CHICAGO - With a skinny paintbrush, Troi Valles pokes at a glob of red
goo, preparing to paint a plaster mold of her arm for the 10-year-old's
latest art project.
She's still considering whether to donate the work to her after-school
program's auction next month. The Teen REACH program, already strapped
for cash, is among several Illinois
programs for at-risk children facing funding cuts under the governor's
state budget proposal. Its directors are counting on the auction and
other fund-raising to avoid further downsizing.
"LESS money?" Troi says, frowning when hearing about the governor's
plan. "That doesn't make any sense. ... If I wasn't here, I'd just
be bored at home and it really helps me with my math homework. Without
them I probably wouldn't get the good grades that I got."
The Teen REACH after-school program and others like it have been held
up as ways to prevent crime by focusing resources and mentoring on those
children considered most at risk and keeping them occupied and safe
during the hours most juvenile crime is committed.
But at the same time, four of the five state-supported programs for
at-risk children that advocates say are crucial in helping prevent crime
have been targeted for cuts in the governor's latest budget proposal.
The administration has since said it would restore funding for one.
Administration officials say the state is doing the best it can while
facing an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion budget shortfall. They
contend the cuts won't affect services.
"When you're facing record deficits, the alternative would be to
gut programs like this, which many governors throughout this country
have done," said Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for the governor's
budget office. "The governor's fought to protect those kinds of
programs from getting wholly cut out when others involved
in the process would have had no problem gutting those programs in order
to balance the budget."
For many social service programs, Blagojevich is trying to keep the
funding levels the same as the previous year, Carroll said. For others,
he has proposed increases, such as an extra $24 million, to $197 million,
for the Women Infants Children program that helps low-income families
get food, and a $1.9 million increase, to $5 million, for a prenatal
The cuts in the governor's budget proposal include:
- About $762,000 from Healthy Families Illinois' current $9.7 million
budget, which tries to prevent child abuse through home visits and other
services for nearly 4,000 families.
- About $1.8 million from Parents Too Soon's $10 million budget, which
helps teen parents.
- All of Crisis Nurseries' $473,000, which serves about 2,600 families
and lets parents drop off their children when the family is involved
in a crisis. The state has promised to restore this funding.
- $2.6 million from Teen REACH's $20.4 million budget, which provides
after-school programs for about 31,000 students a year.
Teen REACH will deal with the loss partly by reducing the number of
children served, covering only those ages 11 to 17 next year rather
than extending programs to children as young as 6 as it has in the past,
said Grace Hou, assistant secretary of the state Department of Human
Services. Other cuts will come from staff training and evaluation, she
Experts say even temporary cuts in after-school programs can have a
long-term negative impact.
"You have to look at it like you either pay me now, or pay me later.
By investing in these programs, it's cost-effective and you realize
enormous savings in the criminal justice system down the road,"
said Daniel J. Cardinali, president at Community In Schools, an Alexandria,
Va.-based non-profit organization focused on keeping kids in school.
The majority of crimes involving youth occur between and ,
according to a U.S. Justice Department study; other government surveys
have found quality after-school programs help reduce juvenile crime.
Blagojevich also talked about prevention as the best way to fight crime
during his state budget address when he discussed new programs aimed
at reducing the number of ex-convicts who return to prison.
"He's making a big contradiction," said Beth Bricker, 27,
an after-school program coordinator at the AlbanyParkCommunity
in Chicago, where Troi and her friends were painting. "The
best way to fight crime is to get kids off the streets, and the after-school
programs provide them with a safe environment."
The center, which serves 800 children, lost about a third of its state
funding last year. It gets some money from the federal government and
private donors, but program director Tim O'Donohue said the $110,000
drop in state funds forced administrators to reduce enrollment and staffing.
"The funding here is so sad that it's almost laughable," O'Donohue
said. "To say that we should have cuts, people should come here
and see the real need. If they did, there's no way they would have proposed
to cut Teen REACH."
Less money for smaller programs in rural areas can threaten their very
existence, said Jolie Finkbiner, coordinator of the Teen REACH program
that serves Robinson, in southern Illinois.
"I know a lot of people who are really wondering if they're going
to be able to continue their programs with these cuts," she said.
"I know they have to cut somewhere, but it would seem that the
kids is not the place to do it."
"We just have to keep reminding the governor and his budget staff
of the return-on-investment these programs have," said State Rep.
Kathleen Ryg, D-Vernon Hills. TOP OF PAGE
Some principals were not told that young sex offenders had enrolled
in their schools, because the state system designed to notify them is
mired in confusion, according to a Tribune investigation.
While the list of Illinois' adult sex offenders is accessible to anyone on the
Internet, a similar registry of about 1,100 juveniles who have committed
sex crimes is largely kept secret.
State law says school officials are supposed to be told by sheriff's
police when a juvenile sex offender is enrolled, but not all sheriff's
police read the law that way, and some decline to divulge the names.
Some local police departments won't tell principals the names of sex
offenders in their schools even when they ask. State law permits police
departments to share the information with schools.
It was by chance that an East Peoria
woman discovered that a boy who was found guilty of molesting her 7-year-old
son was in the same physical education class as her teenage son.
The 16-year-old was registered as a sex offender with the Illinois State
Police. But because of the disarray surrounding the juvenile sex offender
registry, the information didn't get to the school until the mother
informed officials herself.
"I'm just one person in Peoria," the mother said. "If mine fell through,
how many other kids are out there that these schools don't know about?"
In recent weeks, the Tribune informed officials at several suburban
schools that at least one of their students was on the state registry
for committing a sex crime.
In each case, school officials did not know because of a breakdown--sheriff's
departments and police officials misunderstood the law and their responsibilities.
Lawmakers had thought they were clear when they passed the law in the
"Schools were among the three mandatory groups to be notified,"
said the law's original sponsor, Gwendolyn Klingler, a former state
representative. "You are looking at places where notification would
do the most good in protecting children."
Officials with Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan's office acknowledge
Cara Smith, Madigan's policy director, said the agencies involved with
the sex offender registry met last week to discuss how to fix it.
"We are prioritizing sex offender registration for juveniles and
community notification for that population," Smith said. "There
is an inherent struggle with coordinating registration while at the
same time protecting confidentiality."
Sex crimes committed by juveniles can be as serious as those done by
adults, ranging from public indecency to assaults. Of the juveniles
registered, 41 percent were found guilty of aggravated or criminal sexual
assault, and 33 percent committed aggravated criminal sexual abuse,
according to state police data.
Informing the public about young sex offenders is problematic. The juvenile
justice system shields the names of youths who commit crimes, based
on the belief that they can be rehabilitated and deserve a fresh start
as adults. With treatment and support, juvenile sex offenders are less
likely than adults to commit another sex crime.
The Illinois State Police compile the sex offender registry and share
it with county sheriff's departments, which in turn are supposed to
inform schools. Local police also have the information, typically because
the youths have to register where they live.
A case study
offers a case study of how the system breaks down, preventing educators
from getting information they need to protect students and help offenders.
Zion-Benton Principal Steve Baule did not know that there was a registered
sex offender at his school, because the LakeCounty sheriff's police did not tell him.
The department's policy was to notify only those schools in areas without
a local police department. "In incorporated areas, it's up to the
local police department to notify the schools," Lake County Sheriff
Sgt. Rick White said in February.
So when the Tribune informed Baule last month that he had a sex offender
in his school, he turned to his local police for answers.
He didn't get many.
"Our Police Department has an understanding that they can't by
law tell us that the person is here," Baule said then.
The principal added: "It's information that would be nice to have."
In a February interview, Zion Police Department Lt. Dwight Ower said
his agency keeps track of nine juvenile sex offenders but could give
their names only to the Juvenile Court, not to schools.
"We are prohibited from releasing that information," Ower
said. "There are a whole range of issues schools need to be aware
of related to safety. ... They just cannot get it from the police department
all of the time."
After the interview with the Tribune, Zion police consulted attorneys. The department has since
determined it is able to tell Baule and other school officials about
student offenders, Ower said last week.
"Obviously there was a concern there," Baule said last week.
"Things have changed, because the Police Department has decided
they could provide us that information."
Baule has since informed a few top school officials so his staff has
the context to better support the student.
The LakeCounty sheriff's office, too, is changing its years-old policy
following the Tribune's inquiries. For the first time this week, the
office plans to add the names of juveniles to a quarterly list of registered
adult sex offenders sent to schools.
"We have since researched this, and there is some confusion,"
Lt. Scott Robin said Friday. "From our interpretation at this point
in time, that list of juvenile offenders which generally is confidential
can be shared with schools. ... We are going forward with that."
In Chicago, officials say the system is working. The Chicago Police
Department has registered roughly 60 juvenile sex offenders and has
a procedure for informing school officials.
"It's critical, very important for administrators to know,"
said Andres Durbak, the Chicago Public Schools director of safety and
security. "By letting the principal know and allowing the principal
to establish a system of monitoring these students, of course, it raises
the level of security and safety in a school environment, without a
Chicago Public Schools officials evaluate a student offender's age,
history and offense before forming a plan to help that student at school,
said James Bebley, the district's first assistant general counsel. Usually,
at least the principal knows.
"It could be they are not allowed to participate in physical education,
it could be they are not allowed to have contact with members of a certain
sex, it could be an adult is with them the entire time," Bebley
said. "You have to remember these kids still have a right to education,
and they still have privacy rights."
But schools can't take steps to protect students when they don't get
the information. WaukeganHigh
officials did not know they had a registered sex offender in their school.
After being informed by the Tribune, Waukegan School District 60 Supt.
Richard Olson checked it out. Police told Olson he had sex offenders
among his students--but they wouldn't tell Olson who they were.
"I was under the unfortunate assumption that that information would
be clearly provided to us," said Dean ReyCave. "What does
it take for us to be aware of it?"Unless there is a specific risk,
Waukegan police usually do not tell local high schools of the
dozen registered juvenile sex offenders.
A question of safety
"It's my personal opinion as a police officer and a father that
I would want the schools to know," Chief Bill Biang said. "When
you entrust your kids to a school system that is responsible for the
safety of those children, they should be able to get that information."
Sgt. Brian Mullen, however, feels that to protect juvenile's rights,
he cannot share every name. "It would be opening the flood gates,"
In CookCounty, sheriff's police don't automatically tell schools but
do so "on a case-by-case basis," said Bill Cunningham, a department
"It is confusing. There is no doubt about it," Cunningham
said about the notification law on juveniles. "We read the law,
looked at each other and said: `What does this mean?'"
Scott Smith, co-director of a consulting firm that trains school officials
on how to deal with students who are juvenile sex offenders, said schools
are entitled to such information.
"Schools sometimes don't even know there are two registration lists
for adult and juveniles," Smith said. "They sometimes don't
know juveniles are not on the Internet. All they see are adults, and
they come to the conclusion: I guess we don't have any."
Looking back, East
officials said they were thankful that a student's mother informed them
of a juvenile sex offender in their population. Once the school knew,
the mother said, officials were sensitive, helpful and watchful.
"The real important thing is that she let the school know right
away," said Sue Moore, a counselor at the school.
Principal Paul Whittington said that after he learned of the offender,
the school began "paying a little bit more attention."
"When you are made aware of those kinds of situations, everyone
has rights. And my main concern is 1,150 to 1,200 students that we have
here--their safety and their well-being," he said.
