Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gingrich decries bilingual education. Equated with "the language of living in a ghetto"

"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, said Gingrich, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.

"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

This from the Huffington Post.

Theological seminary under fire

The Cincinnati Post reports:
Asbury Theological Seminary faces a budget shortfall and an investigation by its accrediting agency, adding to the school's problems since the departure of its president last year.

The interdenominational seminary, which has more than 1,600 students, is projecting a deficit of more than $2 million for this fiscal year. Jim Smith, chairman of Asbury's board of trustees, said a surplus from last year could help reduce the shortfall to about $500,000 by year's end.
Asbury also is under scrutiny by its accrediting organization, the Association of Theological Schools, because of a student complaint filed last December over the departure of former Asbury President Jeffrey Greenway. He resigned in October after being placed on paid leave by the school's board of trustees on Sept. 1.

"This is kind of a correction period," Smith said. "It is not a crisis. The seminary is not about to close or go through major problems."

Asbury is particularly important in Methodist circles because of the many Methodist ministers it trains. "It probably has more United Methodist students than our largest three or four United Methodist seminaries combined, which makes it very significant," said James V. Heidinger II, president and publisher of Good News, a Wilmore-based ministry aimed at renewing the United Methodist Church.

The school's tuition revenue is down slightly this year, Smith said.

Asbury had 1,688 students enrolled during the last school year, down from 1,724 the previous year but comparable to the year before that, according to the Association of Theological Schools.
The seminary was also experiencing "a projected decline of as much as 33 percent in the giving that funds the operating budget," interim president J. Ellsworth Kalas wrote in a Feb. 6 message to Asbury supporters.

Teacher fired for questioning enrollment at charter school. Sounds like its time for an audit.

Photo by Andrew Harnik/Examiner)

Gerald Norde, 60, was hired last fall to teach high school Spanish to the students at Young America Works Public Charter School, one of Washington’s newest charter schools. Day after day, he noticed the attendance sheets in his classes listed students he’d never seen — or who had long since dropped out.

“I’ve asked my students, ‘Who are these people?’ No one knows,” Norde said. “I talked to other teachers and they said they have the same problem.”

Earlier this month, Norde asked Young America’s registrar what was happening. Two weeks later, he was fired.

Like all other charter schools in the District of Columbia, Young America is paid per pupil. Norde’s discovery raises questions about the integrity of a system that sends $300 million in public dollars to the 55 charter schools in the city.

This from

Study May Help Develop ADD Treatments

Spot a bear in the woods, and a different part of your brain will yell "pay attention" than if you were studying bears at the zoo. New research shows it takes one part of the brain to start concentrating and another to be distracted. This discovery could help scientists develop better treatments for attention deficit disorder.

"This ability to willfully focus your attention is physically separate in the brain from distracting things grabbing your attention," said Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He led the study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
"Now we know these two things are separate, it raises the possibility that we can fix them independently," Miller said.

There are two main ways the brain pays attention: "top down" or willful, goal-oriented attention, such as when you focus to read, and "bottom-up" or reflexive attention to sensory information - loud noises or bright colors or threatening animals.

Likewise, there are different degrees of attention disorders. Some people have a harder time focusing, while others have a harder time filtering out distractions.

Scientists knew that paying attention involved multiple brain regions but they did not know how, because studies until now have examined one region at a time.

This from My Way News.

School newspaper sex issue decried as 'porn'

Some parents are protesting the "sex" edition of the student newspaper at Winnacunnet High School.

Several said they were especially offended by a photograph of two women kissing under the headline "Why men love women who love women," a quiz question about anal sex, and an interview with an unidentified custodian who said he had found a vibrator in the girls' shower.

This from the Union Leader (New Hampshire).

This from Foster's Online, (Dover, New Hampshire)

Sex Lady's lesson: Save yourself

Districts take her up on offer to teach course on abstinence for free

Photo by VERNON BRYANT / Dallas Morning News

Jennifer Waters calls herself the Sex Lady. She likes to play matchmaker with Miss Tape and unwitting teen boys.

She slaps a piece of clear tape across Julian's arm. He winces.

"It's gonna hurt when I take it off," the lanky boy protests.

"But it's fine now, isn't it?" Ms. Waters whips back.

