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State of Illinois - Governor Blagojevich 

News Clips

News Clips – March 25 to April 1, 2005

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STATE  
Programs for at-risk kids face cuts / Peoria Journal Star
Police failing to tell schools about juvenile sex offenders / Chicago Tribune
This man wants to save your kids / Pantagraph
School tragedy a reminder constant vigilance needed / Pantagraph
Study shows fully staffed library essential to student performance / Decatur Herald & Review
Teachers, labor groups line up behind school funding effort / Chicago Sun-Times
Program to teach kids Web dangers / Rockford Register-Star

NATIONAL
NYC recalls math guides riddled with errors / CNN.com
Black parents tackle a gap / Boston Globe
Charter Schools Alter Map of Public Education in Dayton / New York Times
Special education teachers: Supply, demand not always balanced / Northwest Indiana Times
NRA official: Teachers with guns could prevent killings / Chicago Sun-Times
Bush Budget for FY06 Includes Choice / School Reform News
Easing No Child raises alarm / Salt Lake Tribune
Study Touts Benefits of Universal Preschool /
Los Angeles Times
High Court Expands Title IX Protections /
Los Angeles Times
S&P Opens A Rating Service On Schools / Washington Post
Bill Would Legislate Maryland Students' Use of Sunscreen /
Washington Post
Palm Beach County schools still awaiting hurricane aid / Sun-Sentinel (FL)
Oregon moves to limit junk food in schools / CNN.com
Prom on Passover Rankles Teenagers In Illinois Suburb / Forward (NY)
Charter schools face new criticism / Los Angeles Times
The Right to Distribute Leaflets in Front of Schools Is Upheld / New York Times
It's not too late to stop the next teen shooter / Christian Science Monitor
Why tolerance is fading for zero tolerance in schools / Christian Science Monitor
Teachers feel pressure on evolution / Dallas Morning News

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STATE

Programs for at-risk kids face cuts
Four of five state programs are targeted in governor's latest budget proposal
MELANIE COFFEE, Associated Press, 3/28/05
 
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 project.
 
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 said.
 
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
3 p.m. and 8 p.m., 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
Albany Park Community Center 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.
 
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Police failing to tell schools about juvenile sex offenders
Despite state law, principals don't get kids' names
Ofelia Casillas, Chicago Tribune
 
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 1990s.
 
"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 the problem.
 
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
 
Zion-Benton Township High School 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
Lake County 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
Lake County 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.
 
`Some confusion'
 
"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 doubt."
 
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.
Waukegan High School 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," Mullen said.
 
In
Cook County, sheriff's police don't automatically tell schools but do so "on a case-by-case basis," said Bill Cunningham, a department spokesman.
 
"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 Peoria Community High School 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 son.
 
"It doesn't surprise me that some schools don't know," she said. "Every school should."
 
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This man wants to save your kids
Paul Swiech, Bloomington Pantagraph
 
NORMAL -- The New P.E. may trace its roots to a knee injury nearly 30 years ago.
Dale Brown was a high school junior in
Morris, Minn., when a football injury led to two knee reconstruction surgeries.
 
"Now, doctors can almost restore the knee to normal health," said Brown, who is now 45, in his office at
Illinois State University's Horton Field House. In the 1970s, that was not an option.
 
Brown's frustration and rehabilitation led to an interest in the working and healing of the human body -- specifically how to prevent and treat sports injuries.
 
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.
 
Personal experience
 
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," Brown said.
 
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.
 
P.E.'s start
 
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 and softball.
 
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 in mindset.
 
The money came in July 2002 with a $300,000 grant from the Illinois Attorney General's office.
Normal Community West High School 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."
 
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School tragedy a reminder constant vigilance needed
Pantagraph Editorial, 3/26/05

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 all danger.

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 should we.

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Study shows fully staffed library essential to student performance
Valerie Wells,
Decatur Herald & Review
 
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 incredibly consistent."
 
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."

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Teachers, labor groups line up behind school funding effort
Kate N. Grossman,
Chicago Sun-Times, 3/30/05
 
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 Mayor Daley.
 
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 2010.
 
"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," Stewart said.
 
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 districts.
 
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.

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Program to teach kids Web dangers
Carrie Watters, Rockford Register Star, 3/31/05
 
ROCKFORD -- Rock River Valley 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."
Guilford High School 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, Iasparro said.
 
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.
 
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NATIONAL

NYC recalls math guides riddled with errors
AP,
3/25/05 

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."
 
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Black parents tackle a gap
By Tatsha Robertson, Globe Staff,
3/28/05  

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 in
Harlem.

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.

In
Silver 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
University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University, 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 kids."

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
Harvard University, 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 Columbia University'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
Promise Academy, 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
Promise Academy. ''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."
 
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Charter Schools Alter Map of Public Education in
Dayton
By SAM DILLON,
New York Times, 3/27/05

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 Jersey, 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 American city.

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, City Day Community School, in 1998, and a dozen more appeared over the next three years.