The mother said she was disappointed in the state system set up to notify
schools. The Tribune is not naming the woman to avoid identifying her
"It doesn't surprise me that some schools don't know," she
said. "Every school should." TOP OF PAGE
NORMAL -- The New P.E. may trace its roots to a knee injury nearly 30
Dale Brown was a high school junior in Morris,
Minn., when a football injury led to two knee reconstruction
"Now, doctors can almost restore the knee to normal health,"
said Brown, who is now 45, in his office at IllinoisStateUniversity's Horton Field House. In the 1970s, that was not an
Brown's frustration and rehabilitation led to an interest in the working
and healing of the human body -- specifically how to prevent and treat
Now the ISU professor is a leader in the national movement called the
New P.E. that means restructuring high school, junior high and elementary
school physical education classes to focus on teaching students different
ways to burn calories, gain strength and to get their heart rate up
rather than focusing on sports skills.
The goal is students who are more aware of what they can do to improve
their health, maintain flexibility and prevent joint problems. That
should result in adults who make exercise and nutrition a priority,
lowering the nation's obesity rate.
Brown received master's and doctoral degrees in exercise physiology
at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and arrived at ISU in 1989.
In an exercise, health and disease course, Brown's students worked with
adults with medical concerns.
They realized many problems, such as heart disease, type II diabetes
and hypertension can be prevented, said Brown, a professor in the kinesiology
and recreation department. "Why aren't we focusing on people at
a younger age?" he asked.
Brown figured if children and teens learn healthy lifestyles, they're
less likely to suffer from preventable diseases as adults.
His academic conclusion was underscored by his personal experience.
His right knee joint continued to degenerate. Eventually, he will need
knee replacement surgery. Meanwhile, he gets fluid drained from his
knee from time to time and exercises as much as he can. He admitted
his knee injury limits his lower body cardiovascular work.
"It frustrates me to see people with healthy bodies who are inactive
when there are people who want to exercise more but are limited,"
Rather than becoming bitter, Brown thought about how society teaches
people to be fit for life and realized we don't do a good job. He concluded
instruction needs to start earlier.
A research study that he conducted in the late 1990s found a high percentage
of children had high cholesterol levels and low bone density.
About four years ago, a Unit 5 physical education teacher brought her
ninth-graders to Brown's exercise physiology lab. She and Brown began
discussing high school P.E. classes.
Physical education classes developed alongside military preparedness.
Students originally did a lot of pushups, sit-ups, regimented running,
calisthenics and rope climbing. Over the years, military preparedness
gave way to sports skills-based P.E., meaning more basketball, kickball
That's not a bad thing, but students who aren't into the sport get little
out of it, Brown said.
Brown and his ISU colleagues began to consider what skills could benefit
all students. Meanwhile, national studies were concluding Americans
and their children had become the most obese people on earth.
Brown and Robert Cullen of the family and nutrition sciences department
wanted to help high school teachers develop life-skills-based P.E. classes.
The goal was to teach students how to live healthily rather than finding
out how many baskets they can shoot.
Change in mindset
The New P.E. movement was born. To thrive, it needed money and a change
The money came in July 2002 with a $300,000 grant from the Illinois
Attorney General's office. NormalCommunityWestHigh
signed onto a pilot program beginning that fall.
Teachers knew the value of showing students there were different ways
to bring up their heart rate and burn calories and that the key to long-term
success was to find a form of exercise that students enjoy.
With that in mind, $50,000 was spent on upright bikes, recumbent bikes,
universal bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills. Students were trained
how to use them. Another $12,000 was spent on heart rate monitors. Students
and teachers were taught how to use them so students would know how
much class time they spent in their target heart rate zone.
Students are trained on equipment they are more likely to use in health
clubs. In some classes, students are told to do any cardio activity
-- using equipment, jogging, playing soccer or football, doing cheerleader
routines -- as long as they increase their heart rate for 18 minutes.
Another $9,000 was spent on the Tri-Fit System, equipment and software
that put students through a variety of exercises to measure body fat,
blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and overall
fitness. Scores are tracked over time, so students are evaluated against
themselves rather than each other.
All 1,300 students at Normal West and all 1,400 students at Normal Community
are getting fitness profiles. Brown, his colleagues and graduate students
have assisted P.E. teachers to help their transition.
"I think the message for kids is to find an activity they enjoy
doing," Brown said. "Then exercise will become a life-long
habit." TOP OF PAGE
The shootings in Minnesota that left 10 people dead, including the gunman, were
a startling reminder of the need for continued vigilance regarding school
security and the importance of getting adequate help for troubled teens
before they harm themselves or others.
The tragedy also was a reminder that such occurrences are not limited
to bigger cities; rural areas are not immune.
Unfortunately, the deadly incident also demonstrated that there is probably
no foolproof way to protect our schools short of turning them into armed
fortresses -- which would not be conducive to learning. That's why it
is important to recognize students in trouble and take threats seriously
before they can be carried out.
The school in Red
Lake, Minn., had only one open entrance, a metal detector and security
guards. It didn't stop 16-year-old Jeff Weise. One of the guards was
killed as the other ran to warn students and teachers.
But even though the security measures did not prevent this attack, safety
steps are still important. There's no way of knowing how many more people
might have died if no security measures were in place.
For example, the second security guard was able to provide a warning.
Also, the gunman turned away from at least one classroom because the
door was locked after the teacher heard shots fired. That shows that
school security plans can save lives even though they cannot eliminate
Therefore, it's good to see security plans in place in Central Illinois schools. School, police and other emergency officials
are cooperating in developing those plans and seeking to identify students
with the potential to do harm. Those plans should be regularly reviewed.
It is easy to get lax, to allow entry through propped open doors, to
think "it can't happen here."
Red Lake, Minn., residents now know it can happen anywhere -- and so
DECATUR - Two years ago, Keith Curry Lance spoke to school librarians
at Decatur's Holiday Inn Select Conference Hotel.
School libraries, he said, are a critical component of a child's academic
success. But that library must be staffed with a trained librarian and
stocked with up-to-date materials.
In February, Lance and RSL Research Group of Louisville, Colo. released
a two-year study of Illinois school libraries and their effect on student
achievement, one of a series of studies done since 2000 in 14 states,
and the results in all the states were very similar.
"The results aren't identical," Lance said, "but they're
The top four findings that stood out most: Schools with better-staffed
libraries have more students who succeed on standardized tests; high
schools with computers that connect to library catalogs and databases
average 6.2 percent better ACT scores; students who visit the library
more frequently have higher reading and writing scores; students with
access to larger, more current book collections achieve higher reading,
writing and ACT scores.
Yet librarians are often one of the first things to go when a school
district's finances are tight, said Beverly Obert, library development
coordinator at Rolling Prairie Library System in Decatur.
"The librarian is the one who has the impact on those reading and
writing scores that are so crucial, especially now in the time of the
No Child Left Behind Act," Obert said.
In many Decatur elementary schools, libraries are manned by teaching
assistants who can check books in and out, but who don't have the training
to help teachers develop unit studies, order materials or guide children
through learning to research, Obert said.
The Illinois School Library Media Association has urged librarians like
Obert to give presentations to school boards, Parent-Teacher Associations,
and whomever else they can think of who might be able to provide funding
to put librarians back in schools, Obert said.
"In most states, they have professional librarians at the high
school level," Lance said. "It's getting downright unusual
(to have librarians) at the elementary level, and that's a cause of
great concern. We hope, by having the evidence of such research, that
the people speaking for school libraries will be heard."
Organized labor, led by the Chicago Teachers Union, jumped on the school
finance reform bandwagon Tuesday, adding to a growing list of vocal
reform proponents, including Illinois Senate President Emil Jones and
The unions, including the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International
Union and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, threw their support behind
legislation pending in the General Assembly which they hope will generate
more money for education.
CTU President Marilyn Stewart also took a swipe at Renaissance 2010,
a plan to close roughly 70 Chicago public schools and replace them with 100 new ones. The
"Every Dollar for the Classroom" campaign launched by the
unions and community groups Tuesday calls for a moratorium on Renaissance
"We don't have time to experiment on programs that have no proof
or basis that they will work at a time when you have a budget shortfall,"
In response, CPS spokesman Peter Cunningham said "we need a lot
more funding and Renaissance 2010 isn't a factor one way or another.
. . . We need to stay focused on the budget and work together on that."
Enactment won't be easy: GOP
Changing the way Illinois pays for education has been on the agenda for decades,
but the momentum is stronger now than it has been for years, education
officials say. Supporters favor raising the income tax, expanding the
sales tax and lowering the property tax, which is the main vehicle for
funding schools now and creates inequities between wealthy and poor
Democratic legislators are pushing a comprehensive school reform package.
Also leading the charge is a grass-roots campaign called A+ Illinois
But Gov. Blagojevich opposes raising taxes. Getting a bill through the
Legislature will be tough, Republican leaders said.
ROCKFORD -- Rock RiverValley middle- and high-school students soon will be learning
about the dangers that can lurk on the World Wide Web.
U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, brought home $250,000 in federal money
to train teachers and provide a computer game called "Missing,"
which teaches students about red flags on the Internet.
Wednesday's announcement at Manzullo's Rockford office came one day after a 41-year-old North Carolina man was arrested for sending child pornography to a
16-year-old Rockford boy. Rockford police tipped off authorities there after a mother came
across her son's e-mail and contacted police.
"In years past, the predators were lurking in the parks and where
kids played. Today, the predators are in the people's homes," warned
Deputy Chief Dominic Iasparro.
Teachers from 156 middle schools and 83 high schools in the nine-county
region that Manzullo represents can take training next week, which should
put the program in schools in a matter of weeks. That's in time for
summer, when kids have more free time -- and more Internet time, said
Boone-Winnebago County Regional Superintendent Richard Fairgrieves.
His office will start training teachers Monday.
Teachers will return to class armed with "Missing." In the
game, students become detectives hunting down clues to find Zach, a
missing teenager lured from home by an Internet predator. Players learn
how predators operate -- by praising kids, gaining their confidence
and betraying them.
Manzullo praised the California-developed computer game, used in 42
states, for using the "medium (kids) understand best." GuilfordHigh
teacher Taylor Grant teaches computers and said he supports any program
that raises awareness, especially among younger students.
The Internet is part of teens' culture, much like telephones that connected
previous generations of teens. Even cell phones now can connect to the
Net, Grant said.
For police, the ever-changing technology means ever-changing potential
for danger. The Rockford Police Department has 10 detectives who investigate
child-sex crimes. The number of crimes involving the Internet is increasing,
And predators can come from afar. The North Carolina man, Jeffrey Morgan Smith, nabbed this week is a youth
minister. He faces 10 counts of exploitation of a minor.
Manzullo and Iasparro offered these tips to parents:
Be aware when your child is on the Internet: Consider placing the computer
in a high-traffic area, such as the kitchen.
Don't give children total freedom: Tools are available that can limit
access to undesirable sites.
Talk about the dangers: The Internet is no different from letting children
out at night when they can come into contact with strangers. TOP OF PAGE
NEW YORK -- City officials recalled preparation material for
math tests that had been sent to teachers after discovering they were
filled with math and spelling mistakes.
The materials were designed for math students in grades 3 through 7,
and had been sent to math coaches and local instructional superintendents.
The errors were found late Wednesday before the guide reached classrooms.
Several answers in the guide were wrong. There were also sloppy diagrams
and improper notation of exponents. There were at least 18 errors in
the guide, and grammar and spelling issues proved just as problematic
as the math. For example, the word "fourth" was misspelled
on the cover of the 4th-grade manual.
