CHICAGO - An Illinois legislative leader continued his crusade Friday for
an income tax hike to benefit public education, while a newly revived
panel that recommends how much the state should spend per pupil worked
on its latest report.
Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, told an audience in Chicago
that he's not discouraged Gov. Rod Blagojevich has threatened to veto
any general tax increases. Raising the individual income tax from 3
percent to 5 percent is central to legislation Jones backs that would
funnel billions of dollars to K-12 education while reducing the tax
burden on property owners.
Such a "tax swap" plan has been around for decades and is
designed to make school funding more stable and equitable for poorer
districts, but legislators consider the idea politically poisonous.
"I don't care where the governor stands. We are elected to lead,"
Jones said at the annual meeting of the advocacy group Voices for Illinois
"Sure, we've got to raise the income tax and maybe some other taxes
and get rid of the burden on the property tax for education," he
added. "It may not be the most popular decision at the time, but
it is the right thing to do."
Jones said the issue continues to be a top priority for him in the Senate
during the current legislative session. He said he couldn't speak for
the plan's chances in the House, which also is controlled by the Democrats.
Rather than agree to raise taxes for education, Blagojevich has earmarked
a share of new revenue for schools in his state budgets. His proposed
spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 proposes $140 million
in new education money, a decrease from his previous add-ons.
Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said Blagojevich's
stance against a broad tax increase "is the same today as it's
been since the day he took office." The Chicago Democrat is expected
to run for a second term in 2006.
"The governor agrees with President Jones that we need more money
for our schools," Carroll said, "and that's why the governor
has increased education funding by $1 billion in his first two years
in office and is proposing an additional increase in the upcoming budget."
Among the audience members who applauded Jones on Friday was retired
Democratic state Sen. Arthur Berman, a school-finance expert from Chicago who serves on the Education Funding Advisory Board.
Within the hour, the previously dormant board held its second meeting
since Blagojevich appointed new members under pressure from education
The statutorily created panel issued a report in late 2002 that included
a proposed tax swap and a recommendation that the state should spend
at least $5,665 per student annually. The five-member board is expected
to update that "foundation level" by early April in an overdue
follow-up report to the General Assembly.
Using the board's earlier methodology, the foundation level would rise
to at least $6,400, according to information posted on the Illinois
State Board of Education's Web site. At Berman's suggestion, staff will
make a new calculation using a business model, the Employment Cost Index.
Illinois government currently spends $4,964 per pupil. Berman
conceded the General Assembly can't meet his panel's higher goal without
identifying a significant revenue stream.
"Our charge is to recommend a fair foundation level so that every
child has an efficient and productive education," he said. "What
happens with that recommendation is up to our elected officials in the
legislature - the House and Senate - and the governor."
BETHALTO -- Friday at CivicMemorialHigh
started with the suspension of at least 45 students for flouting a direct
order against wearing ripped jeans at school.
It ended with the arrests of three of the suspended juveniles for fighting
and disorderly conduct at a "holey jeans" protest within sight
of the school.
School administrators said dress code violations at Civic Memorial have
been on the upswing since January; in particular, students wearing torn
"We have some that are exposing the crotch areas where you can
see the underwear, the buttocks areas. We have some with big holes in
the knees," Principal John Denton said.
Dress code policies in the Civic Memorial handbook specifically outlaw
rips of any kind.
"Ripped jeans or any clothing with holes or large tears in it is
not permitted," page 30 of the handbook reads.
Officials cracked down on "holey jeans," as some students
call them, over the last month.
Denton said teachers reviewed the dress policy in classes and
that he made three intercom announcements on the subject and talked
to students individually, as well.
This apparently irritated some students, who organized a protest in
which a number of students would wear ripped jeans to school en masse.
Denton got word of the plan and warned students not to go through
with it Thursday over the intercom.
He said that if they did, it would be considered "gross disobedience"
and would carry a one-day suspension from school, effective immediately.
Denton said between 45 and 50 students went through with the
plan Friday, were identified as they walked into school and were turned
around and sent home.
"We are talking about an organized protest that substantially disrupted
the organized educational activities of our whole school," Superintendent
Steven Harsy said.
The arrests came hours later, about , when about 30 of the suspended students picketed near the intersection
and Old Bethalto Road.
They congregated there after a school official kept them from gathering
in the high school parking lot.
They carried signs with slogans including, "Are pants more important
than education?" while chanting, "If youre happy and
you know it, rip your pants."
Officers with the Bethalto Police Department initially drove by every
few minutes, often warning the teens to stay off the street and refrain
from shouting profanities.
However, officers returned later and arrested two 16-year-old students
for fighting, Chief William Hays said, and one 15-year-old student for
disorderly conduct after he refused to leave.
"He decided he was going to make a stand," Hays said. "And
the rest were smart enough to probably do some mouthing but walk away."
Numerous students and parents said Friday that wearing ripped jeans
is simply a fashion statement and that if officials plan to be so strict
about the dress code, they should also be outlawing short skirts and
While most said jeans with rips in private areas should not be allowed,
they have a real problem with a blanket policy that all rips are taboo.
"We get suspended if we have a quarter-size hole in our pants.
This is ridiculous," 18-year-old senior Kyle Corrington said. "They
are concerned more about our dress than our education, which is totally
Kathy Jo Sheppard, whose daughter attends Civic Memorial, plans to circulate
a petition among parents asking the School Board to revise what she
calls an overly strict dress code.
"Where are they going to stop with these nitpicking dress codes?"
she asked. "Im just worried they are going to keep adding
Harsy said concerned parents such as Sheppard should attend Aprils
Community Advisory Committee meeting and state their opinions. He said
a firm date hasnt been set but that parents may call the central
office in the coming weeks for more details.
In the meantime, students said administrators havent seen their
last pair of "holey jeans" at the school.
Several students said they plan to wear ripped jeans every Friday from
now on, regardless of the consequences.
Asked what the consequences might be, Harsy would only say that he wants
Denton to continue to enforce the dress code to the "T."
"We are committed to upholding everything in terms of our rules
and regulations," Harsy said.
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. - School authorities say they don't expect to discipline
a first-grader who found 40 small bags of crack cocaine in his school
book bag and allegedly handed the drug out to his classmates, thinking
it was candy.
"He was a darling little child; he had no idea of what he had,"
said Chicago Heights District 170 Supt. Dollie Helsel.
Chicago Heights Deputy Police Chief Michael Camilli said the Illinois
Department of Children and Family Services had been contacted about
the incident Friday at the LincolnSchool, and the child's guardians were being sought.
"He lives in a household where apparently there's drug dealing,
and when he sees these little bags of rock cocaine around the house,
they're telling him it's candy," Camilli said.
Camilli called the situation "insane," and said, "I've
been here 29 years; I've never seen anything like it."
Camilli said no one was harmed in the incident and police believe they
retrieved all of the cocaine. He said officers believe someone at the
child's home had used the book bag as a hiding place for the drug.
BLOOMINGTON -- The day following the nation's worst school shooting
since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, students and staff
in Central Illinois schools were left wondering if something like that
could happen here.
"We think we're immune to that type of thing. When it happens in
a small, rural community, we realize we're not," said Jill Hayes,
guidance counselor at the Delavan school district.
Scott Wiegand, 14, a student at Deer Creek-Mackinaw Primary
and Junior High School, agreed.
"You wonder how safe your school is," he said.
A student shooting rampage Monday at RedLakeHigh
in northern Minnesota left 10 people, including shooter, dead.
While area schools -- even small rural ones -- have beefed up security,
educators and criminal justice experts say the question is when -- not
if -- it will happen again. Reaching troubled students can be the key,
Wiegand attends a school that in 2003 underwent $4.5 million in renovations
that included the installation of security cameras and a secure entry.
The eight security cameras are controlled by school secretary Cindy
Schmidgall, who can check the parking lots, entrances, playground and
corridors. The cameras even show traffic on East Fifth Street and have been used to monitor suspicious vehicles outside
Guests also sign in and out and wear visitor badges.
"No one goes in or out without the staff knowing it," said
Christina Lammers, principal of the Wiegand's school.
Tom Ellsworth, a school board member of Normal-based Unit 5, said he
was surprised that the Columbine massacre was so long ago. He said it
is "imbedded" in his mind, and he expects there will be another
"Where will the next one be?" said Ellsworth, who also chairs
the criminal justice sciences department at the IllinoisStateUniversity.
Jeffrey Walsh, an assistant professor of criminal justice sciences at
ISU, said school shooters may experience alienation and lack self-esteem.
Such traits can be common among adolescents, making it difficult to
identify troubled students, so communication is vital, he said.
Budget cuts only aggravate the situation, Ellsworth said. Budget cuts
mean larger class sizes, higher student-to-teacher ratios, fewer extracurricular
activities, and a loss of music, art and sports programs.
Students involved in such programs are less likely to be isolated, Ellsworth
"It's about communicating and staying in touch with these youths
and getting a better pulse for what's going on with the youth of America
today ... (and) parents staying engaged in children's lives," Walsh
Bloomington District 87 Superintendent Bob Nielsen said faculty members
build relationships with students, pay attention to signs of depression
and reach out to students before serious problems develop. School officials
also rely on students to tell them when a student exhibits such signs
or makes troubling comments, he said.
Delavan schools also have concentrated on their own security in recent
"We have a great crisis plan," Hayes said, noting the state
will mandate such plans in the near future. "We're ahead of the
The 500-student school complex has practiced enacting the crisis plan,
which was devised after discussions among educators, police, fire and
medical emergency officials.
