July 8 - 15, 2005
TOP OF PAGE
group goes after Bushs No Child Left Behind law /
Salt Creek schools
probed / Chicago Tribune
Pension critics: Fix school funding / Decatur Herald & Review
Schools to offer uniform vouchers /
major topic for NEA / Pantagraph
Rauschenberger concerned about Illinois' schools / Pantagraph
SICA dispute back in mediation / Northwest Indiana Times
CPS considers first all-boys public schools in 30
years / Chicago Sun-Times
Glenbard may offer installment plan for books / Chicago Tribune
get a boost / Chicago Tribune
in bid for charters / Chicago Tribune
USF joins high
school education program / Herald News
file suit against district / Southern Illinoisan
never intended to remedy school financing / Rockford Register
School Reform Moves to the Suburbs / New York Times
Teachers would commit to job in exchange for free
rent / Washington Post
school to open in Vail / Arizona Daily Star
See You in the Fall / New York Times
Even more of
Detroit's schools could close as 10,000 kids leave / Detroit
leaves three school custodians out of work / Boston Globe
Don't Leave 'No Child' Act Behind / Christian Science Monitor
Utah Snubs No Child Left Behind / All Headline News
is alive and well,' tests show / Chicago Sun-Times
manager approved / Times-Picayune (LA)
try to attract more male teachers / CNN.com
TOP OF PAGE
goes after Bushs No Child Left Behind law
By Molly Brown, Medill News Service, 7/8/05
A group of teachers can be a tough crowd.
At a recent Golden Apple Awards ceremony to recognize outstanding teachers,
the emcee had a hard time convincing the audience to show enthusiasm.
After several failed attempts to rouse the group, he finally cracked
a joke: "I have to tell you, I've just seen the latest news release
and No Child Left Behind has been left behind!"
The place erupted with applause and cheers, according to Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon,
a professor at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy. "I've never heard of any teacher
in the trenches who supports No Child Left Behind," she said.
A drastic overhaul to the public education system, the federal No Child
Left Behind Act of 2002 was one of President George W. Bush's biggest
selling points during his 2000 campaign. Conservatives wanted more testing
and accountability in the country's flailing public schools. Under the
legislation, the bottom line for local school districts is improve test
scores or lose federal dollars.
But critics of the law believe the federal government unfairly added
more responsibility to local schools without providing the money to
get the job done. In April, the National Education Association and several
school districts filed the first national lawsuit against the U.S. Department
of Education and Secretary Margaret Spellings, charging the government
with creating an unconstitutional, unfunded mandate.
The Illinois Education Association is one of 10 NEA chapters and nine
school districts nationwide to join the case.
According to the lawsuit, Illinois
was shortchanged by $380 million in 2005 and will receive $566 million
less than it needs to meet the No Child Left Behind requirements in
"We want people to understand that we support the goal of No Child
Left Behind," said Charles McBarron, director of communications
for the Illinois Education Association. "We just strongly believe
if you're going to regulate, you need to pay for the mandates you hand
Several states also have challenged No Child Left Behind requirements.
Utah passed a law earlier this year allowing schools to ignore
federal education mandates. In doing so, it will sacrifice $76 million
in federal education funds. Connecticut has threatened to sue the education department for reasons
similar to the NEA lawsuit, and more than 30 other states have requested
some leniency in meeting the law's requirements.
Haroutunian-Gordon and others predict that more states, organizations
and school districts will file lawsuits, reject federal funds or use
other means to buck No Child Left Behind requirements by next year.
Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington,
D.C.-based watchdog group, agreed that the NEA lawsuit and other state
initiatives are increasing pressure on the federal government.
"It's fair to be demanding as long as they provide the tools to
meet those demands," he said. "No company would redesign a
sales line without retraining everyone, creating a new marketing campaign
or investing money in the changes."
Based on student testing during the 2002-2003 school year, 350 Chicago schools were identified as needing improvement -- that
is, the number of students meeting the No Child Left Behind's math and
reading goals was too low.
According to Xavier Botana, director of Chicago's No Child Left Behind office, those numbers do not
always reflect what is happening in the schools.
He said of the 350 underperforming schools, 75 percent made gains and
100 schools made significant gains compared to the previous year.
About 10 percent of the city's public school funding comes from federal
money. That amount increased by 17 percent, or $40 million, since No
Child Left Behind was passed. While Botana acknowledged it is a significant
increase, he added, "We've been very clear that this increase is
not enough. We consider No Child Left Behind to be an unfunded mandate."
Although the Chicago Public
as well as the state, probably will not file any lawsuits like the NEA's,
Botana says it's an effective way to get attention.
Cheri Pierson Yecke, a former senior official at the Department of Education
under the Bush administration and a No Child Left Behind advocate from
Minnesota, said although some consider the law to be an underfunded
mandate, it's up to individual states whether to participate. Choosing
not to participate means giving up money.
"What is No Child asking schools to do that they aren't already
doing?" Yecke asked. "If Minnesota opted out, we'd still test students. We'd still hold
them accountable. What would we gain by giving up $200 million?"
According to Yecke, states and schools were never held accountable before
the law, and she contends the public is misinformed about how No Child
Left Behind works.
But she does agree there is room for improvement. Yecke said testing
needs to show students' improvements from one school year to the next,
and not compare them to previous groups of students. She also recommends
that students with disabilities be measured differently.
Those suggestions may make it into the new and improved No Child Left
Behind law. In April, Spellings announced a more workable, "common
sense" approach and said she was open to suggestions for change.
Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Becky Watts said flexibility
"We feel working with [federal officials] . . . is the better way
to get the law changed," she said.
In March, the Center on Education Policy released the first comprehensive
report on the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the study, 36 states
and at least 72 percent of school districts -- including the Chicago public schools contend that test scores are improving
and performance gaps between whites and minorities are closing.
But the report also reveals that states and school districts do not
have enough money to reach all schools. Forty states report that inadequate
funding poses a "serious or moderate challenge" to implementing
No Child Left Behind's standards due to cutbacks in teacher recruiting
and the additional pressure teachers face when helping students with
special language needs.
In order to meet guidelines to receive federal funding, more schools
are changing their curriculum to emphasize math and reading skills and
de-emphasizing social studies and science because No Child Left Behind
does not test those subjects. That's a move teachers think will hurt
students' cognitive skills in the long run, according to the center.
A majority of school districts tagged as needing improvement received
less federal funding in the 2004-2005 school year than the previous
year. While the overall federal education budget grew slightly in 2004-2005,
Bush's 2006 budget
is planning to make cuts.
Gail Sunderman, who studies No Child Left Behind for Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, said the law's mandates are
"unreasonable or very difficult for schools to implement."
"The mechanisms on how schools are identified for improvement underserves
low income and minority students," she said.
According to Sunderman, No Child Left Behind is based more on ideology
than actual research. Two of its biggest components supplemental
tutoring and annual testing have no supporting research that
demonstrates they actually improve student performance. In fact, she
said, there is evidence to the contrary.
"Teaching [students to take] the test really narrows the curriculum,"
And she said she does not expect improvement any time soon.
"The department of education has been very inflexible and very
punitive," Sunderman said. "Spellings has talked about being
more flexible, but I haven't seen it."
Sunderman and Northwestern University's Haroutunian-Gordon support the NEA's lawsuit. Both
say it is a positive step to changing an unfair law.
"The real issue here is, are these expectations realistic for a
given group of students?" said Haroutunian-Gordon. "We've
learned from our finest researchers that serious reform comes from within
schools, not from the outside.
"The more protests about this thing, the better.
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Salt Creek schools
State investigating alleged misspending by the tiny district
By Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune staff reporter, 7/10/05
Strapped for cash and under attack by parents and teachers, tiny Salt Creek School
48 in DuPage County is under investigation by the Illinois attorney general's office over allegations of misspending
The elementary school district, based in Villa Park, recently received subpoenas, and attorney general's staff members visited
Friday to interview employees, Supt. Mary Summers said.
The turmoil puts the district--which operates three schools, in Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace and Villa Park--in the spotlight with some of the most unusual school budget troubles
Not only is it rare for the attorney general's office to investigate
local school finances, it is a surprise for such a wealthy district
to be in a financial pinch.
Salt Creek is the fourth-richest district in the state, flush with tax
revenue from the upscale Oak Brook shopping area. It has the second-lowest
school tax rate in Illinois and spent $12,653 per pupil in 2004 on some 550students,
far higher than the state average.
Records submitted to the attorney general's office indicate that the
district tapped three special purpose grants--including a Medicaid account
for low-income disabled students--to pay about $20,000 in expenses for
travel to Orlando, San Diego,
Phoenix and other locations.
Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan's office declined to comment.
Summers initially told the Tribune that to her knowledge, Medicaid money
was never used for the trips--it was listed in the records as a possible
way to pay for travel expenses. She later said she believed the account
used to help pay for the trips was mislabeled as a Medicaid account.
Tim Costello, a physical education teacher in Salt Creek and former
president of the local teachers union, called that explanation "totally
Costello said he contacted the attorney general's office last fall with
allegations of improper spending and turned over district credit-card
statements obtained through state Freedom of Information laws.
School records also show that since 2002, the district has been borrowing
heavily to pay bills, slashing expenses and imploring voters for more
money. Taxpayers have turned down five referendum proposals since March
Since then, the district has cut at least a dozen teachers and staff
members; shelved summer school and gifted programs and eliminated or
cut back foreign language, drama, art, computer and other classes.
The cherished 53-year-old band and orchestra program was to be eliminated
in the upcoming school year, but school officials agreed last month
to try to salvage some of it. Meanwhile, class sizes and school fees
have been rising, and test scores have declined.
"They've damaged the community with the things they've done,"
said Linda Arnold, one of nearly 100 parents and residents who spoke
at a rancorous school board meeting last month.
In the span of 2 1/2 hours, residents berated board members and Summers
for cutting programs as well as launching a $4 million school repair
project that not all said was necessary.
"I feel the board has acted irrationally and irresponsibly,"
said Sharon Doyle, who attended Salt Creek schools as a child and now
has three children enrolled.
When the school board moved to end public discussion, some audience
members shouted in protest. "What exactly are you afraid of if
you let us speak," one woman yelled.
