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
''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.'' TOP OF PAGE
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
``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.''
Some 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.
However, 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
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
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
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
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,"
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
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 Illinois.
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
"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,
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.
PEORIA - The boy accused of shooting at a student inside WoodruffHigh
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 JuvenileDayReportingCenter, which was shuttered Sept. 30 because of budget shortfalls
in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
"When we had our DayReportingCenter, 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
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.
The DayReportingCenter, 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
The Peoria center was one of three such facilities in the state
that closed last fall after their original five-year contracts expired.
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
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, 2/9/05
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
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
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
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
By Kati Phillips, Daily Southtown Staff writer, 2/9/05
Years of administrative turnover and fiscal mismanagement caught up
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
During an often raucous community forum Tuesday at BurrOakAcademy, 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
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
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 HazelCrestSchool
State officials could give CalumetParkSchool
132 an emergency loan and then impose a tax increase to pay it off,
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 152½.
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 CalumetParkSchool 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, 2/9/05
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
Dunn visited with administrators, school board members and teachers
Tuesday afternoon at RiddleElementary
Earlier in the day, he spoke to a group of about 25 education students
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
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
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
"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."
At age 17, he was distracted by other students. He didn't like the traditional
lecture class, and rarely did his work at MadisonHigh
"My grades were poor, and I had no interest in school," he
But three days ago, Michael enrolled in a new online learning program
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 MadisonHigh
has been offering for four years under the leadership of teacher Don
"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,"
But unlike traditional correspondence classes or general equivalency
diplomas, graduates of MadisonHigh
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,"
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 MadisonHigh
She also has a 2-year-old son, Camron Lovett, who takes up a lot of
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, MadisonCounty'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,"
"It eliminates an awful lot of kids who are poor and need the program,"
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
Students from other districts must have their transcripts certified
by a home education program contracted to MadisonCounty in order to get a diploma. It's a complicated procedure,
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 & ClarkCommunity
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. TOP OF PAGE
The first question, scrawled across a whiteboard in a sunny classroom
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."
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. TOP OF PAGE
SYCAMORE - Students who report illegal conduct at SycamoreHigh
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-KingstonHigh
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,
Board member Jay Montgomery questioned whether the program could be
expanded to include vandalism.
"We have a lot more vandalism than weapons possession," he
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,
Money for Crime Stoppers rewards comes from fines levied in county court,
Barnaby told board members. TOP OF PAGE
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
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.
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." TOP OF PAGE
finds deficits at charter schools
8 in Broward owe at least $100,000
By KarlaD.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
""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.
In 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
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
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 BrowardCounty, and seven in Palm BeachCounty.
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 legislation.aw. ""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
""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,""
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
In 2003 and 2004, Palm
down two charter schools for financial mismanagement, including AcademicSchool for the Arts and TerraNovaAcademy.
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
Broward Chief Auditor Pat Reilly said his office is most concerned about
the Chancellor Charter schools, managed by the Virginia-based ImagineSchools, 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."" TOP OF PAGE
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
"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
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
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.
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
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 GuilfordCountySchool 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." TOP OF PAGE
Study links juice,
AP, 2/7/05 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.
The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics recommends limiting preschoolers to ounces of juice per day. Some parents and schools are
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
Monica Dillion, community health nurse for the HowardAreaFamilyCenter, 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."
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
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 MemorialHospital 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." TOP OF PAGE
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
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
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."
TOP OF PAGE
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 SalemHigh
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
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
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 GeorgeMasonUniversity and a former executive vice president of the Arlington-based
board that grants the national certificates.
Patrick Ledesma, a technology specialist at HolmesMiddle School in FairfaxCounty, 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,
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,"
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 FallsmeadElementary
in MontgomeryCounty, 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 ThomasJeffersonHigh
for Science and Technology in FairfaxCounty.
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
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." TOP OF PAGE
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
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." TOP OF PAGE
Schools, 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
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
Dick Craven, an assistant superintendent at the FortZumwalt district, said his district sends 33 special education
students to private institutions at a collective cost of roughly $600,000
After last year's court ruling, FortZumwalt 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 FortZumwalt 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. LouisCounty who are served by the SpecialSchool
Under the current law, the SpecialSchool
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
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,"
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
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
SUTTER, 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 childrens privacy.
