BATAVIA A string of employee accidents will cost the
School District nearly $102,000 in extra insurance premiums next school
The School Board has approved renewing the district's membership in
the Collective Liability Insurance Cooperative despite the 75 percent
premium hike for worker's compensation insurance.
The cost to the district will rise from $136,627 last year to $238,506
"As unhappy as I am with the increase, I'm still recommending that
we stay in the program," said Assistant School Superintendent Joseph
He said he plans to look for a cheaper insurance program this fall,
in time to invoke CLIC's six-month termination clause if he finds a
"It's definitely appropriate to put this out to bid," agreed
board member Jayne Resek.
At least five employees have submitted large worker's compensation claims
during the past three years, raising the district's average from 80
percent of normal to 119 percent of normal, Yagel said.
Among the cases he cited are an elementary school teacher who damaged
his knee ligaments while playing basketball with students on the school
playground; an office worker who developed carpal tunnel syndrome; a
maintenance worker who hurt himself while shoveling snow at a school;
a teacher who slipped on black ice in a school parking lot; and a teacher
who fell and broke her hip while supervising students going to their
Each of these claims cost $100,000 or more, Yagel said."I don't
feel we're doing anything wrong or being neglectful," he asserted.
"We have a very aggressive, formalized safety program. Sometimes
you're just unfortunate to have a few bad accidents in a short time."
Board member Leo Purpura suggested expanding the district's workplace
safety program to include teachers, not just maintenance staff.
"To drive down (the number of accidents), we need a culture change.
We have to drive home to all employees that safety is a very important
issue," he said.
SchoolSuperintendentEdCave noted that the accidents don't reveal a common cause
that a safety program could address.
"We've had a fairly diverse series of accidents," he said.
"It's not like we had five people use chairs instead of ladders
to reach something and then hurt themselves. A lot of this seems like
plain bad luck."
DOWNERS GROVE -- If a library encourages kids to read comic books,
you know it'll be a hit.
That's what folks at the Downers GroveSouthHigh
library urge kids to read--along with, of course, anything else. And
that's why the library was named the top high school media center in
the nation by the American Association of School Libraries.
The neatly organized book shelves and cluster of computers at Downers
Grove South mirror that of any other library in neighboring districts.
What makes the library unusual is the collaboration between teachers,
students and librarians.
Students are encouraged to read anything, from romance novels to, yes,
even Asian comic books. Librarians--given $30,000 annually from the
English department--are encouraged to buy books that will generate student
The library's book collection has increased from 7,600 to 16,300 in
the last two years. And students are checking out twice as many books
since the new books were added. More importantly, they're getting excited
"We have never seen such interest in reading. Just a lot of talk
about books," said library department chair Rebecca Cassell.
The honor comes with a $10,000 prize. Downers Grove South library officials
are still unsure exactly how they will spend the money.
School volunteers may
face background checks
Robin J. Youngblood, Quad-Cities Online
The Rock Island-Milan School District may change its volunteer policy
to require state background checks on volunteers.
After an April incident in Woodhull, when a disc jockey hired at the
last minute for a middle-school dance turned out to be a registered
sex offender, Rock Island-Milan decided to recheck its volunteer policy.
Currently, the district does state and federal background checks on
all employees through the Rock Island Regional Office of Education,
but not on volunteers.
Legally, the district only would be allowed to do a state, not federal,
background check on volunteers, regional assistant superintendent John
I.V. Foster, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Rock
Island-Milan district, said the district is looking into the legality
of doing a federal check on volunteers it suspects of being a part of,
or convicted of, a crime outside Illinois.
The school board is expected to vote in September to require volunteers
to submit personal information, then administrators will decide what
qualifies a person as a short- or long-term volunteer and cross-check
volunteers on the sex offender registry list.
The new policy, which the board reviewed last week, also may require
that volunteers be supervised by a certified staff member.
Mr. Foster recommended that the board first review the current policy
and add to it that the district "reserves the right to conduct
criminal background checks on all volunteer candidates who may be suspect
of criminal and/or child-related criminal activity."
Mr. Flaherty said it may be "good practice" for districts
to do checks on all volunteers in any unsupervised area.
Catholic schools such as Seton and Jordan, have such a policy, mandated
by the Peoria Diocese.
"The diocese said they wanted to get everyone fingerprinted for
the protection of children," Jordan principal Dan Lievens said.
Anyone who wants to volunteer at a Catholic school must undergo a state
background check, a Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS)
background check by the Department of Children and Family Services,
and watch a three-hour video, "Protecting God's Children,"
which discusses recognizing child abusers.
However, short-term volunteers -- at the school for as little as one
hour or one day a year - may be deterred by the hassle of getting fingerprinted
and submitting information -- none of which now is required in public
schools, Mr. Flaherty said.
Mr. Lievens said there were some complaints about the diocese requirements
initially, but his response was "If it helps one child not to get
abused then it's worth it."
The Rock Island-Milan district argues that the policy would deter potential
criminals from interacting with children.
"Perhaps that would give them enough deterrent and they would say
maybe that's not a good idea," Mr. Foster said. "(The policy)
would provide additional safety for the school district."
Volunteer background checks
This is what's being considered for a revised volunteer policy:
-- All volunteers will give their name, current address, Social Security
number, birth date, photo identification and proof of residency.
-- Volunteers will be under direct supervision of, and monitored by,
a teacher or administrator.
-- Administrators will develop criteria for determining applicants to
be either short- or long-term volunteers.
-- Administrators will cross-check applicants on the registered sex-offenders
list on all short- and long-term volunteers.
BELLEVILLE - More than 1,200 students in District 201 will qualify
for financial assistance in order to meet the district's stricter dress
code, according to board member Judy Cates.
"One of the things I remain concerned about is the lack of funding
for students who can't afford clothing," Cates said during a district
board meeting on Monday.
Earlier this year, the public high school district approved a school
uniform code that requires students to wear khaki, blue or black pants
and skirts and maroon, white, light blue or dark blue tops.
District Superintendent Brent Clark has vowed that district funds will
not be used to help indigent students, despite the fact that districts
are required by state law to provide assistance to low income students
to meet the dress code.
Darrell Coons, pastor of Hope Church in Belleville, said during the
meeting that area churches plan to raise funds to assist those students
but is unclear how much will be raised or when the funds will be available.
"To my knowledge the churches of Belleville have not developed a plan but we are open to raising
money in our congregations to place in a fund to buy clothing,"
For parent Theresa Allwood, funding was not an issue but size availability
was. Allwood said that both her son and daughter, who are BellevilleWestHigh
students, are tall and slim and she has not been able to find clothing
that fits the dress code in sizes suitable for them.
"My daughter wears a size 1 and I have been to Target, K-Mart and
Wal-Mart and the smallest size they have is 4," she said. "Where
do you go for kids that are hard to fit?"
Cates advised her to attend the Ad-Hoc Dress Code Committee meeting
at on July 11 so that they can address the issue.
Parent Leonard Goldstein had a concern about athletes being allowed
to wear their uniforms and therefore being exempt from the dress code.
"How does that level the playing field, when people on sports teams
get to wear uniforms?" Goldstein asked board members.
Clark said that all students, including athletes, who participate
in any type of organized school club will be allowed to wear faculty-approved
clothing during "club days."
Two students also spoke against the dress code. Craig Johnson predicted
that many students will violate the dress code when school begins on
"On the first day, first week, first month of school, students
will find many ways to violate the dress code," he said. "There
will be quite a problem when 10 percent of students are sent home or
Between hours spent working at the Calumet CityCulturalCenter and going to high school this spring, Adrieono Shanklin
built computers from scratch.
The 15-year-old Thornton Fractional North student was one of 28 participating
in Project Elevate, a collaborative effort between Calumet City and ChicagoStateUniversity's CommunityTechnologyCenter.
Adrieono and his classmates get to keep the computers they worked on
for eight weeks.
It will be the only working computer in the Shanklin household when
"Making a computer seemed like it would be fun," said Adrieono,
who received a certificate of completion Friday night.
The program, now in its second year, is aimed at bringing technology
to low-income neighborhoods and schools with a glut of students who
traditionally fail to meet reading, math and language arts standards
set in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The Calumet City program is funded with a grant from the act.
To receive funding, a school must show need, said Patricia A. George,
who authored the grant request and oversees the program for ChicagoState. Last year, the program was based at RobesonHigh
in Englewood, with 30 African-American students participating.
Federal statistics show many people of color are being left behind the
technological curve. A 2004 U.S. Department of Commerce survey found
in October 2003 that more than 54 percent of African-Americans and nearly
63 percent of Hispanics do not use the Internet, compared with nearly
35 percent of whites and about 37 percent of Asian-Americans and Pacific
"There's a proliferation of students without the proper resources
and proper technology to compete," George said. "We wanted
to make sure `No Child Left Behind' meant no child."
Coming into the program, many students say they have only a passing
knowledge of computers, knowing how to turn one on, play a few games,
but not how they work. George said many schools, especially in low-income
communities, lag in computer offerings.
Jochelle McFarlane, 12, said her Calumet City junior high school has few computers and they are used
primarily for taking tests.
"We've never had a computer at home before," Jochelle said.
Her grandmother Patricia Medina said it will be good for Jochelle to
have something to do on her own.
Each Saturday morning, students were given a different part from a kit
containing a central processing unit for a PC, a keyboard, mouse, 15-inch
flat-screen monitor, an empty tower, computer fan, on-off switch and
a Windows XP program to load onto the machine.
Students were tested on each part separately before being able to move
to the next piece of the computer.
Each kit cost about $400, excluding the monitor, which was an additional
Students--who were recommended by a principal, teacher or other school
official or wrote an essay to get enrolled--were not charged for the
program or computers.
Students were also taken on field trips to universities to see how technology
is being applied in higher education.
"I'm glad [ChicagoState] brought it to Calumet City," said Vicki Gutierrez, whose son Tony, 14, completed
BELLEVILLE - From increasing testing to reducing red tape, area
educators offered a variety of suggestions for the State Board of Education's
five-year strategic plan for elementary education.
Interim Superintendent Randy Dunn and board members Brenda Holmes and
Andrea Brown heard from regional and district superintendents, principals
and teachers during a hearing Tuesday at Belleville West High School
to get comments on a legislatively mandated comprehensive plan on the
future of elementary education in the state. The visit is one of eight
Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education Superintendent Marc Kiehna
said 70 percent of his region's administrators retired this year and
the regional office is confronted with the challenge of supporting the
Dunn said that he'd like to see a more collaborative relationship forged
between the regional offices and the board, which would create a statewide
Also discussed was the need to form a partnership between the business
and education communities. Jim Pennekamp, executive director of Leadership
Council Southwestern Illinois, said he would like the plan to address
the role that the business community can play in education.
"From an economic development perspective, the academic achievement
in the work force becomes more and more important because a qualified
work force will dictate where a business locates," he said.
Paul Seibert, GovernorFrenchAcademy's director of development,had concerns about the lack
of flexibility that public school districts have.
"There's a lot of collaboration between public and private schools,
and what I hear from public school educators is that they want to live
under the same rules as we do," Seibert said.
Holmes responded that the board is looking at a "less red tape"
"When we were appointed in September, we were given the charge
of taking a look at the rules and regulations we have and streamlining
At times, suggestions conflicted with one another.
Illinois PTA district director Rhonda Jenkins asked that the board consider
reinstating state testing for writing, social studies and the fine arts
to make sure that students are receiving a comprehensive education.
State testing is now required for only math and reading in order to
satisfy guidelines for the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Longtime Belleville educator Mary McHugh said that there is too much emphasis
on state testing and it distracts from a student's total education.
"Schools are getting rid of PE so they can have reading teachers,"
said McHugh, who retired from teaching in Belleville District 118 after
49 years. "Kids can't add and divide because they're using calculators,
because calculators can be used on the ISAT." TOP OF PAGE
Neither Alsip residents nor school officials were happy with answers
from the Illinois state officials they invited to a forum Tuesday on education
"We came here today to talk about education and our children's
futures, and they came to talk about complicated funding formulas, gambling
expansion and pension reform," said Jerry Mulvihill, a school board
member of Alsip,
Hazelgreen and Oak
LawnSchool District 126.