School Board President Richard Auskalnis told the Tribune last week
that the situation is chaotic and no wrongdoing has occurred.
The attorney general's investigation doesn't bother him, "because
they're not going to find anything," he said.
Summers and Auskalnis attribute the investigation to a disgruntled teachers
union--base pay for teachers has been frozen for four years--and the
two sides are now in difficult contract negotiations.
A statewide database of Illinois
teacher pay shows that the average salary of Salt Creek teachers was
$63,065 in 2003-04, higher than all but a handful of elementary districts
in the state.
Costello says union members agreed to the pay freeze because of the
district's financial difficulties. He and another teacher, Peter Lograsso,
went to the attorney general only after teachers complained about board
and administrator spending and the district's decline.
"It has been a complete downward spiral into the toilet,"
said Lograsso, a music teacher and orchestra director who lost his job
at the end of the school year.
The district's financial problems didn't surface overnight, according
to reports and correspondence from auditors.
The auditors noted overspending in June 1998, saying district revenues
grew by less than 5 percent that year, while expenditures increased
by more than 12 percent.
In March 1999, the district borrowed about $2 million for school improvements
using "certificates of participation," considered a riskier
method of financing than bonds approved by voters. That's because the
money is repaid from regular revenues rather than extra tax dollars
approved for a project.
Since then, Salt Creek has been spending about $170,000 a year from
its education fund for teacher salaries to repay the money.
In June 2000, auditors also noted the district was approving some purchase
orders through oral rather than written approvals, and that stronger
controls were needed to prevent unauthorized expenditures. That same
year, the district spent $2.26 million more than its revenues, and overspent
the next two years as well.
Summers said the 2002 budget was already done by the time she got to
the district, and she realized she needed to bring spending in line.
"I knew when I came in I was going to have to be a change agent,"
Though the district ended the 2003 and 2004 years in the black, it had
also been borrowing against future tax collections to make ends meet.
For example, it borrowed $1.5 million in both 2003 and 2004 to cover
Despite the financial troubles, Summers and board members continued
to travel, records submitted to the attorney general's office show.
While the district was preparing to ask voters for a tax increase in
March 2002, Summers traveled to San Diego
in February 2002 for an American Association of School Administrators
After a second referendum proposal was defeated in November 2002, Summers
traveled to New
for another AASA conference. After a third referendum proposal was defeated
in April 2003, Summers and some board members attended the National
School Boards Association conference in San Francisco.
After a fourth referendum proposal was defeated in March 2004, Summers
and at least two board members went to Orlando for the National School Boards Association conference.
Summers said her contract allowed her to travel to conferences. Beginning
next school year, she said, neither she nor board members would travel
out of state using district dollars.
Records submitted to the attorney general's office indicate that the
district tapped into three special-purpose funds for the travel: Safe
to Learn grants for school safety projects; a state block grant for
educational improvement and school safety programs; and Medicaid dollars
reimbursed to districts for serving low-income special education students.
Summers said the Safe to Learn grants were used because the district's
grant application specified that some of the money would be used for
professional development. Staff at the Illinois Violence Prevention
Authority, which distributed the grants, said the money could be used
for conferences related to the grant's purpose.
Districts have flexibility in using the state block grant money, and
the Illinois State Board of Education last fall said it did not believe
Salt Creek misused any of those funds when its staff reviewed a complaint
by the teachers union. In any case, Summers said last week that the
block grant money was not used for an Orlando conference that the union complained about.
She also said Medicaid money didn't pay for conferences, even though
that account is listed on forms that appear to outline which funds were
used to pay for trips.
Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Becky Watts said Medicaid
money generally is used for services to low-income special education
students, but it also can be used for activities supporting the administration
of special education programs.
Whether money was used improperly would have to be determined on a case-by-case
basis, she said.
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Pension critics: Fix school funding
Valerie Wells, Decatur Herald & Review, 7/10/05
DECATUR - The real problem with the state's pension fund reform
isn't with the pension itself.
The problem is with how schools are funded, said Alida Graham, president
of the Decatur Education Association.
"(Pension reform) does help to curtail some of the abuses that
were going on in specific areas of the system," Graham said, "but
it still really amplifies what has not been done over the long term
and that is true school funding reform, which includes fully funding
the pension plan."
Critics of the reform say the pension fund hasn't been fully funded
for more than 30 years, and the legislature voted to take a two-year
break from funding this year's reform. That will only make a bad situation
worse, said John Day, spokesman for the Teachers Retirement System.
"It's a major step backward from the 50-year funding plan,"
In 1995, legislators prepared a 50-year plan to get state pensions fully
funded incrementally to try to correct the shortfall that had developed
over the previous 35 years. State pension benefits are guaranteed by
the Illinois constitution and must be paid, even if other funds suffer
to provide the money.
"We have far less in assets than we have in benefit obligations,"
Day said. "It's a huge burden overhanging future generations. The
benefits are guaranteed, and the day of reckoning will come."
Day said he doesn't want retirees to worry that their pension payments
won't be made; they will. The fund has $34 billion and the annual payout
is a bit more than $2.5 billion. But as more teachers retire and funding
from the state fails to keep up with payments as it has in the past,
eventually the fund won't be able to bear the financial burden.
"The state cannot afford to be on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis,"
Day said. "They need to be working towards fully funding the retirement
system. There's no two ways about it."
The state, Day said, is paying roughly 62 cents on the dollar for benefits
that teachers have already earned.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, calls the pension reform act "a
disastrous public policy move."
"There are two critical points in this (state) budget," Mitchell
said. "One was stealing from the pension system. The second part
was we have funds. The alternative fuel fund, $2 million to promote
ethanol. They took a million (dollars) from that fund to roll into the
general revenue fund - 160-some funds they did that to. Already one
court said you can't do that with workmen's compensation. It was established
with a purpose, not to subsidize the state treasury."
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration contends that the entire package
will save the state $30 billion over 40 years.
The reforms include a moratorium on benefit increases unless extra money
can be generated. In the meantime, a task force of legislators and unions
will look into the future of benefit increases.
End-of-career payouts to school teachers would be capped at 6 percent.
If schools want to dole out more, the additional cost would have to
be picked up by the local district.
Republicans believe the proposal could take more than $3 billion from
the state's retirement system for the next four to five years.
Mitchell said he was present when representatives from the three state
pension systems testified: the teachers, university and state employees.
All three, he said, objected to the proposed reforms.
"We had a $1.2 billion deficit," he said. "They spent
an additional billion dollars. When you have a budget shortfall in your
household, do you spend more money?"
Illinois citizens, he said, are smart enough to know downstate
is getting "the short end of the stick."
"We've got example after example of favoritism to the city of Chicago," he said.
Chicago's teacher retirement system is 90 percent funded, he
said, and they're getting an additional $75 million. Chicago State University is getting more funding this year, while Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University's budgets remain the same as last year.
"It's bad public policy, and that's why I feel strongly about it,"
Mitchell said. "In 2006 and 2007 more schools will be on the (financial)
watch list. We have no capital program this year. No roads will be built
and the roads will go to hell.
"You don't like to tell people 'no,' but you have to be candid
and say we have a fiscal problem. People are realistic enough to understand
there's no free lunch in this world."
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Schools to offer uniform vouchers
Will help students meet new dress code
Ramona Curtis, Bellevillle News-Democrat, 7/12/05
BELLEVILLE - Students who require financial assistance to meet
District 201's new school uniform policy will be given vouchers for
two uniforms from participating metro-east businesses.
Under the plan, presented Monday by district business manager Darcy
Benway during a special dress code committee meeting, students who meet
guidelines for free and reduced lunches will qualify for the assistance.
Benway estimates that about 1,200 students would qualify.
State law requires public school districts to help low-income students
meet school uniform policies. However, the district is making efforts
to avoid using school funds.
During the meeting Monday, administrators discussed grants that would
help the district provide uniforms to qualifying students. Benway said
grant applications have been submitted to Target, Wal-Mart and Pepsi.
The Rev. Darrell Coons, pastor of Hope Church in Belleville, said his congregation has collected $725 to go toward
providing school uniforms. He mailed letters to 58 other area congregations
June 21 to request donations but has not yet received any replies, he
During the meeting, parent Theresa Alwood, who opposes the new policy,
said she was concerned with the cost of clothing her two children. She
fears her tax dollars will ultimately be used to clothe other students.
"When poor people can't afford it, taxpayers are going to be accountable,"
Alwood said. "You're not going to bulldoze my pocketbook because
you can't enforce the dress code you already had."
Alwood was among more than 20 people who attended. Many spoke against
the policy, which was approved by the board in March.
Student Amanda Gaston said she originally opposed the policy but now
thinks it is needed because many students did not adhere to the dress
code that was in place.
"I'm a girl and I love to shop, but we brought this on ourselves,"
Amanda said. "This is a punishment for not following the dress
Lillian Schneider said she was able to find clothing at a local department
store for her son, who attends Belleville East. She spent about $70
for four shirts and three pairs of pants. She suggested the community
start a recycling program so students who have outgrown their uniforms
can make them available to others.
Community members also sought clarification on the new policy. One parent
wanted to know why girls are allowed to wear capri pants and skirts
but boys are not allowed to wear shorts.
"I have two sons, and my sons wear shorts 10 out of 12 months,"
said Roger Sigmund, who also works for the district. "How come
shorts aren't being allowed? If you can make (length) limits on skirts
and dresses on girls, why not let the boys' shorts come down the knee?"
Committee chairman Allen Scharf said the committee would deliberate
on the issue.
Darlene Schaefer said she is concerned her two children will face disciplinary
action over a policy she considers vague.
"We don't know what's allowable until someone comes in and says
it's not," Schaefer said. "If you don't know, you have to
give some flexibility in terms of sending them home the first week or
the first month until this can be ironed out."
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major topic for NEA / Pantagraph
By Phyllis Coulter, Pantagraph, 7/12/05
NORMAL - The No Child Left Behind Act discriminates against
special-education students and may skew education toward subjects on
standardized tests, educators heard at the latest National Education
The federal education reform law was one topic discussed last week among
9,000 delegates gathered in Los
to talk about the issues affecting education.