The puzzled looks on 18 eighth-graders at Carrollton's Arbor Creek Middle School brighten. The Sex Lady has made her point: Bad relationships hurt.

Ms. Waters, who was born to an unwed teen mother, teaches abstinence courses for free to schools and church groups across the country. The Allen, Lewisville and Princeton school districts have all brought her in, spurning larger and more costly programs.

Texas law requires sex education courses be abstinence-based. Some Lewisville middle schools had been contracting with Dallas-based nonprofit Aim for Success, which claims to be the nation's largest abstinence educator.

But not all schools could afford a price tag that averaged $2,000 per session. And those presentations generally were given to entire grade levels. Ms. Waters speaks to smaller groups – one class or sometimes two combined classes at a time.

This from the Dallas Morning News.

U.S. News Rankings Show Jump for UK Law, Nursing, Public Policy

Several University of Kentucky graduate programs show improvement in rankings set to be released next week by USNews & World Report magazine, with the College of Law advancing five positions and the College of Nursing rising three positions.

In its new publication, "America’s Best Graduate Schools 2008," to be on news stands next week, USNews lists the UK College of Law in a tie for 60th place among all public and private universities. It had previously been ranked in a tie for 65th. Among public law schools, the college ranked in a tie for 31st.

The College of Nursing, meanwhile, rose from a tie for 29th place to a tie for 26th among all public and private universities. Among public nursing schools, UK ties for 18th.

"We're always pleased when a national publication recognizes UK's programs," said UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. "It's important to note, of course, that U.S.News & World Report does not consider essential elements of our programs, like the frequency with which researchers from other universities cite UK faculty in their studies, the amount of research dollars generated by a department or college, and other criteria."

"The UK College of Nursing is extremely pleased with the recognition of our graduate program," said Jane Kirschling, dean of the College of Nursing. "Over the past decade, UK has grown in national prominence, and we are pleased that we continue to improve our ranking and provide outstanding opportunities for graduate nursing education at UK."

In other listings, UK’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration was ranked 34th among all public and private universities’ public affairs programs, with its Public Finance and Budgeting program listed sixth."We're delighted with the rankings and feel they reflect the quality of education offered here at the Martin School. It is always exciting to be ranked as one of the top ten programs in the country, and the recognition reflects the excellent performance of our faculty, students and alumni," said Edward T. Jennings, director of the Martin School.

The UK College of Pharmacy continues to be listed eighth among all public and private universities.

Source UK Press Release.

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Ft. thomas Superintendent announces new plan called Vision 2020. Now where have I heard that before.

When a committee formed to find the next superintendent for the Fort Thomas Independent Schools interviewed candidates, only John Williamson had a plan to take the district to "the next level," board member Brad Fennell said.

That made Williamson, who has served for eight years as the district's assistant superintendent, a logical choice to replace departing Superintendent Larry Stinson.

"I truly believe he's the only one who could," Fennell said Wednesday, after the board unanimously voted to hire Williamson at a salary of $122,000 a year.

Williamson's plan has a name: "Vision 2020," in honor of when next year's first-graders will graduate. But he wouldn't reveal any details on Wednesday.

This from the Kentucky Post.

Pundits Weigh in on NCLB Reauthorization; Growth Models Given Best Chance of Passage

Title1Online prognosticates the future of NCLB by surveying 5 education experts. Here's what they see:

Growth models are in. So is a permanent reshuffling of the order of school improvement sanctions.

Expanding testing exemptions for students with disabilities? Not likely. The same goes for expanding high school assessments and allowing incentives for states to participate in some form of national standards.

With Congress beginning to wade into the turbulent waters of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Title I Monitor asked five of the nation’s top education experts and policy wonks to evaluate the leading proposals submitted thus far.

The biggest non-surprise: Virtually no-one believes that NCLB will be reauthorized on schedule this year. That item scored the lowest of all: 2.2 on a scale from 1 to 10 (see chart). It is also hardly news that fostering growth models and allowing schools in improvement to implement supplemental educational services (SES) in their first year scored high (9.4 and 9, respectively), as both issues are mainstays of several reauthorization proposals, including President Bush’s. Growth models base school accountability on the growth in individual students’ achievement, while “flip-flopping” the order of public school choice and SES has already been allowed on an experimental basis.