School officials blamed the mistakes on an ineffective fact-checker.
"We have a clear protocol for review of all materials," Carmen
Farina, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said in a statement.
"In this case, a member of my staff inexcusably failed to follow
our protocol, and I have written a letter of reprimand to the person's
file. We recalled the materials within hours, corrections to the guide
will be made, and it again will be distributed digitally."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking Friday on his weekly WABC radio show,
said he was surprised to hear about the problems but acknowledged that
mistakes can happen.
"I'm not the best speller in the world," he said.
"It is a complex world, and every day you wake up in my job and
say, 'They did what?"' he said. "There are times when I'm
halfway downtown on the subway after reading a few of the stories and
I think maybe I should just get off at the next station, cross the platform
and go back uptown." TOP OF PAGE
NEW YORK -- Aisha Tomlinson is a receptionist living in Harlem,
but she parents her two young daughters like a professional in the suburbs.
The single mother dutifully attends PTA meetings, knows the names of
her children's teachers, and sends her daughters to after-school tutoring,
test preparation sessions, and karate lessons. On weekends, the family
sometimes visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a public library
Tomlinson acknowledges that she was not always so involved, though,
and she regrets leaving the education of her 18-year-old son entirely
in the hands of the public schools he attended. She thought only prosperous
parents had the time and ability to navigate a school system -- until
last school year, when Harlem
educators taught her how to do the same.
''I only went to the school when I was called," Tomlinson, 40,
recounted as she watched outside a classroom where her younger daughter,
who is 5, was learning vowels at an after-school program. ''Now, I go
to the PTA meetings because I want to know what's happening."
Hers is the kind of transformation that a concerted effort launched
in the 2003-04 school year by African-American academics, social workers,
and the College Board aims to achieve widely in Harlem -- to get black
parents, regardless of their income, to match well-to-do white parents
in being deeply involved in the education of their children and providing
learning experiences outside the classroom. Both are proven strategies
for boosting academic performance.
Elsewhere in the country, educators describe a similar phenomenon among
middle-class and affluent black parents, whose children do not perform
as well academically as white students from families with comparable
incomes, according to a controversial 1999 study.
Spring, Md., outside Washington, black parents have organized networks to exchange information
about enrichment programs and to swap test-taking strategies. In St. Petersburg, Fla., parents have attended summits to learn more about the
achievement gap and how to be more involved with their children's learning.
The campaign in Harlem and the independent efforts around the country represent
a new approach to closing the persistent gap between black and white
students, one that does not rely solely on school systems to change
what happens inside the classroom.
''What we are trying to do in the black community and Latino community
is to build a commitment to intellect," said Edmund Gordon, a retired
psychology professor at Yale University who was a coauthor of the 1999
study and is helping lead the Harlem campaign.
Some worry that the focus on black parenting amounts to blaming the
victims and allowing bad teachers and failing schools to escape responsibility
for the poor-quality education they deliver.
Mano Singham, director of the UniversityCenter for Innovation in Teaching and Education at CaseWestern ReserveUniversity, said studies indicate that middle-class parents have
a positive impact on their children by visiting the library or reading
the newspaper with them at home, but he cautioned against focusing too
much on parents as a way to close the gap. ''I think the school is the
problem," he said. ''Parents can partially overcome that, but it's
not like the schools are great . . . I think the schools are failing
because they do not really teach in a way that makes it fun for the
Some researchers have cited poverty, bad teaching, and racial stereotyping
as contributors to the gap. But Ron Ferguson, director of the Achievement
Gap Initiative at HarvardUniversity, cites his research that suggests some middle-class
black families lean too much on schools to educate their children. Using
his calculations based on a 1998 government survey of parents' habits,
Ferguson determined that about 47 percent of college-educated
black parents surveyed read to their children daily, compared with 60
percent of white parents with at least a bachelor's degree. Black parents
with that much education had 65 books in their home on average, while
white parents had nearly double that -- 114. White parents also were
more likely to discuss science or nature with their children.
''I do believe middle-class and affluent black parents are seeing we
have to do more and more," said Virginia Walden Ford, an educator
in Washington who is African-American. ''The dialogue is intense.
The phone now rings off the hook in April about summer programs."
Ford, 53, said she was a hard-working parent who initially placed the
responsibility for educating her children on the schools. ''I started
seeing in my children things education was not giving them, and it became
very clear in watching them that I needed to intervene," she said.
''I started watching my white friends and asking them for advice: 'How
do you get into that community organization and that program?' They
were like bulldogs when they wanted something for their children."
Unorthodox measures to teach the tenacious habits of the affluent to
African-American mothers and fathers in Harlem
have been taken by the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at
ColumbiaUniversity's Teachers College, which Gordon directs, as well as
by Harlem Children's Zone, a large social service organization, and
The College Board, sponsor of the SAT.
''A lot of our parents are tired. They are worn-out and they need almost
a pep rally, so we say, 'Hey, I know you are tired, but this is important,'
" said Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children's Zone, which runs
Promise Academy Charter School, an extended day school that Tomlinson's
daughters attend. ''We have begun to say, ''You have to do this, or
there just is no way your child is going to make it.' "
Gordon's institute hired a firm to create a public awareness campaign
to promote the idea that school alone does not guarantee academic success.
Researchers are spreading the message in churches and from door to door,
and it will be preached this summer at parent conferences. Faculty members
at PromiseAcademy, which opened in September, give away compact discs
and hold barbecue suppers to entice parents to attend PTA meetings.
Harlem Children's Zone begins to push parental involvement early on.
''With educated white parents, there is a real understanding that the
race for a seat at Harvard and Yale and Princeton begins at birth," Canada said. ''When school breaks, you are thinking, 'What
can I get my children into so that they will have a competitive advantage?'
It's different with black parents. They believe from 9 to 3 is when
this happens. The rest of the time is to relax."
Tomlinson said she keeps an eye out for new activities for her daughters,
Alaysia and Aleyah Joseph, partly because she wants to condition them
to try new things, just as many affluent children are. Still, she wonders
whether affluent parents have to work as hard to do it all for their
children. On a recent weekday, she had to leave work to pick up Alaysia,
11, who got into a fight at school. Hours later she had to pick up Aleyah
from an after-school program.
Tomlinson, who completed her GED, does not always understand the homework
her children bring home, but she makes them finish it before bedtime
after their 10-hour day at PromiseAcademy. ''It's hard," she said. ''Sometimes you are too
tired to try to find them something to do, but I know now that you have
to do it." TOP OF PAGE
DAYTON, Ohio - For decades, conservatives have dreamed of an America in which public schools would lose their monopoly on
government education financing and face the harsh reality of market
competition. Here in Dayton, their dream has come true with a vengeance.
Forty charter schools have opened in Dayton, and nine more have received preliminary approval for
next fall. That would give this city of 166,000 people about as many
charter schools as are in New
which has a population 50 times larger.
Today 26 percent of Dayton's public school students are enrolled in the taxpayer-financed
but privately operated schools, a rate far higher than in any other
Academically, few of the charter schools have proved to be any better
than Dayton's public schools, which are among Ohio's worst. Now the authorities are warning that the flow
of state money to the charters, $41 million this year, is further undermining
the traditional school system.
"Never in a million years did I think we'd end up with 50 charters
in a community of this size," said Gail Littlejohn, a former corporate
lawyer who supported charter schools as part of a menu of changes when
she was elected president of Dayton's Board of Education in 2001. "We're
developing two complete and competing public systems."
The mayor of Dayton, Rhine McLin, has called for a moratorium on new charter
schools, but neither she nor any other local authority appears to have
the power to stop the growth. The Ohio Legislature has given some 60
school districts, universities and other groups the authority to license
new charters, and Ohio officials said dozens of would-be educators had been
racing to organize schools across the state.
"We're the No. 1 charter school Mecca in Ohio, if not the country,"
said William Peterson, a former football star at the University of Dayton
who has founded three charter schools in Dayton and one in Cleveland
and who hopes to open two more here next fall. But the only one of Mr.
Peterson's schools that has been rated so far under Ohio's school report card system was classified in an "academic
emergency" because of low test scores.
Educators across the nation are watching Dayton because it is one of the few places where charter schools
have come to seriously rival the public system. Supporters of charter
schools, while acknowledging that quality has been a disappointment
so far, say the schools have given parents new educational choices.
Critics of the movement say Dayton has become a playground for entrepreneurs who are proficient
at obtaining government planning grants and marketing their schools
through television campaigns but who are mediocre educators.
"We're close to the tipping point where the charters damage the
capacity of the public schools to create a sufficient educational infrastructure
for the community," said Thomas J. Lasley II, dean of the education
school at the University of Dayton.
He said he worried about whether the public schools could respond if
several charters collapsed simultaneously, as happened last fall in
California. "Other people would say, 'Let the market decide.'
But I think that's just experimenting with young people's lives."
However, Jon Husted, the speaker of the state House and a Republican
who wrote an important charter school law, says the events here have
proved that market forces can reform American education.
"The question that the Dayton Public Schools need to ask themselves
is, 'Why are all of these children leaving?' " Mr. Husted said.
"Instead of blaming charter schools, they should ask, 'What can
we do better to make students stay?' "
Still, he expressed dismay over the proliferation of charter schools
- "Our charter growth happened too fast" - and frustration
over financial and academic mismanagement at some of the new schools.
"How do you write a law to shut down the ones that aren't any good
and let the others flourish?" he asked.
Four teachers founded Dayton's first charter, CityDayCommunitySchool, in 1998, and a dozen more appeared over the next three
Among them were the Omega School of Excellence, founded by Daryl Ward,
a lawyer educated at GeorgetownUniversity, and his wife, Vanessa, who has a degree from Johns
Hopkins. The couple, co-pastors at OmegaBaptistChurch, had discovered that young congregants could not read
or do math properly, Mrs. Ward said.
Two other charter schools founded in those years were run by Edison
Schools, the for-profit company based in New York. Another school that began enrolling Dayton students was Electronic Classrooms of Tomorrow, based
in Columbus, which offers classes over the Internet.
The charter schools grew rapidly because parents in Dayton were eager for alternatives, said Chester E. Finn Jr.,
president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an education advocacy
group based in Washington. The foundation, named after a Dayton industrialist, has promoted charter schools nationwide
and especially in Dayton, and also appears to have helped their growth here.
Terry Ryan, a program director for the foundation, said that in the
early years of the charter movement in Dayton,
"we knew what was going on in just about every school" because
community and business leaders had established or were operating them.
But more recently, the spread of charter schools has been so rapid,
Mr. Ryan said, that "we just can't keep up."
Some of the newest schools have been founded by Dayton natives who started one charter here and wanted to expand.
Five were Internet-based schools located elsewhere in Ohio that have enrolled Dayton students. Three others were run by National Heritage
Academies, a company based in Michigan that operates 51 schools in five states.
Most of the new schools have sought to recruit local educators as teachers
and administrators, and Mr. Ryan said that finding the right people
was an increasing challenge.
"Starting charter schools is hard work," Mr. Ryan said. "You
need people who understand how to run businesses, navigate the state
regulations, and also how to educate children. There's reason to wonder
whether our community has the human management capacity to run 50 charter
The charters, Mr. Finn said, have already had one positive effect: their
surging enrollments convinced voters of the need to reorganize the school
system, and in November 2001 they elected four reform candidates to
the Board of Education, led by Ms. Littlejohn, who promised to raise
achievement and offer new choices.