The Representatives Assembly of the National Education Association meeting
also focused on what the NEA sees as inadequate school funding.
"I see it as a national crisis," said Vickie Mahrt, president
of the union chapter at the Normal-based Unit 5 school district, which
has about 800 members. "Quality public education is a core of our
Teachers expressed concern when special-education students are tested
the same way as mainstream students. What makes matters worse, they
said, is schools can be penalized and even lose funding if those students
don't reach annual progress standards based on those tests.
Mahrt, a special-education teacher and a member of the Illinois Education
Association board of directors, said teachers want to help special-education
students achieve the highest goals, but changes are needed in how they
Nancy Miller of rural Bloomington, a teacher at Sheridan Elementary
who will teach at Irving Elementary
in Bloomington this fall, agreed that the issue of testing special-education
students was a top priority.
NEA members also discussed fears that teachers may concentrate too much
on reading, writing, science, math and social studies because those
are subjects on the test.
"That's not a rich learning environment," Mahrt said. "We
believe there are lots of things that are part of a well-rounded education.
These include foreign language, music, visual arts and physical education."
The discussions will be followed up with lobbying at the national level
and informing members about the issues, Mahrt said.
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Rauschenberger concerned about Illinois' schools
Mary Ann Ford, Pantagraph, 7/13/05
BLOOMINGTON -- The state's education and health-care systems need
to be restructured and the business climate improved, State Sen. Steve
Rauschenberger said Tuesday.
"We're running Harry Truman's school system," Rauschenberger,
a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for governor next
year, told The Pantagraph's Editorial Board on Tuesday.
"We need to bring people to the table and decide what's good for
the kids," he said.
The system -- built around a time when one parent usually was home to
serve children lunch -- now needs to "reflect the stress and challenge
That doesn't necessarily mean an influx of more money, he said. Rauschenberger
said the state should go with what it knows: Elementary classes should
be small while high school classes can be larger and foreign languages
are best introduced at the elementary level.
He said he believes school resources also can work as community resources
and the state should take a hard look at the number of schools systems
in the state.
Rauschenberger said about half of the more than 800 school districts
in the state have less than 600 students and can't provide the needed
"Change is not easy," he said. "We need a governor exerting
But the school system isn't the only thing that needs change, he said.
Rauschenberger said the state needs a better health-care system.
In his hometown of Elgin, for instance, there are two hospitals across the street
from each other offering the same services but neither are operating
"We (the United States) have the best system, but we need to make it more rational,"
he said. "There's too much inpatient capacity."
Community hospitals might change from inpatient services to urgent-care
centers, or hospitals could consolidate with financial help from the
state, he said.
Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements need to change as well, he said,
noting currently the procedure of inserting a stent is reimbursed at
a higher rate than open-heart surgery.
"The state also needs to evaluate why we're 47th in the nation
to recover from the recession," Rauschenberger said.
While Illinois has rich soil, more Interstate highways than other states
and good public and private university systems, it doesn't have a friendly
business climate, he said.
"We're not making Illinois
a destination place," he said.
He blames the problem on the Blagojevich administration from Chicago that "doesn't care about the interests of other
parts of the state."
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SICA dispute back in mediation
Mike Clark, Northwest
Indiana Times, 7/13/05
Looks like the SICA split hasn't been finalized after all.
After the District 228 school board rejected a compromise proposal that
would have ended the impasse, the 19 school districts that formerly
comprised SICA have resumed talks aimed at reaching a new breakup plan.
District 228 includes Oak Forest, Hillcrest, Bremen and Tinley Park high schools.
"The parties are ... continuing to mediate in an effort to reach
a solution agreeable to all," Illinois State Board of Education
spokesperson Becky Watts wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.
The dispute dates back to last fall, when SICA schools approved a reorganization
that split schools into three divisions, down from five. Proponents
said the new alignment grouped schools with a similar scope of programs
as well as by geography.
Officials in Districts 205, 215 and 227 -- all of whose schools would
have been in the new SICA South -- voted against the plan, citing a
lack of diversity. Superintendents Bob
Wilhite of D.215
and Kamala Buckner of D.205 asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
and the state board of education to look into the matter.
In February, Homewood-Flossmoor and nine more schools announced their
intention to leave SICA at the end of the 2004-05 school year to form
the SouthWest Suburban Conference. The defections continued this spring
when members of the new SICA North said they would drop out of SICA
to form the South Suburban Conference after the 2005-06 school year.
A compromise was reached that would send Thornton and Thornwood to the
SWSC, and move T.F. North and T.F. South to the SSC. District 228's
four schools would join the three Rich schools, Crete-Monee, Bloom Twp.
and Kankakee in a third conference.
But the D.228 board scuttled the proposal, citing scope-of-program concerns.
What happens if additional mediation fails to produce a solution?
"The State Board of Education will mobilize to schedule and hold
a hearing in accordance with Section 22-19 of the School Code,"
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CPS considers first all-boys public schools in 30 years
Rosalind Rossi, Chicago
Six all-boys Chicago public schools and a sports career high school that
would groom future Jerry Maguires and Jerry Reinsdorfs are among 44
ideas for new Renaissance 2010 schools unveiled Tuesday.
Though an all-boys public school hasn't existed in Chicago for about
30 years, that was one of the most popular models proposed in "concept
papers'' seeking $3,500 Renaissance 2010 grants.
CPS has been encouraging ideas for such schools to complement the system's
existing all-girls charter high school.
Grant writers can use the money to visit out-of-town schools, hire consultants
or pay teachers as they fine-tune their bids to become one of the 100
new schools Mayor Daley wants to create by 2010.
One coed model would groom future sports club owners, agents, journalists,
trainers and physical therapists. The Sports Career College Preparatory Academy inside Englewood High would focus on sports management,
sports communication and allied health, said Janice Wells, education-to-careers
coordinator at Manley High.
"This school is not just for the athlete. It's for any kid who's
interested in the business or culture of sports,'' Wells said.
Meditation twice a day
The six all-boys school proposals included one from Tim King, former
president of Hales Franciscan High. Kids at King's Urban Prep Charter
High would take four years each of literature, writing and test prep.
The school would focus on preparing kids for college and building their
language skills -- an area where many boys fall behind girls.
Jimmy Tilman, a Westinghouse Career Academy music teacher, wants to create an all-boys high school
that would teach at-risk kids how to grow and manufacture produce. Tilman
also would like to be located in Englewood High, where nearby vacant
lots could house a greenhouse.
At The Farm School, Tilman said, students and teachers would meditate
twice a day.
Transcendental Meditation, he said, "relieves stress. It makes
it easier to concentrate on your subject matter when your mind is clear
Strict study times
Romona Smith Battle also is interested in an all-boys school -- but
a residential one, for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who are wards
of the state. The school and its boarding site would be in buildings
owned by the First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington, where Battle is a member.
The residential school would have strict study times and bed times,
and offer individual and group counseling.
TOP OF PAGE
Glenbard may offer installment plan for books
Deborah Kadin, Chicago Tribune
The costliest item for students may be a little more affordable as Glenbard
High School District 87 is deciding whether to implement a system to
allow textbooks to be paid for in installment plans.
If agreed upon, the system would be in place before next month's registration.
The suggestion was just one presented to the school board this week
by one of three subcommittees created to recommend ways for the cash-strapped
district to break down financial barriers that keep students from participating
The district, which already allows registration/activity and course
fees to be paid off over the year, will decide Aug. 8 how the same method
can be applied to books.
Also Monday, through a fundraising subcommittee suggestion, the school
board will approve how students can apply for financial assistance.
"This was what the school board was looking for," said Judy
Kuhlman, who heads the committee that drafted the process. "We're
all working in the same direction."
Kuhlman's panel will work with groups in all four Glenbard schools and
a non-profit foundation supporting educational efforts in Glenbard and
all its elementary feeder districts.
That panel also will figure out how to add to $4,700 in assistance funds
guaranteed by United4Glenbard, a community group organized to support
District 87's two failed tax hike attempts.
District officials on Monday decided against: renting, instead of buying,
textbooks; capping fees for parents with multiple children; and signing
up sponsors for tournaments, at least until the financial impact and
policy implications could be examined.
Also under review is a recommendation to allow students to pay off fees
by doing community service. This recommendation came from the subcommittee
that examined what might bar a student from participating in school.
"Something will be done because it needs to be done," said
Diane Halvorsen, who chaired that panel. "I'm comfortable things
will work out."
That panel also suggested that pride or embarrassment, lack of information
and language spoken at home may contribute to the barriers preventing
children from attending school. That panel suggested ensuring as much
privacy as possible when talking with parents about assistance and translating
documents into the nearly 50 languages spoken in the district.
A panel of parents and staff was created in May to study how to ease
the financial burden caused by a $125 activity fee and a $138 athletic
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get a boost
Chicago Public Schools to pump $11 million from state into private day-care
By Tracy Dell'Angela, Tribune staff reporter, 7/15/05
Chicago Public Schools won an extra $11 million from the state to expand
preschool programs for disadvantaged children next school year, but
the district doesn't plan to create new programs with the money.
Instead, the district said Thursday that it will contract with private
day-care centers to improve existing programs that serve at-risk children--offering
the centers grants to boost salaries, hire certified teachers, buy supplies
and train staff on new educational techniques.
District leaders said the private partnerships amount to a dramatic
expansion, because the money will convert thousands of day-care slots
into quality preschool slots for far less than it costs to create new
classrooms in schools.
"We've got a lot of kids out there who need service, and the tension
is always between the quality of service and the number of children
we serve," said Barbara Bowman, chief officer of the district's
early childhood education programs. "With these [community programs],
it is enhanced education, so we're educating more children."
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has made preschool expansion a cornerstone
of his educational policy, is expected to trumpet his progress at two
suburban events Friday. The state has pumped an extra $90 million into
early childhood education over the last three years toward the goal
of making high-quality preschool available to 25,000 more children statewide.
The governor's top education official said the state is on track to
meeting this three-year goal by 2006, in part because Chicago says it expects to serve 5,100 new children through
community programs by the end of 2006.
The state doesn't control how Chicago spends its preschool money, because the district automatically
receives 37 percent of new money pledged by Blagojevich--or about $33
million of the $90 million earmarked since 2003. Other school districts
and programs competed for the grant money, and priority was given to
programs that are expanding services to new children, said Elliot Regenstein,
the governor's director of education reform.
