lot of rules that didn't need to be there," Dunn said. "These rules are tying the hands of school districts. They are making things more difficult."

Dunn also discussed the federally mandated No Child Left Behind. Though he supports the expectations the initiative set for school districts, as well as the analysis of subgroups, Dunn said NCLB needs changes regarding the testing of students with disabilities and bilingual students.

Schools statewide are not making adequate yearly progress because of the test scores posted in special education subgroups, he noted. The danger is that some school districts have started using these students as scapegoats, he said.

Currently, when a school district has 40 or more special education students, or bilingual students, a subgroup is created. Those scores are figured into the school's overall scores for No Child Left Behind.

One idea for change to NCLB is to rewrite the plan to increase the subgroup number beyond 40, Dunn said. He estimates more school districts will have a chance to make adequate yearly progress if that change is made.

Other subgroups in No Child Left Behind include African-American, Hispanic and low-income youngsters.

During a question-and-answer session, Susan Smith,
Mattoon school district curriculum director, inquired about the possibility of creating an equitable funding system for all school districts.

As long as the state bases its funding of school districts on property taxes, there will be inequities, Dunn said.

The governor has allocated $1 billion in funding for education, which Dunn believes makes a difference. But as far as increasing taxes or supporting House Bill 750, which calls for an increase in income tax to support education, Dunn doesn't see either of those options becoming reality.

The governor said he will not raise taxes, Dunn noted. And Dunn doesn't believe there are enough legislators who support House Bill 750.

"Everybody knows something has to be done to address this issue," Dunn said. "Timing is everything."

Dunn said he enjoyed visiting the
Mattoon school district and applauded the progressive changes made in the last couple of years, including ongoing construction at the high school.

David Skocy,
Mattoon assistant superintendent of human resources, was one of Dunn's former students when Skocy was in college. Skocy described Dunn as honest and a straight shooter and said he is pleased with Dunn's work as state school superintendent.

Skocy noted that Dunn has a variety of experience in education, including teaching, administration and teaching at the college level.


Schools threaten to start slashing
Deep cuts ahead if state doesn't help
By Tracy Dell'Angela, Tribune staff reporter,

Chicago Public Schools leaders plan to cut $49 million from next year's budget, but officials predict deep classroom cuts if the state doesn't come through with $175 million needed to close a budget hole.

Schools Chief Arne Duncan joined a chorus of education leaders statewide in demanding a long-term solution to the state's education funding crisis from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who already has signaled he doesn't plan to tackle the issue in his upcoming budget.

"Every year, we talk about the problem,"
Duncan said Wednesday. "Every year, we sweep it under the rug and balance the budget on the backs of children. It can't go on forever."

Early budget projections point to a financial picture that is even grimmer than it was last year, when
Chicago had to cut $100 million and 1,600 school jobs from its $5 billion budget.

Next year, the school system plans to increase spending by at least $250 million, which officials say is needed to cover higher salaries, bigger bond payments for capital projects, and increases in health care, utilities, pension costs and other employee benefits. The district also wants to spend $10 million more to put an extra 2,000 children in preschool--a program the governor has pushed hard and has promised to fund as one of his priorities.

Some of the new spending will be offset by the proposed $49 million in cuts and savings. The cuts will eliminate about 250 administrative jobs--closing 150 vacancies and laying off about 100 professional and managerial employees who work at central offices, said schools budget director Pedro Martinez.

The district also hopes to consolidate its bus routes, saving $14 million in transportation costs. Another $10 million in savings will come from cutting cafeteria staffs and raising prices for the school lunch program. The 44,000 students who get breakfast or lunch at school began paying 20 cents to 50 cents more per meal Jan. 31..

District and union leaders said they know the state is facing its own budget crisis but said they expect Blagojevich to deliver on promises he made to raise the base level of state education funding by $1,000 per child over four years and pay a larger share of mandated special education programs.

"Our goal is to spare the classroom, but if the state doesn't help us, it's going to come out of the classroom,"
Martinez said. "The whole reason we're in this situation is because the state hasn't kept its promise. There are only so many things we can cut."

If even a third of the money needed from the state doesn't come through, that could mean cutting hundreds of teaching jobs. Based on the district's average teacher salary package of $60,000, cutting 1,000 teaching jobs would save the district $60 million.

Rebecca Rausch, the governor's spokeswoman, won't say whether
Chicago's expectation of $175 million in new funding is realistic. Last year, state funding for Chicago schools increased by $100 million, but it still fell far short of what the district was expecting.

The details of the governor's education budget will be announced next week. But Blagojevich has made it clear that he won't support an income or sales tax hike, a move tax reform advocates say is needed to fix school finance problems.

"The facts are these: These are difficult budget times, but the governor is committed to education," Rausch said. "Despite record budget deficits, he's found new money for education. There's no reason to think he won't continue to fight for education dollars."


Online classes help students who can't succeed in classroom
Belleville News-Democrat, 2/10/05

Michael Hall was usually bored in class.

At age 17, he was distracted by other students. He didn't like the traditional lecture class, and rarely did his work at
Madison High School.

"My grades were poor, and I had no interest in school," he said.

But three days ago, Michael enrolled in a new online learning program at
Madison High School designed for low-income students who have dropped out or have a high risk of dropping out. The pilot concept is being funded by the state to determine whether an online program can help students like Michael get a real high school diploma.

"There seems to be a group of students that don't fit into a traditional classroom, but they don't want to go to GED classes because it's structurally a classroom," said Connie Vick, spokesman for the Madison County Employment and Training Department.

The online classes meet all state standards and allow students to study and progress at their own pace. They take the classes online, reading virtual textbooks, taking tests and writing assignments that a real teacher will grade. The program can be accessed at any time from any computer, and computer labs are available for those who don't have access at home. It's similar to the program
Madison High School has been offering for four years under the leadership of teacher Don Wallace.

"It's an opportunity to give a kid a chance to recover a class without going back to the same classroom where they failed before," Wallace said.

But unlike traditional correspondence classes or general equivalency diplomas, graduates of
Madison High School's program receive a diploma.

Michael still owes 7.5 credits in English, math and electives. But he hopes to graduate with his class this June through the program. "This is an exciting thing, and I think it's going to make the students happy," he said.

Wallace said through his existing program, he's been able to get as much as 95 percent of
Madison's dropouts back into classes. That track record is what got the school the grant for this pilot program, he said.

"At-risk students do not do well in GED classes, because GED is so similar to school -- sitting in a classroom -- and they didn't function well in that environment in the first place," he said. "But (online), it's absolutely amazing. They're doing essentially the same work as they did in English class ... and they say, 'I don't have to listen to the teacher.'"

Madison's existing program costs students $200 a year for as many classes as they need to take. The state's $179,700 grant, which comes from the Workforce Investment Act, pays that tuition for students who fall under poverty guidelines.

It started in January, and has begun enrolling students like Tanesha Bell. Tanesha missed several classes when she transferred from Wood River-East Alton to
Madison High School. She also has a 2-year-old son, Camron Lovett, who takes up a lot of her time.

Through the online classes, Tanesha is catching up with A's and B's. "I could have been doing an extra year in school," she said. "It's not leaving me set back."

Right now,
Madison County's program also includes Venice and Granite City students, and Wallace hopes to get students from across the county. There's a partner program beginning in St. Clair County through Lovejoy, Brooklyn and Cahokia schools.

There are only two problems with the state's pilot program, Wallace said. One is its poverty guideline, which is "ridiculously low," he said.

"It eliminates an awful lot of kids who are poor and need the program," he said.

The other is the diploma question. Students from
Madison, Lovejoy and Cahokia districts receive a diploma from their home high schools when they finish.

"Not every school district is willing to do that," Wallace said.

Students from other districts must have their transcripts certified by a home education program contracted to
Madison County in order to get a diploma. It's a complicated procedure, Wallace said.

When Michael finishes, he is not sure whether he wants to work, enter the military or go to college. Tanesha plans to go on to
Lewis & Clark Community College before attending a four-year university.

That's the ultimate goal of the program, according to Kathleen Pinkas. She's the career specialist who works with the students once they finish their diplomas. They must pass a college entrance exam, and she helps them with training and job placement after graduation.

"After all, what good does a diploma do you if you're not employed with a living wage?" she said.

And there's one more state-sponsored perk for students who graduate and pass the college entrance exam: a laptop.


Students, legislators open up study of genocide
BY KATE N. GROSSMAN, Sun-Times Education Reporter, 2/9/05

The first question, scrawled across a whiteboard in a sunny classroom at
Clemente High School last week, was a relatively easy one: "Is a universal definition of genocide important?"

"There needs to be one," one girl offered, "because it occurs so often and then people try to sugarcoat it."

Teacher Linda Becker then followed up with the hard question: "You all agreed it's important to have a definition and have people respond -- so why haven't they?"

The students were stumped, but instead of chalking it up to the vagaries of history, the 18 honors seniors spent the next hour poring over the 1948 United Nations genocide convention. They also considered whether slavery in the United States was genocide and turned the mirror inward, looking at the victims and perpetrators in their own lives.

"In this class, I'm learning we have some obligation," said Cassandra Arcuri, 17. "That we have to get up and do something."

Training teachers

As the Illinois Legislature considers requiring students to study genocide worldwide, not only the Holocaust as current law mandates, thousands of
Chicago area students are way ahead of Springfield.

A program called Facing History and Ourselves has trained 1,600 teachers over the past 15 years to teach about acts of genocide and explore racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism historically and in their own lives. Over the last 30 years, it has reached 1.5 million students worldwide.

"Before this class I only thought there was one genocide," said Evelyn Bonilla, 18. "Now I know not to be so naive. I thought after the Holocaust everyone was working so hard not to let it happen again, but it does."

Original idea worried Jewish groups

When the proposal to expand the Holocaust legislation was floated in January, some Jewish groups bristled, saying it could minimize the Holocaust's significance. They supported the idea but wanted the special importance of the Holocaust maintained.

A compromise that satisfies critics goes before an education committee today, said Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), who introduced the bill. The amendment may go before the full House in a few weeks.

Becker, 30, has covered the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the role of international organizations with her students, whom she has taught for four years. This week, each student will teach a class about ethnic conflicts in
Sudan, Bosnia and elsewhere.

Using her Facing History training, Becker teaches about genocide through the lens of individual actors -- who are the bystanders, who are the resisters, who are the rescuers? The goal is to help kids use the past to understand how personal responsibility and participation make a difference.


Board approves paying students at SHS to inform
By John Kelleher, DeKalb Daily Chronicle Managing Editor, 2/9/05

SYCAMORE - Students who report illegal conduct at
Sycamore High School will get a $50 cash reward.

The Crime Stoppers program will pay the money if a student alerts school authorities of illegal alcohol, drugs or weapons in the school.

The student will get the money even if there is no arrest, said Sycamore Police Detective Jeff Wig, one of the organizers of the program.

The school board approved the plan at its meeting Tuesday night.

Crime Stoppers has similar programs for adults who help solve crimes, but this is the first time such a program has been tried at a high school, said Paul Barnaby, president of Crime Stoppers.
Genoa-Kingston High School is interested in starting a similar program, he said.