Among them were the Omega School of Excellence, founded by Daryl Ward, a lawyer educated at
Georgetown University, and his wife, Vanessa, who has a degree from Johns Hopkins. The couple, co-pastors at Omega Baptist Church, 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 schools."

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 emergency list.

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 ones."

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," she said.

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.
 
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Special education teachers: Supply, demand not always balanced
EDUCATION: Teacher shortages can mean less good candidates to work with students
Olivia Clarke, NWI Times
 
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
Lowell High 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
Cedar Lake 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.

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NRA official: Teachers with guns could prevent killings
Arthur H. Rotstein,
Chicago Sun-Times
 
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 said Friday.
 
''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
Red Lake High School 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, she noted.
 
''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,'' she said.
 
''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.

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Bush Budget for FY06 Includes Choice / School Reform News
By Robert Holland, a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, The Heartland Institute,
4/1/05

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 education grants.

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.
 
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Easing No Child raises alarm
Minority group reporting: Groups under 40 students won't have to demonstrate test-score improvement
By Ronnie Lynn, The Salt
Lake Tribune, 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 10.

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
Jordan District won't have to show improvement among English learners.

In fact, almost every school in the
Salt Lake Valley 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 students.

"When we held [schools] accountable under AYP and schools' [reputations] depended on all students' test scores, they bore down and educated every child."

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 officials   don'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 Education.

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 AYP   standards, 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 advocacy group.

"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."
  
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Study Touts Benefits of Universal Preschool
A Rand Corp. report says a state program would be worth the investment and foster economic growth.
By Carla Rivera,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, 3/30/05

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 4-year-olds.

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 attendance.

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 school graduates.

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 Angeles County 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."
 
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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 Angeles 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 discrimination.

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
Law Center, 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 unused.

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.
 
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S&P Opens A Rating Service On Schools
Site Offers Public Comparative Data
By Jay Mathews,
Washington Post Staff Writer, 3/30/05

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 500 companies.

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 size.

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
Fairfax County's Edison High 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
Loudoun County 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, she said.

"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 education agencies.

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 Gates Foundation.

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 Prince William County.

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 Eleanor Roosevelt High School, 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?" he asked.

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.

Montgomery County 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 achievement.

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.
 
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Bill Would Legislate
Maryland Students' Use of Sunscreen
By Daniel de Vise, Washington Post Staff Writer,
3/29/05

Montgomery County schools require a doctor's note for children to use sunscreen. Howard County 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 medicine.

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 statewide coalition.

The quest to enshrine sunscreen in state law began when a PTA president from
Harford County 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
Howard County schools. "Even with hand and body lotions, we require a note from the parents."

Montgomery County 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 products.

"Their focus and their background and all their training is in pedagogy," Healey said. "They don't have an expertise in health care."
 
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Palm Beach County 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 Beach County School District 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 do.

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
Palm Beach County.

"There is no set time frame for reimbursement," North said. "The applicants need to assist FEMA field teams in damage assessments and documentation."

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 capacity.

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 the work.

As a result, many schools are still awaiting replacement of walls, ceiling tiles, carpeting and furniture removed months ago because of water damage, Backhus said.

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 charges.

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.
 
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Oregon moves to limit junk food in schools
Reuters, 3/30/05

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.
 
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Prom on Passover Rankles Teenagers In
Illinois Suburb
By JENNIFER SIEGEL, Forward,
4/1/05

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
Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Ill., who is headed to Indiana University 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 family.

This year,
Warren High School's 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 to light.

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. Albany High 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."
  
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Charter schools face new criticism
By Jennifer Radcliffe,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, 3/31/05

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 negative impact.
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
Stanford University 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 no merit."

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
Harvard University 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 in math.

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 Angeles Unified School District -- 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 ago.

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 immigrants.

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 at
Columbia University.

------------------------------------

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
Harvard University 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.
 
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The Right to Distribute Leaflets in Front of Schools Is Upheld
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times,
3/30/05

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," he said.

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,
Brooklyn.

"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?"
 
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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 happen?"

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 right now?

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, too.

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 down.

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 so thin.

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 times.

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.
 
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Why tolerance is fading for zero tolerance in schools
By Kris Axtman, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/05

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 later.

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
Juvenile Law Center 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 Red Lake reservation. But even the Red Lake 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.
Red Lake High School 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 Columbine High School 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 school.

"Zero tolerance is an absolute joke," he says. "I understand that it makes teachers feel better, but it's making school almost like a prison."

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."
 
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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
Dallas Convention Center and downtown hotels.

Among the 12,000 attendees will be Luciana Lang, a biology teacher at
Lake Highlands High School 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 the topic.

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
Texas Tech University, she surveyed 175 high school biology teachers in the state.

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 to teach.

"In every single category, we found that teachers would prefer to teach evolution to a greater extent but they can't," says Dr. Bilica.

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 education.

The most successful teachers address the controversy head-on, says Leslie Jones, a science education researcher at
Valdosta State University 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 these misperceptions.

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 and creationists.

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
Kansas State University 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
Deep Sea 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."
 
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