The Chicago Public Schools system is "not obligated to do things
the way other districts are, but they understand full well that adding
more kids is the purpose of that money," Regenstein said. "But
we've always understood that in adding new slots, some of these kids
are already receiving services.
"Upgrading the quality of preschool programs is not a bad thing.
But it depends on the upgrade ... who is getting it, and what kind of
upgrade they are getting."
In the last three years, the district has cut the number of state-paid
preschool seats in city schools. In the 2002-03 school year, 14,500
children were enrolled in district prekindergarten classes. That dropped
to 12,325 last year and will remain flat in the coming school year,
district statistics show.
The district also infuriated scores of parents when it shuttered all
54 of its full-day school-based programs in June--the kind of extended
preschool program the district said last year it wanted to beef up.
These programs will reopen in the fall at 33 sites, offering two half-day
shifts in each classroom.
"We're giving up quality for numbers. The parents were really outraged,
and it's hard to blame them," Bowman said. "We're hoping to
enroll more 3-year-olds, and we're thinking that two years of a half-time
program might be more useful to kids than one year of full time. "
But at the same time, the district has decided to invest in quality
over numbers in private centers, Bowen said. The half-day program in
schools costs the district about $4,500 per child annually. This past
year, the district contracted with 107 private centers to build educational
programs that offer similar programs at less cost--a range of $2,000
to $3,500 per eligible child.
At the child-care program offered by the Hull House Association at the
Parkway Community House, 500
E. 67th St.,
the money from the Chicago district has allowed the center to hire a master teacher
to plan curriculum and recruit a certified teacher for one classroom.
About 40 children are enrolled at the Hull House site, 29 of whom are
considered at risk because of poverty or other developmental problems.
That distinction qualifies the center for state preschool money.
"I feel this has improved quality, because initially, this was
day care," said master teacher Carol Moffett. "But with the
state pre-K, there are goals and objectives that need to be adhered
to. There's more structure, and the big emphasis is on early reading
At the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, the district spends about $1 million annually
to improve programs for about 220 preschoolers and 140 infants and toddlers
served in two centers in North Lawndale and
Chief program officer Jill Bradley said the money is used for teacher
training, literacy programs, field trips and child screening. The center
also has been able to improve pay to hire certified teachers, who start
at $35,000 a year but often leave to work in public schools.
TOP OF PAGE
in bid for charters
City may be willing, but ACLU is wary
By Ana Beatriz Cholo, Tribune staff reporter, 7/15/05
At the Mighty God Christian Academy in Chicago's South
children are taught about the Bible and religious values.
Now the private school's founder wants to open a charter school in Chicago next year, which could become one of the city's first
public schools backed by a religious entity.
If the school district and the Illinois State Board of Education approve
her plan, Rev. Geri Carter says Bible classes won't be part of the daily
"That's not our motive, that's not our goal--to teach religion,"
Carter said. "Yes, we are believers but we are not trying to indoctrinate."
Carter is part of a growing group of faith-based organizations interested
in delving into the secular realm of public schools. And the practice
is perfectly legal--as long as religious instruction is kept out of
the classroom, regulators said.
In Chicago, the burgeoning movement has been spurred by Mayor Richard
Daley's Renaissance 2010 initiative to open up 100 new schools in six
years. Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, Daley's devout disciple of
giving parents creative options in public education, is wooing successful
religious schools to apply.
At least three Chicago-based religious organizations, including Carter's,
said they plan to submit formal proposals for new schools by the district's
Aug. 19 deadline.
"It's not that difficult to keep the dividing line between church
and state," Duncan said. "To me, it's fairly simple as long as you
are not proselytizing religion. They can teach morals, character."
Many educators say religious organizations can be a valuable asset because
they already have a presence in the community.
"The fact that you are a religious person doesn't bar you from
public life," said Greg Richmond, the former head of the Chicago district's New Schools Development Office.
Richmond, now executive director of the National Association
of Charter School Authorizers, said it would be beneficial to include
religious leaders in conversations about new schools.
"We are seeing more activity in the country along the lines of
turning to religious leaders to get involved in starting schools. It's
becoming more common. Five or 10 years ago there was not much dialogue
across this divide, which I think was unfortunate because those folks
have a lot to offer."
But others are wary.
"I think we have real concerns about religious entities becoming
involved in public education," said Ed Yohnka, communications director
for the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union. "Especially without
knowing or being able to tell precisely what kinds of protections--what
kinds of guards--will be put in place to make sure public funds are
not utilized for religious education."
ACLU keeps watch
The ACLU filed suit in 1998 on behalf of several parents alleging that
a Michigan charter school was teaching creationism, holding prayer
services and distributing religious materials. When the school changed
its curriculum, the suit was dropped.
Because charter schools are funded by taxpayers, they must meet the
same accountability standards as traditional public schools. But they
are not bound by restrictions on class size, teacher certification and
the school calendar.
Potential operators also must submit a financial plan. While each school
receives per-pupil funding from the state and the school district, charters
often rely on fundraisers.
In Illinois, charter schools are given a five-year contract, with
annual evaluations. Charters can be revoked at the end of that period
based on poor test scores, low graduation rates and other factors.
All charters must be backed by a non-profit organization to oversee
its operations. Illinois education officials suggest potential school operators
create an organization that is not religious in nature.
We would have to get assurances that there would be no religion as a
part of the curriculum, or woven into the curriculum," said Jo
Ann Price, a consultant for the state board who reviews charter applications.
"They could be very subtle about it. We just don't want religion
to sneak into the school."
The general counsel for the school district says curriculum is carefully
examined in proposals for new charter schools, regardless of the organization
backing the school.
"We would look at all of the schools in the same way," said
Patrick Rocks, who heads the law department for Chicago schools. He added that having religious instruction
in the classroom "runs afoul of the Charter Schools Act,"
and would be an issue.
Both Carter and her son, who is working on the new school proposal,
said they will follow the law.
Doing God's will
"We understand as Christians that there is a separation between
church and state, but you don't have to be behind a pulpit to do God's
will," said Carter's son, Syanard Carter.
The mother and son team are hoping to open a small school at Calumet High
in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood called REACH, an acronym for Reviving
Excellence through Academics and Comprehensive Harmony. Rev. Carter
said she would hire teachers with similar values.
"Basically, this country was founded on Christian principles,"
Carter said. "Of course I believe in the Lord and the will of God,
but we do not impose [our beliefs on others.]"
Andrew Rotherham, the director of education policy for the Progressive
Policy Institute, points to a document released in 2000 by former President
Bill Clinton that outlined guidelines on how religious organizations
could become involved in charter schools.
"I think there is both promise and peril," Rotherham said. "It has the potential to push boundaries in the good sense,
in terms of bringing additional leverage to bear on a particular social
problem, but it also has the potential in a negative sense of crossing
important church-state boundaries. What's key is that there is active
oversight and monitoring."
The notion that traditional public schools don't wrestle with this issue
is misleading, however, Rotherham said. In some regions of the country, particularly the
South, there is a fair amount of religious activity at school, he said.
Cecilia Mowatt knows some will be skeptical of San
Miguel Schools' commitment to offering a non-religious education.
But Mowatt says she wants to educate more children in one of the most
underserved areas in the city. The private Christian school, with campuses
in the Austin and Back of the Yards neighborhoods, wants to open a
public school in Austin.
San Miguel Schools educators have shown they can turn around problem students
and motivate underachievers to excel, she said.
"It's not about the religion, it's about the relationship that
we have with our students," said Mowatt, a consultant heading up
the design team. "It starts from the foundation of having a low
teacher-student ratio, focused and individualized attention and students
recognizing that the teachers care about them."
The prestigious Providence-St. Mel School, a private kindergarten-12th Grade non-denominational
Christian school on the West
Side, also wants to
open up an elementary school at the former Bunche Elementary School
in the West Englewood neighborhood.
The college-prep school was closed in 1978 by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
But its principal, parents and students fought to keep it open and now
it runs independently of the archdiocese.
TOP OF PAGE
USF joins high
school education program
JT and university: Latest partner in federal grant to help facilities
By Ted Slowik, Herald News Staff Writer, 7/15/05
JOLIET The University of St. Francis is joining a program
designed to help underachieving Joliet Township High
students improve their skills in mathematics, reading and science.
The university is the high school's latest partner in a five-year, $4.2
million federal grant that aims to help schools meet the goals of the
No Child Left Behind Act.
USF's role is to encourage high school students enrolled in a summer
program to consider pursuing a higher education.
"The purpose is to expose them to college," said Cindy Wrobbel,
executive director of advanced programs and development for USF.
JTHS is about to begin the third year of its 21st Century Community
Learning Centers program, which runs 12 weeks each semester and six
weeks during the summer. The program offers 100 freshman and sophomores
from each campus the opportunity to reach academic expectations at their
This summer's program is at capacity and helps introduce incoming freshman
to the high school experience.
"A connection to school, especially during the ninth- and
10th-grade years, can be instrumental in helping student achievement
and interest," said Melissa Stapleton, program coordinator and
English teacher at Joliet West. "The 21st Century program allows
for this connection to other students, teachers and community members."
JTHS's other partners are the Rialto Square Theater which conducts
various performing arts programs and the Lovelace Respiratory
Research Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. Scientists and researchers use
video conferencing technology to communicate from New Mexico with JTHS
students. The grant funds an annual trip to New
Mexico for 10 students who excel in the program.
"Our district gives us the freedom to create a fun and educational
program that will motivate students to stay in school and get the extra
help they need to earn a JTHS diploma," said Mary Balsie, a math
teacher who coordinates the program at Joliet Central.
At USF this summer, JTHS students are receiving introductions to the
university's facilities and programs that cover health and nutrition,
fitness, admissions, library services, career explorations and student
"It is so important for our students to know the vast array of
resources here in their own community. Exposure to college life and
topics helps students make plans for their future while enriching their
current high school experience," Stapleton said.
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Marion teachers file suit against district
BY JOHN D. HOMAN, Southern
MARION - Four Marion elementary school teachers who were reassigned last
spring by Superintendent Wade Hudgens filed a lawsuit against the school
district Thursday in Benton federal court.