But aside from these issues, there was a surprising consensus on some hot-button items, in addition to a significant disparity on some proposals that could portend intense debates to come.

Similar from EduWonk.

The share of federal domestic spending that goes to serve children has been on the decline since 1960, and the drop is expected to continue, according

A new study on trends in federal spending on children from 1960 to 2017, looks at over 100 major federal programs, including tax credits and exemptions. Children's spending increasingly shifted from broad-based programs to programs targeting low-income or special needs children over the 1960 to 2006 period.

Thirteen major programs enacted between 1960 and 2006, which include Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and Food Stamps, comprised 65 percent of federal spending on children in 2006.

Overall, federal children's spending increased in real terms from $53 billion in 1960 to $333 billion in 2006, or from 1.9 to 2.6 percent of GDP.

Yet as a share of federal domestic spending, children's spending declined from 20.1 to 15.4 percent.

Meanwhile, spending on the automatically growing, non-child portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, nearly quadrupled from 2.0 to 7.6 percent of GDP ($58 billion to $993 billion) over the same time period. Over the next ten years, children's programs are scheduled to decline both as a share of GDP and domestic spending, because they do not compete on a level playing field with these rapidly growing entitlement programs.

This from the Urban Institute.

Study gives teachers low grade in classroom

USA Today reports:

The typical child in the USA stands only a one-in-14 chance of having a consistently rich, supportive elementary school experience, say researchers who looked at what happens daily in thousands of classrooms.

The findings, published today in the weekly magazine Science, take teachers to task for spending too much time on basic reading and math skills and not enough on problem-solving, reasoning, science and social studies. They also suggest that U.S. education focuses too much on teacher qualifications and not enough on teachers being engaging and supportive.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, educational researchers spent thousands of hours in more than 2,500 first-, third- and fifth-grade classrooms, tracking kids through elementary school. It is among the largest studies done of U.S. classrooms, producing a detailed look at the typical kid's day.

The researchers found a few bright spots — kids use time well, for one. But they found just as many signs that classrooms can be dull, bleak places where kids don't get a lot of teacher feedback or face time.

Among the findings on what teachers and students did and how they interacted:

• Fifth-graders spent 91.2% of class time in their seats listening to a teacher or working alone, and only 7% working in small groups, which foster social skills and critical thinking. Findings were similar in first and third grades.

• In fifth grade, 62% of instructional time was in literacy or math; only 24% was devoted to social studies or science.

• About one in seven (14%) kids had a consistently high-quality "instructional climate" all three years studied. Most classrooms had a fairly healthy "emotional climate," but only 7% of students consistently had classrooms high in both. There was no difference between public and private schools.

Although all teachers surveyed had bachelor's degrees — and 44% had a master's — it didn't mean that their classrooms were productive. The typical teacher scored only 3.6 out of seven points for "richness of instructional methods," and 3.4 for providing "evaluative feedback" to students on their work.

Whether a teacher was highly qualified, had many years of experience or earned more mattered little, says lead researcher Robert Pianta of the University of Virginia.

Of the standard measures studied, "none of them makes a noticeable difference," he said.
Prior research has shown that highly skilled, engaging teachers can eliminate achievement gaps between rich and poor kids. Pianta says his new findings support that conclusion and suggest policymakers should focus more on how individual teachers can improve on these measures.
Kathy Schultz, director of teacher education at the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education, says studying how teachers teach is helpful, but ignores the reality of larger mandates such as the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Teachers, she says, are under enormous pressure to increase basic skills.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

EdTrust Response to Education Week’s "Quality Counts 2007"

Focus is necessary. Tunnel vision isn't. Part of understanding how much teachers have done for students is understanding how far they have come - as opposed to the improvement of students whose parents may have enriched their children's lives well beyond the school's best hope.
Demographics aren't destiny. But let's be real. Let's put all the data on the table. Closing the achievement gap will require a comprehensive approach and educators ought to be part of that conversation as well.
This from Education Trust:
Demographics Aren’t Destiny: What Schools Do Matters

...Now, please don’t get us wrong. In a country as rich as ours, it is an outrage that we allow so many children to live in poverty or grow up with inadequate health care. And all Americans, educators and otherwise, should be pressing policymakers to DEAL with these problems.