Wig said the program may eventually expand to the middle school.

He said that earlier Tuesday, a middle school student reported a fellow student who had a knife. An arrest was made, he said.

"If we had approved this earlier, this person would have been eligible for the $50," Wig said.

Because school authorities will take the information, the informer can be assured of remaining anonymous. Police cannot guarantee anonymity, he said.

Board member Jay Montgomery questioned whether the program could be expanded to include vandalism.

"We have a lot more vandalism than weapons possession," he said.

Wig said that could be considered for the future.

He said he didn't expect to be overwhelmed with responses.

"I wouldn't expect we would be flooded with phone calls," he said. "You might get a few phone calls a year."

Posters advertising the program will be placed in the high school soon, Barnaby said.

Money for Crime Stoppers rewards comes from fines levied in county court, Barnaby told board members.




No Child Left Behind: Conrad says it's time to fix NCLB or 'start over'
By Paulette Tobin, Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer, 2/5/05

A hundred or so elementary school principals stood and clapped enthusiastically for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., on Friday to show how they felt about his work in getting the federal government to reconsider the qualifications of
North Dakota's elementary teachers.

Conrad got even more applause when he said the U.S. Department of Education should start using "common sense" to administer the No Child Left Behind law, a centerpiece of the Bush administration and a law for which he and the rest of
North Dakota's congressional delegation voted.

"This is either going to get fixed, or we're going to have to start over," Conrad said at a meeting of the North Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals.

In December, the DOE said
North Dakota's elementary teachers did not meet NCLB's "highly qualified" teacher guidelines and, unless they met the standards, they couldn't teach. Then, last month, the DOE said the state's middle school teachers didn't meet standards, either.

North Dakota's congressional delegation issued a joint statement saying the DOE had reconsidered, and declared teachers already in classrooms qualified to teach after all.

Conrad said working with DOE had been frustrating until Raymond Simon, the new department assistant secretary, entered the picture. According to Conrad, Grand Forks Superintendent Mark Sanford played a role in the DOE reversal.
Sanford gave Simon the other side of the story about what was happening during meetings between the department and North Dakota officials, Conrad said.

Conrad also shared credit for the DOE's change of heart with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

Conrad said he wouldn't have voted for NCLB had he known it wasn't going to be fully funded and that the qualified teacher issue would be handled "so ham handedly."

Asked what other changes he'd like to see in NCLB, Conrad replied, "It's a long list."


State analysis finds deficits at charter schools
8 in Broward owe at least $100,000
Karla D. Shores, Sun-Sentinel Education Writer, 2/6/05

Almost one-third of the state''s 294 charter schools operated with serious money troubles fiscal difficulty during 2002-03, according to an upcoming state report analyzing charter school finance and academic performance.

The poor financial health of the schools, considered a choice for parents dissatisfied with regular public schools, could face tougher scrutiny in the state Legislature as members try to deal with why so many face money troubles.

""Most charter schools are on a razor-thin budget and it only takes two or three financial budget errors and you can go under,"" said Bob Haag, Florida Consortium of Charter Schools President.

The state report, which will be handed to state legislators this month for review, will not name the struggling schools, but public records in Broward and
Palm Beach counties reviewed by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel show a dozen charter schools had built up $100,000 to $2.7 million in debt as of June 2004.

Independent audits say eight of Broward''s 25 charter schools were at least $100,000 in debt, with half owinglosing more than $500,000.

Palm Beach, four of 28 charter schools were at least $100,000 in the hole, with two more than $500,000 in debt.

""The [(charter]) operators may be good educators but may not have the financial expertise,"" said David Summers, legislative accountability analyst who helped prepare the state report.

Approved by the local School Board, charter schools are free, public academies started by parents, former teachers, businesses, churches and colleges.

Many pay special management firms to run the schools on dollars provided by the state, based on student population.

""If charter schools don''t have enough money to pay bills, they''re going to have to make choices on what to pay and what not to pay. They may not get supplies and instructional materials,"" said Summers, with the state''s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

Florida opened the door to charter schools nine years ago and authorities expect the state couldmay see as many as 100 new schools a year. Florida currently has 301 charter schools, and dozens more are expected to open this fall, including 16 additional schools in Broward County, and seven in Palm Beach County.

Of 45 charter schools shut down statewide since 1998, 24 were closed by their districts or governing boards because offor financial problems, according to thethe Florida Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice.

State analysts say 85 of 294 charter schools open for the 2002-03 school year experiencedhad significant money troubles, if not already operated in the red.

"Obviously all these schools came to their school boards and said, `W we want to open,'"" said Sen. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, who helped write author charter school ""If a third of these schools are now telling us they aren''t making it financially, that''s a problem."

Klein said the mounting charter school debt reported by state analysts needs to be scrutinized by legislators.

Charter schools were created to allow more innovative educational options for parents. Rules for establishing the schools were kept at a minimum, focusing on initial financial solvency and a solid curriculum.

Like conventional public schools, charter schools received on average $5,764 from the state for each student last year. Based on student need, however, that amount could reach $8,000 pera child, according to the Department of Education.

Regular public schools s however, are also backed by county taxes. New charter schools received $250,000 in start-up grants, as well as other state money for buildings and other facilities costs, but no local tax money.

""We''re taking care of children who didn''t do well in the traditional public schools and we''re receiving less funds than the traditional schools because we don''t get [property tax] funding,"" said Diane Allerdyce, principal and co-founder of Toussaint L''Ouverture High School for the Arts and Social Justice, a Delray Beach school. The school ran $282,039 in the red in 2003-04.

""We''ve had to use money that we would have preferred to use for direct instruction and we had to use that for facilities instead,"" Allerdyce said.

Charter school operators say they have managed to produce a quality education even though money is tight. Nevertheless, as many as 200 charter schools statewide are angling to join a lawsuit against the school districts to receive more dollars for big-ticket items such as buildings and supplies.

""The district gets money to fix up their buildings, and we don''t get that money,"" Haag said.

Corebridge Educational Academy Pprincipal Dianne Tetreault of Corebridge Educational Academy said she struggled at her 3-year-old school in Boca Raton because enrollment was less than expected the first year and because rent jumped from $10,000 to about $20,000 after a move.

""It''s not mismanagement of funds by any means,"" said Tetreault, whose school has mounted $611,000 in debt.

Tetreault said the school would not close and that she expected her finances to be in order at the end of this year.

Palm Beach school system accountant Jeanette Merced said her district would continue to place additional scrutiny on charter operations more than $100,000 in debt, requiring the schools to explain how they would recover.

In 2003 and 2004,
Palm Beach shut down two charter schools for financial mismanagement, including Academic School for the Arts and TerraNova Academy.

Broward has not closed any schools for money reasons, and tends to follow state guidelines that regulate the schools more on safety and academic standards rather than fiscal solvency.

Nevertheless, Broward keeps an eye on the financial health of the county''s charter schools.

Broward Chief Auditor Pat Reilly said his office is most concerned about the Chancellor Charter schools, managed by the Virginia-based
Imagine Schools, and Charter Institute, run by Joseph Valbrun.

""[Debt] has just been growing and growing,"" Reilly said of the schools. ""I don''t see how they''re going to reverse that unless they find a significant source of revenue.""

Matching the level of service of regular schools without more tax money is the problem said Principal Susan Messing of Chancellor at Weston, whose school was down $2.7 million at the end of last year.,

""A school is not like a business,"" Messing said. ""You can''t just go out there and make thousands of dollars from promotions. The bulk of our funding comes from the state, and we still have to provide transportation and food service for students.""

Messing said she started a task force of parents and staff to search forin search of ways to knock down the debt.

Rep. Ron Greenstein, D-Coconut Creek, said he has little sympathy for cash-strapped charter schools in affluent areas.

""They know what they''re going into when they open the schools,"" said Greenstein said. ""If you get an allowance and you spend it, sorry. We can''t bail them out.""

But Greenstein said he would be willing to change legislation for schools he thinks serve underprivileged students.

""Charter schools were intended to serve minority communities in economically depressed areas,"" he said. ""I would support legislation funding them 100 percent.""


Teachers warm to idea of performance pay
By Brian Bakst, Associated Press Writer,

LA CRESCENT, Minn. -- Gone are the days when teachers' salaries rose automatically with years of experience, or academic credits. In this idyllic Mississippi River town, teachers get an annual raise only if they set and fulfill performance goals.

The idea of performance pay -- a notion once reviled by most teachers -- is getting a warmer reception here. Teachers are trying hard to prove they're worth the money, from more frequent student testing, to e-mailing parents, to trying out different styles for their students.

"Just rewarding people for having put in a lot of years, that's one of the things the public gets upset about -- and justly so," said Kris Sandy, a high school English teacher. "In terms of having some more reasonable examples of what we do every year to improve our curriculum and be better teachers, that's perfectly reasonable."

The pilot project in the La Crescent-Hokah district and a handful of others in
Minnesota comes as several other states examine the way teachers are paid.

"Ten years ago, if you were for performance pay, you were a nut. Now we can have a discussion about it with the unions in a very constructive, positive way," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who wants to see merit pay on a much wider scale.

"It's not meant to be a punishment. I think we're all big enough to realize the system we have now is outdated."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for his state to demand teacher pay on merit and tie teachers' continued employment to their classroom performance. In
Denver, residents will vote in November on a property tax increase allotting $25 million for a performance-pay model.

Teachers in
Chattanooga, Tenn., can earn four-figure bonuses for boosting student achievement; in Douglas County, Colo., which established a merit model a decade ago, performance factors into raises for everyone from teachers to janitors.

"We're seeing more action and not just rhetoric," said Michael Allen, who tracks teacher trends for the Education Commission of the States.

The idea hasn't worked everywhere.

Cincinnati teachers were moving toward such a pay plan before pulling back in 2002, citing flaws in the proposed evaluation system. In Colorado, the Steamboat Springs school board reversed course after finding the program too expensive to implement.

Teachers unions, most notably the National Education Association, are leery about losing the pay security of the traditional system of experience and academic credits. They worry performance pay can be too subjective, and that test scores -- a measurement tool often linked with merit pay -- aren't a fair way to judge student progress.

The Minnesota PTA, a parents group, favors blending the traditional system with bonuses for superior teaching performance.

"They're trying to do this business concept where we look at a couple factors and make it nice, cut-and-dried, simple and easy. Education is not simple and easy," said Phillip Enke, the group's president.

Pawlenty, Minnesota's governor, has proposed setting aside $60 million for districts that adopt some form of the merit pay system. His proposal would eliminate the old system and have teachers reviewed by administrators and peers; student achievement would be considered in awarding raises.

In the La Crescent-Hokah model, pay can never go down. However, teachers can go without an increase indefinitely if they don't make progress toward their goals. Superintendent David Krenz estimated 90 percent to 95 percent of the district's teachers succeeded last year, adding $750 to their base salary.

Raises varied under the old system. For example, teachers saw a $220 bump between their first and second years. A 25-year veteran with a master's degree could count on $430 by coming back the next year.