Hayes said they try to identify and help students who may be involved
in vandalism or may have the potential to create a situation.
She said that while Delavan pays close attention to crisis plans, the
shootings "will make us look at it again."
had all the security systems and a crisis plan, Ellsworth said.
"How secure can schools be to protect students?" he said.
law made big cuts Intended to boost aid, measure instead had the opposite effect
By Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune staff reporter, 3/25/05
In his mysterious world of autism, 5-year-old Vincent Vazquez can't
speak, but he is learning to communicate. He points to words and pictures
to signal what he wants, from a scooter ride to a twirl around the school
gym in his teacher's arms.
All the while, Mindy McGuffin observes Vincent closely in order to advise
his teachers and parents how to best work with the southwest suburban
A special education teacher by training, McGuffin works for a widely
respected statewide autism program called the Illinois Autism/PDD Training
and Technical Assistance Project, which is facing dramatic service cuts
despite the rising incidence of autism in Illinois.
"It's really kind of sickening," said McGuffin, whose 3-year-old
daughter is autistic. Next year, the project's state grant will be cut
to $200,000 from $732,600.
Likewise, 40 other special education grants that help schools and families
work with the state's most vulnerable children will be cut by about
$7 million by the end of June.
Among other things, the money has helped train teachers to work with
autistic and deaf children, has provided computer equipment to disabled
children and has helped families plan transitions from school to work
for their special education children.
The agency that funds the statewide grant programs, the Illinois State
Board of Education, says a new state law requires the board to redirect
the money to local school districts struggling to pay extraordinary
costs for some special education students.
Local school officials say they are not likely to duplicate the statewide
grant programs, some in place for more than 15 years, which supplemented
their work with special education children.
The cuts have caused a furor around the state and have caught many special
education advocates by surprise: Some didn't know about the new law,
and many were just notified of the cuts this month, though the law took
effect in August. Now they are scrambling to figure out how to salvage
"We're gone. Our agency has been in existence for 12 years, and
it will be discontinued," said Cheri Sinnott, director of the IllinoisServiceResourceCenter, which will lose its $460,000 state grant.
With a staff of six, the center assists schools and families that have
deaf children with emotional, behavioral and mental problems.
Steve Vaupel, one of the center's behavior specialists, said he had
crisscrossed the state, advising school staff members and families who
often face unfamiliar territory in dealing with a deaf child with multiple
needs. Some schools and families, particularly those in rural areas,
don't know where to begin seeking help, he said, from finding a nearby
psychiatrist or even an interpreter who knows sign language.
The chief sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Sterling),
said he had no idea that his bill, meant to help local districts, would
take away money from the statewide grant programs for special education
"It was never my intent to have these programs cut or have their
funding cut," said Mitchell, who vowed to work to restore funding
for the grant programs. Sen. Wendell Jones (R-Palatine), who pushed
the legislation in the state Senate, also said he would try to restore
But the state board staff is not optimistic. "I'm not aware of
any extra dollars. Over the last few months, I have looked everywhere.
I don't know where I can find another penny," said James Gunnell,
a top special education administrator at the state board.
While school officials often have to fight for what they consider to
be scarce state resources, this budget fight is unusual because it pits
two special education worlds against each other--local school districts
that serve children and the specialized statewide organizations that
supplement local services.
Districts get $1.5 billion
Local school districts receive more than $1.5 billion annually in federal
and state dollars to pay expenses for special education students, from
teachers, therapists and other professionals to transportation and private
tuition for students who can't be served in a public-school setting.
Usually those dollars aren't enough to cover school districts' actual
costs, particularly for severely disabled students with multiple needs,
local special education officials say.
Mitchell, a former school superintendent, said he was trying to help
districts by revising how special education dollars are disbursed in
Illinois. The state board supported the legislation, as did a
statewide alliance of local special education administrators that had
a lobbyist in Springfield to push the bill.
But an obscure part of the legislation redirected certain federal dollars
that had been used in the past for statewide grant programs back into
local districts that have extraordinary special education costs. School
districts can now apply for extra money to help cover the costs of educating
children whose expenses are more than four times the usual cost of educating
students in their districts.
In addition, state board officials said other sources of discretionary
funds have declined, giving them less money for the statewide grant
Kathy Gould, director of the 7-year-old autism training project, said
she will have to cut most of her staff, including regional coordinators
That is particularly troubling, she said, because autism cases have
surged in Illinois. Her organization's figures show that 1,960 children
between the ages of 3 to 21 received special education services for
autism during the 1996-97 school year, compared with 6,125 in 2002-03.
Mother backs program
At Troy Crossroads Elementary School in Shorewood, McGuffin has been
working with teachers and aides to help Vincent. The boy's mother, Claudia
Vazquez, said the state needs programs such as the autism training project
to help children like hers.
Busloads of advocates for autistic children are scheduled to go to Springfield on April 6 to lobby Gov. Rod Blagojevich to restore
funding for the state grants and encourage lawmakers to approve other
bills to help autistic children.
Blagojevich exerts new control over the state board of education as
the result of a change in the law last year.
In the meantime, "He is more than welcome to my home to see real
life with an autistic child," Vazquez said.
- - -
New law cuts state special-ed grants
The Illinois State Board of Education will cut funding by June to 41
special education grants that help schools and families work with the
state's most challenged children.
TOTAL FUNDING For school years
2004-05: $12.96 million
2005-06: $6.07 million(Down)
EXAMPLES OF MAJOR GRANTS CUT PROGRAM 2004-05 CUT
Assistive Technology Exchange Network $550,000 (Down) 100%
Gives free computers to children with disabilities
Corey H. Clearinghouse $150,000 (Down) 100%
Gives parents and educators access to information about special education
issues. Ill. Autism Training & Technical Assistance $732,600
Trains teachers, consults with families to work with autistic children
Ill. Service Resource Center $460,000 (Down) 100%
Assists schools and families in serving deaf child- ren with behavioral
or mental health problems
Project CHOICES $810,200 (Down) 69.1%
Develops plans that ensure disabled students are placed in settings
better fit for learning.
Sources: IllinoisState Board of Education, programs listed Chicago Tribune TOP OF PAGE
SPRINGFIELD - To fill holes in education funding, the governor wants
to skim two agriculture improvement funds at a time when some claim
the industry is lagging behind other states.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed transferring money from special funds
that end the fiscal year with an excess balance in order to put $420
million into the School Endowment Fund over three years. The surplus
funds were determined based on the ending balances of fiscal year 2004.
Critics of Blagojevich's plan say sweeping money from special funds
is unfair and potentially unconstitutional.
"When something's earmarked for a certain cause, it should stay
there," said Gordon Stine, president of the Illinois Farmers Union.
If a program is unable to pay monthly bills, it can borrow from the
state's general revenue fund, said Becky Carroll, a Blagojevich spokeswoman.
"If they don't have a surplus at the end of any given year we're
obviously not going to tap into (the fund)," she said.
The Illinois AgriFIRST and Farmer and Agri-Business Loan program funds
are included in the list of more than 300 funds that could be swept.
Chris Herbert, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, said having
a surplus at the end of the fiscal year is possible for the AgriFIRST
AgriFIRST awards grants for feasibility studies, technical assistance
and construction projects. The program is fully financed through the
state's general revenue fund and currently has $227,765. The fund ended
last year with $143,000 still in the bank, according to the governor's
Stine said both grants are vital to improving Illinois' agricultural market.
"Illinois is so far behind other states as far as the research
money that we put into the ag programs," Stine said. "We have
got to keep up with the times or we're going to fall behind."
However, Herbert said under the governor's plan, "We don't believe
it will affect any of the projects that are slated."
Stine said funding for AgriFIRST has decreased steadily over the past
"Ag is the leading industry in Illinois, and what we spend on research is very minimal,"
Stine said. Illinois is behind in dealing with soybean rust, an infection
that can be fatal to the plant, he said.
Stine said the Farmer and Agri-Business Loan program is also an important
element to maintaining the industry.
"If we don't keep trying to do more promoting of business and things
with our industry, it's not going to help our cause," he said.
The fund is essentially a reserve for banks that issue loans to farmers
and other agriculture-related businesses. The program was implemented
by the General Assembly in 1987, but has not been allocated for the
last couple of years because of low defaults and investment payoffs,
said Diane Hamburger, spokeswoman for the Illinois Finance Authority.
The current balance of the fund is $7.3million, and it finished 2004
with a $7.2 million balance. TOP OF PAGE
CITY - Legislators have the lofty goal this year of reconstructing
Missouri's school funding system to guarantee an adequate education
for all children.
But ironically, it's the state's best and brightest students that could
suffer most under the plan, many educators say.
Under the current version of the school funding bill, the state would
no longer set aside nearly $25 million a year to encourage schools to
provide programs for gifted students.
Instead, that money would be combined with other education dollars,
giving districts the flexibility to spend it as they see fit. In other
words, districts would still have the gifted money but would have no
obligation to spend it on gifted students.
Many school administrators fear the current plan could eventually lead
districts to neglect gifted programs for more than 32,000 students statewide.
"There is a danger of not serving those students," said John
Oldani, head of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis.
Oldani spoke at a hearing on the issue in Jefferson City last week.
Legislators who are crafting the new school funding plan say they are
willing to negotiate on the gifted education issue. One potential compromise
is to change Missouri's education standards to make sure gifted programs are
protected even if the funding isn't earmarked for those services.