But our main job as educators is a different one: it’s about teaching those children, no matter their background. And this Commission--had it thought to ask principals in its own highest performing, high-poverty schools for advice--would have been told that in no uncertain terms...

“...Some of our children live in the most dire circumstances,” [a principal testified]. “But we don’t dwell on that because we can’t change that. We focus, instead, on what we can do to take these children where they need to go.”

Principals at high-performing, high-poverty schools all over the country say exactly the same thing: We focus on what we can change, not on what we can’t. They want to be judged not by the characteristics of the students coming in, but by what they do for them.

On the one hand, [Quality Counts] took some important steps forward by including, for example, indicators on pre-school participation and on postsecondary results. After all, what we do at all these levels matters. And it’s right to remind policymakers, like the Casey Foundation has in its annual Kids Count reports, that if they are serious about developing their states’ young talent, it is insane to ignore the huge contribution that better health care and better family supports can make.

That said, the masthead, if we're not mistaken, says Education Week, not Sociology Week. Yet the researchers created a “Chance for Success Index” that essentially said to states: If you have large numbers of poor or undereducated adults, just forget it. In so doing, Quality Counts diminished the critical role of educators and public schools in preparing young people to become contributing citizens despite the obstacles they face outside of school.

No Child law faces medley of changes

If President Bush wants the next version of his signature No Child Left Behind education law to carry his imprint, the White House will have to compromise with a host of disparate groups seeking changes in the 5-year-old act.As Congress starts considering complaints from school districts, governors and others, chances are that a holdup in revising the law as scheduled this year could leave the future of Bush’s domestic legacy to his successor.

States are among the chief stakeholders clamoring to leave their stamp on a new version of the education law, which has riled some state lawmakers and educators to the point of rebellion over its costs, penalties and unprecedented federal oversight of school policy.

“Give me some more flexibility because I think we could do this better,” said Wisconsin Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, representing the Council of Chief State School Officers, before a joint congressional hearing March 13.

The nation’s governors are gathering suggestions from each other so they can recommend a set of changes to Congress.

“We’re doing something unique,” said Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), co-chairman of the National Governors Association’s lobbying effort with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D). “The education issue is front and center now and so … it’s important to take a key leadership role.”

The federal law, which Congress passed in 2001 with bipartisan support, mandates annual testing in reading and math for grades 3-8 and once in high school with the goal of making all students proficient in the subjects by 2013-14. Schools that fail to make annual progress face a variety of penalties, from being forced to pay for tutoring to being taken over by the state.
The law is up for reauthorization this year, meaning Congress has a chance to change it.
However, experts polled by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an education think tank, say it’s unlikely that No Child Left Behind will be reauthorized until after the presidential election. Until it’s renewed, the law will continue in its current form.

Critics have decried the law for its focus on testing, federal intrusion into what traditionally has been a local issue, and what they say is an unrealistic goal of proficiency by 100 percent of students.

This from

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Having lost their legislative privilege argument at the Supreme Court, Salamanca and Keller take their case to the Kentucky Law Journal

This from the Kentucky Law Review blog:

Paul E. Salamanca, James and Mary Lassiter Professor of Law in the University of Kentucky College of Law, and James Keller, former associate justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, have an article in the most recent edition of the Kentucky Law Journal, released today. The article, titled "The Legislative Privilege to Judge the Qualifications, Elections, and Returns of Members," examines the case of Stephenson v. Woodward.

Stephenson v. Woodward stems from a residency dispute in the 2004 Kentucky general election. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Dana Seum Stephenson could not serve in the state Senate because she was not a resident of Kentucky for enough time prior to her seeking the seat. Furthermore, Virginia Woodward was not eligible either because she did not receive the majority of the popular vote.

Salamanca and Keller use this case as the foundation for the findings in their article."Although we take Stephenson as our point of departure, we believe our review of legislative and judicial precedent pertaining to the privilege, which makes up the bulk of the article, will stand on its own. We are therefore hopeful that this piece will prove useful to future researchers of the privilege," said Salamanca.
In Woodward v Stephenson Salamanca represented Senate President David Williams. Justice Keller wrote a dissenting opinion for the court.

Another member of the "Jackass" generation provides material evidence for his own arrest - Police tipped off

What are the chances that the tipster was one of the victims?
~ reports an AP story:

Pikeville, KY (AP) - A moment on the video-sharing Web site YouTube landed an eastern Kentucky teen in jail.