Working with Superintendent Percy A. Mack, Ms. Littlejohn and her team
have refocused district spending to classrooms from administration,
improved school discipline and increased training for teachers. Much
remains to be done, however: the district remains on the state's academic
But rather than focusing on restructuring, Ms. Littlejohn says, she
increasingly spends her days "redoing budgets and figuring out
how to downsize schools."
A 2003 poll conducted for the Fordham Foundation found that parents
in Dayton appreciated the choices that charter schools were providing.
A growing number of parents also believed the public schools were improving.
In recent interviews here, several parents with experience in public
and charter schools expressed concern about the costs of sustaining
two school systems.
"It's stretching everybody's dollars too thin," said Carrie
Arnold, a data entry clerk whose son has attended public and charter
schools. "We need one terrific school system, not two substandard
In Ohio, as in most of the other 40 states that have laws authorizing
them, charter schools receive the state's basic per-pupil amount of
money for each enrolled student, about $5,200, plus more for disabled
children and some other students. Ohio officials
deduct the money from the state money flowing to the school district
in which the students reside.
Because 6,141 Dayton students are enrolled in charter schools this year,
Dayton has lost $41 million of its $114 million in state school
aid. Local taxes have provided the public schools with an additional
$108 million, for a total budget this year of $222 million.
But Dayton faces a double financial whammy. In 2002, voters approved
a $600 million construction project to replace or renovate 34 public
schools, for which the state was to pay about 61 cents on the dollar.
But with students leaving to enroll in charters, the city has already
had to abandon plans to replace eight schools, and more cuts may be
required, Ms. Littlejohn said.
"This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is slipping through our fingers,"
Steven E. Burigana, chief operating officer for the Ohio Department
of Education, said that as students moved to charter schools from traditional
public ones, the state would reduce its construction aid to Dayton. "Ms. Littlejohn has a legitimate anxiety,"
he said. TOP OF PAGE
Jessica Neal wants to be the type of special education teacher her sister
didn't always have.
"She came out of high school not knowing how to read," Neal
said. "Nobody took the time to help her. That made me mad. I wish
I could have done something. Maybe I could help someone else."
When Neal graduates in June from LowellHigh School she plans to attend Purdue University Calumet and become
a special education teacher.
A good special education teacher can mean everything to a student's
future, yet some educators say not enough special education teachers
exist to satisfy demands. Growing groups of students with certain disabilities,
high burnout rates and changes in requirements can create this shortage.
"Some teachers just aren't right for the job," Neal said.
"Some schools don't even have a special education program. What
are they supposed to do?"
As of December, 17 percent of students in Indiana's public schools are in special education. In 2003-04,
about 8,300 teachers worked with special education students.
"If you don't have a good teacher they are just kids wandering
around a circle," said CedarLake parent Dave Robison, whose 12-year-old daughter Marissa
has a learning disability. Robison said he doesn't like the education
his daughter is receiving this year at Tri-Creek School Corp.
"I am worried that when she goes to high school, she will receive
the same poor education," he said. "I think she is just bounced
around and someone collects a paycheck for professional baby-sitting."
Problems with the system
Some college students who want to become special education teachers
receive more training on the disabilities they will work with then on
how to teach subjects like math or reading and that can be a problem,
said Bob Marra, associate superintendent in the Indiana Department of
Education's Division of Exceptional Learners.
More teachers are choosing to go into elementary special education instead
of middle or high school programs, which could eventually create a shortage
in those areas, Marra said. Some special education teachers the state
surveyed reported burnout after about 18 months, he said.
Some educators have gone into special education to get their foot in
the door at a school and then switch to the general education classroom
when a position opens, he said.
"We just are not producing enough," he said of special education
teachers. "A lot of special education teachers say they want to
get out of special education because of the paperwork."
Increased paperwork and universities capping the number of students
who can enter master's programs in areas like speech and language pathology
all influence the number of special education teachers available, said
Fred McNulty, executive director of the Porter County Education Interlocal.
The magnitude of a teacher shortage can be determined by looking at
the number of limited licenses issued to fill a demand, according to
the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, which provides education
research in states like Indiana and Illinois.
In 2003-04, 1,967 limited licenses were issued in Indiana and 82 percent of them were for special education teachers.
Speech therapists, for example, are in demand, said Connie Manous, interim
director of special education for the School City of Hammond. A person
needs to have a master's degree to be a speech therapist and districts
compete with hospitals for good candidates, Manous said.
A national change
Under No Child Left Behind, the federal education reform law signed
by President Bush in 2002, all teachers must be highly qualified by
the end of the 2005-06 school year. To be highly qualified, a teacher
must hold a bachelor's degree, hold a certification or license to teach
and prove knowledge of the subjects he or she teaches.
The highly qualified teacher requirement applies only to special education
teachers providing direct instruction in core academic subjects like
math and English.
Special education teachers who do not directly instruct students in
core academic subjects or who provide only consultation to highly qualified
teachers do not need to demonstrate this level of competency in those
subjects, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
In the past, some special education teachers may have taught their students
several different subjects, but now these teachers will need certification
in those subjects, additional education and/or pass a test to show they
are highly qualified in the core subjects they teach, Marra said.
Depending on when special education teachers received their license,
they may have to prove they are highly qualified, said Marlene Sledz,
director of the Westlake Special Education Cooperative. This newer requirement
may deter some from becoming special education teachers, Sledz said.
"The rules where they are asking special education teachers to
get additional licenses is certainly causing students to wonder if they
want to go into this field," McNulty said.
PHOENIX -- All options should be considered to prevent rampages
like the Minnesota school shooting that took 10 lives -- including making
guns available to teachers, a top National Rifle Association leader
''I'm not saying that that means every teacher should have a gun or
not, but what I am saying is we need to look at all the options at what
will truly protect the students,'' the NRA's first vice president, Sandra
Froman, told the Associated Press.
Gun-control restrictions would not have prevented Jeff Weise, 16, from
killing nine people and himself Monday at RedLakeHigh
near Bemidji, Minn., said Froman, an attorney expected next month to be
elected president of the NRA, which claims 4 million members.
The presence of an unarmed guard at the school failed to stop the siege,
''No gun law, no policy that you could implement now or that was already
implemented, I think, could possibly prevent someone so intent on destruction,''
''I think everything's on the table as far as looking at what we need
to do to make our schools safe for our students.''
Froman said if it is the responsibility of teachers to protect students
in a school, ''then we as a society, we as a community have to provide
a way for the teachers to do that.''
Froman cited the 1997 school shooting incident in Pearl,
Miss., where a teacher retrieved a gun from his car when a
student opened fire, then held the student at bay until police arrived.
President George W. Bush's proposed Fiscal 2006 budget for the U.S.
Department of Education (DoE) is leaner than in recent years, though
not by much. Bush's request for $56 billion in discretionary appropriations
for the DoE represents a decrease of $529 million, or just under 1 percent,
from the 2005 budget.
That slight retrenchment comes on the heels of a 33 percent increase
(almost $14 billion) in federal education spending since Bush took office.
Proposed Cuts Assailed
The DoE's discretionary funds constitute 8 percent of the $514 billion
the United States spends at all levels of government on K-12 education.
Overall, the U.S. spends more per pupil than any nation except Switzerland. Nevertheless, overall student achievement has not improved
greatly over the past decade.
Bush raised some hackles by proposing to terminate 40 education programs
that duplicate other efforts or have not proven their effectiveness.
If he is successful in eliminating all those (and presidents rarely
achieve 100 percent success when they target the pork barrel), there
would be a savings of $4.3 billion.
But Bush's intent is not to save those funds but to shift them to larger
initiatives, particularly his signature No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB),
that seem likelier to achieve results for larger numbers of students.
Among the targets for termination are some programs that critics of
heavy-handed government involvement in education have questioned for
many years, such as Regional Educational Laboratories and Women's Educational
Equity. Among others on the list are Alcohol Abuse Reduction, Exchanges
with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners, Mental Health Integration
in Schools, Smaller Learning Communities, and an assortment of vocational
School Choice Funds Boosted
On the other side of the ledger, school choice fared well among spending
initiatives favored by the president. No Child Left Behind requires
public school choice when families find their children stuck in chronically
low-performing schools. However, most local school districts provide
limited opportunities for parents to exercise that choice. The Bush
budget proposes these additional reform outlays in response:
- $50 million for a Choice Incentive Fund to build on the groundbreaking
federal voucher program for the District of Columbia that won narrow
approval from the 108th Congress. This fund would provide competitive
grants to states, school districts, and nonprofit organizations that
give parents opportunities to transfer their children to higher-performing
public, private, or charter schools.
- $27 million to encourage states and school districts to provide public
school choice across district boundaries. One of the limitations of
NCLB is that it calls for choice only within districts.
- $219 million for grants to 1,200 new and existing public charter schools.
- $37 million to assist charter schools with obtaining credit to buy,
lease, or renovate school facilities. Coming up with adequate facilities
has been one of the greatest challenges for organizers of charter schools,
which are autonomous public schools that receive waivers from school
district regulations in exchange for a promise to produce results.
High School Testing Sought
With respect to new initiatives, the main thrust of the president's
budget is to extend NCLB grade-by-grade accountability into high school.
NCLB currently requires states to test students annually in grades 3-8
in reading and math, but they have to test high school students only
once. The president would require them to test students in both those
subjects in grades 9, 10, and 11.
Bush is seeking $250 million to help states develop the high school
tests. He proposes spending $1.2 billion to assist states and localities
in intervening to help high school students. Another $200 million would
go to a Striving Readers Program to help middle and high school students
who are still struggling to read.
Approval of Bush's NCLB blueprint for high school reform is far from
a slam dunk. Some congressional conservatives oppose further expansion
of federal involvement in education, while many Democrats and school
officials contend Washington is not fully funding No Child Left Behind and thus is
sticking local school systems with the bulk of the bill.
Unspent Funds Increasing
A report released by the staff of the House Education Committee indicated
localities aren't always using the federal money available to them for
education. Last year, states returned to Washington more than $66 million instead of spending it on students
and schools. They still have access to more than $6 billion of unused
education funds dating back to the Clinton administration, the report said.
With the release of Bush's budget, "It's only appropriate that
we look back at how the money Congress has already appropriated has
been used or not used over the past five years," said House Education
Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH).
The total of federal education dollars unused by states is increasing
rather than decreasing, despite frequent complaints about Washington's stinginess. As of January 2004, states had access
to $5.75 billion of unused federal funds. By January 2005, that total
had climbed to $6.05 billion. TOP OF PAGE
Easing No Child
Minority group reporting: Groups under 40 students won't have to demonstrate
By Ronnie Lynn, The Salt LakeTribune, 3/29/05
A change in accountability will make it easier for hundreds of Utah schools to meet academic-progress standards under the
No Child Left Behind law, but minority advocates worry the result will
actually be more children left behind.
Students still will have to take state tests in language arts and math.
Schools still will report test scores to the public and the state and
federal governments. But they no longer will be required to improve
test scores for demographic groups with fewer than 40 students, up from
That means that as many as 41 schools in Granite School District won't
have to improve, for example, their Pacific Islander students' test
scores to meet the federal law's "adequate yearly progress"
(AYP) standard. Up to 43 schools in JordanDistrict won't have to show improvement among English learners.
In fact, almost every school in the SaltLakeValley has at least one group - typically minorities, English
learners or students with disabilities - with fewer than 40 students.
Most have two or three.
Instead, those children's test scores will factor into school districts'
AYP status, not schools'.