"There's a lot of options out there," said Sen. Charlie Shields,
R-St. Joseph, who is the lead author of the school funding overhaul.
But in the meantime, some educators of the gifted are bitter about the
Denise Pupillo, coordinator of gifted education for the ParkwaySchool
calls the idea "a real travesty" rooted in a misunderstanding
of gifted students and programs.
She said many wrongly view gifted programs as an elite and unnecessary
luxury for smart students. In reality, she said, many gifted children
would fail in school if their needs weren't met, much as special-education
children need special attention.
"Our students are just as needy and just as at risk as the students
at the other end," she said.
Shields said he and other lawmakers recognized the needs of gifted children.
"I think gifted kids are another category of at-risk kids,"
said Shields, a former school board member whose own child was in gifted
But Shields said his preference was to leave the decisions of how to
serve the gifted up to local school boards. The best way to do that
is to beef up state standards to require that gifted programs be available,
Even so, Shields said, he might be willing to amend the proposed school
funding formula to earmark money for gifted students. The plan already
would give extra money to districts for special-education students as
well as those with limited English skills and children from low-income
Kyna Iman, who lobbies for the Gifted Association of Missouri, said
she'd been pushing legislators to finance gifted programs the same way
special education is funded under Shields' plan. But she had yet to
see a draft of an alternative plan.
"Right now I don't have anything concrete," she said.
The popularity of gifted education programs has skyrocketed in Missouri since the earmarked money became available to school
According to the state, 293 school districts now qualify for the extra
funding, up from just seven when the program began 30 years ago.
The money helps districts cover salaries of teachers who spend at least
part of their day serving gifted students. For full-time gifted educators,
the state often covers more than half of their salaries.
But David Welch, Missouri's director of gifted education, said districts had recently
had to pay a greater percentage of the costs for gifted programs, with
the state lacking the money to fully fund them.
In the past few years, Welch said, 30 districts have opted to drop gifted
Some say gifted programs will continue to be threatened as districts
face heightened pressure from the federal government to meet the needs
of special-education students.
Linda Smith, who directs gifted programs in the RockwoodSchool
said that decline might accelerate if the state eliminated the financial
incentive for gifted programs.
"When you leave the door open for districts to do other things
with the money, they generally jump at the opportunity," she said.
City Schools Out of Fair Lottery-Pot Cut
By DAVID ANDREATTA, New
City schools have lost out on some $340 million in state aid over the
last four fiscal years because lottery proceeds to education are not
distributed equitably, state Assemblyman Scott Stringer (D-Manhattan)
Between fiscal years 2001 and 2004, gamblers in the five boroughs accounted
for 44 percent of statewide lottery sales yet schools here got
just under 39 percent of the education aid generated by the lottery,
according to a Stringer study.
Last year, the city got about $700 million of the state's $1.9 billion
lottery education pot or about 40 percent. But of the roughly
$5.8 billion in state lottery revenues last year, almost $2.6 billion
or 45 percent came from the city.
York City is driving the lottery, yet we're not getting our fair
share," Stringer said. "People are buying lottery tickets
not realizing that the money is not going to their schools."
Legislation to award lottery aid according to ticket sales in school
districts has been introduced by Stringer.
For more than a decade, money from the state lottery has been distributed
to individual counties based on a formula that considers student population
The city has 36.5 percent of the state's public-school students, and
last year received over 38 percent of state education aid, according
to the state budget office.
"Despite the Assembly's failure to enact legislation to change
this formula, Gov. Pataki has made great strides in increasing the city's
share of state education dollars," said state budget spokesman
In his budget proposal, Pataki outlined a Sound Basic Education Fund
for high-need school districts. He claims 60 percent of the fund would
be reserved for city schools. TOP OF PAGE
Almost all of the Houston elementary schools under scrutiny for possibly cheating
to produce high test scores in past years posted significantly weaker
results under this year's tightly monitored exams.
Campus passing rates at all but one of the 18 schools with questionable
testing histories dropped at a greater clip than the overall HoustonIndependentSchool
passing rate on the third-grade Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
The sharp decline is not outright proof of cheating or wrongdoing, but
adds to suspicions, said Thomas Haladyna, an ArizonaStateUniversity professor specializing in standardized test research.
"That's very improbable," Haladyna said. "You wonder
about the validity of scores when they jump around like that. All citizens
have a right to question the validity of scores when the results are
Students took the TAKS last month in classrooms monitored by 600 HISD
employees. Reacting to allegations of possible cheating made in late
December, HISD officials had warned teachers and principals that this
year's scores would be closely analyzed for signs of impropriety.
Other factors besides cheating, such as teacher turnover rates and changing
student populations, could cause major score fluctuations, Haladyna
said. But that doesn't explain why virtually every suspected school
regressed more than the typical campus, he said.
HISD officials cautioned against reading too much into the poorer results
by the 18 schools. In an e-mail, spokesman Terry Abbott pointed out
that some of the 170 elementary schools that have not been suspected
of cheating also posted scores substantially lower than last year's.
And the cheating investigations at most of the schools are focusing
on score anomalies at other grade levels and subjects rather than third-grade
reading, Abbott said.
The three schools being investigated specifically for questionable third-grade
reading scores in 2004 Douglass, Osborne and E.O. Smith
had some of the sharpest drops in 2005 scores.
Passing rates at the 18 schools facing cheating allegations fell an
average of 19 percentage points. The drop ranged from 30 or more points
at Crawford, Douglass and E.O. Smith elementaries to just 1 percentage
point at Isaacs Elementary. Overall, the passing rate for the 14,751
HISD students who took the reading test that's used to determine whether
they move on to the fourth grade fell five percentage points to 82 percent.
In addition, average scale scores, which measure the number of correctly
answered questions, increased 10 points for HISD's English-speaking
students but fell an average of nearly 70 points at the 18 schools with
suspect testing histories. Only two of those schools KashmereGardens and TSU/HISD Lab School increased their average
scale scores at a higher rate than the rest of the school district.
Last year, 13 of the schools suspected of cheating recorded average
scale scores that ranked in the top half of all HISD schools on the
English exam. This year, that number shrunk to four.
Seven of the 14 Houston schools with the biggest drops in average scale scores
are under investigation for cheating.
It would be wrong to conclude that cheating occurred at any school based
solely on the scale scores, Abbott said.
While their English-speaking classmates posted lower scale scores on
the exam, Spanish speakers at Petersen and Scott elementaries showed
progress. The three other schools facing cheating allegations that tested
students in Spanish Sanchez, Crawford and Gregg produced
lower scale scores in both languages.
HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra ordered investigations of possible
cheating at two dozen schools earlier this year after a Dallas Morning
News analysis of scale scores revealed statistically improbable improvement
in hundreds of classrooms across the state. All but one of those investigations
are ongoing. Last month, HISD administrators fired two fifth-grade math
teachers at Sanderson Elementary and demoted the principal after determining
the teachers gave answers to students and that the principal should
have been aware of the cheating. The teachers have denied any wrongdoing.
The sharp decline in scale scores at the 18 elementaries warrants further
investigation, said Gregory Cizek, a University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill professor who
teaches educational measurement and evaluation. The Texas Education
Agency recently hired Cizek to review test security procedures and suggest
possible improvements across the state.
"Seventy points is a pretty meaningful change," Cizek said. TOP OF PAGE
State to dissolve W-H school board
Some trustees outraged by decision, which cited teacher TAKS cheating
By JOSHUA BENTON, The Dallas Morning News, 3/22/05
The Wilmer-Hutchins school board will soon be out of work.
State Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley has decided to dissolve
the troubled district's board because state investigators found widespread
cheating by Wilmer-Hutchins teachers on the state's TAKS test.
The investigation prompted by a series of Dallas Morning News
stories in November found that more than 20 Wilmer-Hutchins teachers
and administrators gave answers to students.
According to a confidential Texas Education Agency report obtained by
The News, teachers ordered students who finished the test early to fix
answers on other students' answer sheets. Some students were required
to have their answers checked before proceeding to the next question.
And some teachers prepared answer keys for students.
In all, 22 educators were fingered by the investigation two-thirds
of all the educators who administered tests in the district's elementary
The Story So Far
Budget woes, questionable leadership, students at risk: Turmoil is nothing
new to this struggling district. Read through the archive of recent
reporting on the woes at Wilmer-Hutchins schools.
"This significant number appears to indicate a pervasive lack of
oversight at three of the four elementary campuses and at the district
level to such an extent that the validity of the test results is compromised,"
the report said.
Some trustees reacted with outrage at the dissolution of the board.
"We're being declared guilty for nothing," said board President
Luther Edwards. "We haven't done anything wrong. It's the major
power brokers who are arranging all this."
But other area leaders welcomed the change and said the idea of teachers
helping students cheat on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
"They treated those kids horribly," Wilmer Mayor Don Hudson
said of the educators accused of cheating. "They weren't doing
anyone any favors except themselves. Now we'll have kids who can't function
in society even with a Wilmer-Hutchins diploma because they were never
Under state law, a board of managers is the most severe intervention
the commissioner can impose on a school district. The school board will
be dissolved and a superintendent appointed.
James Damm has been interim superintendent since Superintendent Charles
Matthews was fired in November after being indicted on felony document
tampering charges. It was unclear whether Dr. Neeley would choose to
reappoint Mr. Damm to the position or choose a new leader.
"I have to try to digest ... [the report] and see what it really
means," Mr. Damm said.