Carterville attorney Stacey Aschemann said on behalf of her clients,
Becky Belt, Karen Jenkins, Marsha Land and Jennifer Lincoln, that being
assigned to teach different grade levels at different schools this coming
fall was punishment for their speaking out against attendance centers.
The lawsuit charges the district with violating the First and Fourteenth
Amendment rights of the teachers.
"Like all other U.S. citizens, teachers have the right to free speech,"
said Aschemann, who belongs to the firm, Schuchat, Cook & Werner.
"Because these teachers believed the administration's proposals
would hurt students, they exercised their right to speak out and now
the district is retaliating against them."
In addition to the building transfers, two of these veteran teachers
also were informed that their teaching assignments would change in the
coming school year. Aschemann said this is further evidence the district
is attempting to punish the teachers.
"Marsha Land has been an outstanding first-grade teacher for 30
years, but because she spoke out for the kids of Marion, she is assigned to third grade for next year,"
The lawsuit asks the federal court to force the district to allow the
teachers to remain at their
Washington School assignments until the case is resolved. In addition,
the suit asks the district be ordered to stop transferring employees
for using their free speech rights and that the district be ordered
to pay damages and court costs for the teachers.
Lincoln has taught in the district for 14 years; Jenkins 16
years; Belt 23 years and Land 32 years.
Merry Rhoades, legal counsel for the Marion Unit 2 School District,
said she will "vigorously defend against the lawsuit" on behalf
of the district. Rhoades said she would not comment on any specifics
of the suit.
The suit further states that the plaintiffs were outspoken on various
matters of public concern, as were teachers Donna Gulley and Michaela
Each of these teachers worked at Washington School during the 2004-2005 school year and for more than a
decade before that.
On the last day of the school year, Hudgens is said to have notified
Belt, Jenkins, Land, Gulley and Stewart by letter that the district
was involuntarily transferring them to another school effective this
fall and that Belt, Land and Stewart were being transferred to different
grade levels as well.
On information and belief, Aschemann said, at no time in these long-term
teachers' employment has the district involuntarily transferred an elementary
school-tenured teacher to a different school or grade level unless there
was a performance issue or the teacher worked in a Title I program.
At no time up to the present has the district ever cited any performance
issues as a justification for making such transfers.
TOP OF PAGE
Lottery was never
intended to remedy school financing
Column by Wally Haas, editorial page editor of the Register Star, 7/15/05
One of the most common misperceptions in Illinois is that the lottery was supposed to fix education financing.
Lottery money was intended as a supplement, not a cure-all for school
In fact, it wasnt until 11 years after the lottery was created
that money was earmarked for schools.
Rockford Rep. Zeke Giorgi, whose legislation created the lottery in
1974, wanted the money to go to education from day one, but thats
not what happened. Lottery money, after deducting for prizes and administration
costs, was put in the states general fund to be used for whatever
lawmakers saw fit.
It wasnt until 1985 that lottery money was specifically designated
for education. Rockford state Sen. Joyce Holmberg was one of the sponsors of
a bill that directed all lottery money into the common school fund.
The sponsors admit the action will be little more than a name
change, bringing not a dollar extra for education, wrote Dennis
Camire, chief of the Gannett News Service Springfield bureau, in 1985.
But the lawmakers believe the change will soothe the public spirit.
Judging by letters to the editor that keep asking where the lottery
money is going, it doesnt appear the public is soothed.
The lottery had sales of $1.72 billion in fiscal year 2004, according
to the lotterys Web site. The kindergarten-through-12th-grade
budget for Illinois schools is $8.3 billion, so even if every penny the
lottery brought in went to education, it would only make a dent in the
Lottery proceeds made up about 9 percent of the states education
funding in 2004, up slightly from 8.7 percent in 2003, according to
the Web site. Heres how your lottery dollar was spent: 57 cents
of every dollar, $974 million, went to the winners; 33 cents, $570 million,
went into the school fund; 7 cents, $115 million, went to retailers
and vendors; and the remaining 3 percent, $57 million, covered operating
Winners, retailers and vendors each got a penny more per dollar in 2004
over 2003, while there was one penny less for the school fund. Administrative
costs declined a penny a dollar.
Today, the Illinois lottery is healthy, being the sixth-largest revenue
generator for the state, but that was not always the case.
In 1979 there was talk of eliminating the lottery after revenues slipped
three straight years.
Some people in the media across the state and in the Legislature
have suggested that we give up on the lottery, that its immoral,
its wrong, and we ought to turn away from gambling as a source
of revenue, then-Gov. Jim Thompson said in a story by The Associated
Press in 1979. Im in the middle.
The Register Star Editorial Board did not think Thompson was in
It sounds ... like an executive whos had it with these games
of chance unless, of course, the state of Illinois comes up big winners when February rolls around,
an editorial on Oct. 2, 1979, said.
Things did turn around in February when the lottery started daily games
that the newspaper described as games that resemble the illegal
The numbers show the individual income tax is the top revenue-producer
for the state followed by the corporate income tax, the sales tax, the
motor-fuel tax and gaming.
That makes the lottery a relatively minor player in the revenue game,
but its clear the lottery never was and never will be the answer
to how Illinois finances its schools.
TOP OF PAGE
School Reform Moves to the Suburbs
Opinion by Michael J. Petrilli,an official with the Department of Education
from 2001 to 2005 and a vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
- a school-reform group, New York Times, 7/11/05
DESPITE all the talk about improving inner-city schools, the greatest
promise of the No Child Left Behind Act was always in America's leafy suburbs. Unfortunately, that promise is in danger
of being squandered.
Because suburban schools are the most likely to post high average test
scores that mask large gulfs between students of different races or
classes, the law's central premise - that schools be held accountable
for the success of all students, be they white, black, Hispanic, low-income
or with special needs - should have the greatest impact in them. The
law made those achievement gaps transparent and put pressure on every
school to focus on the children most in need, even if they represented
a small part of the student population.
This suburban phenomenon posed a political challenge to President Bush
from the very beginning. Affluent parents and homeowners in the suburbs
- the Republican base - were not pleased to hear that many of their
beloved local schools were "in need of improvement." This
unease translated into outrage from Republican legislators around the
country, most audibly in Utah, where the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a
bill ordering the state to ignore key sections of the federal law.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the administration would have to bend
to political reality. Now Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
has offered states a string of exceptions and flexible arrangements
that make it less likely that suburban schools will feel the heat of
No Child Left Behind's spotlight.
What's wrong with giving suburban schools a break? After all, isn't
the real crisis in American education in the inner cities? Not so fast.
Nationwide, the average African-American 12th-grader reads and does
math at the level of the average white eighth-grader - this even though
one-third of African-American children and almost half of Hispanic children
reside in suburbs, according to the 2000 census. These students, though
learning more than their inner-city counterparts, are still performing
much worse than their white and Asian peers.
No Child Left Behind was perfectly suited for the situation. Its primary
mechanisms are sunshine and shame: gathering statistics and alerting
the community when a school is not doing right by all of its students.
In urban districts, this shaming appears to have had little traction.
City leaders are conditioned to hearing that their schools are low performing;
poor urban parents have little power to do anything about it; and teachers'
unions use their political clout to maintain the dismal status quo.
But in the suburbs, bad news about local schools captures the quick
attention of politicians (and residents worried about their property
values). These districts report to powerful parents who have the money
to move to another town or send their children to private schools. Given
the right incentives, suburban districts can achieve solid gains.
Look at Montgomery County in Maryland, just outside Washington. It has a rapidly growing population of low-income,
minority and immigrant students. Diversity is increasingly the norm.
Unfortunately, so is a yawning achievement gap, as was made transparent
in the first year under No Child Left Behind, when one in five elementary
schools in Montgomery County failed to make "adequate yearly progress."
So the district intensified programs in which extra money was given
to schools with at-risk students; struggling children were given additional
help; good teachers were lured to the areas where they were needed most.
The result? This year reading scores were up 7.8 percentage points for
African-American fourth-graders and 10.7 percentage points for Hispanics.
Or consider Chapel
Hill, N.C., a community accustomed to having the best schools in
the state. When state and then federal figures showed a big achievement
gap, that spurred the community into action. The district now holds
an annual meeting on equity and excellence, and it joined a network
of suburban districts dedicated to raising minority achievement. The
results are astounding: 80 percent of African-American students were
proficient in both reading and math in 2003, as opposed to fewer than
half a decade ago.
Of course, in a world of limited resources, efforts to help disadvantaged
students might mean that affluent students might get less attention
or lose their favorite teachers. A renewed focus on reading and math
might cut into time for the arts. These trade-offs can become an explosive
situation for a school board or a superintendent and some have had their
states petitioned Washington for relief.
Unfortunately, Secretary Spellings has given in to their concerns. Exhibit
A is Gov. Jeb Bush's Florida, where a whopping 77 percent of schools last year were
deemed lacking under federal criteria. To be fair, Florida's schools are probably no worse than those in other
states; the high percentage of low-performing schools reflected Florida's ambitious expectations under No Child Left Behind.
Perhaps some tweaking was in order.
But Florida requested that the Education Department not hold its
schools accountable for the achievement of subgroups that make up less
than 15 percent of a school's population or that include fewer than
100 pupils. Federal officials assented.
Now a suburban, predominantly white middle school with 800 students
will not be held accountable for the performance of its 90 African-American
students, its 80 Hispanic students, or its 70 special-needs students,
except as they affect its average scores. In other words, the system
will go back to the way it used to be, when these children were basically
Secretary Spellings does not have an enviable job in keeping the bipartisan
school-reform coalition together. Perhaps lessening the pressure on
affluent suburban schools is an easy win. But at what cost? President
Bush has often decried the "soft bigotry of low expectations."
He didn't make an exception for the suburbs then, and we shouldn't start
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Teachers would commit to job in exchange for free
Nick Anderson, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON -- Three months ago, a county executive denounced living
conditions at 22 rental complexes in suburban Forestville, Md., calling them breeding grounds for homicide, robbery
and other crime. He proposed to clean them up or shut them down.