But Elliot Regenstein, the state education reform director, considered the
interaction between state- and local-level officials to be no more than
a "good old, honest disagreement."
"We believe people pay enough in taxes," Regenstein said.
"They said they are prepared to increase taxes to fund education."
Regenstein and state Rep. Kevin Joyce (D-Chicago) met with more than
a dozen parents and school administrators Tuesday afternoon at LaneSchool to answer their questions about funding for schools.
Joyce said his priority was limiting class sizes to 15 in grades kindergarten
through 3, so that children in those developing reading ages can get
the most attention.
"We let children go through the system unaccounted for until five
or six years ago when we started holding children back in the seventh
and eighth grade who couldn't read," he said.
Regenstein said the educational foundation level funding guaranteed
for each student has increased by $600 since Gov. Rod Blagojevich's
administration took office in 2002.
But Jan Mulqueeny, District 126 assistant superintendent, pointed out
the district actually lost funding in that time because Alsip's
property value per person (a key determinant for the foundation levels)
is skewed because the village has a lot of industrial property.
"We didn't gain revenue," Mulqueeny said. "Two years
ago while it was said we were getting this much money, we in fact got
Regenstein said spending increases affect every district differently.
"In a lot of instances, what state aid is doing is keeping some
districts above water," he said. "We're going to do everything
we can to move the foundation level so it picks up more districts."
District 126 in April failed in its third attempt to pass a tax increase
referendum. The ballot question to raise the district tax rate by 50
cents was rejected by a 57-vote margin, and Mulvihill said the district
was hoping for some help.
"We were looking for some relief from the state," he said.
Regenstein pointed to the recent state pension restructuring, and other
state spending cutbacks that made way for an additional $330 million
for schools funding.
But one parent said she didn't see where those increases would be enough
for District 126.
"So what you're telling me is, 'gee, we can't put more money into
the district," she said. "Meanwhile, we can't pass a referendum
because we have an aging community on fixed incomes. What are we supposed
Regenstein said because of Blagojevich's policy not to raise taxes,
communities would have to seek local tax increases to boost their revenue.
"That's always been the case in Illinois," he said. "Realistically, what most districts
in the state do, they go out for tax referenda."
CHICAGO - Students in Illinois will soon begin taking state writing exams again after
Illinois drew criticism for eliminating the tests last year in
an effort to save money.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Wednesday to reinstate the exam,
which will go into effect beginning in the 2006-07 school year.
"It was ridiculous and embarrassing," said State Sen. Miguel
del Valle, D-Chicago, who led the effort to reinstate the exam. "The
bottom line is we need to assess writing."
The Illinois State Board of Education is required to test students in
reading, math and science - the subjects mandated by the federal reform
law No Child Left Behind.
State budget problems led Illinois
to cut not only writing but social studies tests last year in an effort
to save about $6 million.
Lawmakers also said the decision to strike the exams was in an effort
to change Illinois' testing policy. But the elimination drew criticism
from testing experts around the country who said writing assessment
is essential and Illinois was the only state to abolish the entire writing exam.
Under the new law, fifth, eighth and 11th graders will begin taking
the writing exam in 2006-07. Sixth graders will start the following
year and third graders will begin in 2008-09.
Del Valle said he hopes the law will trigger a new approach to assessing
Becky McCabe, head of assessment with the Illinois State Board of Education,
said the board will review the past writing exams before making a decision
whether to have a new assessment method.
Reinstatement of the social studies exam was not included in the legislation
Thousands of Illinois students will take state writing exams again, beginning
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Wednesday to reinstate the annual
writing test, which dated to 1990 but was wiped out last year because
of state budget constraints.
Ending the tests brought national criticism to Illinois, with testing experts saying writing is an essential
skill and no other state had gone as far as to eliminate an entire writing
"It was ridiculous and embarrassing," said State Sen. Miguel
del Valle (D-Chicago), who led efforts to reinstate the test. "The
bottom line is we need to assess writing."
Under the new law, 5th, 8th and 11th graders will take the writing exam
in 2006-07. Sixth graders will be added in 2007-08, and 3rd graders
will be added in 2008-09.
In recent years, 3rd, 5th, 8th and 11th graders had taken the test.
But last year, lawmakers approved cuts that eliminated the writing test
for 2004-05, as well as a state social studies exam. Test questions
in fine arts, physical development and health also were stricken from
state tests given this spring.
High school students no longer had to write an essay as part of their
11th grade PrairieState exam. However, a portion of the two-day exam this spring
still contained a writing exercise that included editing passages for
grammar and punctuation.
The testing cuts were expected to save $6 million in administration
costs, but were criticized as some of the most severe in the nation
at a time when states were trying to meet standards under federal No
Child Left Behind reforms.
Those reforms, enacted in 2002, have put extraordinary pressure on schools
to ensure that children of all backgrounds can pass reading, math and
soon, science tests.
Critics say that pressure has led to too much test preparation and even
cheating in some schools. Meanwhile, states with budget problems, like
Illinois, have been inclined to cut back on some aspects of their
testing programs, particularly in subjects that aren't required under
No Child Left Behind.
In addition, not all educators agree on how to best assess writing,
said del Valle, and some didn't want the old test back. The state writing
assessment has traditionally involved students responding to a particular
question, called a prompt. Some educators prefer portfolios that show
a student's progress, including rough drafts.
Del Valle said he hopes the new law will pave the way for a new approach
to assessing writing in Illinois.
Becky McCabe, head of assessment at the Illinois State Board of Education,
said it's too soon to tell what will happen, "but we will review
what we've done in the past" before making any final decisions
on an assessment approach.
Lawmakers put an extra $1.8 million into the state board's testing budget
to ramp up the reinstated writing test.
According to one education expert, most states assess writing with a
But Mary Ann Smith, head of government relations for the National Writing
Project, a nationwide effort to improve youngsters' writing skills,
said there is more than one way to assess those skills.
"That is why people keep making a plea for multiple assessments,"
For example, students could respond to a prompt, she said, but they
could also turn in portfolios that show their work over time, including
drafts, revisions, and final versions.
The social studies exam was not reinstated in the legislation signed
by the governor Wednesday.
The legislation also includes other education items, including a $200
increase in per-pupil state aid that was agreed upon in budget negotiations
this spring. The increase will push aid to $5,164 per pupil next school
year. TOP OF PAGE
A key school district has shot down a realignment proposal aimed at
resolving complaints of racial imbalance in the South Inter-Conference
But it appears the complaints have been undermined by superintendents
who agreed to turn back the clock on SICA divisions.
The realignment proposal devised in mediation Monday called for Bremen
High School District 228 to join the SICA South division east of Interstate
School board members disapproved of it during a closed session Tuesday
night because their four schools Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Bremen and Hillcrest offer more sports and academic
programs than the competition, Supt. Rich Mitchell said.
"Based on scope of programs, (board members) are not in favor,"
The proposal's implementation was contingent on the approval of District
The board's rejection means superintendents from SICA's 19 member districts
must decide if they want to continue mediation or face a hearing on
racial segregation with the Illinois State Board of Education.
A new mediation date was not set as of Wednesday.
"I don't know if mediation is over or not," said Evergreen
Park High School District 231 Supt. Jim Gallagher.
Gallagher, vice president of the SICA superintendents' board of control,
said district leaders approved several resolutions that likely make
moot the segregation petition.
The resolutions were approved at a regular board of control meeting
after mediation concluded, he said. The superintendents from Joliet
and Community High School District 218 were absent.
In a 17-to-0 vote, superintendents rescinded the realignment they approved
in December that sparked racial debate.
This means the controversial realignment has been scrapped, and SICA
schools will continue to use alignments in place for the past decade,
The only exception is for the 10 schools that withdrew from SICA at
the end of the 2004-05 school year to form the SouthWest Suburban Conference.
District leaders also voted 17 to 0 to disband SICA effective June 30, 2006.
This frees districts east of Interstate 57 to start their own conference
or negotiate to enter two new conferences spawned during the racial
debate, Gallagher said.
The new conferences are the SouthWest Suburban Conference and an unnamed
conference to start in 2006-07 that is made up of schools from the old
SICA North-Central division.
In an 11-to-0 vote, superintendents decided to honor all contracts for
the 2005-06 school year as currently scheduled.
This approval was needed because it is too late to change schedules
for fall sports. The six districts leaving for the SouthWest conference
abstained, Gallagher said. TOP OF PAGE
of pension reform plan Success or failure depends upon the source, who they blame
By VALERIE WELLS, Decatur Herald & Review Staff Writer, 6/24/05 DECATUR - Whether the effects of the state's pension reforms
will be good or bad depends on whom you ask.
The reforms, passed May 29 as part of the state's fiscal 2006 budget,
make significant changes to the retirement plans of employees such as
teachers. Among the changes:
- The current formula allows school districts to increase salaries up
to 20 percent every year to boost pension benefits, with the state covering
those costs. The new plan caps the state's share at 6 percent.
- Employees belonging to the State University Retirement System and
Teachers Retirement System have two pension formulas to choose from
and automatically get the one paying the highest rate, with the state
matching the individual's contribution and interest earned at 140 percent.
That ends for new hires.
- The new plan eliminates lump sum awards for unearned sick leave for
pension credit beyond what is normally earned for contracts signed after
the effective date of the act.
- No new pension benefits will be allowed without a full funding source.
- A new task force will be created to develop additional pension reforms.
- Current employees and their employer will be required to pay for early
retirement options, rather than the state.
The reforms were necessary because the state is already so far behind
in keeping up with paying for existing pensions, and that will only
get worse in coming years, said state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion.
"If you look at pension obligations over the next 40 years, without
reforms, taxpayers will contribute $286 billion, and only 40 percent
of that would cover benefits," Flider said. "Sixty percent
would be to make up for payments on past years' unfunded liability."
Over the past 30 years or so, Flider said, the legislature and governors
failed to fully fund pensions. The state constitution requires that
those be paid no matter what, so the state has to get the money somewhere.
"To say that we've created a problem today (with the reforms) is
totally inaccurate," Flider said. "The reforms we've passed
are designed to save as much as $70 billion over the next 40 years.
So, in effect, the action we took is not only to preserve the pensions
but to eliminate the need for a tax increase to fund them in the future."
The Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers
worked with the legislature to come up with the modifications, he said.
State Sen. Frank Watson couldn't disagree more with Flider's assessment,
said his spokeswoman, Patty Shuh. He voted against the changes.
"There's not much 'reform' here," Shuh said. "The governor
turned his back on reforms recommended by the governor's task force
that would have saved big money."
Chicago teachers, Shuh said, have their own retirement system separate
from the teachers in the rest of the state, and that system not only
will undergo no changes, but that pension fund is 90 percent funded,
while the suburban and downstate Teachers Retirement System is only
funded at about 60 percent.
"What we'll do is continue to try to educate the public,"
Shuh said. "We'll be loud and vocal in our opposition and make
everyone aware that Chicago pensions were sweetened while downstate's were diminished."
Another part of this reform is that the legislature plans to take two
years off paying into the fund, said Laurence J. Msall, president of
the Civic Federation of Chicago, a nonpartisan government research organization.
"This puts (the state) in reverse gear instead of moving forward
in terms of pension reform," Msall said.
In 1995, he said, the legislature passed a law requiring the state to
bring the funding level for pensions up to 90 percent within 50 years,
working toward it gradually.
"Now, because Illinois pensions are historically underfunded, this is further
damage to a rather weak system," he said.
The Civic Federation is worried about the future, he said, because if
this trend continues, contributions will fall further and further behind
until a disproportionate percentage of all Illinois taxes will have to be dedicated to making pension payments,
and that will shortchange all of the other things taxes support.
Teachers who retire by June 30 this year won't be affected, but the
changes could have a profound affect on teachers who are already employed
and ones who have yet to begin their careers, said Martin Getty, director
of business affairs for Decatur's public schools.
Legislators have accused school districts of creating the unfunded liability
by granting bonuses and sick leave enhancement while refusing to take
their own share of the blame, he said.
"By trying to make accusations against schools, they have deflected
attention away from the real problem, and the real problem is who created
the unfunded liability - and that's the state," Getty said. TOP OF PAGE
If Northwest Suburban High School District 214 had accepted federal
Title I funds this year, the district would have received enough money
to tutor just 190 of 952 eligible students.