Wilmer-Hutchins has been hammered by a series of crises in the last
year, beginning with a summer storm that damaged Wilmer-HutchinsHigh
and left it in such condition that the start of school had to be delayed.
Among the other problems:
The district's evaporating fund balance, which meant the district
didn't have the money to pay its teachers on time twice last fall.
Criminal investigations launched by the FBI, the Texas Rangers
and county and federal grand juries, including allegations that district
officials fudged attendance records to illegally increase state funding.
The indictment of Dr. Matthews and maintenance director Wallace
Faggett after they were accused of destroying purchase orders and other
documents sought by criminal investigators.
The revelation that its chief attorney since fired
had been practicing for a time without a law license.
A judge's ruling that banned the school board from meeting because
it posed a danger to the district's well-being.
The discovery that the district had been setting its tax rate
illegally since the 1970s.
"School governance is unstable in Wilmer-Hutchins ISD and has been
so for many years," Dr. Neeley wrote in a letter to district leaders
The final trigger for the dissolution of the school board was the cheating
scandal. Even before Monday's report, the allegations were supported
by the district's abysmal performance on this spring's TAKS. In response
to concerns about cheating, state officials sent more than 70 monitors
to oversee the first round of TAKS testing last month one per
classroom in all the district's elementary schools.
With teachers being watched for improper behavior, scores plummeted.
This year, 39 percent of the district's fifth-graders passed the reading
TAKS. That's 36 percentage points below the state average.
It's also quite a change from last year, when 89 percent of Wilmer-Hutchins
fifth-graders passed the reading test 9 percentage points above
the state average.
"It's a pretty unbelievable drop in scores," said Suzanne
Marchman, a TEA spokeswoman. "The fifth-grade scores are lousy."
Third-graders saw a similar, though smaller, drop from 89 percent
last year to 72 percent this year.
Concerns about the validity of Wilmer-Hutchins' test scores were first
raised in a News investigation in November that found statistically
unlikely swings in the district's performance. Several students also
said teachers had given them answers while administering the TAKS.
After the News articles, the TEA began an investigation. In all, 54
students and 31 current and former district employees were interviewed.
The report says it took several attempts to perform the student interviews
because it had problems getting written permission slips sent home to
parents and returned.
Investigators also found that unusually high numbers of answers were
erased and replaced on the answer sheets of Wilmer-Hutchins students
and that unusually high numbers of the erasures changed wrong
answers to correct ones.
For example, in one third-grade classroom at Wilmer Elementary, student
answer sheets had 57 times more erasures than the state average.
Through interviews, investigators found evidence of cheating at all
four Wilmer-Hutchins elementary schools: Alta Mesa, C.S. Winn, Wilmer
and Hutchins. (Hutchins Elementary was closed as a cost-cutting measure
The report does not identify any of the teachers involved but does indicate
that violations were most commonly found among third-grade teachers.
Of the 10 educators who administered the test to third-graders, eight
were found to have committed violations. Third grade is the year that
students take a must-pass reading test in order to be promoted to the
As a result of the findings, Dr. Neeley said she will be lowering the
ratings of Alta Mesa, C.S. Winn and Wilmer to "academically unacceptable,"
the lowest possible. The district's overall rating will also be lowered.
That's important because state officials have said that, under state
law, a board of managers can be imposed only on a district with the
state's lowest rating.
Dr. Neeley must now appoint a board and superintendent. Mr. Hudson,
the Wilmer mayor, said that he spoke with Dr. Neeley on Monday and that
the commissioner gave him the names of some of the members, though he
said he did not recognize them. He said some were from the immediate
area and some were not.
The TEA must also get Justice Department approval for the move because
it involves the removal of an elected body.
Since the November appointment of a two-person management team, board
members have clashed repeatedly with their state overseers, forcing
the state managers to use their power to overrule decisions. Most recently,
the board voted three times this month not to finalize the firing of
Dr. Matthews, despite a state hearing examiner's report recommending
the indicted leader's termination be finalized.
Mr. Edwards, a board member for 12 years, has said repeatedly that state
intervention is not driven by poor decisions by the board. The real
cause, he said, is a conspiracy of greed, led by shady, unknown individuals.
"We're being held accountable for things that we didn't do wrong,"
he said. If there was cheating in Wilmer-Hutchins, blame should fall
on principals, not the board, he said.
But Michelle Willhelm, one of the state managers, said she agreed with
the decision to impose a board of managers.
"The board is a hindrance to progress," she said. "It's
better to move them aside and let a board of managers move ahead."
The commissioner's recommendations are included in a preliminary report
that was released to district officials Monday. Mr. Damm and board members
have 10 days to comment on the report's findings, after which the TEA
will issue a final report and formally take steps to dissolve the board.
TOP OF PAGE
Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to eliminate annual state school bus inspections,
which last year sidelined nearly 2,200 of the 17,800 buses because of
serious safety violations.
It's part of her plan to balance the state budget and would save $1.3
million. The state can't legally force districts and private schools
to perform their own inspections, but Granholm hopes they'll do them
That's troubling to some parents who fear for the safety of the 850,000
kids who ride Michigan buses and to schools that say they can't afford to pay
to inspect them.
"I have concerns about this," said Doris Neumeyer, a mother
of three from WashingtonTownship. "I know we have a good bus director, but everybody
is looking to cut corners, and I can see where that would be a very
easy corner to cut.
"We're all supposed to change the oil in our cars and rotate the
tires on a regular basis, but we all get tied up -- or unexpected expenses
come along -- so we put things off. If no one is watching you, that
sort of thing is easier to do."
Tony Tiffin, director of transportation for the Royal OakSchool
says the state is putting districts, which already are struggling with
budget troubles, in a tough spot.
"We're most assuredly feeling a budget crunch here," Tiffin said.
Tiffin's Royal Oak
district has 42 buses that carry about 1,300 students daily.
"We take bus safety very seriously here. We had a 100 percent 'pass'
rate the last time around, which is a credit to our mechanics that have
been with us for years." Granholm's proposal is pending in the
state Senate, which is considering her 2005-06 budget proposal. The
new budget takes effect Oct. 1.
"The over-arching reason is the saving of funds, which would come
from the budget of the State Police," said Greg Bird, spokesman
for the state budget office in Lansing.
The state, he said, "cannot mandate that the schools do these inspections
on their own without supplying them with state funds to conduct the
"We would hope that they would continue to do so, but we could
not order them to if the statute is eliminated."
Kim Hooper, transportation consultant for the Wayne County Regional
Educational Service Agency, said elimination of the state inspections
would jeopardize the safety of Michigan students. Hooper noted that two years ago, a bus filled
with 6-year-olds from the WayneCountyAcademy was struck by a semi carrying 76,000 pounds of auto
parts."The bus had been inspected just five weeks before the crash,
and a problem was found where welds in the body structure had come apart,"
Hooper said. "The problem was corrected. There were 37 injuries,
but no one was killed because the bus held together. I compared it to
a crash in Florida -- which doesn't have annual inspections -- and the
top of the bus collapsed to its seats.
"With no yearly inspections, that defect would never have been
Michigan's school buses are inspected on a cycle beginning each
Sept. 1 and ending Aug. 31. In Ohio, school buses are inspected during the summer by the
Ohio Highway Patrol, which also conducts spot checks during the school
year. In Illinois, the state's school buses are inspected annually by
the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The Motor Carrier Division of the State Police inspection unit is responsible
for the annual inspection of school buses, which carry more than 850,000
Michigan children over 10 million miles each year. The state has been
inspecting school buses for at least five decades. All school-owned
vehicles -- private schools as well as public -- that are used to transport
children must be inspected under current law.
"We conduct a 198-point inspection of every school bus within the
state," said Lt. David Ford of the Michigan State Police Motor
"We check everything: tires, brakes, lights, frame, suspension,
steering, seats, emergency exits, overhead lights and much more.
"We have 13 vehicle safety inspectors, and they're constantly busy.
By the time they finish the inspections, they're ready to start over
again. We then post the results on our Web site on a quarterly basis
with annual results at the end of the year."
Vehicles with the most serious problems, which could cause a breakdown
or endanger passengers, are issued red tags. Those buses can't carry
passengers until the problem is corrected to the satisfaction of state
inspectors. Red-tag conditions include anything that would cause the
bus to break down or pose a safety risk to students, such as worn brakes
Buses that are yellow-tagged may stay on the road, but the problems
must be corrected within 60 days. Such problems would include faulty
interior lights, paint and markings.
According to the Michigan State Police, their safety inspectors conducted
17,372 school bus inspections during the 2003-04 school year; 83 percent
passed, down from 85.9 percent the previous year. It was the first decrease
in five years.
Last year, red tags were issues to 2,181 buses, or 12.5 percent of the
state's fleet. That was a 2.15 percent increase in red tags over the
A sampling of Metro-area districts with substantial failure rates:
Of Detroit's 400 district-owned school buses, 190 were red-tagged,
and 19 were yellow-tagged.
Detroit, seven buses passed inspection, four -- 57 percent --
were red-tagged, and one was yellow-tagged.
In the Gibraltar district, eight buses passed inspection, 14 received
red tags, and four were yellow-tagged.
Dale Goby, executive director of the office of student transportation
of the Detroit Public Schools, said his department is well aware of
the governor's plan.
"The State Police inspection program could be done for less cost
and maybe more effectively, but to eliminate it entirely is not a good
move," Goby said. "To transfer inspections from an area that
doesn't have enough money to school districts that don't have enough
money doesn't make sense.