Darrel Collins, a social studies teacher in his 30th year, said he's noticed a difference in how his colleagues approach their jobs. Collins said the program has worked because peers are involved in the evaluations and teachers get some leeway on what constitutes progress.

"It's not a game where you are trying to make yourself look good. We're not giving teachers the raise on whether or not they actually achieved (a stated goal)," said Collins, the head of the local teachers union.

Four years into the pilot project, it's not clear if it's made a difference for students. Reading and math test scores for third-graders have climbed steadily, but exam scores for fifth-graders have fluctuated.


N.C. hires company to check for cheating

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina has signed a $60,000 contract with a company that will analyze standardized test data from public school and search for red flags that may indicate cheating.

North Carolina is one of three states -- South Carolina and Delaware are the others -- to sign a contract with the Utah-based company called Caveon. A co-founder said the 2-year-old company also is negotiating with about a dozen other states.

Most state education leaders do not suspect rampant cheating, but say the test results are so important now -- determining school rankings, teacher bonuses and federal aid -- that it's better to take action before problems are found.

Some argue the hiring alone will scare cheaters, the same way burglars avoid homes with yard signs warning of alarm systems.

"There are people who put those signs in their yards who don't even have those systems, because they know it is a deterrent," said
North Carolina testing director Lou Fabrizio, who said the timing coincides with a review of the state's tests. The state signed the contract Monday.

"We're just trying to be as proactive and as comprehensive as we can," Fabrizio said.

Caveon uses a process called data forensics to look for unusual patterns: Kids answering hard questions correctly and missing easy ones. An abnormally high pass rate in one class. Tests with several wrong answers erased and replaced with the right ones.

"One of the things I'm looking for is evidence of coaching or proxy test-taking," said Caveon chief scientist Dennis Maynes. "In an educational setting, the greatest concern is (that) the administration and teachers are actually doing the cheating, not the students."

There's no way to know how common cheating is, but Caveon and other analysts estimate it could occur with as many as 10 percent of school tests nationwide.

Within the past year, cheating allegations nationwide have prompted officials in
Texas, Indiana, Mississippi and Arizona to launch investigations, suspend staff or throw out scores. And recently questions have been raised in the Carolinas.

In February 2003, the
Guilford County School District disciplined several employees suspected of sharing state standardized test questions with high school students in advance.

It's unlikely Caveon will find much wrongdoing in the
Carolinas, said Colby Cochran, Rowan-Salisbury's testing director, who helped revise the testing code of ethics.

But they will be checking things local districts don't typically examine, and that will help make the scores "beyond reproach."

"This is the era of accountability," Cochran said. "Somebody else needs to look at you from time to time to see if you are really doing what you say you are doing."


Study links juice, chubby children

CHICAGO -- Sweet drinks -- whether Kool-Aid with sugar or all-natural apple juice -- seem to raise the risk of pudgy preschoolers getting fatter, new research suggests.

That may come as a surprise to parents who pride themselves on seeking out fruit drinks with no added sugar.

"Juice is definitely a part of this," said lead researcher Jean Welsh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While fruit juice does have vitamins, nutritionists say it's inferior to fresh fruit. The new
U.S. dietary guidelines, for example, urge consumers away from juice, suggesting they eat whole fruit instead.

The bottom line, though, is that "children need very few calories in their day," Welsh said.

"Sweet drinks are a source of added sugar in the diet."

She said preschoolers were better off snacking on fruit or drinking water or milk.

School bans juice

Welsh's research, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, found that for 3- and 4-year-olds already on the heavy side, drinking something sweet once or twice a day doubled their risk of becoming seriously overweight a year later.

The sweet drinks seemed to have little effect, however, on children of normal weight.

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting preschoolers to 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day. Some parents and schools are paying attention.

One Chicago Head Start program banned juice last year as part of an anti-obesity effort after finding that one out of five of its students was obese.

Monica Dillion, community health nurse for the
Howard Area Family Center, said the preschool also added more fruits and vegetables to meals and more exercise to the daily schedule. The preschool has never served soft drinks.

The juice ban drew no complaints, Dillion said. "The kids didn't notice at all."

Study specifics

The Pediatrics study followed 10,904
Missouri children in a nutrition program for low-income families. Researchers looked at the effect of sweet drinks in three groups: normal and underweight children, those at risk of becoming overweight, and those who already were overweight.

The researchers compared the children's heights and weights, approximately one year apart. They also looked at parents' reports of what their children ate and drank during a four-week period at the beginning of the first year. Fruit drinks like Kool-Aid and Hi-C were included as sweet drinks, along with juice and soda.

The link between sweet drinks and being overweight showed up for all three weight categories, although it wasn't statistically significant for the normal and underweight children.

Taking into account other differences, such as ethnicity, birth weight and a high-fat diet, didn't erase the effect of sweet drinks.

The children in the study drank, on average, more fruit juice than soft drinks or sweetened fruit drinks.

Bigger's not better

Sweet drinks are high in calories and low in fiber. Nutritionists believe that calorie-dense, low-fiber foods may lead to overeating because those foods are quickly consumed but less filling than foods higher in fiber.

The authors suggest that limiting sweet drinks may help solve the growing problem of childhood obesity. One in five American children is overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The study defined at-risk children as those whose size put them in the 85th to 95th percentile in growth charts. A child in the 85th percentile would be heavier than 85 percent of children of the same gender and age.

Richard H. Adamson, vice president for scientific and technical affairs at the American Beverage Association, questioned the study's methods, saying it didn't take into account television viewing, overweight parents and the children's activity levels.

But Dr. Rebecca Unger, who evaluates overweight children in private practice and at Children's
Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said the study backs up what she sees in the real world.

"We do see kids do well when we cut out juice," she said. "Sometimes that's all they need to do."


A Cut for Schools, a First for Bush
New York Times, 2/8/05

For the first time in his administration, President Bush is proposing a net reduction in financing for the Department of Education, seeking to reduce its budget by about 1 percent, to $56 billion, for the 2006 fiscal year.

About $4.7 billion would be redirected from 64 education programs to finance other initiatives, mainly aimed at high school students, special education and college loan financing, according to the budget summary issued yesterday.

The budget sets aside about $18 billion for Pell Grants, a 45 percent increase, as well as $269 million for math and science partnerships intended to improve the skills of children deemed at risk and $200 million for high school students with reading problems.

Seeking to extend the No Child Left Behind Act to high schools, Mr. Bush proposes spending an additional $13.3 billion on Title I, for schools in low-income communities, a 4.7 percent increase.

But major reductions are also sought. Financing at the state level for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program would be eliminated, and about $2 billion would be cut from other high school programs, including vocational education and efforts like Upward Bound, Gear Up and Talent Search that help prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for college.

"Right now, we have to be aware of the broader picture," C. Todd Jones, an Education Department official, said of the cutbacks. "We have a deficit we are attempting to address."

Education would account for 48 of the 150 government programs that Mr. Bush identified for elimination or substantial reduction, although Education Secretary Margaret Spellings played down their significance, saying 15 of them each amounted to $5 million or less.

Democrats pounced on the spending plan, however, with a longstanding complaint that No Child Left Behind had been insufficiently financed. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of
Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees education, called the proposal "the most antistudent, antieducation budget since the Republicans tried to abolish the Department of Education."


For Elite
U.S. Teachers, Cachet and More Cash
By Jay Mathews,
Washington Post Staff Writer, 2/8/05

Every school district wants a teacher like Mark Ingerson. He loves the history he teaches at
Salem High School, eagerly prepares his southwestern Virginia students for the state tests, helps train other teachers and has won awards.

Yet at age 31, his base salary is only $39,000 a year. With a wife and young daughter, he used to assume he would have to leave the classroom and become an administrator to give his family the kind of life he thinks they deserve.

Then, in the fall, he received news that might be the key to keeping him with students for the rest of his career. After several months of teaching exercises, report-writing and exams, he was certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as a national board-certified teacher. Unlike the other honors he has received, this one came with cash -- an extra $7,500 this year, followed by annual $5,000 bonuses for the next nine years.

He said his wife, Sharon, used to say, "Why do you work so hard? It's not like other professions, where you get paid more if you do a better job." He told her his effort would pay off, and "literally, it has now," he said.

More than 40,000 teachers in 50 states and the District have received national certification, a grueling process that requires $2,300 to apply, takes hundreds of hours and has more than a 50 percent failure rate for first-time applicants. With more than 30 states and the District giving bonuses or higher salaries to those who succeed, it is the single most powerful merit pay system in public education today, educators say.

A rival group, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, is designing its own award, putting more emphasis on classroom results and thus increasing the likelihood of more teachers getting elevated status and more money. As states and school systems become more accustomed to this way of advancing careers, experts say, the teaching profession may evolve into something more like law and medicine, in which the most effective and energetic practitioners often make the most money.

Although the bonuses are welcome -- Ingerson plans to spend his on furniture -- they do not appear to be as important to many as the improved status signified by a valued title whose authority is buttressed with a big check, according to interviews with nationally certified teachers.

"Money is a proxy for respect in our society," said Gary Galluzzo, professor of education at
George Mason University and a former executive vice president of the Arlington-based board that grants the national certificates.

Patrick Ledesma, a technology specialist at
Holmes Middle School in Fairfax County, said he wanted to remodel his home, with its original 1970s fixtures, and spent his bonus on that. But what he likes most about the certificate, he said, is that it opens "a career path that doesn't involve leaving the classroom." He plans to grow professionally "through opportunities such as mentoring, curriculum development, team leadership."

Linda T. Hoekstra, who teaches third- and fourth-graders at Columbia Elementary School in Fairfax County, proudly listed the many forms of recognition that have come from the certification: an adjunct professorship at George Mason University, a radio spot during national education week, magazine interviews, speeches to other teachers, coaching and mentoring work, service on a teacher advisory board and praise from parents.

"I had a strong desire to achieve it because it is the gold medal of the teaching world," she said.

And there is, some certificate-holders said, the particularly delicious pleasure, bordering on revenge, of proving the worth of their ideas and classroom techniques to people who once may have dismissed them.

Claudia Bezaka, a French instructor at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in the District, acknowledged that the one-time lump sum of $5,000 awarded by the city school system is not as much as what certified teachers in Maryland and Virginia receive. But she can still enjoy the feeling of vindication. "The seasoned teachers in my field who questioned me and dismissed my techniques, my alternative teaching strategies and style, can no longer deny my efficacy as a language instructor," she said.

Ingerson said he feels the same thrill. Some teachers dismissed his techniques, heavy on rhymes, pictures, songs and skits, as just playing around, not really teaching. One told him upfront that he was not going to attend an Ingerson-led training session because "I see your dog-and-pony show every day." Since he received the certificate, Ingerson said, "what can they say now?"