"It's bastardizing No
Child Left Behind," said Michael Clara, a longtime community activist
in Salt Lake City. "If you change the group size, then you're not
held accountable for students who need help the most."
Clara says the higher group sizes could mean lower scores for at-risk
"When we held [schools] accountable under AYP and schools' [reputations]
depended on all students' test scores, they bore down and educated every
State officials say the change won't affect how school leaders identify
and meet students' needs.
"I don't think that just because we've changed our [subgroup] size,
you're going to see a lack of attention at our schools," said Christine
Kearl, an associate superintendent at the state office. "District
superintendents and principals look at lots of information when evaluating
schools' needs, and AYP is just one thing they look at."
Clara doesn't buy that explanation. "Then why weren't they doing
it before No Child Left Behind?" he asked.
Federal officialsdon't appear
worried about the impact.
"We look at the data to determine what the effect is on schools,
and we look to the states' rationale as to why they feel it's important,"
said Kerri Briggs, a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of
The 2001 No Child Left Behind law specifically targets groups - such
as black, Latino, low-income and special-education students - whose
academic performance historically has lagged that of middle-class white
and Asian students.
Because many Utah schools are largely Anglo, the state has used a complicated
formula designed to hold schools accountable for the progress of various
demographic groups regardless of their size. The state's 2003 compliance
plan even noted the importance of counting small groups in a state as
homogenous as Utah.
"Many schools would not be accountable for subgroups if a [group]
size greater than 10 were used," the plan said.
Despite that acknowledgment, Utah is increasing that group size to 40.
The implications are potentially significant because more Utah schools now may dodge possible penalties for failing
to make AYP.
Title I schools, which receive special federal funding for low-income
students, are penalized if they do not make adequate progress for two
or more consecutive years.
They are designated as needing improvement and face sanctions such as
allowing their students to attend other schools, paying for students'
tutoring and even replacing entire teaching staffs.
State school officials say they want the change because larger subgroups
are more statistically reliable and in line with other states.
"When you're doing such a small size as 10, one individual can
really skew results," Kearl said. "So it's an issue of fairness
to schools and students."
While it's true that small groups are statistically unreliable, Utah already uses a mathematical safety net called a confidence
interval so that a few students cannot skew an entire group's performance
and land the school on "warning status." The smaller the group,
the more leeway a confidence interval provides.
Under the state's 2004 AYPstandards,
65 percent of students in each demographic group had to pass the language-arts
test. With a confidence interval, a group of 10 students would make
AYP if three students passed the test. In other words, a 30 percent
pass rate is considered the same as a 65 percent pass rate.
All told, 13 schools in Davis,
Granite, Jordan and Salt Lake City districts that fell short of AYP in 2004 would have
made it under the larger subgroup formula.
Increasing the subgroup size isn't necessarily a bad thing unless the
state keeps the confidence interval, too, said Fredreka Schouten, a
senior associate at the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit
"That could obscure what is happening to some groups of students,"
she said. "There is flexibility under the law, but you want to
make sure you're paying attention to the kids who need attention."
TOP OF PAGE
Universal preschool for California's 4-year-olds would bring about $2.62
in benefits for every dollar spent, greatly reducing special education
needs, juvenile arrests and the number of children held back a grade,
a Rand Corp. study concludes.
The report released Tuesday also said a high-quality preschool program
would create a more qualified, internationally competitive workforce
and foster economic growth.
Though other studies have explored the benefits of preschool programs
for disadvantaged youngsters, the Rand report is the first to provide a detailed cost analysis
for universal preschool in California open to all children without regard to income.
"I think the study provides a basis for understanding at least
the economic side of a program like this," said lead author Lynn
A. Karoly, a Rand
senior economist. "Obviously, there are a lot of other factors,
from the politics of it to financing, to actual implementation
how you would make it reality on the ground. But we see this as one
piece of the pie that can inform decision making."
In calculating benefits, the Rand researchers assumed a universal preschool program would
be voluntary, include a half-day of activities and highly qualified
teachers as well as enroll about 70% of the state's estimated 550,000
Such a program would cost about $1.7 billion annually. But the researchers
concluded that investment would result in an estimated $4.4 billion
in new benefits to California over the lives of the children who completed a year's
For each group of 4-year-olds that completes a year's attendance, researchers
foresee 13,800 fewer children held back a grade, 62,500 fewer years
spent in special education, 7,300 fewer juvenile arrests, 4,700 fewer
reported cases of child abuse and neglect, and 10,000 additional high
The California outcomes were based, in part, on reviews of the most
rigorous national studies, Karoly said. The David and Lucile Packard
Foundation funded her research as part of an initiative to educate the
public about the merits of preschool.
The study comes amid growing interest in universal preschool in California. Los AngelesCounty has just launched an ambitious $600-million program
funded by tobacco taxes, and filmmaker Rob Reiner is expected to propose
a statewide universal preschool ballot measure in June 2006.
Earlier this year, state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell
backed preschool for all.
In a teleconference to release the report, which featured business and
law enforcement leaders, Jerri Hemsworth, president of the National
Assn. of Women Business Owners in California, offered a personal testament to the benefits of preschool.
The youngest of four children, Hemsworth was the only one to attend
preschool and was also the only one to obtain a bachelor's degree and
establish a business.
"It afforded me an opportunity that was incredible, and I wanted
my daughter to experience the same thing," said Hemsworth, who
runs a Woodland Hills-based advertising firm. "I wish I could hit
the fast-forward button to 20 years from now because the kids going
through preschool now will be outstanding employees."
Business and law enforcement officials are increasingly speaking out
on the potential effects of preschool education.
Lewis E. Platt, chairman of the Boeing Co., said he was frustrated that
he has had to look out of the state for qualified workers for its California operations.
"We have a college system in this state that is first-rate, a secondary
school system that is not among the best and a preschool system that
is far from the best," said Platt, who is also a trustee of the
Packard Foundation. "I intend to bring to the attention of the
governor that if this state is going to remain competitive in its workforce
and economy, we're going to have to do a better job of providing education."
That will mean mustering the political will power to commit public dollars,
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said.
"No one likes taxes, but in surveys education is consistently at
the top of priorities," said Baca, adding that "$1.7 billion
sounds like a lot of money, but with 36 million people in this state
and a growing and robust economy, we really need to get on with this.
We either pay a little more today or a lot later." TOP OF PAGE
High Court Expands
Title IX Protections
In a 5-4 decision, justices rule the gender equity law should guard
those seeking to enforce it.
By David G. Savage, Los
Times Staff Writer, 3/30/05
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court strengthened enforcement Tuesday
of the landmark Title IX law that bars sex discrimination in schools
and colleges, ruling that teachers and coaches may challenge schools
for giving girls second-class treatment without fear of being punished.
In a 5-4 ruling, the high court said the law not only protected girls
and women who might be victims of discrimination, but also those who
sought to enforce its guarantee of equal treatment.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said it was crucial that teachers and coaches
spoke up when they saw evidence that women's or girls' teams have smaller
budgets and poorer facilities. And if these employees are not protected
from retaliation when they complain, "Title IX's enforcement scheme
would unravel," she said.
"Individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report
it, indifference claims would be short-circuited, and the underlying
discrimination would go unremedied," said O'Connor, the first woman
to serve on the high court.
The decision revived a lawsuit brought by Roderick Jackson, a high school
teacher and girls' basketball coach from Birmingham, Ala. He said he was fired as the coach four years ago after
he complained that his athletes were forced to practice in an old gym
with poorer facilities and locker rooms than those used by boys.
When Jackson sued, a federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals
in Atlanta dismissed his claim. The lower courts said Title IX
protected discrimination victims, but not others who, at most, witnessed
The justices disagreed in Jackson
vs. Birmingham Board of Education. Since the 1960s, civil rights laws
have been interpreted broadly to protect not only victims of discrimination,
but also those who seek to enforce the law, O'Connor said.
She sided with liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
"This decision is a slam dunk victory for everyone who cares about
equal opportunity," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the
National Women's LawCenter, which brought Jackson's case to the high court. "The court has confirmed
that people cannot be punished for standing up for their rights."
Tuesday's ruling does not necessarily mean Jackson will win his suit. It means he is entitled to try to
prove in court that the school stripped his duties "because he
complained of sex discrimination," O'Connor said.
The Title IX law of 1972 is credited with having touched off a revolution
in women's sports. The law barred schools and colleges that received
federal funds from discriminating in any area "on the basis of
sex," but had its greatest effect on athletics.
When Congress wrote the law, it said schools and colleges could lose
their federal funds if they refused to comply. But that remedy has gone
Instead, the Supreme Court, in a still-controversial decision, said
in 1979 that Congress also intended that victims of discrimination could
sue schools or colleges in federal court.
The dispute over who can sue and under what circumstances has split
the justices often over the past two decades. In one 5-4 ruling, the
court said a high school girl who was subjected to sexual advances by
a male teacher could not sue the school because she did not report it
to school officials. In another 5-4 ruling, the court said a girl who
was sexually harassed by a boy could sue because the school had done
nothing in response to her mother's complaints.
In Tuesday's opinion, O'Connor said it was too late to reconsider the
right-to-sue doctrine under Title IX. But the dissenters, led by Justice
Clarence Thomas, said the court should not go further to allow more
lawsuits under Title IX.
"Jackson does not claim that his own sex played any role, let
alone a decisive or predominant one, in the decision to relieve him
of his position," Thomas wrote. "By crafting its own additional
enforcement mechanism, the majority returns this court to the days in
which it created remedies out of whole cloth to effectuate its vision
of congressional purpose. In doing so, [it] substitutes its policy judgments
for the bargains struck by Congress."
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony
M. Kennedy joined Thomas' dissent. TOP OF PAGE
With the launch of a nationwide Web site yesterday, parents in the District,
Maryland and Virginia will have access to the kind of detailed information
about their public schools that investors have long had about Fortune
The free Web site, SchoolMatters.com, was developed by financial data
giant Standard & Poor's and offers a searchable collection of education
data, including per-pupil spending, student performance and classroom
Standard & Poor's got the idea for compiling the data when it noticed
that some school districts were saying the company's bond ratings proved
that they were doing a good job in the classroom, said Abby Potts with
the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the sponsors of the
Web site. The company began to offer the education data as a better
measure of teaching and learning. It also established firewalls between
its school evaluators and its bond raters so that they could not influence
one another, Potts said.
Early reaction from some Washington
area parents suggests that the site is giving people what they want.
"I'm always in favor of giving people more information," said
Dick Reed, a former PTA president at FairfaxCounty's EdisonHigh School. "The more the better, and this site does that
well -- both by providing information that parents, in particular, have
trouble getting at all, and by providing that hard-to-get information
in an easily read and understood fashion."
But some school district administrators said some Web site numbers are
wrong, out of date or easily misinterpreted. Sharon Ackerman, assistant
superintendent for instruction in the LoudounCounty schools, said staffing trends and class size numbers
for 2002 to 2003 were out of touch with reality. One page of the Web
site said some schools in Loudoun averaged 132 students in each classroom,
"This site could be useful for parents as a starting point to find
information about past performance of students in specific schools,"
Ackerman said. "However, the data must be accurate."
Web site officials said the class size and other numbers came from federal
The Web site is run by the Education Data Partnership, a collaboration
that includes the Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard &
Poor's, the nonprofit group Achieve Inc., which manages state education
standards, and the CELT Corp., a technology company. The work is supported
by grants from the Broad Education Foundation and the Bill & Melinda
The site provides test score results by race and also by economic background.