"The State Police inspections are to a higher standard than given
to personal vehicles. ... It reassures parents that there's a higher
authority to inspect those vehicles annually."
MacombTownship resident Laura Schmitt has four children who ride buses
to school, and she's confident of their safety.
"I don't fear the idea of school districts doing their own inspections,"
said Schmitt, whose children attend elementary and middle school.
"They're in the business of looking out for children, which includes
looking out for their safety. I think they're out to do the best they
can for the children. I also understand the governor wanting to cut
the budget when necessary. It's nice to have the State Police doing
inspections, but I'm not worried." TOP OF PAGE
As students have become more comfortable talking about homosexuality,
interest is booming in programs to help students feel more safe at school.
In Missouri, about 18 schools in the area have gay-straight alliance
programs. Only a handful of schools in the region had such programs
four years ago. Although the number of gay-straight programs in high
schools is increasing, only a few exist in the Metro East area with
clubs listed at Alton, Belleville
and O'Fallon high schools.
Dennis Nicely, head of the St. Louis
region's Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, attributes the
growth in the groups to students who feel more comfortable speaking
about issues that affect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
Still, efforts have moved slowly at some schools.
was among the first schools in the area to form a gay-straight alliance,
but even there, students report harassment or bullying.
"We have a good school, but there still are a lot of slurs,"
said Mandi Rice, vice president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at KirkwoodHigh
"I can walk through the halls and hear jokes. There's not much
in the way of threats or physical violence, most is verbal. But that
Rice, 16 and a junior, spoke during a break from a regional conference
last week at LadueHortonWatkinsHigh
about issues facing gay and straight students. More than 130 students
and educators attended - about three times the attendance at a similar
gathering last year.
Five percent of high school students nationwide are gay or lesbian,
according to a survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
The group surveyed 2,171 students in October.
Surveys by the group have found name-calling and anti-gay remarks widespread
in high school. Eighty-one percent of students surveyed reported hearing
homophobic language often at school. Sixty-six percent of students reported
using slurs such as "that's so gay" to describe something
wrong, bad or stupid. Most said they used the words as a joke.
Students and educators say they seek ways to deal with such comments
rather than ignore them.
Adele Hayes, sponsor of the Kirkwood Gay-Straight Alliance, said educators
and students can face criticism for starting such a group. She said
nontenured teachers can risk losing their jobs in some places over association
with the groups.
Rebecca Buckley, a librarian and a sponsor of an alliance at McCluerHigh
said she got phone calls from people saying she was trying to turn students
gay when the school's gay-straight alliance began meeting four months
"I was sponsor of the school's Bible Club last year," Buckley
said. "I just want a place for students to feel comfortable."
Efforts to start a gay-straight alliance at RitenourHigh
have been less successful.
Some students and parents say they believe a Ritenour chemistry teacher
was pushed out for supporting a student effort to form a gay-straight
alliance. The teacher, who has asked not to be identified because she
is seeking another job, was suspended and then resigned several weeks
Ritenour Principal Bill Korte attended the session at Ladue on how to
start an alliance. Korte said the teacher's suspension had nothing to
do with alternative lifestyles or a gay-straight alliance.
Korte said plans are in motion to establish a gay-straight alliance
at Ritenour High.
"Like any school we have a variety of students with different needs,"
he said. "We're all diverse. This is not a judgment issue. It's
an acceptance issue."
Erin Kidder, 16, agrees.
"I believe it is important for students to be accepting and for
schools to harbor lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students
in a tolerant way," said Kidder, who began attending Gay-Straight
Alliance meetings last year as a freshman at Ladue High.
Public schools must allow gay-straight alliances if other student clubs
exist. Public schools also cannot stop someone from bringing a same-sex
partner to a school prom, said Scott Emanuel, project coordinator for
the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.
"When there is bias, that gets in the way of student rights,"
He added that he could not have imagined 20 years ago, when he was a
senior in high school, that there would be a regional conference for
gay and straight students. "This is huge," he said.
Number of gay-straight clubs in high schools this year: Missouri - 35 Illinois - 115
Nation - 3,000
Source: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Arnold wields clout on education rules
By George Archibald, Washington Times, 3/23/05
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings eased federal guidelines the
same day California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked her to relax certain
school requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act, a feat some
of his fellow governors haven't been able to accomplish.
Mr. Schwarzenegger met with the secretary March 8 in Washington and asked her to limit the number of California school districts labeled as needing improvement for
low student achievement. Mrs. Spellings immediately approved his request.
"Prior to the secretary's meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger,
California made a decision to make the changes needed to follow
the [NCLB] law. That made negotiating the details easier," said
Raymond J. Simon, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education,
who joined Mrs. Spellings in her discussions with various governors
over the past several weeks.
California was allowed to join about 20 states using the so-called "Tennessee
Accountability Model," which labels a school as low-performing
only if students in various subgroups -- such as those based on income,
race or sex -- fail to reach achievement targets in reading and mathematics
across all grades for two years in a row.
The state had wrangled with Washington for months by singling out students from low-income
families to gauge overall school progress on standardized tests, which
is a departure from the NCLB. By giving precedence to the progress of
poor children, the state said just 14 of 1,000 school districts were
in need of improvement last year, while 310 would be labeled low-performing
under stricter federal standards. Under the Tennessee model, 184 California school districts are labeled as needing improvement
from testing in 2003 and 2004.
Most states are looking for ways to test reading and math ability of
children with disabilities and low English proficiency separately, so
their performance does not pull down a school's overall academic progress.
But other governors who have negotiated personally with Mrs. Spellings
were told to wait on their requests for greater flexibility under the
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. met with the secretary a week after Mr. Schwarzenegger,
but was told he would have to wait for a decision on state requests
for relaxed requirements, even though both houses of Utah's Republican-controlled
Legislature were poised to tell Washington next month in a special session
to jettison NCLB altogether in favor of state education standards.
The same was true for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, lieutenant governor under
then-Gov. George Bush, and for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's
brother, whose alternative methods for measuring yearly student progress
have been rebuffed by the department.
Mrs. Spellings told both governors close to the president their leniency
requests are on hold as the department assesses possible repercussions
across the country.
"Each state has its own set of unique challenges and objectives
that require our careful consideration," Mr. Simon said. TOP OF PAGE
900 students walk
Teachers' Jobs Imperiled: East Side District Mails 788 Layoff Warnings
By Jon Fortt, Mercury News, 3/23/05
An estimated 900 students at six San Jose high schools walked out of class Tuesday morning, protesting
planned teacher layoffs in East SideUnionHighSchool
But the walkouts, spurred on by student e-mails and a shock-jock radio
show, might have deepened the district's financial crisis. When students
miss class, the district can lose thousands of dollars in state funding.
The protest added a new wrinkle to the intensifying feud between teachers
and administrators in Santa
ClaraCounty's second-largest district over how to manage next year's
projected $10 million budget deficit.
Administrators want East
Side teachers, whose compensation scale is among the most
generous in Santa
ClaraCounty, to take a pay cut. Teachers want the district to pay
salaries out of funds earmarked for building projects.
Now, students are weighing in -- and so far they're siding with their
Piedmont Hills High senior Peggy Misquez-Savitz said she began the walkout
at her North San Jose school, getting up during class and leading as her whole
class walked out. The senior said she began knocking on doors to get
other students to join.
``I said, `Come on, let's just walk out. Don't let them fire our teachers.
Don't let them mess up our school district.' ''
The district's internal strife deepened over the past week after layoff
warnings were sent to 788 teachers, roughly two of every three in the
district. The warnings were a formality -- the district could not function
if it laid off 788 teachers. The final number will be less than 200,
said Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas.
Deadline for notices
The warnings came because East
Side faced a March
15 legal deadline to mail notices to any teacher who stood the slightest
chance of being laid off. And because East
Side has kept poor
records of teacher qualifications, and district administrators don't
yet know which programs they will cut, the district sent the disquieting
warnings to four times as many teachers as it expects could actually
lose their jobs.
That flood of layoff warnings fed a student outcry.
Hundreds of teachers rallied Saturday in protest. Students e-mailed
Zendejas. They e-mailed school board members and reporters.
Then on Friday, The Doghouse morning show on popular radio station KYLD-FM
(94.97) began reporting that the teachers who had received warnings
would actually be fired. Shock jocks JV, Elvis and Hollywood took calls from students and parents with ideas on how
to respond. Those ideas included walking out of class Tuesday morning.
Walk-out e-mails began circulating among students.
``The mention of the walkout was just, some schools are doing this,''
said program director Dennis Martinez. ``None of the jocks were saying
you need to walk out.''
The Doghouse DJs did stage a ``sick out'' Tuesday morning in solidarity
with student protesters. After radio station managers got word Tuesday
that the district would lose money if students missed class, it tried
to discourage walkouts.
The demonstrations Tuesday morning were mostly peaceful, though an unknown
number of students were suspended.
Officials said about 50 students walked out at Andrew Hill. At James
Lick, administrators led about 200 students to a multipurpose room after
they walked out, and they were allowed to voice their concerns. At Oak
Grove, about 250 students walked out and participated in an open microphone
session. At Mount Pleasant, about 200 walked out.
At Independence, administrators quickly persuaded several dozen students
to go to class before they staged a full walkout.
Ric Abeyta, the district's chief safety officer, said he's fine with
students protesting as long as it doesn't happen during school hours.