The certificate program began a decade ago and has taken hold slowly. Jolynn Tarwater, who teaches third-graders at
Fallsmead Elementary School in Montgomery County, will receive $2,000 from the state this year and $2,000 from her school system. Now, she said, the state and school system are "finally beginning to recognize us, but only after years of frustration of feeling 'just a teacher.' "

Some teachers say they seek the certificate not only for respect and money but also to prove to themselves that their methods are valid and effective. "I felt that I was a very good teacher who takes pride in understanding the pedagogy of teaching, and I wanted affirmation of my abilities from a rigorous evaluation process," said Fred Lampazzi, director of the Biotechnology Laboratory at the
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.

Initial studies indicate that certified teachers produce higher achievement in their students. If more research verifies that, the bonuses may spread, since states such as
Florida, North Carolina and California, which offer the biggest bonuses, get the most certified teachers.

Videotaping one's own lesson, working up reports on methodology and other parts of the certification process not only show teachers how well they are doing but also make them better, several teachers said. Even those who fail to pass the tests say it was worth the effort.

What makes Ingerson happiest, he said, is knowing that with the bonus money -- and the other money-making opportunities that come with recognized skills -- "I will teach for a long time."

"It's funny," he said. "When I was in grad school, I really thought I'd go into administration. I couldn't care less now. I love the classroom too much."


Group Opposed to Vouchers Cites Shortcomings
By V. Dion Haynes,
Washington Post Staff Writer, 2/8/05

A civil rights organization released a report yesterday concluding that the D.C. school voucher program last year fell short of a key congressional mandate by enrolling only about 75 students from low-achieving public schools and more than 200 who were already in private schools.

Much of the report by People for the
American Way, a liberal group opposed to publicly financed vouchers, contains previously published information about shortcomings in the year-old District program, which is serving about 1,000 low-income children. But the document also includes e-mail messages, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, in which officials from the voucher program and the U.S. Department of Education discussed how to obscure facts that could be politically damaging.

"We got a number of documents that show many problems in the implementation of the program," said Judith E. Schaeffer, deputy legal director for People for the American Way Foundation. "We think the voucher program should be repealed," she added. "It is not a wise use of federal dollars."

Supporters of vouchers yesterday disputed many of the report's conclusions. Sally Sachar, president and chief executive of the Washington Scholarship Fund, which administers the D.C. program, called the study "irresponsibly biased" and said it is "filled with many inaccurate statements that could have been corrected had they met with us." She added that implementation of the program "has been very successful."

The debate illustrates the still-raging battle in the District and the nation over vouchers. Although voucher programs in
Milwaukee and Florida also are funded by public dollars, the District's is the only such program financed by the federal government. It provides grants of up to $7,500 per child toward tuition and other education expenses at private or religious schools.

The People for the American Way report notes that the 2004 legislation establishing D.C. vouchers requires that priority be given to District students attending public schools defined by the federal No Child Left Behind law as "needing improvement." Schools are placed in that category if they fail to meet the school system's academic benchmarks two years in a row.

But only about 75 of the 1,000 voucher recipients came from such schools, according to the report, while "more than 200 students already enrolled in private schools . . . have received vouchers."

Congress provided enough money to serve at least 1,600 students. Scholarship fund officials have said that they offered vouchers to as many public school students as possible and that more public schoolchildren would have applied if organizers had had more time to publicize the program.

The decision to provide vouchers to a large number of students already in private schools was a sensitive issue with program directors and D.C. officials, according to e-mail exchanges.

In a June e-mail to Nina Rees, assistant deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, Sachar wrote: "We will have to decide how much we say pre-emptively about public school vs. private school students (we will definitely get asked the question, but we can decide whether it makes more sense to put it out there affirmatively or wait to be asked) . . . "

Gregory M. McCarthy, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), wrote a few days later: "Nina and Michelle [Walker, a Williams aide] thought we should not state how many we will give to children already in private schools. In fact there are legal reasons for not locking into a number, but they thought it was better just not to be specific at all here."

Under the D.C. voucher law, participating private schools are allowed to reject voucher-funded applicants based on test scores.

In an e-mail in April to Sachar about wording she proposed in a brochure to address questions about that issue, an unnamed Education Department official said: "Sally, the House Ed Committee has been reluctant to put this answer in writing. Many members are unaware that the schools can in fact pick students. . . . I am not sure how to fix the answer but if this document is made public, it may damage their vote count."

Rees, in an e-mail to Sachar about the need to keep Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and other members of Congress in the loop about the program, wrote in May that Specter "(ugh) wants it and while I hate the guy, we need to be nice to him I'm told."

In an interview yesterday, Rees said, "I regret having made the comment and have the utmost respect for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee."

She acknowledged the low number of voucher students from schools in need of improvement. Program directors, Rees added, should have better luck this fall because the number of D.C. schools needing improvement has increased from 15 to 68.

Sachar, responding to questions about her e-mail exchanges, said, "We were never intending or trying to cover up. . . . We have been extremely forthright with the press and the Congress . . . about so many details involved in implementing this program."


Missouri argue who pays for special ed
State could pay up to $23 million for 1,200 pupils
By Matt Franck, Post-Dispatch
Jefferson City Bureau, 2/07/05

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri state education officials are hoping lawmakers will help them resolve a long-standing battle over who should pay to educate some of the costliest students in the state.

Without a remedy,
Missouri could be forced to shell out as much as $23 million a year to educate just 1,200 special education students. And some fear that number could rise, with school districts potentially shifting the burden of educating many more students to the state.

Missouri Education Commissioner Kent King recently told school board members from across the state that fixing the special education issue is the highest legislative priority. No legislation has been filed yet to address the situation.

The conflict centers around the estimated 1,200 special education students who are sent to private institutions by their public school districts. Typically the students have disabilities so severe that public educators determine they are unable to serve them.

State statute says students with severe disabilities become the responsibility of the state, but determining which students qualify and how much the state is obligated to pay has been the subject of a legal dispute.

Last year, the state lost a key case, with a federal appeals court ruling that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must cover nearly all the cost of educating a student from
Springfield who is blind and deaf. The state is now paying more than $150,000 a year to send the student to a school for the blind in Massachusetts.

Missouri is reviewing hundreds of other cases to determine whether it's obligated to pick up the tab.

So far, however, the state's response has upset some school district administrators.

Dick Craven, an assistant superintendent at the
Fort Zumwalt district, said his district sends 33 special education students to private institutions at a collective cost of roughly $600,000 a year.

After last year's court ruling,
Fort Zumwalt joined numerous other school districts to ask that the state begin covering the expense of children in private institutions. Thus far, however, the state has said the 33 Fort Zumwalt students don't meet the definition of severely handicapped.

Craven said the district followed federal special education laws in determining which students needed outside services.

"We don't put a student out of district just to be putting them out," he said.

Melodie Friedebach, assistant state commissioner for special education, said that using the current definition of severely handicapped, the state has approved payments to about 70 of the 700 students whose districts are seeking reimbursement.

Friedebach said that high rejection rate doesn't mean those children should not be at private institutions. She said it merely means that the state is not obligated to pay for their education.

Even so, Friedebach said she fears the state's current policy introduces the possibility of another lawsuit, with districts claiming the state does not comply with its obligation to serve the severely handicapped.

Friedebach and others say the current system is unfair to the majority of school districts. That's because just 31 of the state's 524 school districts are sending special education students to private institutions. Many of the rest don't have that option, since they have no private institutions in their area.

The current system also hurts districts in
St. Louis County who are served by the Special School District. Under the current law, the Special School District receives no additional state money when severely handicapped students are sent to private schools.

"This is a very inequitable law," Friedebach said.

King said he fears that unless the law is changed, many school districts will see an incentive to send students to private institutions, figuring that the state will pick up the cost.

To avoid that, King is pushing legislation that would narrow the definition of severely handicapped at it pertains to the state's obligation to pay. And rather than spending $23 million to educate as few as 1,200 children, King would like to spend that money to help all
Missouri districts cover the costs of educating the most expensive children.

Under the plan, the amount districts pay to educate a special education child would not exceed three times the average per-pupil expense. After that, the state would cover the costs.

"We think the approach we've outlined is a better approach," King said.

Chris Straub, a lobbyist for the Missouri School Boards Association, said school districts on the whole would support such a plan, since it offers something to all districts.

But King admits that finding money for the program amid ongoing budget cuts will be difficult. Without new money, any new payments to school districts would have to come out of the state's existing special education budget.

King said he expects a bill on the matter to be filed sometime this session. As of last week, however, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who heads the House Education Committee, said she had not seen any draft legislation.


Parents protest devices that monitor location of students

Calif. - The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children’s privacy.

The badges introduced at
Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. Similar devices have recently been used to monitor youngsters in some parts of Japan.

But few American school districts have embraced such a monitoring system, and civil libertarians hope to keep it that way.

“If this school doesn’t stand up, then other schools might adopt it,” Nicole Ozer, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned school board members at a meeting Tuesday night. “You might be a small community, but you are one of the first communities to use this technology.”

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Principal Earnie Graham hopes to eventually add bar codes to the existing ID’s so that students can use them to pay for cafeteria meals and check out library books.

But some parents see a system that can monitor their children’s movements on campus as something straight out of Orwell.

“There is a way to make kids safer without making them feel like a piece of inventory,” said Michael Cantrall, one of several angry parents who complained. “Are we trying to bring them up with respect and trust, or tell them that you can’t trust anyone, you are always going to be monitored, and someone is always going to be watching you?”

Cantrall said he told his children, in the 5th and 7th grades, not to wear the badges. He also filed a protest letter with the board and alerted the ACLU.

Graham, who also serves as the superintendent of the single-school district, told the parents that their children could be disciplined for boycotting the badges - and that he doesn’t understand what all their angst is about.

“Sometimes when you are on the cutting edge, you get caught,” Graham said, recounting the angry phone calls and notes he has received from parents.

Each student is required to wear identification cards around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beams their ID number to a teacher’s handheld computer when the child passes under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

Graham also asked to have a chip reader installed in locker room bathrooms to reduce vandalism, although that reader is not functional yet. And while he has ordered everyone on campus to wear the badges, he said only the seventh and eighth grade classrooms are being monitored thus far.

In addition to the privacy concerns, parents are worried that the information on and inside the badges could wind up in the wrong hands and endanger their children, and that radio frequency technology might carry health risks.

Graham dismisses each objection, arguing that the devices do not emit any cancer-causing radioactivity, and that for now, they merely confirm that each child is in his or her classroom, rather than track them around the school like a global-positioning device. The 15-digit ID number that confirms attendance is encrypted, he said, and not linked to other personal information such as an address or telephone number.

What’s more, he says that it is within his power to set rules that promote a positive school environment: If he thinks ID badges will improve things, he says, then badges there will be.

“You know what it comes down to? I believe junior high students want to be stylish. This is not stylish,” he said.

This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom plans to promote it at a national convention of school administrators next month.

InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company’s co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town’s high school. Brittan’s technology aide also works part-time for InCom.

Not everyone in this close-knit farming town northwest of
Sacramento is against the system. Some said they welcomed the IDs as a security measure.


First school bus ads in
Scottsdale to run
Anne Ryman, The
Arizona Republic, 2/9/05

SCOTTSDALE - Motorists will see more than just students on Scottsdale school buses beginning next week.