It also shows the differences in how school systems spend tax dollars
and allows residents concerned about how money is spent to see what
portion of new revenue coming into each district is spent on instruction.
The site calls this the Instructional Spending Allocation Index, which
measures the proportion of increased spending over time allocated for
instruction and provides a way to track money raised with the intent
of improving student performance. The portion of new dollars for instruction
in Washington area school districts in 2002 ranged from 104.8 percent
in the District, which Web site officials said spent all of its new
money and then some extra from other sources on school performance,
to 52.6 percent in PrinceWilliamCounty.
That index and other data developed by Standard & Poor's should
be handled with care, the Web site says. It includes a warning from
former North Carolina governor James B. Hunt, one of the leaders of
the national school improvement movement and a member of a Standard
& Poor's advisory board, that "these ratios should not be used
alone to draw conclusions about education performance."
Kenneth Bernstein, a teacher at Prince George's County's EleanorRooseveltHigh
said he thought that statement odd. "For all the warnings by Hunt
and others not to use the data for comparisons, what do they expect,
when the only really new thing they offer is precisely that data?"
Officials from Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services said
they first tried out the data collection and presentation system in
Michigan and Pennsylvania, and some school district leaders were not happy being
identified as spending more per pupil with less impressive results than
their neighbors. But some educators said the information can help them
focus their resources where they are most needed.
"By using SchoolMatters to identify schools with successful practices,
principals can adjust instructional methods to further student achievement
and help drive overall school improvement," said Brian Glades,
principal of Fisher Elementary School in Redford, Mich.
MontgomeryCounty parent John Hoven said the Web site was on the right
track. "It doesn't deliver what it promises, but it could easily
do so," he said.
He said the Web site recognizes that any fair comparison of schools
must account for differences in student demographics, and it shows how
easily this can be done with a simple graph called a scatterplot, which
illustrates various patterns and relationships. But the Web site does
not yet include a procedure for users to create their own scatterplots
to compare school districts or ask such questions as whether higher
spending, more rigorous standards or smaller class sizes raise student
Web site officials said that because Maryland is using new state tests, it is more difficult to get
a true sense of the improvement in its schools over time than it is
in Virginia and the District, which have been giving the same annual
tests to all students for several years. TOP OF PAGE
Bill Would Legislate
Maryland Students' Use of Sunscreen
By Daniel de Vise, Washington Post Staff Writer, 3/29/05
MontgomeryCounty schools require a doctor's note for children to use
sunscreen. HowardCounty requires a note from parents, and the lotion must be
stored in the nurse's office. Anne Arundel students, by contrast, may
carry and apply sunscreen with impunity.
A bill pending in the Maryland legislature, however, would require school
health officers to make sure students are allowed to wear sunscreen
when they go outdoors on sunny days, a right that is not universally
recognized in schools, according to cancer prevention advocates.
The American Cancer Society asked Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George's)
to draft the legislation after a survey of the 24 Maryland school systems in fall 2003. The survey, conducted by
the Coalition for Skin Cancer Prevention in Maryland, found a jumble of inconsistent policies toward sunscreen,
a product that many school systems treat as if it were an over-the-counter
Four school systems require a doctor's order for students to apply sunscreen.
Eleven require at least a parent's note. Eight systems require students
to leave the product with the school health officer. Rules can vary
from school to school within each system.
"Children should be able to bring sunscreen with them like they
bring ChapStick," said Roberta Herbst, project coordinator of the
The quest to enshrine sunscreen in state law began when a PTA president
from HarfordCounty reported to the statewide group that students at some
schools were being told they could not wear sunscreen, according to
Herbst. The parent's account and others prompted a bill in the Maryland
House of Delegates.
The legislation has since been folded into a broader bill that defines
the responsibilities of school health officers. House Bill 549 won approval
Wednesday and awaits consideration in the Senate.
Nursing directors in Maryland's larger school systems say they hear few complaints
from parents about sunscreen restrictions. Most systems place sunscreen
in a category with lotions, food supplements and cough drops: Neither
medicine nor food, they are deemed items that could make a child sick
or cause an allergic reaction if used the wrong way.
"We wouldn't want them to be sharing them with other kids who might
have a hypersensitivity," said Donna Heller, health services manager
for HowardCounty schools. "Even with hand and body lotions, we require
a note from the parents."
MontgomeryCounty schools treat sunscreen as an over-the-counter medicine.
A student must bring in a doctor's note to apply it, and only older
students are allowed to carry it with them at school.
"If you had a very young kid, and they put it in their eyes, it
could hurt them," said Judith Covich, Montgomery's director of health and student services.
Interest in sun protection at school has risen alongside the growing
consensus that sun exposure in childhood increases risk of skin cancer
in later life. In California, for example, laws that went into effect in 2002 and
2003 gave students the right to wear sunscreen, hats and sun-protective
clothing at school.
Maryland's skin cancer coalition lobbied for the publication
of sun-protection guidelines, issued in 2001 by several state agencies,
that recommend schools develop a policy for students to use the sunscreen
they bring to school. But when the cancer society surveyed the school
systems two years later, several said they were not aware of the guidelines.
"All I'm asking is for schools to follow the guidelines that are
established by professionals," said Healey, who sponsored the bill.
The sunscreen bill became a part of House Bill 549, which requires school
systems to designate a health services coordinator to ensure consistent
health care in the schools. Healey, sponsor of both bills, said schools
in Maryland have inconsistent rules that sometimes thwart students
in need of prescription medications. A third bill, approved by the House,
would require schools to give students access to their asthma medication.
The problem, Healey said, is that not all schools and school systems
have properly trained health officers, and whatever the system rules,
individual schools often vary in their approach to medicine and skin
"Their focus and their background and all their training is in
pedagogy," Healey said. "They don't have an expertise in health
care." TOP OF PAGE
Palm BeachCounty schools still awaiting hurricane aid
FEMA guidelines delay reimbursement
By Marc Freeman, Sun-Sentinel Education Writer, 3/29/05
Six months after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, the Palm BeachCountySchool
has yet to receive any federal money to pay for losses and repairs in
excess of $22 million, and new hurricanes could arrive before any dollars
School district officials fret that they haven't been able to submit
any requests for reimbursement, not even for the removal of storm debris,
because of strict Federal Emergency Management Agency procedures that
regulate how damage is inspected, assessed and fixed.
The district anticipates sending in its first hurricane-related invoice
next month, but it was told not to expect the first dollars for at least
120 days, probably sometime in August.
"It has tested us, to say the least," Chief Operating Officer
Joe Moore said. "We have worked hard to go through the FEMA process.
There's no sense of urgency [for FEMA] on getting the money back."
FEMA spokesman Don North said the school district's claims are among
105, pending public assistance projects involving hurricane damage in
"There is no set time frame for reimbursement," North said.
"The applicants need to assist FEMA field teams in damage assessments
District administrators have been spending funds from two School Board
contingency budgets, which totaled $42.6 million before the hurricanes
struck, so the lack of reimbursement has not affected any services or
educational programs. While officials are sure they'll eventually get
back most of the money, they would like to replenish those accounts
before another hurricane or disaster threatens the area.
"It's been a long time coming," Moore said.
He doesn't fault the local FEMA officials who have worked with his staff
on the district's claims.
Among the delays: A simple $1.4 million bill for hauling away 13,010
cubic yards of waste from school campuses was held up because the district
was forced to compile and submit documents accounting for each truckload,
each trip to the dump, and each truck's state certification and carrying
But all losses, small and large, remain unpaid: $27,305 in destroyed
textbooks; $257,069 in spoiled food; and more than $10 million in temporary
repairs and "emergency measures" necessary to safely reopen
schools after 12 days of missed classes.
The district says the tab for permanent hurricane repairs is at $10.3
million and climbing, including roof replacements at 13 schools and
on many portable classrooms, and new carpeting and drywall. The rising
cost of materials and construction continues to inflate repairs.
FEMA has agreed to pay $3.1 million toward an estimated $7.3 million
roofing bill, Moore said.
As a result, contractors already are working at several campuses, including
Christa McAuliffe Middle west of Boynton Beach.
"We lost 90 percent of our roof by the time both hurricanes were
done with us," Principal Terry Costa said.
"We're having leaks all over the place."
The hurricanes destroyed the school's 17-year-old roof, short of its
once-estimated 25-year life span. FEMA agreed to pay 32 percent of the
cost of the new roof, based on a calculation that it would have been
replaced in eight years anyway, said Stephen Backhus, district supervisor
in charge of hurricane repairs.
According to FEMA rules, the district can't seek reimbursement until
the agency approves project worksheets and cost estimates for each job,
including temporary repairs completed long ago, and contractors finish
As a result, many schools are still awaiting replacement of walls, ceiling
tiles, carpeting and furniture removed months ago because of water damage,
District officials say they recognize that other agencies, including
county government, share in the frustration of trying to obtain FEMA
reimbursements, which ultimately are disbursed by the state. Moore noted that the county and some local governments are
still waiting for about $58 million for storm-debris removal.
The school district's overall 2004 hurricane costs, which could hit
almost $30 million, include $856,315 for the operation of emergency
shelters at more than 20 campuses, Moore said.
The district has been waiting for the American Red Cross to pay those
Looking ahead to this year's hurricane season, which runs from June
1 through Nov. 30, the district is asking the county for $1.8 million
in specially designated FEMA funds to pay for nine projects.
That list includes connecting emergency generators to natural gas; increasing
generator size to run coolers and freezers; and purchasing an emergency
generator to keep The Education Network, the district's television station,
on the air. TOP OF PAGE
Oregon moves to limit junk food in schools
Oregon's state legislature is considering putting limits on
sales of soda pop, candy and other junk food in public schools, saying
that such food is part of the reason that too many U.S. children are obese.
"Our children probably are not going to live as long as their parents
because of the diseases associated with obesity," state senator
Bill Morrisette said in an interview Tuesday.
The liberal, northwestern state of Oregon is far from alone in its push to limit the sales of
junk food in schools. This year at least 27 states are considering some
type of ban on junk food or vending machines in the schools, according
to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Morrisette sponsored one of two bills moving through the Oregon State
Senate to improve nutrition in schools. His bill would ban junk foods
sold in vending machines, school stores and in the cafeteria.
A similar bill proposed by State Senator Joanne Verger would prohibit
schools from selling foods labeled by the Federal government as having
minimal nutritional value in vending machines. That would include sodas
and most candy.
Although there is little vocal opposition to the bills, some school
districts say they have grown dependent on the revenues from junk food
sales as school budgets are squeezed, and should be compensated for
any loss in income.
The two proposed bills would not break existing contracts with suppliers,
but the contracts would not be renewed, Morrisette said.
Another Oregon fat-fighting bill, sponsored by the president of the
State Senate, would require schools to include physical education in
the curriculum. TOP OF PAGE
For many American teenagers, the list of essential rites-of-passage
is relatively short: Get a driver's license, tear open a college acceptance
letter and, whether or not you're destined to be voted king or queen,
attend the high school prom.
Jennifer Mann, a senior at WarrenTownshipHigh
Ill., who is headed to IndianaUniversity in the fall, has numbers one and two covered. But on
April 23, as most of her classmates don gowns and tuxedos and pile into
limousines, she will be leaning to the left and sipping wine with her
This year, WarrenHigh
prom is taking place on the first night of Passover.