If students miss class, the state sends less money, worsening the budget
woes. He said the superintendent has asked principals to help students
organize protests before or after school, or during lunch, to voice
concerns about cutbacks.
``We're making hard decisions,'' said Abeyta, who said he also got a
layoff warning. ``Sure, it's unsettling.''
There were some problems, though. District officials said a few students
at various schools refused to return to class. After about 150 students
walked out at Piedmont Hills, administrators urged them to return to
class and protest during non-class hours. About 50 students refused,
and two girls were cited by police after scuffling with administrators
as they tried to force open a gate and leave campus.
After the protest, police cars blocked entrance to the campus.
Struggle at gate
Misquez-Savitz was one of those who refused to end the protest. She
and others who were there said administrators and the group of students
reached an exit gate at the same time. As Principal Dan Moser and another
administrator tried to close it, students tried to force it open.
The two administrators said students shoved them; one student said the
fight over the gate resulted in an administrator being hit with it.
Students said administrators did the shoving, and student Alexis Franco
said an administrator kicked her arm as he tried to put a gate-locking
bar into place with his foot. She had small, lightly visible marks on
``This is just bad administration,'' said Jack Brito, whose daughter
Raquel was among the protesters. ``These administrators and teachers
are probably overwhelmed,'' he said, but they shouldn't have touched
students to stop them.
``All we were doing was trying to protest to keep the teachers,'' said
Raquel Brito, as she left the school. ``All we want to do is learn.
We can't learn if we don't got teachers.'' TOP OF PAGE
Test scores on state exams have been going up since the passage of the
No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's signature education law.
But states have grave doubts about their ability to meet the full requirements
of the law, especially when it comes to helping students in struggling
schools achieve academic proficiency, a new survey has found.
Nearly three-fourths of the states and school districts surveyed said
that student performance on state exams was improving, as required under
federal law. Many also reported that the achievement gap between different
student groups was narrowing, particularly between white and minority
students, and between those with disabilities and those without.
Still, the vast majority of states said they faced moderate or serious
challenges carrying out the law in several areas, beginning with their
obligation to make sure that students at ailing schools met the same
academic standards as everyone else.
The survey was conducted by the Center on Education Policy, a research
and advocacy group, which has conducted similar surveys annually since
the law took effect in 2002.
Beyond finding the law's requirement that disabled or non-English-speaking
students perform as well as other students unrealistic and unfair, about
four-fifths of the states said that they were not getting enough money
from either the states or the federal government to accomplish the law's
In fact, more districts said their federal money to educate poor students
had gone down rather than up over the last year, the survey found, even
though the expectations of their performance continued to rise.
"That's where you get your complaints," said Jack Jennings,
president of the Center on Education Policy. "People are saying,
'We're not getting any federal money, or very little of it, but we still
have to test all of our students and raise the caliber of our teachers
and students, just like everybody else.' "
The law requires states to make academic progress every year, with the
ultimate goal of all students attaining proficiency by 2014. To get
there, states set benchmarks for all schools to hit, each higher than
the one before. When schools fail to make the standard for two years
in a row, they fall into the category of needing improvement, and their
students must ultimately be given a chance to transfer out.
Ray Simon, an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Education,
said the survey showed that the law was "having a positive impact
on our nation's schools," though Mr. Jennings was quick to say
that much of the improvement had been driven by state and local education
efforts that predated the law.
Beyond that, Mr. Simon objected to the states' arguments that inadequate
financial support from the federal government jeopardized their ability
to meet the law's requirements. He added, "The perpetual cry for
more money, once again echoed in this report, simply does not comport
with the facts."
Indeed, federal money for educating poor students has increased by several
billion dollars in the last five years, the department's records show.
But while those dollars have grown, Mr. Jennings said, they have been
increasingly focused on urban districts with high concentrations of
poverty, leaving many others with dwindling shares of money.
Even some districts that have benefited from federal money say that
it has not been enough. Xavier Botana, the director of No Child Left
Behind for the Chicago public schools, which make up the nation's third-largest
school district, says the city's students are posting record test scores
in multiple subjects and grades, and the gains they have made often
outpace those of their counterparts elsewhere in Illinois.
Nonetheless, 340 of Chicago's 613 schools have been classified as needing improvement,
Mr. Botana said, because they have fallen short of the state's academic
"We've made what are remarkable strides, but that's the problem
with N.C.L.B.," he said. "It assumes you're going to hit the
same benchmark at the same time as everyone else, regardless of where
you started. And we started a lot further back than other people."
Mr. Botana added that state-commissioned research had found that an
extra $2 billion would have to be spent on Illinois schools every year
for 80 percent of students to achieve proficiency, though that is still
less ambitious than the federal goal.
The difficulty districts have in bringing students up to par was evident
in the survey. Twenty percent of districts had at least one school in
need of improvement in the 2004-5 school year, compared with 16 percent
the year before and 15 percent in 2002-3. More districts than in past
years had at least one school required to offer transfers, even though
only one in 100 eligible students made use of them.
Why students choose not to switch schools may stem from a variety of
bureaucratic and personal reasons. In many cases, districts say they
cannot accommodate transfers in their higher-performing schools. TOP OF PAGE
MontgomeryCounty school officials did not violate the First Amendment
rights of a national Christian group when they barred it from distributing
fliers to elementary school students in 2001, a U.S. District Court
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland sued the school system in 2001,
after school officials rejected the group's request to send home fliers
promoting its after-school Good News Club programs -- in which children
recite Bible verses and learn Bible stories -- because the school system
considered the materials religious in nature.
The Evangelism Fellowship maintained that the schools' policy discriminated
against the group because the policy allowed other organizations --
such as parent-teacher groups and nonprofit youth sports leagues --
to distribute fliers to students. But U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte
said in his 25-page opinion that it "was not persuaded merely because
organizations such as these are granted access that CEF must be granted
access as well.'"
Messitte's ruling noted that the school system's policy offered other
avenues for the group to advertise its activities. The fellowship and
other groups can be present at back-to-school nights and open houses
and display their fliers on bulletin boards -- as long as they have
permission from the schools, the judge noted.
"The decision reflects the best interests of our community and
upholds the efforts of the Board of Education to be fair and equitable
in the distribution of materials to students," Montgomery School
Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. "I believe the court correctly
recognized that appropriate limits can be placed on the information
sent home with children."
Attorneys for Child Evangelism Fellowship could not be reached for comment.
The U.S. District Court in Greenbelt
initially rejected the fellowship's request for a preliminary injunction
to allow the organization to distribute its fliers. The group appealed
the ruling to the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit,
which in a 2 to 1 vote reversed the court's decision and sent the case
back to be heard by the lower court.
The group has 30 days to appeal this latest ruling.
The dispute between the school system and the organization attracted
the attention of the Bush administration, which filed an amicus brief
in federal court supporting the group.
In its brief, the administration argued that the group offered students
"educational, cultural and recreational opportunities that are
similar to activities offered by other community organizations that
submit fliers for inclusion in the students take-home folders. That
CEF does these things from a religious viewpoint does not change the
fact that its activities meet the school board's criteria for including
in the take-home folders."
As the case wound its way through the court system, the school system
in July moved to formalize its policy on flier distribution. Under the
guidelines, the only fliers that could be distributed would be from
public schools, county, state and federal agencies and departments;
nonprofit sports leagues; parent-teacher and parent-teacher-student
organizations; and licensed day-care operations on school campuses.
All fliers, though, would require approval from a community superintendent
or deputy school superintendent rather than the principal. TOP OF PAGE
reaches out Denver Post, 3/25/05
Members of the ColumbineHigh
community say they're willing and ready to help grief-stricken residents
of Red Lake, Minn., where a troubled 16-year-old high school student shot
and killed nine people and then himself Monday.
But unless they're invited, they say they won't barge in.
"I've called and called the principal up there to offer support,
but I haven't been able to reach him," said Columbine principal
Dawn Anna, mother of slain Columbine student Lauren Townsend, told DeAngelis
she'd be willing to help but wouldn't go without an invitation.
Other parents, such as Tom Mauser and Brian Rohrbough, said they would
help if asked.
Bruce Porter, pastor of the Littleton-based TorchLifeChurch, drove to RedLake on his own.
Greg Zanis, the Illinois carpenter who made 13 crosses for ClementPark near Columbine, arrived in RedLake on Thursday, his wife said.
Washington - Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is hinting
at some new flexibility for states trying to comply with the No Child
Left Behind Act when it comes to students with disabilities and limited
English skills, and for making the calculations that determine whether
schools and districts will face sanctions.
In a March 13 speech at the Council of the Great City Schools
annual legislative conference in Washington,
Ms. Spellings stressed there were some issues the Bush administration
would not budge on, including the laws requirement for annual
testing in certain grades and the breaking down of data by race, socioeconomic
status, and other subgroups.
But since becoming secretary in January, Ms. Spellings has settled long-standing
disputes with some states over issues such as teacher-quality requirements
and how to determine which school districts qualify as being in need
At the conference last week, according to Jeff Simmering, the legislative
director for the council, she told attendees that the Department of
Education is eyeing ways to make the law less rigid and incorporate
suggestions from states with concerns about the provisions on students
with disabilities and those learning English.
She clearly said they were looking at a variety of areas of flexibility,
said Mr. Simmering, whose Washington-based organization represents 65
of the countrys largest urban school districts. She also made
mention of the idea of a value-added or growth model to help calculate
adequate yearly progress under the law, he said.