Martin Buick Pontiac GMC in north
Scottsdale is paying $80,000 to advertise on 50 school buses, or about 30 percent of the Scottsdale Unified School District's bus fleet. The ads will be installed this weekend, and the first ads will appear Monday. They will run until Aug. 22.

The car dealer's name was announced at Tuesday evening's Scottsdale School Board meeting.

Scottsdale is paying a California-based company, Media Advertising in Motion, to get the ads, and the district will pocket $48,000 after paying the commission. This is the equivalent of about one teacher's salary and benefits, district spokesman Tom Herrmann said.

Scottsdale is one of only a few Valley school districts that use advertising on the outside of school buses as a way to make money. The neighboring Paradise Valley Unified School District also has school-bus ads.

District officials hope that other businesses will get on board once they see the car dealership's ads.

"We've had some nibbles," from other advertisers, including real-estate companies, said Dan Shearer, the district's transportation director. So far, the car dealership is the only business with a signed contract to advertise on
Scottsdale buses.

Martin del Castillo, owner of Martin Buick Pontiac GMC, decided to place the ads because the proceeds go to the school district, said Michael Bond, general sales manager. The owner also was looking for a different way to get the dealership's new name out to the community, Bond said. The dealership was formerly Lou Sobh Pontiac Buick GMC.

Shearer said the car dealership was able to pick the bus routes on which its ads will appear because it was the first advertiser. The dealership targeted routes near the business at
Hayden Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, Shearer said.

If the district gets additional contracts for ads, new advertisers would take remaining routes.

Arizona law allows ads on school buses within limits. School buses cannot advertise for alcohol, tobacco, drugs or gambling and the ads are confined to the sides of buses below the windows.

Scottsdale parents have supported the idea of school-bus ads, even though the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services objects to them, saying they can distract other drivers.


Ohio gov. may broaden school voucher plan
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press Writer,

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gov. Bob Taft plans to expand a school voucher program by allowing up to 2,600 students at Ohio schools with persistently failing test scores to attend the private school of their choice, The Associated Press has learned.

The current program applies to about 4,500 students in

Taft will include the $9 million expansion as part of the two-year state budget being introduced Thursday, said several
Ohio education groups briefed on the proposal Wednesday.

It would provide scholarships of $3,500 to qualifying students to attend the private school of their choice beginning in the fall of 2006, said representatives of the groups.

Elementary children in schools that fail to meet state proficiency standards in math and reading three years in a row would be eligible.

Taft spokesman Mark Rickel declined to comment. "Everything will be rolled out" Thursday, he said.

The plan will further hurt traditional public schools by taking away needed resources, said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Cleveland program was created in 1996 in response to high student failure rates. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the program constitutional in 2002.

The court's 5-4 decision allowed taxpayer money to underwrite tuition at private or parochial schools if parents retain a wide choice of where to send their children.




Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB
By Erik W. Robelen and
Lynn Olson, Education Week, 2/9/05

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said last week that there “is room to maneuver” through the administrative process in carrying out the No Child Left Behind Act. But, she cautioned, “I don’t want people to think that No Child Left Behind is up for grabs. It’s not.”

Ms. Spellings, who took office Jan. 20, emphasized in a Feb. 4 interview with Education Week that there are some “bright-line pieces of this statute that are nonnegotiable.” One of those, she said, is annual testing in grades 3-8, which she called “integral to the implementation of everything.”

President Bush’s administration has given a lot of time and resources to help states put the tests in place, she said, “so don’t be coming down here and telling me you haven’t done it.”

Despite many calls to amend the law in Congress, Ms. Spellings also expressed no desire to go that route. “I hope that the Department of Education will be the first place that people seek a solution,” she said.

But she maintained that refinements and modifications could be done through administrative actions “without running to the Congress and asking for a statutory change.”

At the same time, the secretary made it clear that states shouldn’t expect waivers from the law under her watch. She argued that before the Bush administration took office in 2001, “it was ‘waiver city,’ and I think people got, maybe, a little complacent.”

Many states had failed to comply with all the provisions under the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The No Child Left Behind law is the current version of the ESEA.

“There is room to maneuver through the administrative process without waivers,” Ms. Spellings said, noting that in some areas the administration has already done that. “But this ‘waive everything’—no. That’s a slippery slope.”

Overall, Ms. Spellings said she is glad that much of the conversation has turned to technical refinements of the law. “I think we’ve rounded the corner,” she said. “I think people think that this law is here to stay.”

Qualified Teachers

At least when it comes to ensuring a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom, the Education Department last week seemed to signal that there could be some additional leeway for states.

After extended negotiations between the agency and
North Dakota officials, the two sides agreed that veteran elementary teachers in that state will be able to meet the law’s “highly qualified teacher” provisions if they have an elementary education major and are fully licensed.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a reversal by any stretch,” Ms. Spellings said. She noted that the state now has a “high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation,” or HOUSSE, which it had lacked previously.

Under the law, teachers already in the classroom can demonstrate that they are highly qualified either by having a major or passing a test in their subject, or by meeting alternative standards developed by each state based on broad federal guidelines. Studies have shown those standards vary widely across states.

North Dakota officials justified to the department that the state requirements for an elementary education major include more than 40 hours of coursework in the core academic subjects, sufficient to demonstrate subject-matter competency.

Ms. Spellings said she needed to review state plans for meeting the highly-qualified-teacher provisions of the law before she could respond to criticisms.

“I just got here,” she noted.

The secretary declined to provide many specifics about President Bush’s high school proposals, beyond what has been released thus far. The president has proposed greater accountability for high schools, in part through expanded testing, as well as additional supports and interventions for students performing below grade level. ("Bush's High School Agenda Faces Obstacles," this issue.)

“Basically, we believe that the same sound principles that undergird No Child Left Behind in grades 3-8 ought to be extended in the high schools,” the secretary said, “and that includes regular measurement and reporting that data in a disaggregated way.”

One issue is that since most high schools do not receive federal Title I money, they would not, as the law is currently written, be subject to the consequences spelled out in the act, such as the requirement to provide school choice and supplemental services.

Ms. Spellings said, “These are the things we’re going to negotiate with the Congress, obviously.”

She noted that many governors are starting to talk about “high school proficiency and readiness [for work and college] and completion in their own states.”

“I’m anxious to see how they’re doing these things,” she said, noting that state policies typically apply to all schools, not just Title I schools.


Bush’s High School Agenda Faces Obstacles
Many Lawmakers May Resist Proposal for Increased Testing
By Erik W. Robelen, Education Week,

A cornerstone of President Bush’s second-term agenda for education—imposing greater accountability in high schools through more testing—appears likely to face serious political and practical challenges that some observers argue could imperil the plan.

Mr. Bush first announced the plan for extra testing during his 2004 campaign. Since his re-election, he has made clear that this and other aspects of his high school agenda remain a high priority.

And yet, early signals suggest the president may have a tough time marshaling the kind of broad, bipartisan support he achieved early in his first term with the No Child Left Behind Act.

Some leading Democrats appear skeptical of Mr. Bush’s plans, citing their frustration with education funding levels they deem inadequate to meet the current demands of federal law.

“This proposal for high school, regardless of what merits it might or might not have, will encounter stiff resistance in Congress and in the country until President Bush fulfills the commitments that have already been made to our public schools,” Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement last month. “Adding new mandates while schools lack the resources to meet the current demands will not help schools.”

The resistance may not be solely partisan. Some conservative Republicans who were not big fans of the No Child Left Behind law to begin with may balk at more federal mandates. Even key GOP leaders in Congress on education, while not saying they’re opposed to the high school agenda, haven’t exactly warmly embraced the idea.

Beyond the political issues lie other potential barriers.

For one, since most high schools don’t receive federal aid under Title I—the flagship program for disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act—more testing would not necessarily lead to the kind of accountability the president wants.

Currently, schools that don’t receive Title I aid are not subject to the law’s specific consequences for low-performing schools, such as allowing students to transfer to a higher-performing public school or get free tutoring.

The Department of Education declined to comment for this story.

A ‘Plausible’ Goal?

President Bush made improving high schools a key idea in his re-election bid. He often touted the No Child Left Behind Act—a signature achievement of his first four years that overhauled the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—and vowed to bring a greater emphasis to high schools in his second term.

Last month, he reiterated that plan and offered more details, proposing to target $1.5 billion to his new high school initiative. Some $250 million of that would be reserved for helping states expand high school testing, and $1.2 billion would help states hold high schools accountable and intervene with students not learning at grade level. ("Bush Promotes Plan for High School Tests,"
Jan. 19, 2005.)

The White House hinted that it would divert funds from existing Department of Education programs to pay for at least part—and possibly all—of the high school plans. Further details were expected this week when Mr. Bush unveils his budget request for fiscal 2006, though there’s widespread speculation that much of the money would come from the agency’s politically popular vocational education programs.

“[W]e need to be sure that high school students are learning every year,” the president said at
J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., on Jan. 12. “Listen, I’ve heard every excuse in the book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child is learning if you don’t test.”

The No Child Left Behind law requires all public schools to test students annually in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics, and once in high school. The new plan would call for testing in both subjects in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. Administration aides have said the tests would be phased in, and likely wouldn’t begin until the 2009-10 school year.

The vast majority of states do not now administer statewide English and math tests each year in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, according to data gathered by the
Education Week Research Center.

Thomas E. Mann, an expert on politics at the Brookings Institution in
Washington, said he expects Mr. Bush’s testing plan to face an uphill struggle on Capitol Hill, with resistance not just from Democrats, who may see little to gain in cooperating, but also from some Republicans.

“I think in general, they are not going to be thrilled with this,” he said of GOP lawmakers.

At the same time, Mr. Mann said no one should write off the president’s initiative.

“Among his very ambitious items, this is one of the more plausible and doable, certainly compared to Social Security reform, tax reform, reducing the deficit in half, establishing democracy in the
Middle East,” he said.

“There’s going to be more pressure for changes in No Child Left Behind, as opposed to extending it to more grades,” predicted Joel Packer, a senior lobbyist with the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union and a group that frequently criticizes the federal law.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 100 conservative House members, said at a January press briefing that he wanted to “reverse the expanding federal role in primary and secondary education, which conservatives believe is a state and local function,” according to the Associated Press.

Money alone could be a big obstacle for Mr. Bush. Last year, given tight fiscal constraints, Congress showed little appetite for some of the president’s initiatives. Lawmakers, for example, rejected his plan to provide enhanced Pell Grants for college to needy students who pursue a rigorous high school curriculum. Congress also chopped his $100 million request for the Striving Readers initiative—which seeks to help struggling middle and high school readers—to $25 million.

For fiscal 2006, President Bush has said he wants $200 million for Striving Readers and $250 million for the new high school testing, among other items.

But without a significant increase in overall Education Department funding—and one is not expected in his 2006 request—getting federal lawmakers to reserve $250 million for high school tests won’t be easy.

Still, some analysts suggest the administration may have one persuasive factor in its favor: the new secretary of education, Margaret Spellings. Formerly the president’s top domestic-policy aide, she’s considered to possess the political savvy and good relationships with lawmakers that could help the fate of the testing plans on Capitol Hill.