This month, public schoolteacher DaShawna Jackson, 28, moved her mattresses,
stereo, goldfish and other possessions into a three-bedroom apartment
in one of the targeted complexes. She was thrilled. The unit came with
wall-to-wall carpeting, a gas range, a frost-free refrigerator, patio,
vertical blinds, 1 1/2 bathrooms and a walk-in closet. Steps away are
a swimming pool and playground for her 5-year-old daughter.
And her rent is zero.
Jackson and four other teachers from a nearby school can live free at
Forest Creek Apartments as long as they keep their jobs and tutor neighborhood
children under an unusual deal that Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson cut with the landlord
to upgrade the property.
Some call the deal unheard of. With annual salaries just over $40,000,
the five teachers essentially are receiving an after-tax housing bonus
of more than $12,000 a year. Indefinitely.
Toss in a $500 moving-expense subsidy, free water and gas service, and
a half-mile commute to Samuel Massie Elementary School
and it becomes clear why Jackson is celebrating.
"Number one is not having to stress out about rent being paid,"
said Jackson, who will no longer have to ask her mother for an extra
$50 to pay the monthly bills. "It'll help with savings tremendously."
In the surging Washington-area real estate market, affordable housing
is increasingly scarce for teachers and others on modest salaries. To
help, school systems have raised teacher pay, sometimes offering signing
bonuses or small housing subsidies. For five years, the Department of
Housing and Urban Development has helped nearly 1,000 educators buy
government-owned homes at half-price in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
But free rent for five?
"I've never heard of anything quite so dramatic and generous myself,"
said George Jackson, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers.
"That is remarkable. That's incredible," Maryland School Superintendent
Nancy Grasmick said.
"We're pioneers here," said Tony Enrico, vice president of
Realty Management Services Inc. of Bethesda, Md., which is representing the landlord in the deal, Artery
Group, also of Bethesda.
"You can sit in a room and point fingers at each other, which really
gets you nowhere," Enrico said. "Or you can come up with a
Massie Elementary Principal A.H. Sharif Salim chose five teachers from
11 who sought the slots, saying he rewarded outstanding young teachers
with full certification.
Salim said he believes the deal will pay major dividends for his high-poverty
school. When he arrived at Massie a year ago, he had heard that some
nearby apartments were a no-go zone.
Then he found out that two-thirds of his students lived there.
Salim hopes the teachers and police will become role models for children
who now have few. And the teachers are upbeat about their new home,
where the streetscape includes boarded-up corner stores covered with
Taniesha Goulbourne, 28, a mother of three, said the new apartment will
help her save for a down payment after six fruitless months of house-hunting
elsewhere. Now her loyalties are with the neighborhood nearest the school
where she teaches.
"I believe in my community, what can I say? I can see being in
the community and helping out," Goulbourne said. "It's a great
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school to open in Vail
By Daniel Scarpinato, Arizona Daily Star, 7/10/05
Textbooks are so last-century.
At least, that's what they're saying in Vail, where about 350 students
will ditch books for laptops this fall as the Southeast Side district
opens the state's first all-wireless, all-laptop public high school.
Students still will go to class and teachers still will create lesson
plans, but textbooks are making way for electronic and online articles.
Next door, in the 60,000-student Tucson Unified School
workers are installing 300 Smart Boards in high-school math and English
classrooms before school starts this fall.
The high-tech whiteboards allow teachers to craft multimedia lessons
that go far beyond the limits of their old overhead projectors.
Both moves are steps in the right direction, experts say, but not nearly
close to where schools should be in 2005.
Nearly every aspect of our lives - from buying airline tickets to everyday
business activities - has been altered by technology. But national and
local education experts say the classroom hasn't advanced along with
the rest of the world. They cite a number of reasons: costs, insecurities,
ignorance and institutional constraints.
Moves such as Vail's are rare, said Mark Schneiderman, director of education
policy for the Software and Information Industry Association, which
represents corporations that develop classroom software.
"The efforts are very sporadic," he said. "A minority
of communities are doing a good or very good job, but a large number
are just not there on a number of levels."
Until now, most efforts have focused on wiring schools for the Internet
and buying technology for collecting data on student achievement, he
said. In Arizona, there are 4.3 students per Internet-connected computer,
on par with the national average. The ratio is larger when looking at
all school computers, even those without online capabilities, with 8.3
students per machine, according the state Department of Education.
But educators are looking beyond just ratios. They're looking to alter
the classroom for the first time in decades by letting technology drive
Hitting a time warp
The lack of computer-aided learning frustrates students such as Todd
Phillips, a 17-year-old incoming senior at University High
who has lathered his life in technology.
Phillips owns two computers - a desktop and a laptop. He works in the
computer section at Best Buy. He downloads music, plays games, instant-messages
friends and does his homework on a computer.
But when he shows up for school, he said it's like hitting a time warp.
"It's almost completely absent of technology other than the desktop
computer the teacher has," he said.
Administrators know that.
TUSD's Lisa Long, head of curriculum and technology integration, has
two teenage daughters at home. The classroom hasn't exactly stayed up-to-date
with the rest of the world, she admits.
"Absolutely, there are gaps between the environment they go to
at school and the environment at home," Long said.
But Long is working to change things. Along with the 300 Smart Boards
being installed this summer, TUSD also is putting response pads in select
classrooms. It's similar to the "ask the audience" lifeline
on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Teachers
ask a question and can gauge the group's understanding based on the
The Smart Boards are a huge step, she said. With a few clicks, teachers
will be able to fly the class into Egypt through a digital map and highlight the history of the
Valley of the Kings with photos, videos and multimedia timelines.
"Our kids deserve this. They are yearning for this," she said.
And making the classroom more technological is seen as a way to make
education more relevant to students. That's Vail's whole goal at the
new Empire High School, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.
"Today, with the AIMS test, it's not the textbook that's the curriculum,
it's the state standards," said Calvin Baker, superintendent of
Vail Unified School
"We're getting teachers away from the habit of marching through
It's a big investment for the growing district. The laptops run $850
a pop, and the district will hand them to 350 students to keep for an
entire year. Eventually, administrators hope enrollment will hit 750.
A set of textbooks runs about $500 to $600, Baker said. And because
books usually are used for six years, a government textbook might still
reference Bill Clinton as president.
"We don't really know for sure" how well the plan will work,
Baker admitted. "I'm sure there are going to be some adjustments.
But we visited other schools using laptops. And at the schools with
laptops, students were just more engaged than at non-laptop schools."
Bill Gates gives opinion
The leap to a new kind of classroom won't happen overnight - if it happens
at all, educators and experts say.
In February, Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft
Corp., spoke before the National Governors Association, calling the
American high school obsolete.
"Training the work force of tomorrow with the high schools of today
is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old
mainframe," he said. "It's the wrong tool for the times."
Gates called for more than just advances in technology. He wants a systematic
look at the effectiveness of high schools across the country.
Educators say the speech created dialogue, which even trickled down
to discussions among local teachers and principals. But making those
things happen is another story.
"A statement like that leads to some discussion, but the level
of changes he's suggesting would take a long time to take effect,"
said Karen Billings, vice president of the Software and Information
Industry Association's education division.
But TUSD's Long said administrators have discussed technological advances
"Discussions tried to start 10 years ago," she said. "But
we needed hardware, then we need to connect to the Internet. That became
not an excuse but a reason why we couldn't integrate."
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See You in the Fall
By ALAN FINDER, New
ARDSLEY, N.Y. - Even though it was his last day of kindergarten, Zachary
Gold, a bright, enthusiastic 6-year-old, said he wasn't scared about
moving up to the rigors of first grade. Unlike most kindergartners at
the Concord Road Elementary
in this Westchester County village, he already knew who his first-grade teacher
In September, Zachary will come right back to room P8, his 18 classmates
from kindergarten and his teacher, Leslie Cohen.
"I feel, like, not scared, because it's going to be the same,"
Zachary said. "Well, different work, but the same teacher. She's
a nice teacher. I love Ms. Cohen."
Having a teacher stay with a class for more than a year - or looping,
as it is known - is on the rise, according to many experts. As educational
innovations go, it is remarkably simple. So are its benefits, proponents
say. Teachers get to know their students, and the students' parents,
extremely well. They know each child's strengths and weaknesses, and
the children know the teachers' expectations and methods. This familiarity
can save a lot of time at the beginning of the school year.
There is little hard data on the frequency or effectiveness of looping,
but classes in hundreds, if not thousands of schools across the United States have adopted it.
"As schools try to improve their standardized test scores, this
appears to be catching on," Arthur E. Levine, the president of
Teachers College at Columbia University, said.
It is most common in elementary schools, though some middle schools
do it, too. Schools in Colorado
have tried looping, as have those in Attleboro, Mass., and Antioch, Ill. In New York City, hundreds of classes stay together for more than a year,
most of them in the lower grades.
York, it's a lot more prevalent than we think," said
Carmen Fariņa, the city's deputy chancellor for teaching and learning.
"It's becoming more popular."
The decision on whether a teacher will loop with a class is left to
principals, teachers and parents, said Ms. Fariņa, who herself stayed
with a class through third and fourth grades four times in her teaching
career. "In the city, there are hundreds of classes doing it,"
she said. "In a lot of schools there are four or five classes looping."
The big payoff from looping appears to be in the fall, when teachers
typically take time to assess each child, trying to figure out their
skill levels and how each student learns. But when Ms. Cohen and her
class return in September, she said, "we can basically pick up
where we left off."
"I've always felt the first six to eight weeks of the school year
are extremely chaotic for kids," Ms. Cohen said, "and not
a whole lot of learning takes place."
Spending two years together as a class also reassures young children,
she said. "Both at the end of the year and at the beginning of
the year, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety in kids," she
said. "And I think the anxiety makes it more difficult for them
The potential disadvantages of looping are also clear-cut. If parents
think a teacher is inadequate, they would surely oppose having their
child spend an additional year in his or her class.
Advocates of looping say options need to be built into any program,
so that parents and teachers can decide to place a child in a different
class if remaining with a teacher would be detrimental.
Research into looping suggests that it can pay substantial dividends.