Rather than make that choice, District 214 school board members voted
5-2 Thursday not to accept Title I funds. The decision means they will
not have to submit to sanctions, such as tutoring and school choice,
required by No Child Left Behind.
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Wheeling Township Elementary
District 21 also have declined Title I funds.
District 214 was eligible for $196,058 in Title I funds, about 1 percent
of its budget. That money must be spent on services for low-income students.
The district would have been required to spend 20 percent of that money
or $39,212 on private tutoring for low-income students,
but that would have helped only a fraction of the eligible students.
The biggest problem I have is it is so unfair to accept money
to benefit one-ninth of the students, while other students who may be
in that same category arent eligible, board member Miriam
Mimi Cooper said.
Board members Leslie Pinney and Lenore Bragaw voted to continue to seek
Title I funds.
Bragaw said outside tutoring was worth a try, even if not all low-income
students would benefit.
Theres always inequity, Bragaw said. Turning
this money down because of the inequity is like saying because you cant
feed everyone, no one should eat.
But board member Bill Blaine said he was uncomfortable using private
companies to provide the tutoring, as required by the law, because the
district would not control their qualifications.
Board members said they agreed with the intent of No Child Left Behind
and certain practices, such as breaking down test data to show how well
subgroups performed, were useful in showing schools where they needed
to do better.
But the majority disagreed with providing school choice or paying for
private tutoring, the first two levels of sanctions under the law if
a school or certain subgroups of students dont meet standards
for two years.
Without Title I funds, the students still will take all the same tests
and schools still will be subject to state sanctions.
I think our district can do better and reach more children without
this money, board member Robert Zimmanck said.
By declining Title I money this year, the district can start the clock
over. If it opts back in next year, it would be another two years before
sanctions again would apply to District 214 schools.
Officials in districts that have opted out this year hope legislators
will change aspects of the law by then. TOP OF PAGE
Prospect Heights Elementary Dist. 23 school board members voted in support
of a bill proposal last week that would amend the No Child Left Behind
Dist. 23 board members, who have always been vocal objectors to aspects
of the No Child Left Behind Act, supported an amendment that was developed
by the National School Boards Association.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates that each school district
in the country meet a certain percentage of passing grades on a standardized
test chosen by the state. Minority categories of students grouped by
race and economic status must meet the same percentage of passing grades.
School districts without enough passing grades in each category for
two years are ineligible for federal grant money, and face sanctions,
such as installing tutoring programs and allowing students to transfer
to another school.
In summary, the National School Boards Association amendment to the
act attempts to improve how the act defines adequate yearly progress,
change the required sanctions against schools that do not make adequate
progress, and grant greater flexibility for accountability systems.
Under the proposed amendment, some students with special circumstances
may be excluded from taking the standardized tests. In order to be grouped
in a minority category, the number of students must exceed a minimum
percentage of the student population. Students with disabilities would
be evaluated in a more individualized fashion. The scores of students
with limited English skills would take into account the number of years
the student has attended school in the United
In addition, students in schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress
would not be allowed to transfer to schools that are overcrowded or
are an impractical distance from the student's home school.
The Dist. 23 school board supported the amendment via resolution based
on the board's "nearly three full years of operational experience
in implementing NCLB," and noted that the board supports the act's
goals of "raising student achievements; closing the achievement
gap; and ensuring that each child has a highly qualified teacher."
Dist. 23 students are performing better on the tests than the state
average. However, district officials have warned that the benchmark
percentages of passing grades will rise dramatically in the coming years.
In 2014, 100% of the district's students must pass the test in order
to avoid federal sanctions.
"There is going to come a point in time when we will not meet the
standards," Superintendent Greg Guarrine said in December.
Despite objections to the act, the school board resolution agreed with
the overall objectives of the No Child Left Behind Act.
"The Prospect Heights School Dist. 23 Board of Education continues
to welcome the accountability for improving student and school performance,"
the resolution stated. TOP OF PAGE
Writing skill -- the ability to put thoughts together in a coherent,
meaningful fashion -- is essential to success in almost any profession
a young person enters. And any education system that does not evaluate
a young person on those skills fails. End of story.
But Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted to rewrite the story for Illinois, and we are glad he did. He signed a bill this week
that reinstates state writing exams after their elimination last year
for budget reasons.
Testing officials around the country said Illinois was the only state to eliminate all of its writing exams.
It was a "ridiculous and embarrassing" distinction, Sen. Miguel
del Valle, D-Chicago, said. He led the effort to reinstate the exam.
"The bottom line is, we need to assess writing," del Valle
The only bottom line that state officials saw a year ago was $6 million.
That was the amount saved when the state abolished the tests, not only
in writing but in social studies. Those areas are not mandated by the
federal reform law No Child Left Behind. Reading, math and science testing is required.
People have long complained about the writing portion of Illinois standardized testing and that it was not a good way
to simulate real situations and test real skills. Lawmakers said they
agreed to eliminate the test last year in part to stimulate change.
The new law makes that change an urgent matter. Fifth-, eighth- and
11th-graders will take the writing exam beginning in 2006-07. Sixth-graders
will start the next year, and third-graders will begin in 2008-09.
The Illinois State Board of Education says it will look at past writing
exams before deciding whether to switch testing methods. If that means
state officials want to acknowledge mistakes and learn from history,
great. If they just want to appease critics and continue with the status
quo, not so good.
Teaching writing is tricky. Testing writing is even more so. The new
writing section of the SAT is a case in point. Les Perelman of MIT,
who has developed and administered writing tests for 25 years, told
salon.com in May that he believes the new SAT is not just a bad way
to grade writing, it is a threat to writing skills.
Ideally, we'd like to see a test that lets students know in which areas
they are deficient. Sentence structure? Weak argument? Bad spelling?
Ideally, we'd like to see a test that does not just ask students to
spit back a formulaic essay. After all -- and don't we know it -- boring
writing is not good writing. TOP OF PAGE
School enrollment growth of immigrant non-English speaking students
in 18 states through mid-America has surpassed 200 percent since 1990.
Teachers and administrators in those states have faced a surprising
demographic reality as enrollment of students who don't speak English,
mostly Hispanic, has grown more than 10 times faster than the overall
rise in school enrollment in the past 15 years, according to a biennial
report to Congress by the Education Department.
The fast-growing number of students who don't speak English -- now an
estimated 9 million and increasing by almost 1 million a year -- is
forcing a sea change in language development in schools and the way
teachers help children achieve required reading and math proficiency
in each grade under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), education leaders
"They do have to learn English," Donna Christian, president
of the federally funded nonprofit Center for Applied Linguistics, said
of schoolchildren from immigrant families.
"We must share a common language. It is important for all children
to learn English to a high degree so they can be successful. But that
does not exclude the possibility of them developing their native language
while learning English," Mrs. Christian said.
It is similarly important for English-speaking teachers and students
"to become bilingual" in our increasingly diverse schools,
with a total of 440 different languages being spoken nationally, she
Booming migration of families that do not speak English is now happening
in less-populated states as well, mostly where there are migrant jobs
and the economy is prospering: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas,
Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Tennessee,
Washington and Wisconsin.
According to the Education Department, local school districts spent
an average $110 in federal Title III funds per student last year to
teach English to foreign language students. The amount was as high as
$288 per student in Jackson, Miss.
While the growing language problem has placed increased pressure on
schools and districts to have enough children pass required reading
and math tests under the NCLB, most still achieved adequate yearly progress,
department officials said.
Florida, with 292,000 English language learners, or 13 percent
of total enrollment, did not have a single school district targeted
for needing improvement because it failed to meet adequate yearly progress
two years in a row.
In California, students who do not speak English are now more than
one-fourth of the state's 6.4-million school population; in Texas, Nevada
Mexico, almost one-fifth; and more than 10 percent of students
in six other states, according to the Education Department's 503-page
It is not known how many students are children of illegal alien parents
because, under federal privacy laws, state officials and federal census
surveys are not permitted to ask about the legal status of aliens, officials
Vietnamese ranks third nationally behind English and Spanish, with other
languages ranking high in some states: Serbo-Croatian in Iowa, Kentucky,
Missouri and Vermont; Chinese in New York; Portuguese in Connecticut,
Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island; Russian in Oregon, South
Carolina and Washington; Arabic in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia;
Korean in Maryland and Virginia; Blackfoot in Montana; Navajo in Utah.
TOP OF PAGE
PROVO The classic power struggle between states and
the federal government has surfaced in modern times in education, Virginia's solicitor general says.
Federal policies such as No Child Left Behind, Title IX and the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Improvement Act are the center of the struggle,
said William Thro.
Thro has argued cases of federalism, also known as states' rights, before
the Supreme Court of the United States and spoke about the national-state government struggle
at a recent education and law conference at BrighamYoungUniversity, attended by about 300 people. Lawyers and educators
received continuing education credit in their professions for attending
Thro said an argument can be made that the federal government has no
power to make education policy, except in cases in which education practices
violate federal law, such as segregation.
"A more moderate argument, I think, is the national government
can make education policy, but there is a line they can't cross,"
Thro said the federal government may be crossing the line with NCLB,
which focuses on eliminating gaps in education of the poor and minority
students, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits federally funded schools from discriminating
on the basis of sex in sports, admissions, available courses and other
If the federal government makes an educational policy, it has to provide
states with money to implement it, Thro said.
That hasn't happened with Title IX, Thro said, because many schools
have had to start female sports programs without directly receiving
federal government money.
With NCLB, "the federal government puts you in a position where
you have no choice and you have to take the money," Thro told the
conference attendees, adding that it is coercion.
Courts say that the federal government cannot coerce the states, cut
the Supreme Court has not defined coercion.
Many people believe IDEA, the federal disabilities education act, is
an illegal federal government mandate, but Thro disagrees.
"In that instance, the money follows the condition," he said,
arguing that IDEA designed to ensure that students with disabilities
have access to appropriate education programs is different than
Title IX and NCLB.
Thro also discussed Utah's current struggle with the U.S. Department of Education.
During its special session in April, the Utah Legislature passed a bill
that challenges NCLB.
The measure requires Utah educators to follow state educational policies when
there is confusion over President Bush's NCLB.
Education secretary Margaret Spellings said Utah students will be hurt in the long run. And while she
did not threaten to immediately yank $107 million in federal money Utah receives for education, the results of noncompliance
could cost the state, she said.
Thro believes state leaders are playing a game of chicken with the federal
government: The loser will be determined by which one backs off first.
Thro couldn't predict Utah's fate. The state could end up in court, he said.
However, Connecticut may beat Utah to the Supreme Court.
The state is suing the Department of Education over NCLB, in part arguing
that the federal government doesn't properly fund the policy. The case
most likely will be appealed from a lower federal court to the 2nd Circuit
Court of Appeals and then, by 2008, to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is asked to hear 8,000 cases a year. It accepts one
case in 100, Thro said.
"If the Connecticut lower federal court were to invalidate No Child Left
Behind, the (Supreme) Court would almost certainly take it," he
said. TOP OF PAGE
Back to school
for state leaders
30-day session begins Tuesday to revisit money for education
By Jason Embry, W.
Gardner Selby, Austin American-Statesman, 6/21/05
Legislators who have failed three times since 2003 to approve a new
system of paying for public schools will find the stakes higher than
ever today when they return to the Capitol to take another swing at
They will begin a 30-day special session at with hopes of trading cuts in school property taxes
for higher taxes elsewhere while putting more money into education than
the incremental increases they approved earlier this year.
With the 2006 primary nine months away, they're also looking to blunt
criticism that their regular session ended without action on one of
the state's most pressing concerns.
"We do not have any kind of a deal on the revenue aspect,"
House Speaker Tom Craddick said about the key issue of how to replace
money schools would lose if property taxes were cut. "We're here,
and we're going to do the best and most we can to make this happen.
Where we get, I can't say."
Gov. Rick Perry boosted the political stakes last week when he vetoed
the $35 billion that lawmakers agreed to spend on schools under the
current finance system, raising the possibility that schools will be
unable to open this fall.
That's extremely unlikely because state leaders could restore the money
if the special session fails, but even the mention of schools not starting
turns up the heat on lawmakers.