The Republican leaders of the House and Senate education committees seemed cautious when asked last month about the president’s new testing plans.

“This proposal will spark a healthy debate in the United States Congress,” Rep. John A. Boehner of
Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi of
Wyoming, the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said in an interview that he has many questions about the plan.

“How do we institute it, how do we do it?” he said. But he said he was open to the idea.

“It may have to be incremental; it may take a little while to get imposed,” Sen. Enzi said. “I could be supportive of two more years of testing. We need to make sure that it’s put in at the proper stage, though.”

‘Nourish Them Now’

Some education leaders question the value of still more testing, even while welcoming Mr. Bush’s attention to high schools.

“I have a whole plethora of statistics that already tell us that 9th and 10th graders have a number of problems,” said Gerald M. Tirozzi, the executive director of the Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals, who was an assistant secretary of education during the Clinton administration. “We need to nourish them now and address problems. Why spend all that new money on testing?”

Edgar B. Hatrick, the superintendent of the 45,000-student
Loudoun County school district in Virginia, said he would like to see the president “work on refining No Child Left Behind and its testing requirements” before expanding the demands in high school. He also said the law needed to be better funded before Congress mandates more tests.

Peter McWalters,
Rhode Island’s education commissioner, said he’s a strong supporter of testing tied to accountability, but he questioned the need for the extra high school assessments.

“I have what I need to know a school is not effective or needs intervention,” said Mr. McWalters, whose state currently has statewide high school assessments for reading and math only in 11th grade. “The issue of more testing is more useful testing at the student level.”

Mr. McWalters said that what’s needed are the kind of local tests that closely gauge the progress of individual students and provide speedy feedback for educators to intervene, something his state is now working on with some districts.

Another issue is whether more high school testing would be reliable for judging schools. Several experts said teenagers may not give such tests their all unless the tests are linked to graduation or college admissions.

“A lot of kids, they’re not going to take it seriously,” said William J. Erpenbach, an education consultant based in Madison, Wis. “Anything connected with state testing programs, they could care less.”

Furthermore, while President Bush sees the expanded testing as linked to accountability, under current law most high schools would not face the core consequences for low performance spelled out in the No Child Left Behind Act. That’s largely because most school districts, with limited Title I funds, usually first target the aid to elementary and middle schools. Indeed, several superintendents interviewed for this story said none of their high schools receives Title I aid.

At a December forum at the American Enterprise Institute, a
Washington think tank, a White House aide said Mr. Bush envisions the extra tests counting for accountability purposes under the law.

“We’ll have to work with Congress [on] … exactly how we might want to engage some of those consequences at the high school level to go beyond those schools that receive Title I dollars,” said David Dunn, who has since become Secretary Spellings’ chief of staff in the Education Department.


Utah Is Unlikely Fly in Bush’s School Ointment
By Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, 2/9/05

Salt Lake City - Utah state Rep. Margaret Dayton adores President Bush. Her conservative politics line up with his, and one of her favorite memories is of being at an intimate gathering and hearing the president echo her top priorities: God, family, and country.

Yet Rep. Dayton is driving one of Mr. Bush’s biggest education-related headaches. Last year, she led a nationally watched push for
Utah to opt out of the No Child Left Behind Act—his signature school reform law. That effort failed only after federal officials traveled to Utah and helped convince lawmakers here that dropping out would cost the state at least $106 million in education aid.

Mrs. Dayton hasn’t given up, though. Like legislators in several other states—many of them fellow Republicans—she sees the law’s raft of prescriptions as encroaching on state and local turf and imposing unwarranted costs. As discontent with the law simmers, Mrs. Dayton is back with a modified proposal. Unanimously approved last week by the state’s House education committee, the plan is sure to draw attention again to
Utah and cause additional heartburn in Washington.

“This is very hard for me because I am very supportive of [President Bush], but I just don’t want to follow blindly,” said Mrs. Dayton, who chairs the House education committee, during a recent interview. “To me, this is an issue of states’ rights.”

Her retooled plan calls for the federal education law to take a back seat to the state’s statutes, especially when the two levels of government conflict. Mrs. Dayton’s proposal wouldn’t reject the No Child Left Behind law outright, but it would give school districts the right to ignore federal requirements if state education money must pay for them.

This year’s bill is much more likely to pass than last year’s proposal. It already has support in the GOP-controlled House and Senate. The Utah Office of Education supports it, as does, according to Mrs. Dayton, Gov. John Huntsman Jr., a Republican who took office last month.

Nationwide, states are in their fourth year of implementing the law, an overhaul of the nearly 40-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The NCLB law, signed by President Bush in January 2002, emphasizes accountability for schools’ performance. It calls for regular student testing and imposes penalties on schools and districts that don’t meet annual achievement goals based on the exams. It also includes mandates in areas such as teacher quality.

Utah’s effort last year to reject the federal law was closely monitored by other states mulling their options, and once again, Utah’s actions are being scrutinized.

“As this moves forward,” said David Shreve, an education lobbyist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a lot of people will be watching.”

‘It Chains Us’

Utah seems an unlikely place to start a revolution against the No Child Left Behind Act. An overwhelmingly Republican state in which Democrats make up just a quarter of the legislature, Utah gave President Bush his largest margin of victory in 2004.

But many Utahans have always felt—dating back to 1847, when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints settled in this desert land hemmed in by the
Rocky Mountains—that they should be in charge of their own business.

“I don’t believe that having the federal government dictating to us with all their wisdom will solve anything,” said Rep. David N. Cox, a Republican and a 5th grade teacher. “I’d be willing to lose all that federal money to be free. Ultimately it chains us.”

Rep. Kory M. Holdaway, a Republican and a special education teacher, said that historically, education has been squarely within the purview of the states. “No Child Left Behind is a blanket over all the country,” he said. “It’s an intrusion that I’m baffled by.”

He voted against Rep. Dayton’s opt-out provision last year, however, concluding that the state couldn’t stand the loss of federal dollars.

Even to those who embrace the aims of the law, like Bill Boyle, the editor and publisher of the weekly San Juan Record in rural
Monticello, Utah, the No Child Left Behind Act seems like something conceived miles away from real schools.

As an example, Mr. Boyle, who is a few weeks into his new post on the school board for the 2,950- student
San Juan school district, points to Whitehorse High School on the Navajo reservation in San Juan County. The high-poverty school is labeled “in need of improvement.”

As a result, the school must bus the 41 students who chose to make the daily, 80-mile round-trip commute to another school. They are some of the brightest students in the school, Mr. Boyle said.

Scoffing at the mandate, he said, “Solutions to local problems need to be local solutions.”

Uproar Last Year

Even in 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act was just beginning to reach into classrooms across the country, Rep. Dayton though it was wrong. In particular, she objected to spending the millions of local dollars state officials estimated were needed to implement the new law—especially because close to 70 percent of the state’s land is federally owned and doesn’t contribute to the tax base to help fund schools.

So she introduced the opt-out bill last year. The result was a huge uproar.

“At first, my whole effort was viewed as an irritating gnat by federal officials, who thought I would just go away,” said Mrs. Dayton, a vibrant 55-year-old who, along with her husband, an obstetrician, has 12 children and more than 20 grandchildren

Orem homemaker, who loves to bake her own rolls and shuns the title of Ms. Dayton because it is too closely associated with the women’s liberation movement, pressed on.

Utah’s 2004 efforts attracted national attention at a time when other legislatures, in states such as Connecticut and Virginia, were debating pulling the ripcord, too. It was also an election year, and the negative attention to one of President Bush’s most prized domestic accomplishments was hardly welcomed by Republican Party officials.

Washington dispatched a posse from the U.S. Department of Education.

Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok, Ronald J. Tomalis, a counselor to then-Secretary Rod Paige, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ken Meyer all flew in over the frosted peaks of the
Wasatch Mountains to answer questions, cajole, coerce, and essentially lobby Utah lawmakers to end the revolt.

It was a full-court press. “They tried to strong-arm us,” said Rep. Cox. “They tried to undermine our opposition with threats of loss of revenue.”

The tense standoff riled many here. “They tried to let us know we didn’t understand the law as clearly as they felt we should,” Rep. Holdaway recalled. “We understood it pretty clearly.”

Prior to the confrontation, the Utah Office of Education had written to the federal Education Department seeking leeway to opt out of certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind law and asking about consequences if it did so. The response was that the state could lose more than $106 million in federal funding.

Beehive State already has the lowest per-pupil spending level in the country, $5,132, and its schools have some of the highest class sizes, leaving it scratching for every education dollar of its $2.4 billion education budget.

Still, Rep. Dayton’s bill passed unanimously out of the House education committee in January of 2004. The bill’s language was later softened to reflect lawmakers’ concerns about losing the federal money. It instead directed schools to stop spending money on federal requirements when the checks from
Washington run out. The revised bill had significant support, but Mrs. Dayton ultimately shelved it after her actions were translated by the national media, in her view, as “Bush-bashing.”

“It was very painful” to put the bill on hold, Mrs. Dayton recalled, thumbing through a well-worn copy of the federal law. “But I didn’t want it to become a big campaign issue.”

Rep. Patricia Jones, a Democrat, said the
Washington pressure tactics worked. “It has kind of forced us to be prostitutes for the federal government,” she said.

Alternative Plan

Rep. Dayton’s latest bill builds on a provision in the No Child Left Behind law allowing the
U.S. secretary of education to grant states waivers to help them comply. So far, federal officials have been reluctant to grant such waivers. The proposal also relies on a section of the federal law that essentially says that a state doesn’t have to carry out the law if it lacks the federal money to do so.

Mr. Holdaway introduced a companion resolution that emphasizes the goals of Mrs. Dayton’s bill. Both measures say the state’s own accountability system, the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, or U-PASS, should serve as the basis for monitoring local schools, not the No Child Left Behind Act.

The core difference between U-PASS, which is still being fine-tuned, and the No Child Left Behind Act is how they measure student progress. While U-PASS expects every child to make a year’s worth of progress based on individual performance, the No Child Left Behind Act requires every child to reach the same benchmarks regardless of where they start.

U-PASS also requires testing in more grades than does the federal law. The state system doesn’t put as much emphasis on performance by minority groups as the federal law does. Instead, U-PASS looks at a host of factors, including test scores, attendance, and graduation rates, to determine if a school gets a passing grade.

In using U-PASS, Mrs. Dayton said, “we are obeying the spirit of the [federal] law … though we cannot afford to live the letter of the law.”

And the state seems to be doing a decent job educating its students. Last month, the College Board’s first-ever “Advanced Placement Report to the Nation” found that Utah ranked third in the country for students who took and passed AP tests, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington.

Calling the federal law’s goals “arbitrary,” Ms. Harrington said it “assumes all tomatoes ripen on the vine at exactly the same time.”

How federal officials will respond to Rep. Dayton’s more muted rebellion—and similar tactics in other states—is anyone’s guess. Federal education officials declined to be interviewed for this story, though Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey released a statement Feb. 1.