The school district in East
Cleveland, Ohio, experimented with looping from 1993 to 1997. A class
in each of four elementary schools stayed with their teachers for three
years, generally from kindergarten through second grade. The teachers
worked extensively with parents to reinforce lessons in school, and
the classes also met for five weeks each summer.
After three years, students in the looped classes scored an average
of 25 percentage points higher on standardized tests in reading, language
arts and math than other students in the school district, said Frederick
M. Hampton, an associate professor of education at Cleveland State University
who oversaw the research project.
"Everything about the children's lives is pretty much in constant
motion," said Professor Hampton, who described East Cleveland as poor and predominantly African-American.
"It had occurred to me over a number of years that children, particularly
from inner-city areas, need a different model of school, a more family-oriented
model, in order to be successful," he said, "something that
would allow them to see familiar faces, familiar teachers."
Many educators think middle-class children also benefit from a more
prolonged relationship with teachers. Daniel L. Burke, the superintendent
of the Big Foot Union High School
in Walworth, Wis., became an advocate of looping after experiencing it
during his first years as a teacher. Dr. Burke taught seventh-grade
English in Alsip,
Ill., in 1970; at the end of the school year, he and two
other young teachers were told they would have the same classes the
following year, because of scheduling problems caused by construction.
"Those kids came in the door the first day and they knew me and
I knew them," he said. "I knew their parents and they knew
me. They knew what my expectations were. It was just wonderful."
Twenty years later, when he was a district superintendent in Antioch, Ill., Dr. Burke convinced a first-grade teacher to try looping.
She liked it and word spread. By the time he left the district in 1999,
he said, 85 percent of the elementary school teachers were staying with
classes for at least two years.
Given the enthusiasm for looping in pockets of the country, many educators
said they were surprised that it is not more popular and that it has
not been studied more rigorously. The roots of looping trace back to
the one-room rural schoolhouse and to educational innovations in Europe
in the early 20th century.
Cleveland school district stopped looping once Professor Hampton's
experiment ended in 1997, in part, he said, because the district was
reorganized, with new schools opening and some old ones shutting down.
Professor Hampton said he thought the primary reason more schools have
not adopted looping "is because most administrators have this one
concept, this one paradigm of the word 'school.' And anything that does
not fit into that, they don't bother with."
Some other educators said many teachers might be unwilling to stay with
a class for a second year because it would involve learning the curriculum
of a new grade.
That was not a problem for Ms. Cohen at the Concord Road School, because she had previously taught first and second
grade, as well as kindergarten. Ms. Cohen said she liked the variety.
She first suggested looping to her principal after an outside expert
mentioned it in a talk given to Concord
teachers two years ago, and the principal agreed to allow her to try
it with her kindergarten class last year.
Would she loop with a class again? "I'll let you know," she
said with a laugh. "Right now I love it. I love the connection
I feel with the class. I think both for myself and for the parents,
there's been a palpable sense of commitment. I'm really, really excited
to start the school year again with them."
So are Zachary and many of his classmates. But not all of the children
completely understand the arrangement. "I heard one of them say
to another, 'We're going to have her again next time,' " Ms. Cohen
said. "And the other child said, 'What about high school?' "
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Even more of Detroit's schools could close as 10,000 kids leave
BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI, Detroit
Free Press Education Writer, 7/12/05
An exodus of about 10,000 students in the coming school year may force
Detroit Public Schools to shut the doors on another 20 to 30 schools.
That's in addition to the 32 closed this summer in what education experts
have called the largest number of schools ever closed by one district
in a single year.
There were 252 before the first round of closings.
Detroit schools had about 140,000 students at the end of last
school year, down from more than 180,000 before the state takeover in
1999. Enrollment is predicted to be down to about 100,000 by 2008.
"No administrator in America likes to close schools," William Coleman, the district's
interim chief executive officer, said Monday. "It's the worst thing
you can do."
Parents and guardians are already reeling from the first round of closings
and say another round will make it even more difficult to keep students
in Detroit public schools.
"They don't realize they are forcing children out of the district
by what they are doing," Merrilyn Wilcox said Monday.
The school her grandson would have attended, Rose Elementary, was closed
at the end of the 2004-05 school year. So Sherman Franklin, 5, was reassigned
to Stephens Elementary, a school Wilcox finds unacceptable, for kindergarten
next school year.
"I know a lot of our children are going to end up in charter schools,"
But Coleman, talking Monday at his first meeting with the local news
media, wants to handle any future closings a little differently from
the way they were handled last year by naming the schools in danger
of closing no later than Christmas. He also wants to give parents, teachers
and students in those schools specific reasons why the schools could
be closed, and tell them what changes could keep them open.
That wasn't the case last year, when many people were surprised to find
their child's school would be closed to help offset a $231-million budget
shortfall caused primarily by DPS students fleeing for charter schools.
In February, DPS announced 34 schools could close. Two high schools,
Chadsey and Communication Arts and Media, will remain open at least
for next school year. One elementary school, which district officials
have not named, was supposed to close but may get a reprieve.
The district has budgeted $700,000 to cover the cost of the first round
of closings. Much of that will go toward maintaining the buildings.
Coleman said some buildings could be leased to community organizations,
but no buildings will become charter schools.
Coleman said the district plans to be aggressive about convincing parents
to send their children to schools in the district instead of to charter
"I think that for a long time, the district has been pretty passive
about the fact that we're losing enrollment," Coleman said. "School
districts function as monopolies, and monopolies become moribund."
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Phone probe leaves
three school custodians out of work
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --Two public school custodians were fired and a third
resigned after they were accused of calling an adult telephone chat
line while on the job.
City officials said one of the workers spent 231 hours on chat lines
in the span of four months, a figure that was disputed by the custodians'
union lawyer, John Connor. He said much of the time was recorded when
the phone was on hold and custodians were doing their work.
One custodian resigned on June 13, and the two others were fired on
June 27 following hearings, the Republican newspaper reported.
School Superintendent Joseph Burke defended the firing of the custodians.
"They were abusing work time," he told The Republican of Springfield.
"It's disappointing whenever you have to take that action on an
employee. You never want to do it."
Burke said other employees could face disciplinary action, but he believes
the action will be less severe than termination.
After reviewing city phone records, Mayor Charles Ryan said last month
that at least 40 phones were used to call the Raven chat line. Most
of the calls were made from schools.
City officials say their investigation is ongoing.
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Don't Leave 'No Child' Act Behind
US taxpayers demand results from their education money
Christian Science Monitor Commentary, 7/13/05
This September, all states must have in place the basic requirements
of the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's signature education
reform law, which was passed with bipartisan support four years ago.
Nationwide, students must start to be tested in reading and math annually
from grades 3 through 8, and tested once in grades 10 through 12. And
by 2014, all students in schools receiving federal funds must pass these
Despite being the most far-reaching education reform law in a generation,
however, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is stirring a revolt in
many states, especially those less dependent on federal education money.
Many are calling for reforms or outright changes in the law - and more
federal money to accompany them.
Several states have launched legal attacks, or are openly defying provisions
of the law, which penalizes schools that fail to improve test scores
in all racial and demographic groups.
It's sad to see that NCLB is running up against resistance to the act's
primary goals: to provide all children with a quality education and
to close the math and language achievement gaps between rich and poor,
black and white, native and nonnative English speaking students.
A pro-Bush state leads the fight
Leading the protest is Utah,
which gave President Bush his largest margin of victory in the last
election. Its GOP-dominated legislature recently objected to the teacher
qualification requirements, claiming they set the bar too high to attract
qualified candidates, especially in rural areas.
Utah also fears that further exposure of a widening achievement
gap between white and Hispanic students would make the state look bad.
This concern is shared by Mr. Bush's own home state of Texas, which has unilaterally refused to test students with
If Utah is the first, it is not likely to be the last to authorize
local schools to ignore NCLB mandates that conflict with the state's
less stringent testing requirements or that end up costing the state
more dollars. Four other states are weighing similar legislation.
In addition, 15 states are considering bills to withdraw from the NCLB
unless more federal funds accompany the mandates. NCLB allows states
to opt out but the price is steep: forfeiture of federal Title I money
- aid to poor inner-city students - an unrealistic option for states
with large urban schools. And any state that does withdraw must face
the perception that it's failing to educate its neediest students.
What are motives behind protests?
Are many largely rural states unwilling to pay the price to hire qualified
teachers to educate Hispanic children? Are urban states, dominated by
powerful teacher unions, leveraging the law to fatten paychecks first
and student achievement second?
Pointing out an achievement gap is precisely what the law is designed
to do. Identifying a problem pinpoints what needs to be fixed.
Fixing America's public schools is like turning an aircraft carrier
around. One doesn't turn it quickly nor easily. It will be difficult
to reorient the focus of teachers, schools, districts, and states to
achieve the academic benchmarks called for in NCLB. The law recognizes
this challenge by giving such a long lead time to comply.
Clearly, differences, some sharp, exist among and between the states
and then again with the federal government on how to bring about education
reform. Greater latitude for different approaches by the states must
be allowed. It took three congressional budget cycles in the 1960s and
'70s before Title I was on track.
NCLB's core must remain
The US Department of Education must continue to work closely with states
to refine the law's regulations, and to learn from the experiences of
states which already have rigorous testing. But the central thrust of
NCLB - transparency by gathering statistics on essentially all students
school by school through standardized testing in math and reading -
States have long had an option to not take federal education money.
Now, American taxpayers are demanding to see results from that money,
The best result would be to lift the education levels of all students.
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Utah Snubs No Child
Jasen K Lee, All Headline News
Salt Lake City, UT (AHN) In a move that could cost the state
$76 million in federal funding for education, Utahs GOP Governor
Jon Huntsman Jr. signs a bill to defy President Bushs No
Child Left Behind Act.
In what is an overwhelmingly Republican state, Utahs stance is
considered the toughest against the controversial measure taken by any
of the 15 states who have come out in opposition to it.
The bill allows state education officials to ignore federal guidelines
that conflict with state standards.
State legislators are also using the measure to promote their opposition
of federally unfunded mandates.
Utah lawmaker Tim Bridgewater says, "It empowers decision
makers in the state education system, where there is conflict with federal
law, to choose to follow the state objective first."
Bridgewater says he doubts Utah's stance will actually cost it any money.