Lawmakers already were under heavy pressure earlier this year to draft
a new school finance system. A state judge has ruled the current system
unconstitutional, largely because of underfunding, in a decision that
is under review by the Texas Supreme Court.
One aspect lawmakers will review is whether property-wealthy school
districts must continue to send money to districts with fewer resources.
Lawmakers are also hearing from constituents who are tired of property
tax bill increases.
The House and Senate each passed proposals during the regular legislative
session, but leaders could not agree on a final, compromise plan before
the session ended May 30. Key lawmakers say those differences, particularly
on taxes, remain.
The sticking point was how to replace at least $3.5 billion a year in
reduced property taxes. House members wanted to rely more heavily on
consumption taxes; the Senate put more of the burden on businesses.
Perry will unveil a proposal today that "will define the middle
ground" between the House and Senate, spokesman Robert Black said.
He refused to confirm or deny details.
Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Perry would push for an increase
of seven-tenths of a cent in the state sales tax, from 6.25 cents per
dollar to 6.95, and extend it to car repair bills and cosmetic surgery.
The House had pushed for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax; the Senate
approved a half-cent boost.
Craddick said House members want to see at least a 35-cent cut in the
property tax rate, which would put the maximum rate for school maintenance
operations at $1.15 per $100 of assessed property value, with more cuts
in future years.
"I don't think the members of the House will vote for a small bite,"
Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, voiced a similar
concern but added that senators realize they might have to phase in
property tax cuts over several years to pass a credible plan.
In addition to the tax swap, lawmakers will use the special session
to discuss teacher pay, testing, textbook funding, school ratings and
other education reforms. Lawmakers have expressed optimism about reaching
agreement on the education measures, saying they were close to one at
the end of the regular session.
"We have a lot to build on, and I think that's exactly what we're
going to do," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.
Also Monday, House Democrats urged their colleagues to revisit a school
finance plan that the House voted down in March.
The Democrats' plan calls for $45,000, instead of the current $15,000,
of a home's value to be exempt from school property taxes. It also would
give a smaller property tax cut to businesses than House and Senate
negotiators had agreed to deliver by the end of the session.
The maximum rate for school taxation would fall to $1.25 per $100 in
property value. Democratic leaders said their plan would deliver a larger
tax cut than the one that passed the House for the owner of an average
home in nearly every part of a state. They did not specify how they
would raise the money to pay for the proposal.
"Our plan would provide more resources to Texas schools and greater tax savings to the vast majority
of Texas homeowners," said Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston.
Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, chairman of the House Public Education
Committee, said he and Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, could file legislation
expanding items covered by the state sales tax and use the extra revenue
for cuts in local school property taxes, all subject to voter approval.
"I'm not married to any particular idea," Grusendorf said.
"I like the idea of finding additional ways to reduce property
taxes and allow voters to decide."
State officials estimate that a special session can cost about $1.7
million. TOP OF PAGE
Tobacco ads in school library editions of Time, Newsweek, People and
Sports Illustrated magazines will be eliminated under an agreement.
The deal between publishers and states attorneys general follows a 2003
agreement by publishers and tobacco companies in which tobacco ads were
banned from classroom editions of the magazines.
The agreement necessary, officials say, because school libraries
often don't subscribe to the classroom editions provides for
"selective binding" of those editions beginning this summer.
TOP OF PAGE
A visitor wandering into Alan Sitomer's English literature class at
LynwoodHigh School could be forgiven for wondering when Elmore Leonard
became required reading for 10th graders.
In the course of leading a lively discussion about a work of fiction,
Sitomer described one character as a whore and another as a gold-digger.
One's a hanger-on, the type who'd take advantage of his best friend,
the rap star. And then there's the "regular dude," a guy who
just "wants things to be good in his 'hood."
But the work of fiction is "Hamlet"; the characters are Gertrude,
Ophelia, Polonius and Horatio. And the students teens whose prior
view of Shakespeare could reasonably be summed up as "boring dead
white guy, impossible to understand" are deep into the text.
"Who's got the power, Anthony?" Sitomer demands of a student
who has a bit of swagger to go with his shaved head. "When Mom's
not around, who gets the remote control?"
The older brother gets it, Anthony replies. That's Hamlet's father,
the king, giving his younger brother, Claudius, good reason to want
And Anthony, a younger brother, gets it too.
For Sitomer, 38, who grew up in New York and Florida and has a touch
of street in his step, teaching literature is all about building bridges
that allow his students to understand that great literature is not just
a window into the past but a mirror illuminating their own lives.
"Kids would rather go to the dentist than read Shakespeare,"
he said during a stroll through his school's well-tended, bunker-like
campus, which closed for the semester Friday. "But if you turn
on that internal light, make it relevant and contemporary you
can see how passionately they get involved. When you use examples from
their own lives, that's when it's living literature."
Jose Urias, Lynwood's principal, credits Sitomer with helping to improve
academic performance at the school. He said 99% of Sitomer's students
pass the English portion of the California
high school exit exam. "He exemplifies what a good teacher is,"
Urias said. "It's just a whole new perspective that he's able to
share with the kids and with all of us."
Since starting at Lynwood High six years ago, Sitomer has juggled teaching
with writing. He recently published his second book, "The Hoopster,"
a coming-of-age novel for teens about a high school student who lives
in an inner-city neighborhood and grapples with real-world issues that
include racism, violence and basketball.
The book struck a chord with Sitomer's students, who are nearly all
Latino or black, mostly poor and acquainted with violence and crime.
"I read it in one day," said Vicky Trinidad, a slender, animated
girl with a dark brown ponytail.
His first book, "Hip-Hop Poetry and the Classics," was a guide
for teachers who want to draw connections, as Sitomer does, between
hip-hop lyrics and the work of such poets as Keats, Tennyson, Robert
Frost and Emily Dickinson.
He puts Dylan Thomas "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"
up against Tupac Shakur:
"The question I wonder is, after death, after my last breath
When will I finally get to rest?"
"It's demystifying the world of poetry for teenagers," said
Sitomer, known as "Mr. Alan" to students. "Making connections.
Keeping it relevant."
To teach "Hamlet," Sitomer began with an exercise. He told
the students, who are mostly 15 and 16, to take out a piece of paper
and write their mother's name, father's name and the name of an uncle.
Now, he continued, cross out your father's name, because he died three
weeks ago, and your uncle is sleeping with your mother.
"They're like, 'Oh, my God!' " Sitomer said.
He then had them write about how they felt. "The next morning,
some of them were still mad at their moms," he recalled, chuckling.
With that close-to-the-bone prologue, they tackled "Hamlet."
"I thought I wouldn't understand it at all," Yahaira Moreno
said, "but I'm really liking it."
"We can connect to the text," Vicky added, "because he's
explaining it in vocabulary we understand."
Amir Ali, a junior who had Sitomer's class last year, said his favorite
book was "definitely 'Hamlet.' " Before, he had viewed Shakespeare
as "artsy-fartsy, not really a hip thing to study." His view
now? Definitely hip.
"I don't think I would have liked it if I didn't have Mr. Alan
guiding me," he added. "Shakespeare isn't exactly popular
among my generation."
Sitomer went to Lynwood after
a fill-in stint at New Roads, a private school in Santa Monica. David Bryan, the head of the school, remembers him
as "certainly competent, but didn't stand out in any way."
Sitomer took away an appreciation for the advantages of a private school;
he had one class with only 11 students, he said, and his classes at
have more than 40.
But he doesn't believe his students at Lynwood are
fundamentally different. "Internally, they're the same," he
"I have so much respect for my students," he added, "because
they face challenges I never had to face in high school. Some of the
things that are going on I never heard of when I was their age. So just
to make it to class, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them."
Standardized test scores reinforce Sitomer's point. Lynwood High is near the bottom in statewide rankings that compare all public
high schools but near the top among schools with similar demographics.
What Sitomer wants his students to know is this: Books can change a
life even save one.
Sitomer related an example at a recent book signing for his new novel
at the Grove shopping center. It was not your typical literary event.
A DJ spun classic hip-hop tracks the Fat Boys, Grandmaster Flash
and the Furious Five, Public Enemy. A group of young poets, Project
Blowed, put on a poetry slam. And Sitomer told a story that brought
gasps from the audience of a few dozen people.
The first time he tried using hip-hop to teach classic poetry, he said,
was also the first time he had "100% involvement from 100% of my
students." He realized he was onto something, he said, but it wasn't
until the end of the school year that he realized how powerful it was.
On the last day of class, he said, a girl walked up to his desk, shyly
slid him a note, waved goodbye and quickly left. The note explained
that she had been considering suicide until she read Dylan Thomas' "Do
Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," with its admonition to "rage,
rage against the dying of the light."
"She got it," Sitomer said, "and made a good decision .
I was blown away."
He glanced about, gesturing at row after row of bookshop shelves.
"If one poem can do that for a student," he said, "think
of the power of a book." TOP OF PAGE
When the Kansas State Board of Education decided to hold hearings this
spring on what the state's schoolchildren should be taught about evolution,
Dr. Kenneth R. Miller was invited to testify. Lots of people thought
he was a good choice to speak for science.
Dr. Miller is a professor of biology at BrownUniversity, a co-author of widely used high school and college
biology texts, an ardent advocate of the teaching of evolution - and
a person of faith. In another of his books, "Finding Darwin's God,"
he not only outlines the scientific failings of creationism and its
doctrinal cousin, "intelligent design," but also tells how
he reconciles his faith in God with his faith in science.
But Dr. Miller declined to testify. And he was not alone. Mainstream
scientists, even those who have long urged researchers to speak with
a louder voice in public debates, stayed away from Kansas.
In general, they offered two reasons for the decision: that the outcome
of the hearings was a foregone conclusion, and that participating in
them would only strengthen the idea in some minds that there was a serious
debate in science about the power of the theory of evolution.
"We on the science side of things strong-armed the Kansas hearings because we realized this was not a scientific
exchange, it was a political show trial," said Eugenie Scott, director of the NationalCenter for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of
evolution. "We are never going to solve it by throwing science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a large organization
of researchers and teachers, and the publisher of the journal Science,
also declined to participate.
"If the evidence for modern Darwinian theory is so overwhelming,
they should have called the bluff on the other side and come and made
their arguments," said John West, a political scientist and a senior
fellow at the Discovery Institute, a research organization that supports
work challenging the theory of evolution. "They should have put
up or shut up."
Dr. West said that although most of the institute's resources support
research on intelligent design, the theory that life on earth is far
too complex to have evolved without the guidance of an intelligent agent,
the organization does not advocate that students be required to learn
it. Nor does it object to the teaching of evolution, he said.
"The majority of biologists obviously support Darwinian evolution
in its full-fledged view," he said. "The question is, are
there legitimate, peer-reviewed criticisms? If there are, students should
know about them."
In theory, this position - "teach the controversy" - is one
any scientist should support. But mainstream scientists say alternatives
to evolution have repeatedly failed the tests of science, and the criticisms
have been answered again and again. For scientists, there is no controversy.
Dr. Miller said he decided to stay away from the hearings because he
was convinced that the panel would recommend a "teach the controversy"
approach regardless of the testimony presented. "The people running
things were people whose minds were already made up," Dr. Miller
said in an interview in May, before the panel's recommendations were
He said he had anticipated that "they would say, 'This is such
a fascinating controversy that what we need to do is let the children
of Kansas have the same benefit' " of learning about it.
When the hearings ended, the subcommittee running them concluded just
that. The hearings had produced "credible scientific testimony
that indeed there are significant debates about the evidence for key
aspects of chemical and biological theory," the panel said, and
it is "important and appropriate for students to know about these
Still, scientists who stayed away say they did the right thing.
Declining to testify "can be made to look as if you do not want
to defend science in public, or you are too afraid to face the intelligent
design people in public," Dr. Miller said.
But, he said, taking part in this kind of argument only contributes
to the idea that there is something worth arguing about, and "I
wasn't interested in playing a role in that."
Dr. Alan I. Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, said that when the association was invited
to present its views at the hearings he raised the issue with his board.
Although some members said "go straighten them out," he recalled,
the consensus was that the association should stay away.
"We were invited to debate one supposed theory against another,"
Dr. Leshner said, when in fact there was no credible scientific challenge
to the theory of evolution.