Charles Jeremy Brown, 18, was charged with 27 counts of menacing, eight counts of criminal mischief and one count of criminal littering after investigators say they saw him on the Web site busting church windows, vandalizing grocery stores and menacing workers at a drive-through restaurant.

Pike County Chief Deputy Sheriff Melvin Sayers said other arrests are possible because at least one juvenile was identified in the 46 videos posted on the Web site. Three or four other people were also seen in the footage, but not immediately identified, Sayers said.

Investigators were tipped to search for "jbrownhoho," Sayers said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Teaching children art comes from the heart


First there's the former graduate-student perspective on art teacher Judy Haynes:
"She's got strong interpersonal skills, is very knowledgeable in her field and is a great model for her students," said Lisa Jameson, now a professor of art education at Northern Kentucky University.

Then there's the kindergarten-student perspective:

"You get to have fun in her class instead of doing work," said 6-year-old Tahj Harding. "She doesn't teach us homework. That's what I like about her."

Haynes, 54, has spent the past 12 summers teaching in the master's of art and art education program at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. She's also taught art to children at Fourth Street Elementary in Newport for 25 years.

Haynes was honored for her service and expertise March 12 in New York City by the National Art Education Association. She was named the organization's Southeast Region Elementary Art Educator of the Year, one of four regional awards nationwide.

This from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Teach the Bible in public schools

This Op Ed from the Christian Science Monitor.
Although the 110th Congress has brought to Capitol Hill 43 Jews, two Buddhists, and a Muslim, Washington remains a disproportionately Christian town. More than 90 percent of federal legislators call themselves Christians, making Congress more Christian than the United States itself. Biblical references permeate political speech, yet US citizens know almost nothing about the Bible. Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore.

In their answers to a religious literacy quiz I have given, undergraduates tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only 1 out of 3 US citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and 1 out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment, or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Biblically illiterate Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim – often incorrectly – that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.

One solution to this civic problem is to teach Bible classes in public schools. By Bible classes I do not mean classes in which teachers tell students that Jesus loves them or that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but academic courses that study the Bible's characters and stories, and the afterlife of the Bible in literature and history. Recently, the Georgia Board of Education gave preliminary approval to two elective Bible courses designed to teach, rather than preach, religion. As long as teachers stick to the curriculum, this is a big step in the right direction...

Homeschool chess team not allowed to defend state title

The young chess players were the first such champions in Arizona. But a team of homeschool students from the southeast Valley, called the Chevalier Noir (Black Knight) Academy, was shut out last weekend from competing, not allowed to defend its title in the Arizona Scholastic Chess Championship held in Tucson.

State chess officials allowed the homeschool students to play as teams for two years because of changing or unclear national rules on the subject, but this year, they ruled team members must come from the same school.

This from the Arizona Republic.

Teen compiles a Civil War film. It explores northern Kentucky's role in the conflict.

Like many who live in Northern Kentucky, James Kyle Hill had no idea of the history of his region.

That changed when the Fort Mitchell resident decided to enter a scholarship competition sponsored by the History Channel.

For his project, he decided to find out how cities like Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas and Fort Wright got their names.

The 10-minute documentary he made with his findings aired Monday night on Insight public access cable Channel 15 and will air again at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. It's also on a continuous loop at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in Fort Wright, where Hill spent three months researching his film.

The 18-year-old had little interest in making movies until he took a video production course at Beechwood High School, where he's a senior. Now, he's passionate about the process.

This from the Cincinnati Post.

Covington Board member speaks out against Stumbo

The Cincinnati Post reports:

A Covington school board member is speaking out against the effort of the state's highest law enforcement officer to unseat him.

Paul Mullins, elected to the Covington school board in November, planned a statement this morning outside the Covington headquarters of the Lunsford/Stumbo campaign slate, on which Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo is running for lieutenant governor.

On March 22, Stumbo filed suit in Kenton Circuit Court to have Mullins removed from office.
The issue is that at the time of his election, Mullins drove a bus for Covington schools and did not give up that job until about a month after the November election...

[Covington Superintendent Jack Moreland] said Mullins has acknowledged publicly that a school board employee told him before the election that he would need to resign as a bus driver before the election.

"Paul Mullins is a good man, I hate that this all happened the way that it did," Moreland said.