One issue being considered by the department is the proportion of special
education students who can be counted as proficient based on an alternative
to their states main tests. Under the regulations for the No Child
Left Behind law, the test scores of no more than 1 percent of students
with significant cognitive disabilities who take alternative assessments
count toward a districts calculation of adequate yearly progress,
or AYP. Any students above the cap who are not tested at the grade level
in which they are enrolled are considered not proficient for accountability
Several states have said they would like to see that cap increased,
because there are students who must be taught below their normal grade
levels but can still show that they have made a years worth of
John H. Hager, the assistant secretary for the Education Departments
office of special education and rehabilitative services, said that the
cap is under study.
Many states have registered their own version of why they think
the system needs altering, he said in an interview.
Among the states that have asked for waivers is Virginia, which is requesting that the department do away with
These are common-sense adjustments in light of the practical experience
gained in three years of implementing No Child Left Behind, said
Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia education department.
Texas recently granted appeals to more than 400 school districts
that the state now considers to be making AYP even though they did not
follow the federal Education Departments testing standards for
students with disabilities. ("Texas
Stands Behind Own Testing Rule," Mar. 9, 2005.)
Katherine Beh Neas, the director of congressional affairs for the Chicago-based
Easter Seals, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, said her
organization would be disappointed at any increase in the 1 percent
Weve seen a lot of really good things happen because of
that, Ms. Neas said.
The Education Department may also be considering giving states more
time for some students with limited English skills to meet proficiency
requirements. Any such leeway may apply in particular to students who
do not speak English at all and have had little formal schooling, said
Scott Palmer, a Washington lawyer who works with states on education policy. ("Federal
Data Show Gains On Language," Mar. 23, 2005.)
Districts are also looking for different ways to calculate AYP. Some
want the Bush administration to allow them to incorporate value-added
models into those calculations. For example, as AYP is calculated now,
one school years 4th grade reading scores in a district are compared
with the next years 4th grade scores. The value-added model tracks
the same students to see how successful schools are at raising their
achievement over the course of a year.
David Shreve, an education lobbyist for the National Conference of State
Legislatures, said a student may come into 6th grade on a 3rd grade
reading level and make a leap of two grade levels that year.
AYP doesnt account for that growth, but a value-added plan
does, he said. TOP OF PAGE
As the No Child Left Behind Act furthers its influence on classrooms,
a report scheduled for release this week sounds concerns about impending
problemsfrom a lack of school choice options to inadequate staffingthat
could undermine the law.
The third annual report on the federal law by the Center on Education
Policy includes surveys of the states and more than 300 districts, charts
federal actions on implementation, incorporates the comments of three
public panels, and reviews existing research to take a snapshot of the
effect the NCLB law has had on achievement and changes in schools nationally.
Although the independent Washington-based research group is pleased
with the gains in student achievement, there are some warning signs
to heed, according to the centers director, Patricia F. Sullivan.
She cited what the center views as unrealistic time frames for student
achievement and adequate yearly progress. Also, the laws
school choice provisions do not appear to have had much effect, Ms.
Sullivan said. ("NCLB Guidance," Mar. 16, 2005.)
Plenty of Questions
One of the centers top concerns is capacity, and it warns that
many states and districts lack the funding or staff to carry out the
Further, Ms. Sullivan added, the center has many questions about the
supplemental educational services that districts with failing schools
must provide: Are the services working? Are they a good use of funding?
And can states oversee the programs?
Those are questions we are going to have to dig into, because
we need more information, she said.
Researchers say such data are vital to evaluate the effectiveness of
the 3-year-old revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
and guide lawmakers in their discussions of the measure and any necessary
The center performs a valuable service by attempting to compile
as much information as possible on the impact of No Child Left Behind,
in a way few other organizations are doing, said Wayne Riddle,
an education finance specialist for the federal Congressional Research
The U.S. Department of Education declined to comment last week because
officials there had not had time to review the 400-plus pages of the
Although a majority of states and districts surveyed reported gains
in student achievement, it still may be too early to see the full effects
of the laws achievement goals, the report says.
Overall, 36 out of 49 states and 72 percent of the 314 districts surveyed
reported that student achievement was improving, and many reported that
achievement gaps between minority and white students were narrowing.
But many state and district officials interviewed for the study questioned
the fairness of the methods they must use to determine adequate yearly
progress, and said the goal of having all students proficient in math
and reading by 2014 was unrealistic.
The most serious sign of trouble, according to the analysis, is the
inability of states and districts to help low-performing schools, both
through funding and staffing.
States and districts told us they lacked capacity to help all
schools identified as in need of improvement, the report says.
They also said they are not prepared to monitor the quality of
the entities offering supplemental education services.
School choice, meanwhile, may not be making an impression. Districts
reported that only about 1 percent of eligible students had transferred
from low-performing schools this school year.
Under the law, students in Title I schools deemed to be failing for
two consecutive years must be given the opportunity to transfer to another
school. They must be offered supplemental services, such as free tutoring,
if their schools cannot meet their performance targets for a third year.
Of the districts surveyed, only 3 percent of districts reported that
the school choice provisions were having a positive or somewhat positive
effect on achievement. More than two-thirds said they didnt know
what effect the provisions have had.
Districts and states also reported experiencing problems in carrying
out the school choice provisions, such as being unable to identify the
schools needing improvement before the start of the school year and
trouble in maintaining class-size limits in schools eligible to receive
student transfers. Many districts reported that neighboring districts
did not want to accept low-achieving students.
Some districts said they offered supplemental educational services to
students unable to transfer. TOP OF PAGE
Researchers from the United Negro College Fund went to West Virginia last year and asked 62 high school dropouts in the federal
Job Corps program a simple, open-ended question. What was it about
school, they wanted to know, that caused you to quit?
With surprising consistency, a majority of the participants, most of
whom were African-American or Hispanic, gave the same answer: Math.
Though the results are not scientific, they point to a challenge that
confronts policymakers and educators as they campaign to make American
high schools more academically rigorous. Experts agree that if the goal
is for all students to graduate from high school ready for college or
other postsecondary study, schools have their work cut out for them,
at least in mathematics.
The challenge may be particularly daunting, these experts add, when
it comes to the kinds of students drawn to training programs like the
Job Corpsstudents who are members of minority groups or those
who fall at the lower end of the academic-achievement scale. Yet, they
note, the emphasis at the federal level so far has primarily been on
I think, fundamentally, were going to find math is more
critical than we might have thought it was, said M. Christopher
Brown II, the director of social justice and professional development
for the American Educational Research Association, based in Washington. Mr. Brown spearheaded the not-yet-published West Virginia study when he was the director of the United Negro College
Funds Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute in Fairfax, Va.
Architects of the push for transforming high schools dont disagree
that the task they face is particularly great in math. But, they add,
its not a reason to hold back on efforts to ratchet up academic
content in high school math classes.
The problem is this: We have lots of kids coming into high schools
who are not yet ready to take rigorous math coursework, said Michael
Cohen, the president of the Washington-based nonprofit group Achieve.
Along with President Bush and the nations governors, Achieve is
calling for improving high schools.
At the same time, Mr. Cohen added, we have to give
the kids who are still in high school better than they have now. We
just cant afford to wait until better-prepared students come through
In the study conducted by the United Negro College Fund, dropouts in
the Job Corps who ranged in age from 16 to their mid-20s cited a variety
of reasons for their lack of success with high school math. They talked
about getting pushed along in school despite not having
mastered the subject, having poor-quality textbooks, feeling bored,
and being taught math by athletic coaches or by teachers whom they considered
They basically pass students along, agreed Crystal Collett,
18, a student at Kansas CityCommunity
in Kansas City, Kan. Although she was not part of the West Virginia study, she found herself taking remedial math upon entering
In high school, my algebra teacher would give us an assignment
and tell us to do the homework, Ms. Collett recalled in a telephone
interview. The next day, she would give answers on the overhead.
I never understood how she did it, and she didnt show us.
National statistics bear out observations that high school math is a
struggle for many studentsnot just those who are low-achieving
or disadvantaged in some way.
On the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress test in math,
17 percent of high school seniors scored at the proficient
leveljust under half the percentage scoring at that level on the
NAEP reading test. Twenty-two percent of college freshmen, like Ms.
Collett, are identified as needing remedial math, according to the NationalCenter for Education Statistics.
But the climb to college-level math could be hardest on minority students,
many of whom attend schools with fewer resources, less experienced teachers,
and more teachers teaching subjects for which they were not trained.
Many African-American students are disproportionately assigned to lower-level
math classes in high school, sometimes even when they have the grades
to do better.
On 12th grade NAEP math tests given in 2000, black and white students
were separated by a gap of 34 scale-score pointsabout the same
as in 1990. (Among younger students, mathematics differences on NAEP
tests narrowed slightly between black and white students over roughly
the same period.)
It doesnt matter whether theyre male or female, African-American
students do tend to experience mathematics in school in a qualitatively
different way than other folks, said Danny Bernard Martin, an
associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The algebra for all movement begun in the 1990s is a case
in point, he said. Prompted by studies showing that algebra was a gatekeeper
course that paved the way for students to take higher-level math and
go on to college, many districts began requiring students to take a
first-level algebra course by 8th or 9th grade.
But algebra is not algebra in every location,
Mr. Martin said, noting that many pupils got watered-down versions of
the subject. For many students of color, they may have taken the
math requested, and then tried to enter college and tried to enter the
workforce and found out they were not prepared.