Dr. Scott said that until recently she believed scientists should
seize opportunities to debate the opponents of evolution. "I was
one of the holdouts, saying yes, appear with these guys, yes, tell them
what is wrong with their ideas, go to their conferences, treat them
like scholars," she said.
Like other scientists, she said that if someone identified a flaw in
evolutionary theory that could not be dealt with, science would have
to modify the theory or even scrap it. But the criticisms raised have
fallen in the face of scientific scrutiny, she and others say, yet opponents
of evolution raise them again and again.
So a few years ago, she said, "even I threw in the towel."
"Our willingness to engage their ideas," she went on, "was
not being reciprocated."
Dr. West, of the Discovery Institute, argues that scientists have shown
the same unwillingness to engage when they talk about evolution. In
Kansas, he said, "there was a sort of arrogance - claiming
that 'since we are the majority scientific view we don't owe an explanation
to anyone, especially these public officials we think are stupid.'
"Well, they can have that attitude, but whether they like it or
not we have public officials who are charged with making decisions,"
he said. "They seem to think the A.A.A.S. should just appoint a
panel and replace every elected school board."
Despite their decision to stay away from Kansas, scientists continue to make the case for evolution.
For example, a number of scientists, including Dr. Miller, plan to testify
in a case in Dover, Pa., where teachers were directed to instruct that
intelligent design was a scientific alternative to evolution. "In
a court of law, you have standards, rules and laws you are interpreting,"
Dr. Scott said, in explaining why scientists are taking part in this case. "In
Kansas, it was a free-for-all."
Earlier this month, the National Academy of Sciences started a Web site
(nationalacademies.org/evolution) with information about evolution and
assurances that no credible scientific challenge to evolutionary theory
has been raised. The American Association for the Advancement of Science
(aaas.org, click on "evolution resources") and other organizations
maintain similar sites.
Dr. Leshner wrote an opinion article about the evolution issue that
ran in The Kansas City Star before the hearings were held this spring.
The essay dealt with one of the powerful issues underlying the debate
about evolution: whether science and religious faith can coexist.
It is not surprising that defenders of evolution are staying away from
the hearings, he wrote, "since it's a debate that can't be won."
"After all, interpretations of Genesis are a matter of faith, not
facts," he wrote. But faith and facts "should not be pitted
against each other; the theory of evolution does not, in fact, conflict
with the religious views of most Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist
or Hindu followers."
But some scientists have made the point that it is difficult to make
the case for evolution at a time when many Americans view it as an assault
by the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people.
"The creation and evolution issue is not just about science,"
Dr. Scott said. "The science is necessary but not sufficient. It is ultimately
and predominantly a political and cultural kind of issue rather than
a scientific issue."
Now that the panel that conducted the hearings has recommended that
challenges to evolution be taught in Kansas,
"we may appear to have at least temporarily lost the battle,"
Dr. Leshner said. "But we have not fallen prey to allowing them
to redefine science, and that's the core issue."
He added: "Evolution is not the only issue at stake. The very definition
of science is at stake." TOP OF PAGE Pentagon Creating Student Database
Recruiting Tool for Military Raises Privacy Concerns
Jonathan Krim, Washington Post, 6/21/05
The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing
firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and
all college students to help the military identify potential recruits
in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.
The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database
will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security
numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what
subjects the students are studying.
An entire industry has mushroomed during the past decade because of
the ability of companies to gather and make sense of public records,
criminal histories and other electronic details. What are they doing
The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze
large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal
profiles and habits.
"The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central
facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute
files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for
military service," according to the official notice of the program.
Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent
laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen
information by turning to private firms to do the work.
Some information on high school students already is given to military
recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child
Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact
students at home, angering some parents and school districts around
School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal
funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information
that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty,
president of the PTA at WalterJohnsonHigh
in Bethesda, said the issue has "generated a great deal of
angst" among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion
Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial
data brokers, state drivers' license records and other sources, including
information already held by the military.
"Using multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete
list of eligible candidates to join the military," according to
written statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
in response to questions. "This program is important because it
helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services' recruiting and
The Pentagon's statements added that anyone can "opt out"
of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be
kept in a separate "suppression file." That file will be matched
with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish
to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon.
But privacy advocates said using database marketers for military recruitment
"We support the U.S. armed forces, and understand that DoD faces serious
challenges in recruiting for the military," a coalition of privacy
groups wrote to the Pentagon after notice of the program was published
in the Federal Register a month ago. "But . . . the collection
of this information is not consistent with the Privacy Act, which was
passed by Congress to reduce the government's collection of personal
information on Americans."
Chris Jay Hoofnagle, West Coast director of the ElectronicPrivacyInformationCenter, called the system "an audacious plan to target-market
kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation."
He added that collecting Social Security numbers was not only unnecessary
but posed a needless risk of identity fraud. Theft of Social Security
numbers and other personal information from data brokers, government
agencies, financial institutions and other companies is rampant.
"What's ironic is that the private sector has ways of uniquely
identifying individuals without using Social Security numbers for marketing,"
The Pentagon statements said the military is "acutely aware of
the substantial security required to protect personal data," and
that Social Security numbers will be used only to "provide a higher
degree of accuracy in matching duplicate data records."
The Pentagon said it routinely monitors its vendors to ensure compliance
with its security standards.
Krenke said she did not know how much the contract with BeNow was worth,
or whether it was bid competitively.
Officials at BeNow did not return several messages seeking comment.
does it list either a chief privacy officer or security officer on its
According to the Federal Register notice, the data will be open to "those
who require the records in the performance of their official duties."
It said the data would be protected by passwords.
The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without notifying citizens,
to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including
with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress.
Some see the program as part of a growing encroachment of government
into private lives, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"It's just typical of how voracious government is when it comes
to personal information," said James W. Harper, a privacy expert
with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Defense is
an area where government has a legitimate responsibility . . . but there
are a lot of data fields they don't need and shouldn't be keeping. Ethnicity
strikes me as particularly inappropriate."
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration
relaxed its privacy policies and provided data on citizens to the FBI
in connection with terrorism investigations.
WASHINGTON -- Most states are reporting lofty high school graduation
rates that far exceed reality and mislead the public about how schools
are performing, a private analysis found.
The majority of states -- 36 of them -- say 80 percent to 97 percent
of their high school students graduate on time, according to state figures
provided to the Education Department.
Those numbers show "rampant dishonesty,'' said Kati Haycock, director
of the Education Trust, an advocacy organization for poor and minority
students. The Trust reviewed the 2002-03 graduation rates that states
had to provide this year.
A series of independent analyses shows the graduation rate across the
states is closer to 70 percent, meaning almost one-third of students
don't finish on time -- or at all.
''Every single day we do this, we further erode public confidence in
the notion that public educators can be trusted,'' Haycock said. Earlier
this year, the Consortium on Chicago School Research released a study
indicating only 54 percent of Chicago public school students graduated in four years, far
less than the 70.7 percent rate the state pinpointed for Chicago. TOP OF PAGE
School Reform Desired
Poll finds most people in the state and nationwide want tougher classes
and better teachers
By Jean Merl, Los
Times Staff Writer, 6/23/05
Fifty-five percent of Californians and almost half of Americans
as a whole think the nation's public high schools need reforming,
and almost one-third of Californians believe students arriving in ninth
grade are ill-prepared for high school and struggle to keep up, a poll
released Wednesday found.
Only 10% of Californians and 9% of Americans in general said high school
students are being significantly challenged by their courses, according
to a poll conducted for the nonprofit Educational Testing Service.
"Most Americans feel the high school experience is a broken experience,"
said Kurt Landgraf, the service's president and CEO.
The nationwide survey, which included additional attention to California,
New Jersey and Ohio, found strong majorities of Americans want teachers
who are proven experts in their subject fields (91%) and favor paying
more for qualified teachers even if that requires raising taxes (80%).
They also support requiring students to pass a test on core subjects
to graduate (80%).
In addition, 77% of Americans surveyed called for more academically
rigorous courses for all students, while 71% said there should be wider
choices of types of high schools, and 72% called for an individualized
course of study for each student. Survey results in California
generally mirrored those nationwide; however, a larger percentage of
Californians saw a need for substantial high school reforms (55% to
The survey, dubbed "Ready for the Real World? Americans Speak on
High School Reform," was conducted in April by Democratic pollster
Peter Hart and Republican pollster David Winston. It was the fifth annual
survey commissioned by the Educational Testing Service to tap views
on education issues.
The poll findings come as educators and political leaders nationwide
are debating how to improve public education and lamenting high dropout
rates and slow or stagnant improvements in secondary school. In California, there are efforts in the Legislature to further delay,
or even scuttle, the state's high school exit exam for graduation. The
governor and a coalition of education groups are also battling over
school funding in the state, which trails much of the nation in per-pupil
Under pressure from community activists who feel disadvantaged minorities
are being shortchanged, the Los AngelesUnifiedSchool
recently agreed to require every high school student to take a college-prep
curriculum. And the district also is attempting to transform all of
its high schools some numbering 5,000 students into "small
learning communities," the latest popular idea for jump-starting
improvements at secondary campuses.
Americans care deeply about the quality of their schools and are concerned
that, without improvements, the nation will not be able to compete in
today's global economy, Landgraf said.
"Americans view our public education system as central to our country's
success in the world," he said, but are frustrated by the slow
pace of reforms after some two decades of improvement attempts.
The survey found that about half of Americans believe elementary schools
should get top priority for new reform efforts. TOP OF PAGE
WASHINGTON --Teachers earned an average of $46,752 last year, a
slight raise that did not keep pace with inflation, a teachers' union
The average salary increased 2.1 percent in 2003-04, according to state
figures compiled by the National Education Association, the country's
largest teachers union.
The inflation rate was 3.3 percent in 2004. Since 2000, the raise for
teachers has ranged from 2.1 percent to 3.8 percent.
"Teachers should never have to choose between doing what they love
and supporting their families," the group's president, Reg Weaver,
said Thursday. "We can't continue to ask them to fulfill such an
important mission without providing the support they deserve."
Salaries are often seen as an important reason why schools struggle
to hire and keep teachers, particularly in subject areas or locations
that have frequent shortages of instructors.
State lawmakers, facing financial struggles, have focused on enticing
teachers into the hardest-to-fill positions, said Scott Young, a senior
policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"There's just not money available to jack up salaries across the
board," Young said.
Teachers typically are paid based on their education and seniority.
But many districts and states are discussing, or experimenting with,
tying pay to performance.
The NEA estimates the average salary will increase 2.1 percent again
Over the past 20 years, the typical teacher's salary has grown $24,150,
but adjusted for inflation, it has increased only $2,677, or 11.3 percent,
the NEA says.
Over the past decade, 15 states have seen a real decline in average
teacher salaries when inflation is factored in, the organization says.
In the most recent year, 2003-04, salaries ranged significantly across
the states, accounting for cost of living differences and variations
in how salary packages are set up.
The top state, Connecticut, paid public school teachers an average yearly salary
of $57,337. The District
was next at $57,009.
South Dakota paid the lowest average salary, $33,236, while Oklahoma was next-to-last at $35,061. The NEA got its figures
by surveying state education agencies. TOP OF PAGE
An advisory panel to the New Jersey
board of education has recommended that poor rural school districts
be considered for designation as special needs districts,
a move that could obligate the state to provide for those rural systems
intensive support similar to what it gives its poorest urban districts.
The June 15 recommendation by the state boards legal committee
represents a significant development in an eight-year legal effort by
a group of poor, rural districts. They have argued that they need intensive
state helpincluding more moneysimilar to that received by
31 urban districts as a result of the ongoing Abbott v. Burke litigation.
Decisions in that case require New Jersey to fund its poorest urban
districts at the levels of its wealthiest districts, spend billions
on school facilities, and provide extra services such as full-day preschool
to offset the effects of poverty.