The badges introduced at BrittanElementary
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 doesnt 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 IDs 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 childrens
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 cant 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
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 doesnt understand what all their angst
Sometimes when you are on the cutting edge, you get caught,
Graham said, recounting the angry phone calls and notes he has received
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 teachers 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
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
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.
Whats 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 companys co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works
as a technology specialist in the towns high school. Brittans
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. TOP OF PAGE
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 ScottsdaleUnifiedSchool
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
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
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. TOP OF PAGE
Ohio gov. may broaden school voucher plan
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press Writer, 2/9/05
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 Cleveland.
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
The Cleveland program was created in 1996 in response to high student
failure rates. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the program constitutional
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. TOP OF PAGE
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
dont want people to think that No Child Left Behind is up for
grabs. Its 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 Bushs administration has given a lot of time and resources
to help states put the tests in place, she said, so dont
be coming down here and telling me you havent 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,
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 shouldnt
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 everythingno.
Thats 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 weve
rounded the corner, she said. I think people think that
this law is here to stay.
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 laws highly
qualified teacher provisions if they have an elementary education
major and are fully licensed.
I wouldnt 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
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
Ms. Spellings said she needed to review state plans for meeting the
highly-qualified-teacher provisions of the law before she could respond
I just got here, she noted.
The secretary declined to provide many specifics about President Bushs
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 were 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.
Im anxious to see how theyre doing these things,
she said, noting that state policies typically apply to all schools,
not just Title I schools. TOP OF PAGE
A cornerstone of President Bushs second-term agenda for educationimposing
greater accountability in high schools through more testingappears
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. Bushs 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
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 theyre opposed to the high school
agenda, havent exactly warmly embraced the idea.
Beyond the political issues lie other potential barriers.
For one, since most high schools dont receive federal aid under
Title Ithe flagship program for disadvantaged students under the
No Child Left Behind Actmore testing would not necessarily lead
to the kind of accountability the president wants.
Currently, schools that dont receive Title I aid are not subject
to the laws 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 Acta signature achievement
of his first four years that overhauled the Elementary and Secondary
Education Actand 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 partand possibly allof
the high school plans. Further details were expected this week when
Mr. Bush unveils his budget request for fiscal 2006, though theres
widespread speculation that much of the money would come from the agencys
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.StuartHigh
in Falls Church, Va., on Jan. 12. Listen, Ive heard every excuse
in the book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child is
learning if you dont 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 wouldnt begin until the 2009-10
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 EducationWeekResearchCenter.
Thomas E. Mann, an expert on politics at the Brookings Institution in
Washington, said he expects Mr. Bushs 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 presidents
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.
Theres 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 nations 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
presidents 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 initiativewhich seeks to help
struggling middle and high school readersto $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
But without a significant increase in overall Education Department fundingand
one is not expected in his 2006 requestgetting federal lawmakers
to reserve $250 million for high school tests wont 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 presidents top domestic-policy aide, shes 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 presidents new
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
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 its put in at the
proper stage, though.
Nourish Them Now
Some education leaders question the value of still more testing, even
while welcoming Mr. Bushs 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 LoudounCounty 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
education commissioner, said hes a strong supporter of testing
tied to accountability, but he questioned the need for the extra high
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 whats 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
A lot of kids, theyre 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
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. Thats 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.
Well 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. TOP OF PAGE
Utah Is Unlikely Fly in Bushs School Ointment By Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, 2/9/05
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. Bushs biggest education-related
headaches. Last year, she led a nationally watched push for Utah to opt out of the No Child Left Behind Acthis
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 hasnt given up, though. Like legislators in several
other statesmany of them fellow Republicansshe sees the
laws 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 states 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 dont 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 states statutes, especially when the two levels of
government conflict. Mrs. Daytons proposal wouldnt 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 years bill is much more likely to pass than last years
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
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 dont meet
annual achievement goals based on the exams. It also includes mandates
in areas such as teacher quality.
Utahs effort last year to reject the federal law was
closely monitored by other states mulling their options, and once again,
Utahs 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
But many Utahans have always feltdating 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
Mountainsthat they should be in charge of their own business.
I dont 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. Id 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. Its an intrusion that Im baffled
He voted against Rep. Daytons opt-out provision last year, however,
concluding that the state couldnt 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 WhitehorseHigh
on the Navajo reservation in San JuanCounty. The high-poverty school is labeled in need of
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 lawespecially
because close to 70 percent of the states land is federally owned
and doesnt contribute to the tax base to help fund schools.