The mix-up is "a huge sign of disrespect," said Mann, who
recently received the prom announcement inviting her to "the largest
event of the year except for graduation." Like many of her Jewish
friends, she will not be attending. "This is like putting prom
on Good Friday, or Easter or, like, Christmas Eve."
While apologetic administrators claim that they have tried to change
the date, a space large enough to accommodate roughly 1,500 juniors
and seniors is scarce.
"We ensure, we promise, we know it will not happen again,"
said Warren High's lower-school principal, Steven Isoye, seemingly weary
of the mishap.
The silver lining, it seems, is that Gurnee's Jewish residents are using
the conflict to make their presence known. As in other small but growing
suburban Jewish communities, one sign of progress is, paradoxically,
feeling comfortable enough to complain. Mann, president of her local
United Synagogue Youth chapter, testified at a school board meeting
this past September, after the school attended a color-guard competition
on Yom Kippur, as well as in early March when the prom conflict came
Ellen Wolintz-Fields, the first full-time rabbi at Gurnee's Congregation
Or Tikvah, has discussed the issue with school administrators. The real
problem, she said, is the ongoing struggle to win greater consideration
for Jewish students. Although Warren High is relatively diverse
with more than 30 % minority enrollment, according to the Illinois State
Board of Education the number of Jewish students is estimated
at fewer than 100, and the school does not close for any Jewish holidays.
As early as 2002, synagogue leaders asked officials to pay closer attention
to scheduling conflicts, but "it fell on deaf ears," Wolintz-Fields
said. Since that time, her conservative congregation which recently
signed a letter-of-intent to buy its first building has only
continued to grow.
In Albany, N.Y., some 850 miles to the east, Jewish residents had better
luck lobbying for change this spring. AlbanyHigh School's junior prom was originally scheduled for April 30
the last night of Passover, which is observed as a holiday by
observant Jews. But the junior dance was moved to the following Saturday,
because of what Rabbi Beverly Magidson called the city's "long
history of having observant Jewish kids, and of embracing diversity."
Her daughter, Sarah, who is junior at the school, had an alternate explanation.
"The people on the prom planning committee have a lot of Jewish
friends," she said.
The new date, the following Saturday, is not without its own set of
concerns. Come that weekend, it turns out, almost all the Albany juniors will have to balance prom with another teenage
right-of-passage that is less appreciated: the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
"It really impacted everybody," Magidson said of the change.
"Everybody takes the SATs." TOP OF PAGE
Fueling the politically charged debate over the merits of charter schools,
a study released Wednesday finds the innovative campuses perform no
better than traditional public schools, and they may actually have a
The report by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank
based in Washington, D.C., and generally regarded as progressive, collated data
from 19 studies in 11 states, including California, about charter schools -- tuition-free public campuses
that operate under fewer federal and state regulations.
"Overall, we conclude that charter school students certainly did
no better, and in many cases did worse," said Martin Carnoy, a
StanfordUniversity professor of education and economics who helped compile
the research results.
And while charter advocates might attribute lower test scores at some
charter schools to a higher proportion of students living in poverty,
EPI researchers said their study showed that charter schools attract
slightly more affluent students than traditional campuses do.
"If you look at comparable groups, charter school students are
not more disadvantaged," Carnoy said. "(That argument) has
The study advises the charter movement to progress slowly and cautiously.
Researchers said that stronger charter accountability is needed and
that educators shouldn't assume that reducing or removing regulations,
bureaucracies and unions solves all problems.
The research piggybacks on an American Federation of Teachers' analysis
from last summer that showed charter students were one-half grade level
behind on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Charter school advocates, however, disputed the new study, saying it
didn't take demographic differences into account and was too narrowly
focused on test results from a fraction of students.
In their artillery is a HarvardUniversity study, released last fall, which showed that charter
students are 3.8 percent more likely to score as proficient readers
on state standardized tests and 1.2 percent more likely to be proficient
The anti-charter reports attack an alternate system that some fear is
undermining traditional public schools, charter proponents said.
"It's a public-relations stunt," said Gary Larson, a spokesman
for the California Charter Schools Association. "There's a fear
that parents are going to continue demanding more and more charter schools."
With a report last week showing that in the Los AngelesUnifiedSchool
-- California's largest public school system -- less than half of
high school freshmen earn diplomas in four years, all educators should
be open to innovation, Larson said.
"There is plenty of room here where we don't need to attack one
segment of public education," he said. "We all have a long
way to go."
Currently, 180,000 students are enrolled in 510 charter schools in California -- about 3 percent of school-age children. About 65
of those charter schools, including some of the oldest in the state,
are in Los Angeles Unified.
Montague Street School Principal Diane Pritchard said her Pacoima campus
has made tremendous gains since converting to a charter eight years
The school has increased nearly 400 points on the Academic Performance
Index over the past few years and is now just 92 points shy of hitting
the state's API goal of 800 points.
About 92 percent of Montague's 1,300 elementary students are from poor
families, and 97 percent are Latino.
"This is a low, low, socioeconomic area, and we took the same kids
we had before," Pritchard said.
As a charter, Montague has added a comprehensive intervention program,
including high school-equivalent classes for parents, home-based literacy
projects for preschool children and an extended-day program for new
Parents of kindergartners are asked to spend an hour a day on campus,
reading to and working with their children.
Pritchard said she welcomes researchers' scrutiny.
"I do think charter schools need to be accountable because we're
using public funds," she said.
Among other EPI findings:
Charter schools in California draw disproportionately higher numbers of African-American
students, representing 16 percent of charter students compared with
8 percent of all students statewide.
White students are overrepresented in California's charter schools, representing 42 percent of charter
students, compared with 34 percent in all California schools.
Conversion charter schools in California tend to outperform startup charter schools.
Some EPI researchers said charter schools shouldn't necessarily be expected
to outperform traditional schools. Many were created with special niches
in mind, such as arts education.
Also, the charter school movement is still relatively young, and experiments
always start off slow, they said.
"In any field, when you do experiments, there are a lot more failures
than successes, especially at first," said Richard Rothstein, an
EPI research associate and a visiting professor at the Teachers College
How good are charter schools?
Recent studies that offer differing views highlight the debate over
the effectiveness of charter schools.
An Economic Policy Study released Wednesday says charter schools nationwide
do not perform any better than traditional schools and their "average
impact ... is negative."
A 2004 HarvardUniversity study found charter school students in California and around the nation are more proficient in reading
and math than students at nearby traditional schools.
A 2003 American Federation of Teachers study found fourth-grade charter
school students were performing about a half-year behind students in
traditional public schools.
A 2003 Rand Corp. study found California charters perform as well as or better than traditional
schools. TOP OF PAGE
A group seeking to constrain military recruiters at schools has settled
a lawsuit against the city claiming that the Police Department was illegally
barring it from giving out information on public sidewalks in front
of schools, an activity protected by the First Amendment.
Under the settlement, reached earlier this month in Federal District Court in Manhattan, and dated March 16, the New York Civil Liberties Union,
which represented the group, the Ya-Ya Network, and lawyers for the
city agreed that the department would instruct police officers that
a state law against loitering near schools and colleges "does not
apply to First Amendment activity."
The lawyer who brought the suit, Christopher Dunn, said yesterday that
the department had made a practice of prohibiting First Amendment activity
near schools, a charge that Paul J. Browne, the department's deputy
commissioner for public information, strongly denied.
"It's not our practice to inhibit First Amendment rights,"
Mr. Browne said. "We've spent a great deal of time facilitating
it in New York, and to try to accommodate some of these shifting and
sometimes conflicting demands."
Mr. Dunn had argued that prohibiting people from handing out leaflets
on a public sidewalk near a school was unconstitutional. He said the
case had broad implications for protest groups in the city, many of
which had been prevented from reaching students.
"It was an enormous amount of territory that was off limits,"
There are about 1,300 public schools in New York City alone. The First Amendment exception to the loitering
law also applies to public sidewalks near private schools and universities.
In the suit, filed in 2003, the Ya-Ya Network said its members had been
chased off the public areas in front of several schools by school officials
and, in one case, a police officer, while trying to distribute information
about students' rights to withhold personal data that schools give to
military recruiters. The suit also cited the arrests of two students
who were handing out AIDS literature near a high school in Flatbush,
"What we'd been hearing from students was, 'Oh no, we're not allowed
to talk to people outside of schools,' " said Amy Wagner, executive director of the Ya-Ya Network, "that they'd set
up a red zone and we've been told we were not allowed."
The summonses against the two students were dismissed, Mr. Dunn said,
and the civil liberties group began months of discussions with the city
about the policy. In October 2003, the agency filed suit.
The Police Department issued a one-page directive to all precincts on
March 21 instructing police officers not to enforce the loitering law
against First Amendment activity, including "the holding of signs,
placards and leaflets, chanting and singing."
However, Mr. Browne said, the department reserved the right to take
action if protesters were blocking entrances to schools or intimidating
students and teachers.
The city lawyer on the case, Dara Weiss, said the settlement "clarified
that people can participate in legitimate expressive activities near
school grounds provided that they are not engaging in any unlawful activity."
Ms. Wagner welcomed the settlement.
"Schools are meant to be hotbeds of discussion of current issues
and issues that impact young people," she said. "If the public
sidewalks are not a public venue, then what is?" TOP OF PAGE It's not too late
to stop the next teen shooter
Opinion by Susan DeMersseman, psychologist and parent educator, Christian
Science Monitor, 3/31/05
BERKELEY, CALIF. - A youngster in Minnesota shot and killed a teacher, classmates, and himself last
week. Shocked, Americans are wondering, "How could such a thing
Yet his story will soon fade from the national news. When the next shooting
occurs it will be dredged up and included as background along with the
previous three or four.
But what about the potential next shooter? What is going on with him
It's not unlikely that right now, in a school near you, elements of
this dangerous social equation are building.
There is a child who feels left out. He is often teased by other kids
who don't realize how deeply their words cut. He doesn't have the maturity
to know that his tormentors are just thoughtless, miserable adolescents,
The boy - because, it seems, it is almost always a boy - doesn't have
the family support or sense of self worth to deflect the teasing. When
he goes home after school, he is usually alone.
He has grown to love angry music. It makes him feel a little better
to connect with the power in the performer's chants of rage. His unresolved
grief transforms into the rage he admires. He wants to feel angry. It
feels less weak than the sadness. The boy fantasizes about getting even
- about showing "them."
Some days he thinks, "I'll grow up and be so successful, famous,
and rich." Then they'll be sorry that they ignored him or put him
But he lives in a world that does not value long-range solutions - even
when they're the right ones.
It may take too long to find a way to relieve the pain - the media he
surrounds himself with seem to offer a quicker fix.
The people who are making money from the music, video games, and movies
he hears, plays, and sees refuse to question the content or accept the
ways they affect the boy.
Instead they go about their business providing training in immediate,
sensational "solutions." They provide heroes for the boy,
never mind that they are antiheroes.
And, the boy has access to a gun!
But it might not be too late for him.
Events like the Red Lake, Minn., high school shooting last week (10
left dead) and the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.,
in 1999 (15 total dead) cause people to wonder what could have been
done to prevent this.
We need only look at the history of the last few for clues.
There could be a teacher who is willing and able to see through the
façade to the pain; another student who might stand up for him; a neighbor
who might notice him and find a way to help him feel worthwhile; a family
member who might stop and realize that the cover of self-reliance is
Maybe there is someone who reads the paper every day and worries about
what the world is coming to. This person might stop wringing his or
her hands and start looking more closely at young people and find ways
to help them navigate through their difficult periods, in these difficult
The story of the last shooter has been written.