Frederick A. Jacob, a Millville, N.J., lawyer representing the rural districts in the case,
known as Bacon v. New Jersey State Department of Education, said the
recommendation is important because it makes clear that smaller rural
districts can be as educationally needy as big-city districts. Its
now decided once and for all that poverty is poverty, he said
in an interview. Its poverty that creates educational issues,
An administrative law judge decided in December 2002 that only five
of the original 17 plaintiff rural districts deserve the special-needs
designation. But in February 2003, state Commissioner of Education William
L. Librera accepted only one of the five as an Abbott district, bringing
the total to 31. Some of the rural districts appealed to the state board
The boards legal committee concluded that all 17 of the original
rural districts in the complaintand possibly even more poor districts
not named in the actiondeserve special-needs designation. The
panel considered many indicators of financial need, such as the communities
income levels and tax burdens, and educational need, such as their large
class sizes, limited academic programming, and high truancy rates.
We can only conclude that the students of these districts are
not being afforded a thorough and efficient education as required
by state law, the panel said. The conditions under which
these students live mirror those of the students in the Abbott districts,
which in some cases are only blocks away.
The panel said the state must devote additional resources to the poor,
rural districts, but stopped short of specifying what level of aid or
specific programs should be provided. Instead, it proposes that the
commissioner undertake individual assessments of each districts
needs and report back to the board of education in December.
Attorneys in the case said the state board was scheduled to consider
the legal committees report in July.
No Quick Fix
Despite the committees strong conclusions, no change in the Abbott
designations could occur quickly. Changes would have to be approved
by the board of education, and could be taken to the state court system
by the districts on appeal.
State officials declined to comment on the legal committees report,
saying it would be inappropriate to do so before it had been considered
by the board. But David G. Sciarra, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs
in the Abbott case, said the recommendation in Bacon opens the
door to the next big set of challenges, which is how to expand the Abbott
remedies to other districts statewide.
The panels recommendation comes as the state is actively trying
to revise the criteria by which it designates Abbott districts.
Mr. Librera last week submitted to the legislature a proposal that would
require a stricter showing of financial need by districts in order to
be eligible. He made the same recommendation in 2003, but it was not
adopted by the legislature. A legislative analysis at that time found
that 13 districts would lose their designation as Abbott districts,
but Mr. Librera said that analysis overlooked the indicators of educational
adequacy that must be examined under his revised criteria. Considering
both financial and educational factors, he said, could remove three
to eight districts from the current Abbott list.
He said in an interview last week that Abbott designations are not meant
to exist in perpetuity, and that some districts financial
health and educational attainment has changed sufficiently to warrant
their removal. Abbott remedies, he said, should not be the only mechanism
through which the state assists districts in particular need.
We continue to think of ourselves as the laboratory in the country
for this kind of decision, Mr. Librera said, including the
struggles that go along with it, how you deal with criteria, how you
deal with [districts] progress, how you deal with changes in this.
Washington - The Success for All Foundation has asked the inspector
general of the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the $1 billion-a-year
federal Reading First program for alleged mismanagement and seeming
preferential treatment of a handful of consultants and products.
We believe that the federal government enabled a small group of
individuals to direct significant federal resources to a small group
of companies, thus both restricting our ability to trade and subverting
the explicit intent and language of the Reading First statute,
the complaint submitted May 27 by Success for All founder Robert E.
While Mr. Slavin calls the Reading First legislation sound
and well intentioned, he contends in the complaint that
the program itself has been badly mismanaged, and as a result,
many fewer children are likely to experience reading success.
Success for All, developed in 1987, is aimed at preventing and remedying
reading problems in the early grades through a schoolwide improvement
approach. It is used in 1,100 schools in 46 states.
The nonprofit program has perhaps the most extensive research base of
any reading program, with more than 50 experimental-control studies.
Last month, a federal study found it to be effective in raising reading
Despite such scientific evidencewhich is a core tenet of the Reading
First legislationSuccess for All, based at JohnsHopkinsUniversity in Baltimore, has struggled to maintain its hold in schools that
applied for federal reading grants under the 3-year-old initiative.
While 200 schools signed on in 2001the year before the first distribution
of Reading First moneyand the foundation added staff members to
support those schools, participation has slipped by several hundred
schools over the last couple of years. Only five Reading First schools
are new to the Success for All program.
Mr. Slavin said that school officials around the country have told him
they felt pressure from state officials and federal reviewers to drop
Success for All in order to qualify for Reading First funds, even though
the legislation does not require or prohibit any specific texts. The
foundation has had to lay off some 300 staff members since Reading First
The complaint to the inspector general charges that the Reading First
program, which is planning to distribute $6 billion over six years,
has promoted a narrow definition of scientifically based research,
encourages the use of basal textbooks by big publishers, requires an
unscientific and untested instructional model, and relies on the work
of consultants with ties to the commercial products that are being used
by participating schools and districts.
We really believe in what we are doing, and we believe in the
power of research to really produce change in reading instruction,
Mr. Slavin said in an interview here last week. [Reading First]
is disassembling, tearing down, not only our program but that concept.
Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, would not comment
on the complaint.
The International Reading Association, based in Newark-Del., and the
Washington-based Association of American Publishers have received numerous
complaints similar to those outlined in the one submitted to the inspector
In 2002, for example, the AAP complained to federal education officials
of a widespread perception that states selecting certain reading programs
would be more likely to win the grants. Then-Secretary of Education
Rod Paige issued a statement saying no approved list of programs or
products existed. But the complaints from publishers and educators have
The way the implementation proceeded, it was, in fact, a boon
for publishers, and a select group of publishers, it seems, said
IRA President Richard A. Allington. He has been critical of what he
sees as conflicts of interest in the use of advisers in the Reading
First program who also earn royalties on the reading texts, assessments,
and consulting work that participating schools have used.
Other experts agree that the federal government seems to favor a small
group of scholars. But it is unclear if those experts have been singled
out by federal officials or if theyve simply gotten their
way through persistence, G. Michael Pressley, a professor of education
at MichiganStateUniversity and a former editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology,
wrote last week in an e-mail to Education Week.
Those experts generally did their job well and fairly in
working with states and schools in Reading First and recused themselves
from conversations about the products they had a hand in devising, he
added. Some individuals, however, did lobby hard for particular
products, including ones that they had some connection to, Mr.
In an attempt to respond to confusion aboutor resistance tothe
tutoring requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department
of Education issued guidance last week outlining what it expects states
and school districts to do in supplying the help to needy children.
The department issued the nonregulatory guidance in the wake of mounting
questions about who should implement various parts of the law, and how.
The 55-page document marks the first update since August 2003 of guidance
on the free supplemental educational services that districts
must offer to poor children in schools that have failed to make enough
academic progress for three years in a row.
Key areas covered include those that have sparked high-profile disagreements
between the federal government and states or districts, and those that
have prompted ethical questions.
For example, districts found to be in need of improvement
after they have begun serving as tutors must stop using federal Title
I money to do so by the end of the semester in which they are notified
of their status, the guidance says. The Chicago school district faced off with the Education Department
over that issue earlier this year, but agreed to use other money to
keep its tutoring program afloat.
The new guidance disappointed large urban districts that had hoped for
more flexibility in being allowed to operate tutoring programs, even
though they had failed to meet state benchmarks for adequate yearly
progress, said Michael D. Casserly, the executive director of the Council
of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based advocacy group.
It is a major setback that we are very troubled by, Mr.
Casserly wrote in an e-mail.
Nina S. Rees, the assistant deputy secretary in charge of the Education
Departments office of innovation and improvement, said in an interview
that the issuance of the new guidance was driven in part by the need
to more clearly define states and districts roles in tutoring
programs. States must approve tutoring providers, who then contract
with districts to operate their programs. Providers market themselves
to parents, who then enroll their children.
One key area that was very clear to us was the fact that districts
were involved in activities that were the states responsibility,
While districts designated as in need of improvement cant run
their own supplemental-services programs, individual schools in those
districts may do so if they have not been similarly labeled, the new
guidance says. The new guidance clarifies that providers are free to
employ teachers in districts or schools in need of improvement, but
states may not require providers to hire teachers who are considered
highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind law.
One new section in the guidance arose from concerns about how to ensure
ethical business practices by private companies or groups that provide
tutoring. The special commissioner of investigation for the New York City school district is probing some companies allegedly
improper use of inducements to persuade families to choose those providers
The Education Department suggests that states adopt policies governing
the use of financial incentives or gifts by providers. It says states
might want to allow them to offer nominal incentives
to parents for attending information sessions or provider fairs, or
to students for attending tutoring sessions regularly or performing
But states might want to prohibit providers from giving
incentives to students or parents for enrolling in their programs, or
to schools for signing up students for those programs, the guidance
says. States should make sure, it says, that providers dont engage
in false advertising or give kickbacks to district or school
officials who encourage parents to choose their programs.
States also must make sure that districts dont adopt practices
that favor their own programs, or those of certain providers, such as
giving some tutors free space in school buildings, the document says.
Steven Pines, the executive director of the Education Industry Association,
a Potomac, Md.-based group that represents private education companies, praised
the Education Department for offering guidelines on, among other matters,
how states might decide whether providers applying for approval have
a demonstrated record of effectiveness, and how to judge
their proposed pay rates and program designs.
This provides important clarity for all the various actors in
this important system, Mr. Pines said.
Much of the new guidance details what states should do in implementing
and monitoring tutoring programs, and what districts should not do.
States, for instance, may establish program-design criteria in such
areas as student-tutor ratios and acceptable fees. But they must take
care to set forth ranges, rather than specifying figures, to ensure
a balanced variety of programs in the market and maximum
parental choice. States must also be able to document that districts
are meeting the demand for tutoring before districts are allowed to
reallocate Title I funds intended for that purpose.
The guidance wades into the debate about how states should evaluate
providers effectiveness, saying they could consider academic gains
of students in the program. But it does not define what measures might
be used to determine those gains. States could also consider whether
providers delivered the programs promised in their application, and
what parents and students thought about the programs, it says.
States may ask districts to supply data to be used in evaluating providers.
But in cases where districts themselves are also providers, states might
want to avoid involving districts in the process because it could create
a conflict of interest, the guidance says.
Districts may not interfere with state-approved providers program
designs or pass judgment on the effectiveness of providers working in
their schools. They may not refuse to let a state-approved provider
work with their students, even if they have concerns about program design,
the department says.
The guidance outlines roles for both states and districts in making
sure parents are informed about tutoring. States could work with parent
groups to get the word out, encourage districts to hold provider fairs,
and consider developing a uniform contract that all districts could
use to avoid districts marginalizing some providers, the
Districts responsibilities in parent outreach are greatly expanded
and detailed in the new guidance. They should entice parents
to sign their children up for tutoring, it says, by clearly explaining
programs availability and benefits and undertaking an intensive
publicity campaign using letters home, radio and television ads, or
notices in shopping malls or houses of worship. The guidance also suggests
that districts set up telephone help lines to answer questions.
Some observers said last week that the guidance maximizes states
and providers authority over tutoring at the expense of districts.
Mr. Casserly called it one more nail in the coffin of local control
Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based
research group that is tracking the implementation of the 3-year-old
No Child Left Behind Act, praised the guidance as being detailed
and useful. But he said the distribution of responsibilities and
restrictions leaves districts at the bottom of the heap.
This guidance is not oriented toward helping school districts
improve themselves, said Mr. Jennings, a former top Democratic
congressional aide on education. Its oriented toward helping
providers provide services.
States responsibilities for the program are broad, he noted, but
many states, especially large ones, lack the resources to monitor districts
and evaluate providers the way the law and guidance envision.
Kay Kammel, who oversees Floridas
supplemental services as the chief of the state department of educations
bureau of family and community outreach, said with a laugh that reviewing
the list of state duties in the new guidance made me think we
might need a larger staff.
She and two other employees manage the states responsibilities
for supplemental services in the 11 districts that offered such services
this school year. But that oversight will expand next year, as 66 of
the states 67 districts are likely to be required to offer tutoring,
States Raise Bar
for High School Diploma By Lynn Olson, Education Week, 6/22/05
It has been less than six months since the nations governors gathered
for a summit on high schools, and already at least half a dozen states
have enacted policies that require students to complete tougher academic
programs to earn a diploma.
Although Arizona lawmakers voted to give high school seniors added flexibility
in passing the states exit exam, states typically are sending
a stricter message by telling students they must take more courses in
mathematics, science, and other core academic areas.
The flurry of activity is evidence that demands for making high school
more rigorous, which state and business leaders echoed at the Feb. 26-27
conference, have gained traction in the states.