“We’ve been diligently working to provide all states with accurate information about the law and assistance with implementation issues, including
Utah,” it read. “We continue to work with the governor and his staff and state officials to achieve the common goal of all children learning.”

Utah lawmakers also hope that the new secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, who stressed in her Jan. 6 confirmation hearing that she wanted the law to be “sensible and workable,” will be open to their proposals. During that same hearing, U.S. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, asked Ms. Spellings if she’d visit his state to address concerns there. She said she would.

Utah’s legislative session lasts just 45, often frenetic, days, so a visit from Ms. Spellings may not come in time to derail Rep. Dayton’s new bill.

As for the state lawmaker, she would still prefer to rebuff the federal law altogether. “If I were the only person making the decision,” Mrs. Dayton said, “I would still opt out.”


Charter Studies Offer Caution on Achievement
By Caroline Hendrie, Education Week, 2/9/05

Washington - If the nation’s diverse collection of charter schools were to be given a group report card, at this point they’d have a hard time making it onto the honor roll. That’s the lowdown from two reports released last week by groups that are firmly in the procharter camp.

The first, commissioned by the Washington-based Charter School Leadership Council, finds a decidedly mixed picture after analyzing 38 studies that have compared standardized-test scores of students in charter schools in various states with those in district-run schools. Although it cites evidence of progress, the analysis suggests that in many places, charter school performance is giving supporters too little to crow about.

“What we have is an experiment worth continuing—and refining,” says the report, which was written by Bryan C. Hassel, a policy consultant and charter expert based in Chapel Hill, N.C. “The existence of poor-quality charter schools makes clear that we have more to learn about how to generate success with this policy.”

The second report, released by the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank here affiliated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, focuses exclusively on
Ohio. While highlighting some bright spots, the report suggests that the state’s charter sector is burdened by an array of problems that have hurt student performance.

“Available academic-achievement information on charter schools in
Ohio presents a mixed and incomplete picture, but one that should worry charter school supporters,” the PPI report says. Still, it says that the Ohio charter sector is in transition, partly because of revisions to the law there two years ago, and that grounds for optimism exist as long as policymakers “actively work to ensure that these schools are as much about quality as they are about choice for parents.”

The reports come as leading proponents of charter schools are stressing the need to address the uneven quality of the more than 3,200 such schools around the country. Critics of the independently run but publicly financed schools, meanwhile, are pointing to research results as a reason to wind down the nation’s 12-year-old experiment with charter schooling.

Greater Scrutiny Urged

Instead of slamming the brakes on chartering, Mr. Hassel argues in his report for more research into why some charter schools are runaway successes and others are the opposite.

His analysis found that studies tracking scores over time—either of individual students or of entire schools or grades—yielded a more encouraging picture of charter schools’ performance than research that relied on snapshot comparisons.

Among the 21 studies he examined that measured changes in test scores, nine found gains in charters that outstripped those in district schools. Five found comparable gains in both types of schools, and three found charters lagging, Mr. Hassel reports. Three more studies found that charter schools were posting greater gains in certain categories, such as elementary or high schools, or those serving students deemed at high risk of school failure.

Of the 17 so-called snapshot studies, nine found that district schools were outperforming charters, while the rest showed “comparable, mixed, or generally positive results for charter schools.”

The report calls for more studies that track individual students over time, and that look at factors other than test scores, such as dropout rates, attendance, satisfaction levels, performance in subjects other than reading and mathematics, and success in college.

Further, Mr. Hassel urges more evaluations of the policy of chartering itself, rather than of how students on average are doing in charter schools as a whole.

“Asking about the quality of ‘charter schools’ as a group is a bit like asking the quality of ‘new restaurants’ or ‘American cars,’ ” the report says. “[A]ny overall generalization will mask great diversity within.”

One researcher whose studies were included in Mr. Hassel’s analysis said last week that his review of the research so far yields a view of charter performance that is slightly more negative than Mr. Hassel’s.

Gary J. Miron, the chief of staff at the evaluation center at
Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, said charter schools in some states, including Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio, seem to be having particular problems with achievement. But he said that research in the field is strikingly incomplete.

“There’s a lot of bad research out there, and there are a lot of people struggling with bad data,” Mr. Miron said.

In Ohio, a lack of solid data on performance is just one of a series of serious challenges facing the charter sector, according to the Progressive Policy Institute report by Chicago education writer
Alexander Russo.

The state has more than 240 charter schools serving an estimated 60,000 students. But last school year, only 112 received ratings under the state’s school accountability system, in part because the state lacks usable testing data for many of them, the report says.

What’s more, the report says, 58 percent of the charter schools that were rated ended up in the two lowest categories. To improve quality, the report recommends closing the funding gap between charter and district schools; doing more to help “mom and pop” charter schools that are run independently of education management organizations; allowing charter schools to spread statewide; and encouraging proven charter models to enter the state, among other steps.

Oversight by charter school authorizers also needs to improve, the PPI report says. But the jury is out, it says, on how successfully the state will carry out a 2003 law that required schools that were granted their charters by the state to find new authorizers by this coming July.


Florida Study Shows Achievement Lags for Racially Isolated Schools in the State
By Debra Viadero, Education Week, 2/9/05

More than half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, a new Florida study shows that the racial composition of schools still matters when it comes to scores on student-achievement tests.

The study, published last month in the American Educational Research Journal, is based on analyses of test scores and other data from elementary, middle, and high schools in Florida’s 67 public school districts.

All other things being equal, the researchers found, schools with high enrollments of African-American students tend to score lower on state mathematics and reading tests than integrated or mostly white schools.

Though the researchers concentrated on Florida, they said the implications of their findings have a broad reach because they come at a time when districts nationwide are being released from long-running court orders to desegregate their schools.

“It’s as though districts have decided that those patterns don’t matter anymore, when clearly our evidence suggests they do and quite decidedly,” said Kathryn M. Borman, the study’s lead author and an anthropology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Tests’ Fairness Debated

The researchers said their findings also raise questions about potential inequities in testing programs, such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, that penalize and reward schools based on students’ scores.

Such tests are a cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act, the 3-year-old federal school improvement law championed by President Bush. It requires states to adopt high-stakes testing for schools that receive aid through the federal Title I program for disadvantaged students.

But, while the law compels those schools to show that test scores are improving for every racial and ethnic subgroup they enroll, it makes no special provisions for their overall demographic makeups, a practice the researchers contend is “clearly unfair” to schools in which nearly all the students are African-American.

“When you look at the schools being sanctioned, you’ll find these programs are disproportionately sanctioning minority schools and schools with high concentrations of English-language learners,” said Harvard University researcher Gary Orfield, who has found similar relationships between racial imbalance and lagging achievement in his own, separate studies of Boston-area schools. “This is a pattern we’re seeing all over the place.”

But advocates for high-stakes testing vigorously dispute the contention that the
Florida testing system is unfair.

“So are they saying we should not have the same goals for those [racially isolated] students because those students do not do as well on the FCAT?” said Ross E. Weiner, a policy director for the Education Trust, an education research and advocacy group based in
Washington. “I think this kind of research holds black kids back.”

Ms. Borman and her research partners found that scores for schools with mostly black students were lower than those in other schools, even after accounting for other factors that are known to affect academic achievement, such as differences in per-pupil spending and the percentages of students from poor families. They also attempted to account for schools' differences in instructional quality by factoring in teachers' average years of experience and levels of education and average class sizes.

Once those factors were taken into consideration, the authors found, 36 percent of 4th graders passed the reading section of
Florida’s state exam in schools where 90 percent of students are African-American. By comparison, the 4th grade passing rates for the same tests in schools with less than 15 percent black enrollment was 54 percent.

On 5th grade math tests, the study concludes, 5 percent fewer students passed the tests in mostly black schools than in mostly white schools.

The researchers found similar race-related achievement patterns for middle and high schools.

However, the researchers said that their study is limited because it is based on testing data from just the 1999-2000 school year, the second year that
Florida’s testing program was in place.

Studies are under way to track those testing patterns over several more years, they said.


When It Comes to Bullying, There Are No Boundaries
Nations Try Various Strategies to Eradicate Such Behavior in Schools
By Marianne D. Hurst, Education Week, 2/9/05

American policymakers have been urgently seeking solutions to school bullying and violence in recent years, but the issue had been receiving attention in many other countries long before it hit the
U.S. spotlight.

“Bullying is a problem in every school in the world, which may seem like a simplistic answer, but it’s true,” said Andrew Mellor, the manager of the Anti-Bullying Network at the
University of Edinburgh, an organization funded by the Scottish government to provide schools and students with information and support.

Most scholars generally accept the concept of bullying as an imbalance of power that exists over an extended period of time between two individuals, two groups, or a group and an individual in which the more powerful intimidate or belittle others. Bullying can be both physical and psychological, but physical bullying is not as common as the more subtle forms, such as social exclusion, name-calling, and gossip.

“Somehow, in the context of school, the way children experience victimization is common,” said Ron Astor, an education professor at the
University of Southern California who has been studying school bullying in Israel since 1997. “Bullying is germane to schools.”

Most schools, he said, are introduced to the problem through an act of violence or suicide. In
Scandinavia, researchers began the first significant push to understand the problem in the late 1960s. Still, it wasn’t until 1982, after three Norwegian adolescents committed suicide as a result of being bullied, that Norway launched an aggressive national campaign to deal with the intimidation.

Norway encouraged schoolwide intervention policies, including classroom rules establishing limits to unacceptable behavior, the formation of teacher-development groups, class meetings with children on peer relations and behavior, and counseling for bullies, victims, and parents. Studies showed a 50 percent decrease in school bullying by 1985. The country’s parliament strengthened efforts in 2002 with passage of a manifesto that committed the central government, local authorities, and some parent and teacher groups to a program of action in the hope of quickly eliminating the practice.

The movement to curb bullying has since moved into many other countries, including
Scotland and Australia, which set up government-supported organizations and Web sites—such as the Anti-Bullying Network and Australia’s program—to help schools understand the issue and offer guidelines to establish effective school policies and teacher training.

‘The Bottom Line’

Mr. Mellor, the network’s manager, said most schools in Scotland have policies that include a clear statement that bullying is unacceptable, along with a means of addressing the behavior in the curriculum—either through social education classes or in-class peer-mentoring groups in which older students counsel and support younger ones.

In Australian, the government “sees the solution to bullying in terms of getting teachers and children to appreciate social-justice issues,” said Ken Rigby, an adjunct research professor at the
University of South Australia. The theory goes, “If it could only be seen that it was wrong to harass and torment people who are different, bullying [would] be solved.”

That idea, however, has limited appeal to schools, Mr. Rigby noted, because human nature usually doesn’t lead people to think fairly of every individual.

Many schools in
Australia, he said, lean toward problem-solving interventions such as student or teacher mediators or class discussions in which children, including the bullies, exchange views about why problems occur and what should be done about them. But Mr. Rigby argued that, ultimately, the success of any program depends less on program content and more on how involved teachers and schools become. “Implementation is the bottom line as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The extent to which a teacher takes [bullying] seriously makes a difference.”