And this from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Beware of DIBELS "research-based" claims

This from the Washington Post:

In Montgomery County public schools, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test, or DIBELS, is used as a screening tool for kindergarten through second grade students, said Ann Bedford, K-12 curriculum development director.

In Anne Arundel County public schools, DIBELS is used from kindergarten through second grade "as a predictor and as a benchmark to see how kids are doing," said Kim Callison, coordinator for elementary reading and language arts. Teachers use it "for instructional decision-making."

The different purposes point to a heated debate among testing experts about the validity of DIBELS, which is given annually to about 2 million schoolchildren in the United States -- sometimes as often as three times a semester.

The test was created at the University of Oregon and has become prominent in the era of President Bush's Reading First program, which seeks to ensure that every child is able to read well by the third grade.

DIBELS has been championed as "scientifically valid" by administration officials seeking to advance the teaching of reading through an emphasis on phonics.

According to the DIBELS Web site (, the test is a set of standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. They are designed to be one-minute "fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills."

Early childhood expert Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Chicago-based Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development, said DIBELS has "very, very weak validity," and numerous other critics have gone further.

"It is an absurd set of silly little one-minute tests that never get close to measuring what reading is really about -- making sense of print," wrote Kenneth S. Goodman, a professor at the University of Arizona who is a past president of the International Reading Association, in his book "The Truth About DIBELS."

Goodman and others say the mini quizzes focus on only a few specific skills that do not encompass everything needed for comprehensive reading instruction. The emphasis on speed, they say, is misplaced in reading development.

The quizzes include one in which students are supposed to read made-up words as fast as they can, called the Nonsense Word Fluency measure. Another asks students to read short passages out loud as fast as they can.

Critics also say DIBELS is being used as a curriculum guide in many classrooms where teachers, whose jobs may depend on student test scores, are eager to improve their charges' DIBELS scores.

Tests are supposed to have one purpose, but Goodman, Meisels and others say the fact that different classes are using it for different things means many of the results are invalid.

Trying to Disarm the Dangerous World That Students Live In

During the spring of his sophomore year in high school here, Jeffrey Johnson took the standardized tests that Florida requires for promotion and graduation. He scored in the 93rd percentile in reading and the 95th in math. That same semester, he earned straight A’s.

Two years later, in May 2006, Jeffrey was about to graduate summa cum laude, having received a full college scholarship. Days before commencement, at the age of 17, he was shot to death at a party during an argument about his car. His graduation mortarboard was found near his body...

An interesting article by SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN in the New York Times.

States Turn Down Abstinence-Only Grants

Education Week reports:

The federal government is trying to bolster support for its abstinence-until-marriage state-grant program, which officials contend is under attack by interest groups misrepresenting its intent.

The Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sent a memorandum last week to state agencies saying they are allowed to use other federal dollars to provide comprehensive sex education if they choose.

“The State Abstinence Education Grant program does not force an ‘either-or’ decision for how states approach teen-pregnancy prevention,” said the March 19 memo. The grant program has received $50 million a year since its inception in 1997. The money is given to states, which are required to partially match the funds and then distribute the money to various public and private agencies.

Days before the government sent out its guidance, Ohio released a budget March 15 indicating it is joining other states—Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—in rejecting the federal money under the state-grant program...

...The federal abstinence program has come under scrutiny recently. In a report released late last year, the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog agency, said that HHS was not reviewing abstinence education programs for scientific accuracy. ("Abstinence Programs Lack Factual Reviews, GAO Study Concludes," Education Week, Nov. 29, 2006.)

A legal opinion from the general counsel of the GAO also said abstinence programs must include “medically accurate” information about condoms or risk violating federal law. The Health and Human Services Department responded that the programs are not required to talk about condom usage, but present accurate information about condoms when they do so. ("GAO Opinion Renews Debate on Abstinence-Only Programs," Education Week, Nov. 1, 2006.)

Growth Models for NCLB Accountability Are Weighed

Amending the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability provisions to require the measurement of students’ academic growth is a popular idea, but the transition to it might not be quick or easy, a panel of experts told federal lawmakers last week.

Not all states have the data capabilities to operate so-called growth models, and many others would need to revise their testing programs to take full advantage of them, testing experts and state officials said at the House Education and Labor Committee’s second hearing on the reauthorization of the federal education law.