The number of states that have moved, just in this legislative
session, to increase graduation requirements is clearly based on the
momentum coming out of the summit, said Matthew Gandal, the executive
vice president of Achieve Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit group that
co-sponsored the Washington event along with the National Governors
Association. I see that continuing to build.
On June 7, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, signed the Achieving
Classroom Excellence measure, which requires all high school students
to take a college-bound curriculum, starting in 2006-07, unless their
parents sign an opt-out consent form.
The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, also increases
current graduation requirements to include three years of high school
mathematics at or above the level of Algebra 1. Starting with entering
9th graders in 2008, students must pass four out of six end-of-instruction
tests in core academic subjects to receive a diploma. To encourage high
school seniors to take college courses, the plan requires the state
to pay tuition for up to six hours of college instruction per semester.
Gov. Henry said his initiative, which had strong backing from the business
community, pushes students to take a tougher academic workload
to better prepare them for life after high school.
Indiana also enacted legislation that requires students to complete
a college-preparatory curriculumknown as the Core 40to
earn a diploma, beginning with the class of 2011. As in Oklahoma, parents would have to request that their children be
exempted from the requirement. Students with disabilities would follow
the recommendations in their individualized education plan.
Starting with the class of 2011, with some exceptions, students would
have to complete the Core 40 curriculum for admission to Indianas four-year public colleges.
Indiana is one of 13 states that joined the American Diploma
Project Network at the summit. States in the Achieve-managed project
commit to preparing all students for work and college, in part by raising
graduation standards. This month, Achieve announced five new members
Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahomabringing the total to 18.
Rigor and Relevance
Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois,
a Democrat, also made strengthening graduation standards one of his
top legislative priorities.
Under his High Standards, Better Schools plan, which passed the Senate
by 56-0 and the House by 104-10, students will have to take a third
year of math (including algebra and geometry), two years of science,
four years of English, and two years of writing intensive
courses to earn a diploma.
Oregon lawmakers similarly are considering boosting the number
of math and English courses needed to graduate.
In Mississippi, the state board of education in April passed a plan
that increases graduation requirements for all students, beginning with
9th graders in the fall of 2008. Under the plan, students will have
to complete four years each of English, math, science, and social studies
to earn a diploma, including two years of math beyond Algebra 1, at
least one laboratory-based science course, and economics.
The state has been revising the actual content of its high school curriculum
since 2004, when an independent study by the Washington-based Council
for Basic Education concluded that the curriculum lacked rigor.
South Carolina, in contrast, has not increased the credits needed to
graduate. Instead, the Education and Economic Development Act of 2005,
signed by Republican Gov. Mark Sanford in May, will reorganize the curriculum
around career clusters of study, such as health science,
information technology, and finance.
State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum said: This is
about helping students see the importance of the skills theyre
learning. If they can apply those skills to real-life situations, then
its more likely that they will buy into what our schools are trying
The law also requires the state to provide more guidance counselors
to work with students and their parents to explore career interests
and plan for the future. It calls for an average of 300 students per
counselor by the 2006-07 school year, instead of the current average
of 500 students.
Model Core Curricula
Other states are working on model high school curricula that provide
students with better preparation for work and college.
Legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa this month requires the state board of education to
devise a model core curriculum. The bill also sets a goal that 80 percent
of Iowa graduates, excluding special education students, successfully
complete a core curriculum by July 1, 2009.
The law requires districts to report publicly on the percent of graduates
who complete a core curriculum. Beginning in July 2006, every district
must develop a plan with each 8th grader for completing a core curriculum
in high school and report to the student and his or her parents each
year on progress.
There was some concern that we just, literally, didnt know
with certain kids what kinds of classes they were taking, said
Jeff Berger, a legislative liaison in the state department of education.
The Delaware education department also is working on a model curriculum
that would better prepare students for college or technical careers.
The state plans to assist interested districts in doing a gap
analysis to see how well their requirements align with the states
model curriculum, and it will provide professional development for teachers.
Delaware lawmakers also scrapped a three-tiered diploma system,
which was never implemented, after many parents voiced concern that
the lowest-level diploma, intended for students who did not pass state
tests, would have little value in the marketplace.
Instead, Delaware will offer two types of diplomas for the classes of
2006 and 2007: a standard diploma and a distinguished
diploma. In addition to meeting course requirements, the latter will
be based on a combination of state test scores and other academic indicators,
which are still being determined. Beginning with the class of 2008,
the state will offer only one type of diploma for all students.
Reprieve in Arizona
In contrast to the ratcheting up that is going on in many states, Arizona has temporarily lowered its graduation requirements.
In March, the state board of education reduced the passing scores for
the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, tests that students
must pass to graduate, beginning with the class of 2006.
Then in May, lawmakers voted to permit students scheduled to graduate
in 2006 and 2007 to apply grades of A, B, or C in some high school courses
toward their scores on the tests in reading, writing, and math. The
extra points can count for up to 25 percent of a students AIMS
Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for the state education department,
said this month that the specifics were still being worked out by the
state school board.
Tom Horne, Arizonas state superintendent of schools, opposed any
lowering of the requirements and has requested a state attorney generals
opinion on which coursework might apply. The state board was tentatively
scheduled to discuss the plan last week.
In California, bills to delay the high-stakes exit exam for students
in low-performing schools and to permit districts to give alternative
assessments have been diluted since their introduction.
Assembly Bill 1531 now would not authorize the use of any alternatives
objected to by the superintendent of public instruction. Senate Bill
517 would require the state to certify that students in low-performing
high schools had access to the minimal resources needed to pass the
tests, such as certified teachers, counselors, adequate textbooks, and
supplementary instruction. It also would require the state to study
alternatives to the exit test.
A half-century after he made his now-famous proposal to privatize the
nations education system, the economist Milton Friedman predicts
that his vision of vouchers for all will become a reality before another
50 years have passed.
I wont be around to see it, but I would be amazed if you
did not have an almost complete termination of the government running
schools, the Nobel laureate and senior research fellow at the
Hoover Institution at StanfordUniversity said in an interview last week. I would be surprised
if 50 years from now, you dont have universal vouchers.
Mr. Friedman, 92, made education policy history in 1955 when he called
for giving parents vouchers to spend on the public or private schools
of their choice in The Role of Government in Education,
an essay published in the journal Economics and the Public Interest.
Forty-one years later, he and his wife, Rose, formed the Milton and
Rose D. Friedman Foundation with a mission of promoting school
choice to improve, through competition, the quality of K-12 education
This week, the foundation is set to mark the 50th anniversary of Mr.
Friedmans proposal with a fund-raising gala in New York City on June 22 featuring former U.S. Secretary of State
Henry A. Kissinger and Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve
Board. Mr. and Mrs. Friedman are slated to take questions from the audience
on school choice.
Surveying the education landscape in an interview last week, the economist
and stalwart champion of the free market said he views the trend as
positive, even though school choice legislation suffered more defeats
than victories this year in state legislatures.
Still, he said, change is much too slow.
The number of students using vouchers and being schooled under
choice programs is larger this year than it was last, larger last year
than the year before that, and so on, he said. But its
still very small.
A Dead End?
Mr. Friedman has long argued that voucher programs targeting only poor
families would end up as poor programs. And so while he supports programs
like those in Milwaukee and the District of Columbia, which give vouchers to low-income families for tuition
at secular or religious private schools, he worries about the precedent
they have set.
If their example of restricting vouchers to low-income families
alone is followed, the whole movement will soon come to a dead end,
he said. If indeed the voucher program is viewed as a charity
program and not as an education program, it doesnt have a future.
In a case that many analysts see as important to that future, the Florida
Supreme Court heard arguments this month in a lawsuit contending that
a voucher program there violates the state constitutions ban on
aid to religious institutions. Mr. Friedman called such constitutional
restrictions, which are often called Blaine amendments, a very severe obstacle.
But he left it to others to decide if school choice proponents should
seek to have such provisions stricken from state constitutions. Its
a question of costs and probabilities, he said.
As for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of President
Bushs education agenda, Mr. Friedman sees the 3-year-old law as
a mixed bag.
While he favors the laws focus on standards and accountability,
he said was disappointed that it did not include Mr. Bushs original
proposal to allow children in underperforming schools to transfer to
private schools as well as other public schools.
You can only really have accountability if you have competition
and choice, Mr. Friedman said.
Most Americans believe that high school students arent being significantly
challenged by their studies, a national poll scheduled for release this
The survey by the Educational Testing Service found that only 9 percent
of the general public believes that high schools set high academic expectations
for students. Almost a third said students arent challenged at
all, while more than half believe that students are somewhat
The study, Ready for the Real World? Americans Speak on High School
Reform, polled 2,250 adults, including 371 parents of high school
students and a total of 666 parents of K-12 students. In addition, the
ETS separately surveyed 300 high school administrators and 300 high
The survey, set for release June 22, found that 5 percent of the general
public and 9 percent of the high school teachers surveyed believe high
schools are working very or pretty well, while
30 percent of the general public polled believe that major changes are
needed. A majority of those polled support a variety of measures to
improve high schools, including making sure teachers are experts in
the subjects they teach, requiring exit exams, and increasing taxes
to raise teachers salaries
Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart and Republican pollster David Winston
conducted the telephone survey for the ETS in April. The poll has a
margin of error of 3.1 percentage points among the general public; 3.8
for parents of K-12 students; 5.1 for parents of high school students;
and 5.66 for high school teachers.
The survey is the fifth annual poll of Americans attitudes toward
public education sponsored by the ETS, the nonprofit educational testing
and research organization in Princeton, N.J., that produces the SAT and other admissions and professional
Allan Rivlin, a lead researcher for the survey, said the findings show
that many Americans believe high school students should face high expectations
regardless of whether they plan to attend college. Americans want high
schools to make sure that students are prepared for whatever life
throws at them, he said.
The survey comes as a number of states are placing new academic demands
on high school students.
The poll also found that the publics awareness of the federal
No Child Left Behind Act has almost doubled, from 31 percent saying
they had heard either a great deal or a fair amount
about the law in 2001 to 61 percent this year. And although a growing
percentage of Americans have a favorable view of the 3-year-old law,
an overwhelming majority of high school teachers polled hold unfavorable
opinions about it.
Almost half of the general public, or 42 percent, support applying the
laws strategies to raise standards and increase accountability
at the high school level. A majority of the high school teachers polled
oppose such a move.
Mr. Rivlin, who also is a senior vice president for Hart Research in
Washington, noted that the public is still divided about the No
Child Left Behind Act. Although more Americans appear to be in favor
of the law, he said, significant opposition remains, and many people
continue to be unaware of what the legislation means.
Indeed, 64 percent of the members of the general public and 88 percent
of the teachers surveyed believe that the broader society
is the chief cause of problems facing high schools. The public also
points to the scarcity of resources, lack of student preparedness, and
low academic standards.
Most parents polled said that a high school education should prepare
students to continue their educations in college, technical, or a trade
Parents, teachers, and administrators favor a comprehensive and rigorous
academic foundation that all students should complete in high school.
Ninety-five percent of the members of the general public surveyed support
at least one year of computer science, 85 percent favor four years of
English, and 81 percent three years of history and civics. Seventy-three
percent back four years of mathematics, and 69 percent support three
years of science.
Yet, 64 percent of the general public, and 70 percent of teachers, support
placing a greater emphasis on real-world learning by encouraging
student participation in work-study programs, community service, and
vocational courses to improve high schools.
In addition, 57 percent of the general public and 64 percent of the
teachers surveyed believe that seniors should be allowed to spend less
time in class if they qualify to take part in work-study and job-training
programs, or if they enroll in college classes.
Naomi G. Housman, the director of the National High School Alliance
at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, said the polls findings indicate that Americans
would like to see high schools be more flexible in how they educate
Were looking at helping every student reach their maximum
potential in a way that is going to work for [each] student, she
said, adding that she sees a growing awareness that all students need
rigorous coursework and hands-on learning experiences to be successful
in college and at work.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal hasnt yet found
the kind of high-level backing he wants for his planned legal challenge
to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but he insisted last week that
he remains absolutely committed to filing the threatened
Mr. Blumenthal captured national attention when he announced in early
April that Connecticut would become the first state to sue the U.S. Department
of Education over its implementation of the NCLB law.