He says only schools serving low-income students will have to wrestle
over state and federal standards, which would target about 33% of schools.
The state will follow some standards such as informing parents when
schools fail to meet minimum requirements and reporting schools' annual
yearly progress toward a goal of having all students excel in reading
and math for their grade levels.
If schools fall short, parents can send their kids to better performing
schools in the same district or demand tutoring for their child.
No Child Left Behind compares the grade-level test scores of students
to the students in the same grade level from previous years, but Utah
prefers monitoring student achievement with U-PASS (Utah Performance
Assessment System for Student) that measures achievement as students
move from grade to grade.
The U.S. Department of Education says Utah's bill could result in the loss of funding if state
educators forego away from federal standards.
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alive and well,' tests show
BY DARLENE SUPERVILLE, AP, 7/15/05
WASHINGTON -- New national test scores show 9-year-olds doing much
better in reading and math than their older counterparts, but also confirm
what many high school teachers know firsthand: ''Senioritis'' apparently
Seventeen-year-olds continued a 30-plus-year trend of flat scores in
both subjects, according to the findings of the 2004 National Assessment
of Educational Progress released Thursday.
''The problem with senioritis is alive and well,'' said Charles Smith,
executive director of the governing board that oversees the exams. ''I
think people at the high school level across the nation would report
the same thing. The questions is, 'How do you motivate students to do
Smaller gaps between races
On a brighter note, along with the good report about the 9-year-olds'
performance, there was evidence that achievement gaps between the racial
groups had narrowed.
Education officials and advocates attributed the 9-year-olds' progress
to an emphasis on elementary schools and getting children reading as
early as possible. They said the results also showed more attention
must be paid to students in secondary schools.
''We need to go to work,'' said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings,
who credited students' progress to the No Child Left Behind law signed
by President Bush.
During an appearance Thursday in Indianapolis, Bush claimed some credit for narrowing the gap in test
scores between black and white students. ''These results show that when
performance is measured, and schools are held accountable, every child
can succeed,'' he said. ''That's what it shows.''
On last year's National Assessment, sometimes known as the nation's
report card, 9-year-olds earned their highest scores since the tests
were first given in the 1970s.
The exams are given periodically to 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds, most recently
On a scale of zero to 500, the 9-year-olds scored 219 in reading 2004,
compared with 212 in 1999 and 208 in 1971. In math, they scored 241
last year, 232 in 1999 and 219 in 1973.
Results were mixed for 13-year-olds. They earned their highest math
scores ever, but their reading scores were just a few points better
than in 1971 and about the same as five years ago.
Seventeen-year-olds' scores remained flat in both subjects.
Among the racial groups, most gaps in reading and math scores had narrowed.
Every age group, except for Hispanic 13-year-olds, cut into the achievement
gap with whites in comparison with the 1970s.
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Watson survives attempt to oust her
By Brian Thevenot, Times-Picayune Staff writer, 7/15/05
After months of politicking and back-room negotiations, the Orleans
Parish School Board on Thursday ratified a two-year contract with New York turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal to run its business
operations, launching the system into a bold public-private experiment.
Also Thursday, the board unanimously approved its current interim schools
chief, Ora Watson, to continue as "acting superintendent"
despite a last-minute push to replace her. Her appointment came after
a bizarre series of split votes and two back-room sessions. The board
initially put forth a competing candidate, but failed to muster the
required two-thirds vote of five members.
Having survived the political coup attempt, Watson will now be working
alongside Bill Roberti, the Alvarez executive who will lead the project.
He said his team, which has been examining the system's woes since Monday,
will jump immediately on ensuring solvency and a smooth start of the
new school year.
"The first elephant we're going to eat is, 'do we have enough cash
to operate?' " Roberti said in an interview after the long-awaited
appointment. "Then we'll have to really support (the administration)
in getting school open. They've got 30 days and they're behind the eight
Beyond immediate crises, Roberti urged patience, citing the enormity
of the task ahead.
"This thing is terribly broken, and everybody knows that,"
he said. "People are going to have to have some patience."
The board, yielding to steady pressure from state Superintendent Cecil
Picard, approved Alvarez & Marsal's $16.8 million deal by a vote
of 5 to 1, with board member Cynthia Cade voting against it. Board member
Heidi Daniels left the room just before the vote and returned minutes
The contract, with most of its cost to be paid in the first year, buys
the system nearly 28 consultants at an average rate of about $280 per
hour for two years.
Board President Torin Sanders had previously bitterly criticized the
deal, even to the point of refusing to sign a preliminary agreement
despite a majority board vote. But on Thursday, he conceded that the
system needed such drastic action now.
"It's clear we have systemic and profound issues" with finance
and operations, he said. "We hear people come to the mic at every
meeting, and rightly so . . . saying the system is broken, that it's
messed up. And yet, on the other hand, they say we don't need to do
that much to fix it. . . . If it could have been fixed already -- it
should have been fixed already."
The Alvarez vote drew comparatively little argument on the board Thursday,
but the series of votes that led to Watson's appointment had administrators
and observers in the audience shaking their heads in astonishment and
frustration. Watson has, in effect, been serving as superintendent since
Tony Amato resigned the post April 12, but the board had never officially
appointed her. Facing a state deadline to officially name an interim
superintendent, some board members this week launched a campaign to
It appeared the board would do just that when it emerged Thursday from
a lengthy closed session and made a motion to appoint a competing candidate,
Kelvin Adams, principal of Abramson High
Indeed, board members went out of their way to thank Watson for her
service, and Watson, appearing to concede the position, gave an impassioned
speech condemning board members' political maneuvering and frankly acknowledging
that she felt personally wounded by the board's impending vote of no
"It'd be a lie to say I'm not disappointed. I am. I'm human. .
. . I hope the board gives Mr. Adams the respect this office deserves,"
It's unclear whether Watson's words helped turn the vote in her favor,
but the board failed to muster the five votes needed to appoint Adams,
voting 4-2 with one abstention, by Sanders. When board member Phyllis
Landrieu voted "no" to the appointment of Adams,
the apparent swing vote that made the motion fail, it appeared to stun
The board then took up a motion to appoint Watson, which also drew only
four votes, with members Jimmy Fahrenholtz, Una Anderson and Lourdes
Moran opposed. Heidi Daniels ended up voting for both Adams and Watson,
though she has led the charge criticizing most of Watson's work.
Then board then adjourned to another closed meeting, this time inviting
Watson to state her case, and emerged about a half-hour later with a
unanimous vote to appoint her as interim superintendent.
Neither Watson nor board members gave any clue as to their closed-door
conversations except that they'd had "good dialogue," as Sanders
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try to attract more male teachers
WASHINGTON -- When she interviews teaching candidates, principal
Laurel Telfer favors the ones who show they have a heart for children,
not just solid instructional skills.
And if the best applicant happens to be a man?
That's such a plus that Telfer says she does a "little happy dance."
Only two of the 35 teachers at her school, Rossmoor Elementary in Los Alamitos, California, are men.
"If you're looking at what's best for the students, it's important
for them to interact with the two sexes," Telfer said. "The
way men work with kids, there's a difference in style and approach.
I think students really benefit from having that mix, because as they
get to middle school, they're going to have a whole variety of classes.
Men help bridge that."
As a new academic year approaches, school districts, education groups
and universities are exploring ways to get more men into a field long
dominated by women. Their goal is to provide more male role models in
class and to diversify the labor pool of dedicated teachers.
The proportion of men in teaching today is at its lowest level in 40
years, according to the National Education Association, the country's
largest teachers union.
Only 21 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are men. In early grades, the gender
ratio is even more imbalanced -- just 9 percent of elementary school
teachers are men.
"It's not just that it would be nice to have more guys. It goes
deeper than that," said Bryan Nelson, founding director of MenTeach,
a nonprofit that recruits men into teaching.
Getting more men into classrooms, Nelson said, would help show children
that society as a whole places a deep value on education and would add
balance to their school life.
His group aims to provide prospective male teachers with mentors, training
and stipends. Men often must overcome concerns about their salaries,
a perception that teaching isn't masculine, and even public fears that
they pose a danger to kids, Nelson said.
So he appeals to their pride: "I tell them, 'Can you imagine what
you're doing for these kids? You're a pioneer. You're teaching kids
how to read. You're setting up their future."'
In most cases, however, school districts are limited in how they can
recruit men because federal anti-discrimination law prevents them from
hiring based on gender.
"Your applicant pool is going to be tainted by your recruiting
techniques if there's a gender bias," said Lisa Soronen, a staff
attorney for the National School Boards Association. "The real
way to get teaching to be a more attractive profession is to change
the societal norms and structure of the profession. But no individual
principal can do that."
Telfer tries, though. She takes steps to make men feel more comfortable,
such as asking female teachers to rein in their lunchroom chatter about
intimate matters. And she lets male teachers serve on the committees
that interest them, she said.
One of Telfer's two male teachers, fifth-grade instructor Stacey De
Salvo, got into the field because he enjoys working with children and
discovering knowledge along with them. In some years, he's been the
only male teacher in his school, which took an adjustment.
"You just feel like things are out of balance when you're the only
guy," De Salvo said. "You get a solitary feeling. ... Elementary
school is seen as a woman's domain, and when I came in, I felt kind
There are signs of change. Teaching has re-emerged as one of the top
career picks for teen boys, as it has long been for girls, according
to Gallup Tuesday Briefing, the polling firm's news service.
The Gallup analysis noted that male teachers remain scarce in poor,
urban areas where children often have no father at home or male role
Carolina, Clemson University leads Call Me MISTER, a partnership of nine two-year
and four-year schools that helps young black men become public school
teachers. The students get academic and peer support, tuition help and
Some of them didn't have a male teacher once during 12 years in public
"There's just a difference -- whether it's in style, voice intonation,
just the presence of having a male in the classroom -- that many boys
respond to best," said Roy Jones, the program's director.
So far, 15 men have finished the program and begun teaching in South Carolina elementary schools. The goal is to get that number to
200, and groups such as the National Education Association are working
with Call Me MISTER leaders on possibly expanding the effort.
"It destroys stereotypes," Jones said. "There are young
men out there, developing into professionals, who do want to pursue
teaching, who do want to work with children. They just needed to find
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