If the countrys serious about this on the mathematics side,
said Robert P. Moses, the civil rights leader who founded the Cambridge,
Mass.-based Algebra Project, it will have to do something very
different than its doing now.
What It Takes
Experts agree that, at a minimum, the United States will have to improve preparation for math teachers at
all levels if all students are to be held accountable for reaching higher
levels of achievement.
Research is less definitive on what makes for good math instruction
at the high school level, particularly for lower-achieving students.
Indeed, federal education officials say, the reason the Bush administration
has emphasized reading instruction up until now is that research in
that subject is further along than studies on math instruction.
The enduring math wars are evidence that math educators
and mathematicians remain divided, even in their own communities, on
the proper focus of math study and how it should be taught.
But the wrong way to go about improving minority students math
achievement, according to Mr. Moses, is to expand federal testing requirements
in high school, as President Bush has proposed for schools taking part
in the federal Title I program for disadvantaged students.
Mr. Moses fear is that preparing students for such tests leaves
little time for them to delve into the deeper concepts that can engage
That view is not shared by all groups working toward educational equity.
The Washington-based Education Trust, for one, supports the heavy emphasis
on testing embedded in the federal No Child Left Behind Actin
part because it holds schools accountable for raising the test scores
of specific subgroups of children, such as African-Americans and Hispanics.
In a report released last fall, the research and advocacy group credited
the 3-year-old law with having narrowed math achievement gaps between
elementary students in 17 of the 21 states for which its researchers
could collect data. ("Report: States See Test-Score Gains,"
Oct. 20, 2004.)
Mr. Moses own efforts to improve math education through the Algebra
Project have been unusually intense.
in Jackson, Miss., a predominantly black, mostly poor school with which
Mr. Moses works, students who take part in his program have to agree
to take 90 minutes of math instruction five days a week, which is the
equivalent of two math courses a year.
Teachers in the project, most of whom follow the same group of students
through high school, have common planning periods and teach no more
than 70 students a day. The result so far, Mr. Moses said, is that he
now has 46 juniors and seniors who have stuck with the program, some
of them since 8th grade, and most of whom, he hopes, will be able to
enter college without taking remedial math.
But Mr. Moses and the University of
Illinois Mr. Martin say that educators also will have to
address cultural issues as they try to nudge more minority students
into higher-level math courses. Researcher Jacqueline Leonard of TempleUniversity in Philadelphia, for example, integrates math lessons into church Sunday
school classes in her community.
Some of it has to do with the expectations students have about
who is supposed to do well in math, Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Moses deploys math-literacy workerscollege-age
students who were once students in the Algebra Projectas role
models in middle and high schools.
What they could do that I couldnt do is make it cool to
do math, Mr. Moses said. TOP OF PAGE
The U.S. Department of Educations first-ever evaluation of how
states are meeting requirements for English-language learners under
the federal No Child Left Behind Act can be looked at two ways.
One view of the report, which was released to Congress last week, is
that states have made great strides in laying the groundwork for schools
to teach English-language learners. Thats the view of Kathleen
Leos, the associate deputy secretary and senior policy adviser for the
Education Departments office of English-language acquisition,
a researcher for the evaluation.
Given where the states started, theres been significant
progress made in all states at varying levels, she said in an
interview. The evaluation shows all 50 states plus the District
have developed standards for English proficiency and aligned them with
their academic-content standards, she noted. Before the 3-year-old law
was enacted, only seven states had such standards, and they were not
connected to academic content.
Its absolutely going to impact instruction in the classroom,
Ms. Leos said.
But another interpretation of the findings in the 503-page evaluation,
which covers the 2002-03 and 2003-04 school years, is that states have
largely failed to meet the laws requirements to ensure that English-language
learners master academic content. Only two statesAlabama and Michiganmet adequate yearly progress, or AYP,
goals last school year for such students in both reading and mathematics.
Moreover, not a single state both reported all the data required by
the federal law and met all the mandated targets for English-language
This report certainly accentuates the positive, and to learn the
bad news about how the No Child Left Behind Act is working out, you
have to read the fine print of a 503-page report, said James Crawford,
the executive director of the Washington-based National Association
for Bilingual Education, who was a reporter for Education Week in the
The news, according to Mr. Crawford, shows that this is a dysfunctional
system of accountability. No one has sat down to do the math to see
that its impossible for most schools with significant numbers
of English-language learners to meet their AYP targets as the targets
get more stringent. This subgroup by definition will never go very far
in meeting the full-proficiency target.
While states that didnt make adequate yearly progress goals could
lose federal funds, Ms. Leos said the federal government doesnt
plan to punish states for failing to meet requirements for English-language
learners, because states have made so much progress in such a short
period of time.
The report was released to Congress March 15.
States should be commended for making significant progress in
implementing these provisions in three short years, said Rep.
John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House education committee,
in an e-mail. However, there is still much work that must be done
before we achieve our long-term goals of ensuring all students are proficient
in reading and math.
Two States Stand Out
Though the Education Departments summary of the evaluations
findings fails to point out that no state met all of its English-proficiency
and academic goals for English-language learners, Ms. Leos acknowledged
that conclusion in interviews last week.
In addition, the summary provides analysis only for how states met their
goals for English proficiency, but not for how the states did at meeting
goals for English-language learners in reading and math.
For instance, the summary says that of the 42 states that provided
target and performance data, 33 report meeting at least some of their
[annual measurable achievement objective] targets regarding progress
in English-language proficiency. The department counts the District of Columbia and Puerto
Rico as states.
As far as helping second-language learners gain fluency in English,
the success rate for states achievement of their goals is even
better, the department points out: Of the 45 states that provide one
or more targets as well as performance data, 41 met some or all of their
The Fine Print
But readers of the report will have to look beyond the summary and wade
through more than 400 pages of data about individual states to draw
conclusions about the states progress in meeting academic goals
for English-language learners. The findings are much less impressive
than states record on helping students learn English.
Buried in the data is the fact that only Alabama and Michigan met their AYP goals last school year for English-language
learners test scores in bothreading and math. Alabama set a goal of having half its 11th graders who were
tested in math reach the cutoff score for proficient and advanced.
Michigan set the target of having 33 percent of its 11th graders
land in the category of proficient and advanced, though
each state has different tests.
and Virginia met their goals for math, but not for reading. None
of the other states met their projected targets for English-language
learners in either subject. Altogether, 36 states reported the data
fully for math, and the same number of states, though not the same exact
group, did so for reading.
Those who have studied second-language acquisition wouldnt
be surprised by those findings, said Deborah J. Short, a language
researcher at the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics. It
takes four, seven, or even nine years for some students to reach academic
Ms. Leos said the Education Departments decision not to spell
out whether states had met AYP goals for English-language learners wasnt
an edict coming from a political standpoint. Rather, she
said, it was an internal decision grounded in a belief that
it was hard to make comparisons between states.
I dont think you can make any conclusive statements about
what achievement gap exists between limited-English-proficient children
and native English-speakers, Ms. Leos said.
Ms. Short countered that the department should have taken a stab at
characterizing second-language learners academic results in reading
and math. Annual testing of 3rd through 8th graders in those subjects
is a key gauge of success under the federal law.
They should have reported how students were doing on math and
reading to the extent they could so we could understand the challenges
these students face when asked to perform in a language they are not
proficient in, Ms. Short said.
At the same time, she cautioned against reading too much into whether
states make their targets or not because each state sets targets differently.
California, for example, reached its goal for helping students
attain fluency in English by bringing 38 percent of English-language
learners to fluency last school year. Delaware, at the same time, met its goal by having just 5.6 percent
of such students attain fluency.
States definitions for fluency in English also vary.
New Level of Data
Experts on second-language learners who had read the summary of the
evaluation last week said the report reflects positive change for how
schools and states view English-language learners.
The approach in the program suggests that the states or the feds
are recognizing that limited-English-proficient kids are here to stay,
and they need a systematic approach, said Charlene Rivera, the
executive director of the Center for Equity and Excellence in Education,
located at GeorgeWashingtonUniversity.
One of the main points of the report is to show Congress the data
are being collected, said Randy Capps, a senior research associate
at the Washington-based Urban Institute, who is conducting a study about
the impact of the federal education law on English-language learners.
He said the federal government has never collected data on such students
to the extent that it is now.
Most states had some gaps in the data that they were required to report
to the Education Department.
New York, for example, did not provide information on whether
it had made AYP for English- language learners in reading. Jonathan
Burman, a spokesman for the state education department, said last week
that New York was unable to provide the data because of difficulties
in matching up test scores used previously with scores on a test introduced
last school year.
Elsewhere, Irene Morena, Arizonas
deputy associate superintendent for English acquisition said in an e-mail
message she couldnt say why data about her states targets
and student performance in English proficiency didnt make it into
the federal report. It was, she said, submitted to the federal department
Ms. Rivera of the Center for Equity and Excellence in Education said
the report was lacking in information that would help states improve
instruction in academic content for English-language learners.
The report doesnt really discuss how instruction in reading
and math and other content areas is being delivered, she said.
That needs to be thought about more. Language is one thing, but
you need to really focus on content.
The reports findings show that all states have English-only programs
for children to learn the language, while 40 have at least some bilingual
education to teach the language. Thirteen states provide assessments
in students native languages.
An official at the Alabama Department of Education credits teacher training
in strategies for working with English-language learners as helping
her state meet its academic goals.
The more we provide professional development, the better off we
are, said Dely Velez Roberts, the state agencys specialist
in English-language learners.