The suit, which he said at the time was imminent, would
argue that the department was illegally imposing unfunded mandates on
the state, in violation of a provision of the law itself.
Since then, the suit has not materialized, and no other state has announced
that it will team up with Connecticut, as Mr. Blumenthal had hoped. And his own states board of education
and legislature have not yet signed on.
We have no self-imposed deadline for filing suit, the elected
Democrat said by e-mail last week. But he added: As long as the
federal government insists on imposing any unfunded mandates under the
No Child Left Behind Act, we plan to take legal action.
In the meantime, Connecticut state Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg and
members of her staff are negotiating with the federal department over
the states requests for waivers of some of the laws requirements,
most notably in testing.
Mr. Blumenthal said that he was awaiting the outcome of a revised waiver
request that the state submitted May 27, but that he doubted it would
head off a lawsuit.
Ms. Sternberg said in an interview last week that as talks between her
department and the federal agency have dragged on, her initial reluctance
to support legal action has waned.
Among other requests, the state has proposed not doing full-blown state-level
testing of students in grades 3, 5, and 7, even though the federal law
requires such testing each year in grades 3-8, and one grade of high
Ive been trying and trying and trying to point toward what
I believe are rational requests, based on research, and Ive been
frustrated by the lack of flexibility, Ms. Sternberg said. Maybe
it has to be vetted out in a different venue, and maybe that venue has
to be the courts.
Not all of Ms. Sternbergs bosses feel the same. The state board
of education considered a resolution to endorse Mr. Blumenthals
suit, but tabled it June 1 because the boards eight sitting members
were evenly split. The board has one vacancy.
Allan Taylor, the boards chairman, said last week that reasons
for wanting to hold off included the hope that the state-federal talks
would pan out and the fear that the federal Department of Education
would retaliate against the state.
Still, Mr. Taylor said the board backs Ms. Sternbergs stance against
what she calls dumbing down Connecticuts testing regimen. The testing program, administered
in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10, features a costly writing component that
federal officials say goes beyond NCLB requirements.
Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Education Department, said last
week that, as it prepares a response to the May 27 letter, agency officials
continue to converse directly with the state to address its alarming
achievement gap, which is among the largest in the nation.
Meanwhile, a bill to endorse Mr. Blumenthals suit cleared the
state Senate June 2. But it died when the House failed to take it up
before the regular session ended six days later. Some supporters say
they hope to resurrect the bill in a special budget-related session
slated to start this week. But Laurence C. Grotheer, the press secretary
to Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, a Democrat and the sponsor of the Senate bill,
said he would be very surprised if the measure was revived this year.
Very Serious Matter
Still, the attorney general said last week that he would probably not
file suit until after the special session. It is important to
provide an opportunity to other state officials to support and join
this important court battle, he said.
After consulting with Mr. Blumenthals office, the Connecticut
Association of Public School Superintendents asked local schools chiefs
on June 13 to seek votes on endorsing the lawsuit from their boards
of education. As of June 16, five of the states 168 local boards
had done so, and more were expected to follow suit, said David H. Larson,
the associations executive director.
Mr. Blumenthal is also seeking allies beyond Connecticut, and last week said other states are actively
considering joining the suit. He added that published reports
indicate that at least 15 states are investigating the matter.
Among those hoping that more states will jump in is Rosemary Coyle,
the president of the Connecticut affiliate of the National Education Association. The
Connecticut Education Association is among nine NEA state affiliates
that are part of a federal lawsuit the 2.7 million-member teachers
union filed in April against U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
over the No Child Left Behind law.
The more that states look at the law and address the issues, the
better chances we have to change the things that we have in the law
that need to be changed, Ms. Coyle said, adding that she didnt
mind Mr. Blumenthals delay in filing suit.
You have to take whatever time is necessary, she said. This
is a very serious matter.
The Department of Education has released proposed regulations for the
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that seek to clarify the
rules on highly qualified special education teachers, identification
of students with learning disabilities, and the discipline of students
in special education.
The department released the text of the proposed rules on its Web site
June 10, leaving educators and advocates in the field a week to cram
before officials took to the road for a series of public hearings on
the proposed rules.
The clock will not start ticking on the 75-day comment period until
the rules are published in the Federal Register, which was expected
by early this week. That would give interested parties until some time
in September to make comments. Education Department officials say their
goal is to release final regulations by December.
Many observers said last week they were still digesting the proposed
rules, which totaled a hefty 650 double-spaced pages in the version
posted on the departments Web site. However, some credited the
department for producing proposed rules faster than the last time around,
which was two years after the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA. Congress
approved the latest version of the main special education law in November.
Were certainly pleased the department is acting quickly
to implement the law, said Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for Republicans
on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
My hats off to them, said Bruce Hunter, the chief
lobbyist for the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of School
Administrators. To get the [proposed regulations] out this fast
is a massive feat.
Troy R. Justesen, the acting director of the Education Departments
office of special education programs, said the department was seeking
feedback on several issues, among them the provisions for determining
highly qualified teachers under the IDEA, and the changes
in responsibility for students with special education needs who are
placed in private schools by their parents.
The department would also like comments on the part of the regulations
intended to help schools determine whether students have learning disabilities.
The revised IDEA requires that special education teachers be highly
qualified in every subject they teach, which has been a concern for
some teachers who instruct students in more than one subject.
Another provision of the law says that a school district must provide
some special education services to out-of-district students who attend
private schools within that district. The provision is a change from
the previous version of the law, which said that a district was responsible
only for students who lived in the district.
Mr. Justesen, who said his team had been working on the regulations
seven days a week since late December, said he believes the proposed
rules do a good job of hewing to the wishes of the drafters of the law.
It isnt my role to try and write law, he said. My
role is to explain and make useful what the president and Congress wanted
The development of the proposed regulations was aided by an unusual
but successful series of informal public meetings sponsored by the Education
Department, which netted thousands of comments, Mr. Justesen said.
That had never been done before, and I think it turned out well,
he said. Sometimes we would be thinking something was one way,
and as soon as we got outside the [Capital] Beltway, we found out we
were completely wrong.
Mr. Hunter of the AASA, who had read the proposed rules through at least
once, said he was pleased to see that they appeared to match in large
part the language of the reauthorized IDEA approved by Congress.
However, the proposed rules maintains a state complaint procedure that
Mr. Hunter said was part of the 1999 regulations but is not reflected
in the IDEA statute itself. The complaint procedure makes extra work
for school districts, he said.
The lawyers apparently found some legal rationale to bring it
forward, he said.
Christopher P. Borreca, a Houston lawyer who represents school districts
in special education matters, said he had not reviewed the entire set
of proposed regulations, but he took issue with one that says a child
in special education has had a change in school placement under the
IDEA if there have been a series of short-term removals from the classroom
that represent a pattern.
I dont think theres a statutory basis for this,
Mr. Borreca said. Its an attempt to placate interest groups
who were concerned that school districts would abuse the provisions
that were in the law.
But Janeen Steel, the director of the WesternLawCenter for Disability Rights Learning Rights Project,
said she would be looking for such protections when she reviewed the
regulations. The project, based in Los
teaches parents their rights under the IDEA and represents parents in
special education disputes.
The reauthorized IDEA requires districts and parents to engage in informal
efforts to resolve problems before they go to formal due-process hearings.
Ms. Steel said she hopes the regulations make it clear that someone
in power has to be a part of those informal meetings. Too often, she
said, a meeting is held, but any potential solutions are deferred.
No ones willing to make decisions, Ms. Steel said.
Its not supposed to happen that way.
The Education Departments first hearing on the proposed regulations
was scheduled for late last week in Nashville, Tenn. The next was scheduled for June 22 in Sacramento, Calif.
HillMissionaryBaptistChurch began tutoring students under the No Child left Behind
Act three years ago, Bible readings were a common part of its study
Though the Providence, Ky., church believes strongly in its religious mission,
now that it is helping students in reading and math under the federal
education law, its tutoring is purely secular.
Hill is one of an increasing number of faith-based organizations
to become providers of supplemental educational services under the law.
Of endeavors funded by the Department of Education, supplemental services
has attracted the largest number of religious groups, Nina S. Rees,
the assistant deputy secretary for the departments office of innovation
and improvement, said in a June 2 speech in Baltimore.
Samara Yudof, a department spokeswoman, added that when it comes to
tutoring, historically, many faith-based and community organizations
have provided these services at their own expense and are well suited
to the program.
Seminars Have Paid Off
Since 2001, when President Bush formed the White House Center for Faith-Based
and Community Initiatives, with offshoots in agencies including the
Education Department, the administration has pushed to increase the
participation of religious organizations in federal programs. Mr. Bush
has said such groups are well equipped to provide community services
such as drug counseling and tutoring, but that traditionally they had
not been encouraged to apply for federal funding.
Since then, the Education Departments faith-based office has sponsored
seminars nationwide to encourage religious groups to dip their toes
into the federal grant pool. The efforts have paid off.
In January 2003, only 2 percent of the 771 NCLB supplemental-services
providers on state-approved lists were faith-based organizations. By
December 2004, the proportion had increased to 15 percent, Ms. Yudof
Under the law, students in Title I schools that have not met achievement
goals after two years are permitted to transfer to other public schools.
They are eligible for free tutoring after their schools have failed
to make adequate progress for three years straight.
To provide tutoring services, faith-based groups must agree to avoid
what the law calls inherently religious activities during
such sessions, and must provide the tutoring to students regardless
of their religious beliefs. Groups can still provide tutoring within
a church or other religious building.
HillMissionaryBaptistChurch hasnt found the rules hard to comply with, said
Mona Simms, the director of the Kentucky
churchs tutoring program. While the church was tutoring students
in the community for six years before getting involved in the federal
program, Ms. Simms trained her staff to make sure they understood the
new boundaries, she said. Her program served about 35 students under
the No Child Left Behind law this past school year.
Our main goal is to insist that the kids learn, Ms. Simms
said. In fact, it was the local, 450-student Providence
school district that approached the church and asked it to become a
supplemental-services provider, she said.
She said that many of the students who come to the church for tutoring
do often wind up there on Sundays for religious services. And others
just soak up a dose of respectful behavior.
Its kind of like a subliminal message, she said.
That message makes some uncomfortable. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, said while Education Department rules
say overt religiosity is prohibited in tutoring programs, the Bush administrations
backing of faith-based groups communicates something different.
This can be a very convenient way for religious organizations
to get access to a large number of new potential churchgoers,
Mr. Lynn said. Sometimes a wink is almost as powerful as a memo that says
its OK to try to convert these kids.
Parents dont have to choose faith-based providers of tutoring
under the federal law. Each state maintains a list of approved providers
that includes both faith-based and secular organizations. A provider
receives money only after a parent has chosen it.
The supplemental-services program has succeeded in attracting faith-based
groups, some of which have been reluctant to move into the federal arena,
where funding has strings attached.
Many churches are already providing tutoring to students and have relationships
with families in the community, said the Rev. David W. Craig, the pastor
at MountPilgrimMissionaryBaptistChurch in Fairfield, Ala.
His church was not put off by having to set its religious mission aside
If we get them up to par with their reading and math, then they
can read the Bible on their own, he said. That was our goal.
But Steven Pines, the executive director of the Education Industry Association,
a Potomac, Md.-based group that represents for-profit education
companies, including those that provide supplemental services under
the No Child Left Behind Act, said while faith-based groups may be well
positioned to forge relationships with schools and students, it doesnt
mean theyre great education providers.
At the end of the day, its all about delivering educational
gains, irregardless of your tax status or your mission,
For the Bresee Foundation, a Los Angeles-based group affiliated with
the First Church of the Nazarene there, part of the reason it sought
state approval to tutor under the No Child Left Behind Act was its belief
in the federal law, which emphasizes holding schools accountable for
their students academic progress.
We appreciate the federal government taking a stand to help children,
said Kynna N. Wright, the foundations executive director.
The foundation is in its second year as a supplemental-services provider
and tutors about 150 students. But the need to separate religion from
tutoring hasnt changed the groups mission, she added.
We believe in being the hands of God and having the compassion
of God, Ms. Wright said. Its part of what we do every
day. TOP OF PAGE
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