So she introduced the opt-out bill last year. The result was a huge
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
The Orem homemaker, who loves to bake her own rolls and shuns
the title of Ms. Dayton because it is too closely associated with the
womens liberation movement, pressed on.
Utahs 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 Bushs
most prized domestic accomplishments was hardly welcomed by Republican
So 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 WasatchMountains 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 didnt 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.
The BeehiveState 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
Still, Rep. Daytons bill passed unanimously out of the House education
committee in January of 2004. The bills 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 didnt 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.
Rep. Daytons 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 doesnt 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. Daytons bill. Both measures say the states 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 years 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 doesnt 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 Boards 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 laws goals arbitrary, Ms. Harrington
said it assumes all tomatoes ripen on the vine at exactly the
How federal officials will respond to Rep. Daytons more muted
rebellionand similar tactics in other statesis anyones
guess. Federal education officials declined to be interviewed for this
story, though Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey released
a statement Feb. 1.
Weve 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
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 shed visit his state to address
concerns there. She said she would.
But Utahs legislative session lasts just 45, often frenetic,
days, so a visit from Ms. Spellings may not come in time to derail Rep.
Daytons 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. TOP OF PAGE
Washington - If the nations diverse collection of charter schools
were to be given a group report card, at this point theyd have
a hard time making it onto the honor roll. Thats the lowdown from
two reports released last week by groups that are firmly in the procharter
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 continuingand 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 states 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 nations 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 timeeither
of individual students or of entire schools or gradesyielded 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. Hassels 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. Hassels.
Gary J. Miron, the chief of staff at the evaluation center at WesternMichiganUniversity 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.
Theres 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
states school accountability system, in part because the state
lacks usable testing data for many of them, the report says.
Whats 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. TOP OF PAGE
Florida Study Shows Achievement Lags for Racially Isolated Schools
in the State By Debra Viadero, Education
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
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 Floridas 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.
Its as though districts have decided that those patterns
dont matter anymore, when clearly our evidence suggests they do
and quite decidedly, said Kathryn M. Borman, the studys
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
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, youll 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
were 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
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 Floridas 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 Floridas testing program was in place.
Studies are under way to track those testing patterns over several more
years, they said. TOP OF PAGE
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 its 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 wasnt until 1982, after
three Norwegian adolescents committed suicide as a result of being bullied,
that Norway launched an aggressive national campaign to deal with
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
countrys 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 sitessuch as the Anti-Bullying Network and Australias NoBully.com programto help schools understand
the issue and offer guidelines to establish effective school policies
and teacher training.
The Bottom Line
Mr. Mellor, the networks 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 curriculumeither
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 doesnt 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 Im 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.
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 dont 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
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 dont 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 cant see, Ms. Jones said, because he or
she may become a target of bullying.
In 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
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 its 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 doesnt
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 dont think laws are successful ways to deal with bullying,
said Mr. Rigby of the University of South Australia. In many cases, its just a matter of reminding
children that what theyre doing is not right. TOP OF PAGE
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 systemssimilar to the methods
used to evaluate hotels or restaurantspart 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 thats 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 Arizonas 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 systemswhich measure such indicators as staff-child ratio
and the educational level of the teachers at a centerare 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
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
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 careand that technical
assistance must be part of the system to help programs improve.
According to the NationalChildCareInformationCenter, 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 states 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
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 schools culture.
The RAND Corp., a research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., is evaluating Colorados rating system to determine whether the program
is raising quality and whether the changes are improving outcomes for
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 NAEYCs 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.
But 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 stateNorth Carolinahas 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 states
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 Carolinas 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 starfrom 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
programsthose 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. TOP OF PAGE
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
nations 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.
Troy R. Justesen, the acting deputy assistant secretary for the Education
Departments 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 childrens
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 were used
to watered down for the sake of less paperwork, he said. These
kids are already severely challenged; their families are challenged.
Three years, thats 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.
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 schools educational plan in a more formal
Congress also eliminated a requirement under the previous version of
the law that all members of an IEP team be present at a students
hearing. Under the revised law, a team member can be excused if the
parent agrees, or if the meeting doesnt relate to that persons
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
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. TOP OF PAGE
Illinois State Board of Education
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