But the story of the next shooter is still not finished.
It may not be too late for this child or for those he could destroy
in his chaos of pain. It might not be too late for one of us to make
a difference. TOP OF PAGE
HOUSTON - Unaware it had turned cool overnight, Eddie Evans's
12-year-old son bolted out of the house in shirt sleeves. He was on
his way to the bus stop when his mother called him back for a jacket.
In third period the boy discovered that the three-inch pocketknife he
had taken to his last Boy Scout meeting was still inside his coat -
a definite no-no under the school's zero-tolerance policy. Unsure what
to do, he consulted a friend before putting the knife in his locker.
The friend turned him in and, after lunch, police arrested him and took
him to a juvenile-detention center without contacting his parents, according
to senate testimony.
Mr. Evans says the school then expelled his son for 45 days and enrolled
him in an alternative school for juvenile offenders. By the end, the
First Class Boy Scout, youth leader at church, and winner of an outstanding-
student award was contemplating suicide.
"All the teachers knew it was an honest mistake, but none of that
mattered because of the school's policy," says Evans two years
Evans is one of the many parents who are trying to change the state's
Safe Schools Act of 1995. In fact, Texas - one of the nation's toughest-minded
states when it comes to crime and discipline - is now at the forefront
of a small but growing movement to relax zero-tolerance policies enacted
by states in the 1990s.
More than a dozen bills that try to bring a less rigid approach to school
discipline have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, including one that requires
school officials to consider a student's intent. The bill is currently
moving through the House of Representatives.
"We have seen a number of states toy with the idea of scaling back
or trying to make the process of school discipline more rational,"
says Bob Schwartz, executive director of the JuvenileLawCenter in Philadelphia. "But Texas is ahead of the curve at this point."
Indiana, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania are also weighing the issue at the legislative level
this year, with the introduction of several bills aimed at softening
strict school-discipline policies.
"Just talking about it suggests that, if not a pendulum swing,
a pendulum creep is in play," says Mr. Schwartz, though he cautions
that many states have given their school districts discretion when it
comes to discipline, making the issue hard to legislate.
It's particularly difficult to talk about relaxing discipline right
now, a week after the school shooting on Minnesota's RedLake reservation. But even the RedLake school district Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait has
admitted that zero- tolerance policies can't keep kids safe if a student
is motivated to kill.
"It goes to show that if something is going to happen, it's going
to happen - no matter what you do," he said at a news conference
last week. RedLakeHigh
was equipped with a metal detector, security cameras, and guards.
While zero-tolerance policies took root nationally with the passage
of the 1994 Gun-Free School Act, it wasn't until the shootings at Colorado's ColumbineHigh
in 1999 that school officials began rapidly expanding the types of infractions
that merit expulsion.
Today, they range from spitting to swearing to skipping school. Principals
and teachers say the intent is to head off bad behavior before it escalates
into violence. And, in fact, there is evidence that fewer weapons and
drugs are being brought on campus since zero-tolerance policies were
enacted. Violent crime on campus fell 50 percent between 1992 and 2002,
according to a federal report.
"Clearly if you are a classroom teacher dealing with disciplinary
problems that come as a result of doing your job, there are times when
you need very strong rules and regulations," says Gerald Newberry,
executive director of the National Education Association's Health Information
Network. "Unfortunately ... many school boards and school administrators
misinterpreted the intent of the law and began taking first graders
out of class for bringing nail clippers to school."
Further, he says, shrinking budgets have left schools without the means
to properly address children's emotional issues.
Defenders of the zero-tolerance approach say that, whatever its flaws,
it at least brings a measure of equality to punishment: A child at a
posh suburban school in theory faces the same consequences for "bad
behavior" as does a student from a more chaotic or disadvantaged
environment. But detractors point to a zero-tolerance report released
last week by the Advancement Project, a democracy and justice action
group in Washington. Among its findings was that minority students are often
disproportionately affected by strict disciplinary policies.
That has been particularly troubling to Rep. Dora Olivo (D) of Rosenberg, Texas, who introduced nine disciplinary reform bills this
session. "We know so much about what works when it comes to helping
children, yet we aren't relying on any of that," she says.
Her bills include requiring school police to receive behavior-management
training, parents to be notified immediately after their child is removed
from class for a violation, and holding alternative schools accountable
for the standardized-test scores of their students.
One former Katy, Texas, high school student says he understands that administrators
are trying to create a safe environment, but that they are going too
far. A sophomore in 2001, he was late to biology class one day and his
teacher sent him to the office for a tardy slip. While he was gone,
he says, she asked the class to turn in their spiral notebooks - but
no one told him to turn in his notebook when he returned, and his grade
dropped from a B to a C.
So he scribbled her name on a piece of paper labeled "permanent
list of people who piss me off" - a joke, he says. He then tore
up the paper and threw it in the wastebasket. But by day's end, he was
in handcuffs. He spent the night in juvenile hall, having been declared
a "terrorist threat," and spent eight weeks in an alternative
"Zero tolerance is an absolute joke," he says. "I understand
that it makes teachers feel better, but it's making school almost like
Evans, too - the father of the 12-year-old - is concerned. "I don't
know what the solution is to stop these wackos from going into schools
and killing innocent children and themselves," he wrote in a recent
e-mail. "But I do know that abusing innocent forgetful 12-year-old
Boy Scouts is not the answer." TOP OF PAGE
Teachers feel pressure
on evolution/ Dallas Morning News
Teachers feel pressured by students, parents to play down evolution
By ALEXANDRA WITZE, The Dallas
Morning News, 3/31/05
Even teachers call it the E-word.
Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology, yet many teachers face
disapproval and even anger for teaching it, more so than for any other
lesson plan. Nearly one-third of science teachers say they feel pressured
to teach creationism or other nonscience-based alternatives along with
evolution in their classrooms, according to a new study by the National
Science Teachers Association.
How to face that pressure and defuse it is the topic of
several major lectures at the group's annual convention, which starts
today at the DallasConvention Center
and downtown hotels.
Among the 12,000 attendees will be Luciana Lang, a biology teacher at
in the Richardson school district. One student recently called her un-Christian
for trying to teach evolution.
"I get a lot of, 'Why are we learning this, that's not what my
pastor told me, this is wrong, this is of the devil,' " says Ms.
Lang. "You hear it all before you actually get into the topic."
Her classes are a microcosm of daily discussions and a few battles
that take place in classrooms nationwide. Like many teachers,
Ms. Lang doesn't fear talking about evolution but knows she has to prepare
herself for potential confrontations with students or parents who question
Surveys indicate that many teachers give short shrift to evolution because
they worry about provoking such reactions. But the state science curriculum,
as required by the Texas Education Agency, includes direct reference
to evolution, and students must learn it in order to pass the Texas
Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
"Whether or not you use the E-word, you're inevitably teaching
evolution if you teach biology," says Kimberly Bilica, a science
education specialist at the University of Texas
at San Antonio.
Dr. Bilica is one of the few researchers to study the factors that affect
teachers' attitudes toward evolution. For her 2001 doctoral dissertation
at TexasTechUniversity, she surveyed 175 high school biology teachers in the
More than half of the teachers reported substituting the words "change
over time" an incomplete description of evolution
in the classroom to lessen conflicts. One-quarter reported that parents
pressured them to avoid some evolution topics.
Teachers also said they devoted less time to each of the seven concepts
about evolution than they would have done if they had unlimited freedom
"In every single category, we found that teachers would prefer
to teach evolution to a greater extent but they can't," says Dr.
The pressure to downplay evolution generally came from parents, her
survey found. Strong support from principals and other teachers helped
counteract that pressure.
The National Science Teachers Association survey also found that 30
percent of teachers said they felt "pushed to de-emphasize or omit
evolution or evolution-related topics from their curriculum." Again,
the teachers felt most of the pressure coming from students or parents,
not administrators or principals.
In general, teachers say, evolution suffers from a stigma that no other
aspect of biology does.
"There is considerable evidence that evolution often is not emphasized
in a manner commensurate with its importance in explaining the natural
world," says Gerald Skoog, a noted Texas Tech expert on science
The most successful teachers address the controversy head-on, says Leslie
Jones, a science education researcher at ValdostaStateUniversity in Georgia. They begin by clarifying what evolution is and what
it is not.
At its most basic, evolution is descent with modification the
notion that new species emerge over generations as their genetic makeup
changes, so that all life forms on Earth have a common ancestor. Many
different lines of evidence support biological evolution.
But students often enter the classroom with powerful misconceptions
about evolution that Charles Darwin said that man comes from
monkeys, or that evolution is "a pitch to deny God," says
Dr. Jones. Experts sometimes advise teachers to begin by talking about
One commonly heard idea is that evolution is "just a theory."
In popular terms, "theory" is used to describe a hunch, or
something someone suspects might be true. In science, a theory is a
well-developed, well-tested explanation that describes observations
of the natural world. Evolution may be "just a theory," but
so is gravity.
Evolution's newest challenge comes in the form of "intelligent
design," which holds that certain features of living organisms
are best explained by the existence of an intelligent designer rather
than by the process of natural selection. Proponents stop short of naming
who or what that designer might be, but say that intelligent design
provides an alternative explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
Although intelligent design is not testable by the usual standards of
science, it has gained ground in the simmering feud between scientists
In 1925, Tennessee teacher John Scopes was convicted in the famous "monkey
trial" of teaching evolution against state law. Not until 1987
did the U.S. Supreme Court rule that teaching creationism was a violation
of the separation between church and state.
Now, in Kansas, the state board of education is considering revising
the state's science standards to include intelligent design. In Dover,
Pa., teachers were told to read an evolution disclaimer
in their biology classes; they refused. In Cobb County, Ga., biology textbooks were labeled with stickers questioning
evolution until a U.S. district judge recently ordered them removed.
Many activists from the "creation science" movement of the
1980s have now rallied under the banner of intelligent design, led mainly
by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.
William Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, recently
said at a seminar at the University of Texas
at Dallas that the idea was treated unfairly in public discussions.
"Usually what happens in these debates is that design is ruled
out of court," said Dr. Dembski, of the Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
But not in the classroom. Data suggest that about one-third of biology
teachers give class time to discussing creationism and/or intelligent
design, says Dr. Skoog of Texas Tech. Most of them do so because of
student interest, because they want to be perceived as fair, or because
of the historical significance of creationism.
Many students are reassured to discover that learning evolution doesn't
mean they have to deny their faith, says Ms. Lang, the Lake Highlands
teacher. Her students usually leave the classroom more relieved than
when they started.
That idea is borne out, time after time, by leading scientists and science
educators who are also deeply religious.
"Belief is not the issue understanding is the issue,"
says John Staver, a professor of science education at KansasStateUniversity and a key player in the Kansas debate.
Beyond the classroom, other public arenas face their own challenges
with evolution. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History drew criticism
this month over media reports that it had chosen not to show the IMAX
movie Volcanoes of the DeepSea because of brief references to evolution.
Charlie Walter, the museum's chief operating officer, says the decision
was based on the film not rating well in audience tests, not on any
controversy over evolution. The museum has since decided to take advantage
of the public attention and is showing the film for a month this spring
and for a longer period in the fall.
Teachers hope that their students will come to the same kind of understanding.
"The most important thing is to teach evolution," says Dr.
Jones, "and teach it well." TOP OF PAGE
Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777