In 1998, the Israel Ministry of Education adopted several codes that mandate schoolwide anti-bullying policies and extensive in-service staff and teacher training.

Common-Sense Solutions

The ministry also supports ongoing surveys and studies to craft individualized solutions. Surveys found that bullying occurred most often just after school hours, in hallways and restrooms, or during periods of limited teacher supervision. Many schools addressed their problems with simple, common-sense adjustments such as increasing the presence of police and lighting along school routes, having parents escort children to and from school, and placing more teachers in hallways and during recess. “The surveys are the first initial step,” said Mr. Astor of USC. “[They] bring the whole level of dialogue up a notch or two because they don’t start from an opinion; they start from facts.”

Those facts appear to be opening eyes. From 1998 to 2002, Israel saw a 25 percent reduction in all forms of school violence, including bullying, Mr. Astor said.

But collecting data is not always an option for developing countries. In many sub-Saharan African countries, a typical classroom houses 100 to 150 students, which can turn being a teacher into “a form of crowd control,” said Beverly Jones, the director of the Global Learning Group at the Academy for Educational Development, a Washington-based social-development organization.

Cheating, which is often the motive behind school bullying there, becomes rampant as struggling students try to force their more successful peers to share test answers, she said. “These are systems in which there are no second chances,” Ms. Jones said. “The consequences of these exams can literally be life and death for students and families,” because exam results mean going on to higher education or being trapped in menial work and poverty.

Classroom conditions don’t help. In some cases, tests are taken with as many as three students crammed to one desk. “Heaven help the student who happens to be a good student and covers up their paper so other students can’t see,” Ms. Jones said, because he or she may become a target of bullying.

Japan, the culture itself can lead to bullying. A recent study found that more than 23,000 cases of bullying had occurred in nearly 8,000 schools in 2003. Much of that behavior is driven by the demand that individuals conform to the expectations of society.

Suicide and Truancy

“Conformity is very important in
Japan,” said Toshio Ohsako, a consultant to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization who has studied bullying in Japan. “If someone stands out, they have a tendency to be bullied.”

As a result, close friends, teachers, and peers most often bully the nonconformists. An estimated 60,000 Japanese students were being bullied in 1995, and while those numbers have decreased, the drops have not been steady. Mr. Ohsako noted that truancy has become a problem in
Japan, and that nearly 30 percent of the truants skip school because they fear being bullied.

The Japanese Ministry of Education responded to the problem by reinforcing teacher training on bullying, increasing the number of qualified school counselors and nurses available to help students cope, and drafting clearer guidelines and procedures that now allow schools to suspend children who inflict physical or psychological damage on their peers.

Despite those steps, Mr. Ohsako said it’s not easy for the government to intervene because bullying is such a sensitive and private subject.

“We need to develop the long-term perspective of students,” said Mr. Ohsako, who believes that social attitudes will have to change before bullying can be dealt with effectively. “It doesn’t work to just punish bullies. You have to make schooling more attractive to students by having activities, interesting subjects, good teachers, and a nice environment.”

Most researchers agree that allowing children to sink into boredom can be a precursor to bullying and that schools need to foster student activity. Some experts also contend that teaching children how to engage in pro-social peer pressure and interventions rather than simply remaining bystanders is another effective means of dealing with the problem.

Over the long haul, in fact, many doubt that laws or zero-tolerance policies work well.

“I don’t think laws are successful ways to deal with bullying,” said Mr. Rigby of the
University of South Australia. “In many cases, it’s just a matter of reminding children that what they’re doing is not right.”


More Governors Want to Rate Early-Childhood Programs
By Linda Jacobson, Education Week, 2/9/05

Hoping that child-care centers and preschools in their states will respond to higher expectations, more governors are proposing rating systems both to encourage providers to improve their services and to give parents the information they need to choose a high-quality environment.

Govs. James E. Doyle of
Wisconsin, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, and Tom Vilsack of Iowa have all made rating systems—similar to the methods used to evaluate hotels or restaurants—part of their legislative agendas this year. The three are Democrats.

“Right now, we pay the worst child-care facility and the best child-care facility the same amount, and that’s wrong,” Gov. Doyle said during his State of the State Address last month. “My plan will reward quality, encourage improvement, and give parents the information they need to choose the right child-care center.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Napolitano is recommending a rating system as part of a package of improvements designed to better prepare
Arizona’s children for school and to help parents make decisions about care.

“Parents need to be able to go to work knowing their children are safe and nurtured,” Gov. Napolitano said during her speech to the legislature in January.

Rating systems—which measure such indicators as staff-child ratio and the educational level of the teachers at a center—are useful as consumer guides.

Equally important, experts say, is that such ratings can be used to reward programs for improving quality. Under the systems proposed in
Arizona, Iowa, and Wisconsin, centers with higher ratings would receive more state child-care money to serve children from low-income families than would centers with lower ratings. In addition, highly rated centers or preschools would be more likely to be chosen to take part in the states’ preschool programs.

Representatives of child-care centers and preschool providers, however, say that any financial incentives tied to ratings need to be based on what it truly costs to provide high-quality care—and that technical assistance must be part of the system to help programs improve.

Star System

According to the
National Child Care Information Center, a federally financed clearinghouse and technical-assistance center based in Vienna, Va., 16 states have some form of quality-rating system, with some of them still implementing the programs on a pilot basis.

For example, in Colorado, programs serving children from birth through kindergarten can volunteer to have their programs evaluated on a five-level scale by Qualistar, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that rates programs and helps refer parents to centers that meet their needs.

Under that state’s program, which started in 2002, centers earning no stars are considered substandard, in large part because health and safety guidelines are often neglected and the centers require no teacher training.

In a two-star center in Colorado, toys are available, children are read to regularly, and their basic needs are met, but efforts to reduce staff turnover, adopt daily routines, and improve staff development are still considered by evaluators to be in need of improvement.

In a four-star program, teachers have training in early-childhood development and provide a curriculum that addresses the social, emotional, physical, and academic needs of young children. In addition, activities for fun are provided every day and frequent communication with parents is part of the school’s culture.

The RAND Corp., a research organization based in
Santa Monica, Calif., is evaluating Colorado’s rating system to determine whether the program is raising quality and whether the changes are improving outcomes for children.

‘Quality Matters’

Experts say rating systems, to some degree, are state versions of the accreditation offered by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

In fact, most states that rate centers use the NAEYC’s detailed criteria for accreditation to design their tiered ratings, said Mark Ginsberg, the executive director of the Washington-based professional association.

“I think [rating systems and accreditation] are not only compatible, but complementary,” Mr Ginsberg said, pointing out that in many cases, the NAEYC standards for accredited programs mirror the highest rating a state will give a center.

He also credited state rating systems for contributing to an increase in both the number of applications for NAEYC accreditation and the number of centers earning the credential.

Lynn White, the policy director for the National Child Care Association, based in Conyers, Ga., said requiring national accreditation in order to receive a top state rating poses problems for centers, because it can take a year to complete the accreditation process.

Only one state—North Carolina—has taken the ratings concept a bit further by implementing a rated licensing system, meaning that the various levels of quality are actually written into the state’s licensing regulations, and each child-care program receives a rating, depending on its level of quality.

Sue Russell, the president of Child Care Services Association, a research and advocacy organization in
Chapel Hill, N.C., said the system has made more providers aware of the components of quality and given them an incentive to make improvements.

The association has tracked
North Carolina’s center ratings, which have been based on a five-star system since the program began in 2000.

The group has data showing a steady decline in the proportion of centers in the state with just one star—from almost 40 percent the first year to less than 10 percent in 2004. At the top of the scale, the percentage of centers with four-star licenses has quintupled, from about 6 percent to 30 percent over those years.

“I think we have really seen a tremendous growth in high-quality programs—those with four and five stars,” Ms. Russell said. “We have seen gains in education of the workforce and a drop in [staff] turnover as well.

“Quality matters to parents, children, and teachers who work every day in those settings.”


Hearing Offers
Range of Views on IDEA Regulations
By Christina A. Samuels, Education Week, 2/9/05

Newark, Del. - Parents of children with disabilities urged the federal Department of Education to preserve their rights, during the first public hearing held to gather comment on the recent reauthorization of the nation’s main special education law.

The department is drafting regulations for the revised Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, signed by President Bush in December. The IDEA governs the education of more than 6.5 million children nationwide.

More than 40 speakers addressed a panel of three department officials here during the Jan. 28 hearing at the
University of Delaware, the first of seven such sessions to be held around the country by Feb. 24.

Troy R. Justesen, the acting deputy assistant secretary for the Education Department’s office of special education and rehabilitative services, explained that these early meetings are intended to guide the department as it works on the regulations. The public will have another opportunity to comment when the draft regulations are released, he said.

Many speakers here said they were concerned about some provisions in the reauthorized law that are intended to reduce paperwork and lawsuits, particularly a 15-state pilot program that will allow districts to develop individualized education plans, or IEPs, for students every three years instead of annually. Parents said they feared the lengthy gap between formal meetings could erode their ability to monitor their children’s school progress.

Artie Kempner, the president of the Autism Society of Delaware and a parent of a child with autism, said three years between evaluations is a long time in the life of a young child, or even an older one.

“We do not want to see the high standards that we’re used to watered down for the sake of less paperwork,” he said. “These kids are already severely challenged; their families are challenged. Three years, that’s going to be a problem.”

Other parents were concerned that the revised IDEA shifts more burdens to parents who may already be unsure of their rights.

“In a lot of places you have to request things,” said Kathie Cherry, a
Delaware parent of a 16-year-old with autism. “We need to ensure that the schools and the school districts are making this information [on the IDEA] available.”

Marie-Ann Aghadazian, the executive director of the Parent Information Center of Delaware, which provides support to families of children with special needs, said the revised law gives districts “even more of an upper hand than before.”

Faster Timetable

Other provisions in the revised law are intended to reduce paperwork or lawsuits. The new IDEA requires mandatory mediation sessions before a parent may challenge a school’s educational plan in a more formal due-process hearing.

Congress also eliminated a requirement under the previous version of the law that all members of an IEP team be present at a student’s hearing. Under the revised law, a team member can be excused if the parent agrees, or if the meeting doesn’t relate to that person’s area of expertise. Some parents said last week that excusing members of the team may halt the exchange of ideas that can help a child.

Not all the speakers were against the changes. Joseph A. Pika, the president of the
Delaware state board of education, said that he hoped his state would be selected to pilot several procedures aimed at saving time and paperwork.

“Any time we can find for professionals to spend more time with their students and less time as clerks can only benefit that student,” Mr. Pika said.

And Beverly Correlle, a lobbyist with the Delaware State Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, said that the regulations should focus on “student needs, not just collecting data for the sake of collecting.”

A draft of the proposed IDEA regulations is scheduled to be released in May, Mr. Justesen said, with a goal having the regulations completed by early next year, he said.

If the department holds to that schedule, the regulations would be in place far sooner than they were for the previous edition of the IDEA, which was approved in 1997. After that reauthorization, it took more than two years for the department to adopt final regulations. Congress has pushed for the department to move faster, Mr. Justesen said.





Illinois State Board of Education
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