“This is a whole lot more complicated than I thought,” Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., said at the March 21 hearing.

But such hurdles shouldn’t dissuade policymakers from taking steps to ensure all states eventually use individual student growth to determine whether schools and districts are making adequate yearly progress—or AYP—under the law.

This from

Justices Differ Sharply on "bong Hits 4 Jesus" Student Speech case

Education Week reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared sharply divided last week on whether a student’s banner proclaiming “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” outside an Alaska high school was protected speech or a message that school authorities could suppress because it ran counter to their policies against the promotion of illegal drugs.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer seemed to capture the court’s concerns as it heard arguments in Morse v. Frederick (Case No. 06-278) on March 19.
“It’s pretty hard to run a school where kids go around at public events publicly making a joke out of drugs,” Justice Breyer told Douglas K. Mertz, the lawyer representing former high school student Joseph Frederick, whose suspension for 10 days in 2002 stemmed from the incident.
Justice Breyer said he worried that if he took the student’s side, “we’ll suddenly see people testing limits all over the place in the high schools. But a rule that’s against your side may really limit people’s rights on free speech. That’s what I’m struggling with.”

...The arguments came nearly two decades after the Supreme Court upheld the right of secondary school students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. In that landmark 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the court upheld such political expression as long as school was not substantially disrupted.

Based on the oral arguments, the decision in the Alaska case is likely to be a close one. There appeared to be some sentiment among the justices for carving out an exception to Tinker’s protections when the student speech in question runs counter to school anti-drug policies or when it advocates violent or any illegal activity.

Another possibility is that the justices could decide that Mr. Frederick’s banner was not student speech at all—but protected public speech—because it occurred off campus and he had never arrived at school that day before he showed up at the parade at which he and other students displayed the banner.

...A decision is expected by the end of the court’s term in June.

Legislature Votes to Replace Merit-Pay System in Florida

The Florida legislature last week swapped its controversial merit-pay plan for teachers for one that would give school districts more say in how many teachers are rewarded and why.
The Merit Award Program would replace the Special Teachers Are Rewarded, or STAR, plan that has been forcefully opposed by teachers’ unions across the state and invited a court challenge from the Florida Education Association, a merged affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

By this month, 19 of the state’s 67 districts had not adopted STAR, although that meant they would lose their share of $147.5 million in additional state money for the 2006-07 school year. Union locals in 46 of the 67 districts rejected the reward system, but some districts decided to forge ahead with it anyway.

Union leaders said last week that the Merit Award Program, also known as MAP, is an improvement over past merit-pay versions. Unlike STAR, the program would be subject to collective bargaining, and unions and districts would work together to set up local proposals.

From Education Week.

Reading Recovery: Of course it works. But it's still v e r y expensive

Reading Recovery, a popular one-to-one tutoring program that Bush administration officials sought to shut out of a high-profile federal reading program, has gotten a rare thumbs-up from the federal What Works Clearinghouse.

The positive rating comes after prominent researchers and federal reading officials tried to dissuade states and districts from paying for Reading Recovery with funds from the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program, which calls on school systems to spend their grant money on programs backed by “scientifically based research.” In their objections to the tutoring program, critics raised questions about its cost and cited problems in the studies attesting to its effectiveness.

This from Education Week.

In Texas, a white teenager burns down her family's home and receives probation.

A recent story in the Chicago Tribune has resonated - big time - with the public. The story was written by Howard Witt who is the Tribune's Southwest Bureau Chief, based in Houston.

Witt reported:
To some in Paris, sinister past is back
In Texas, a white teenager burns down her family's home and receives probation.
A black one shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison.
The state NAACP calls it `a signal to black folks.'
The public fairgrounds in this small east Texas town look ordinary enough, like so many other well-worn county fair sites across the nation. Unless you know the history of the place.
There are no plaques or markers to denote it, but several of the most notorious public lynchings of black Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were staged at the Paris Fairgrounds, where thousands of white spectators would gather to watch and cheer as black men were dragged onto a scaffold, scalded with hot irons and finally burned to death or hanged...
There was the 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.
There are the Paris public schools, which are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department after repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently, and more harshly, than white students.
And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.
Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation...
Witt followed up today with a description of the internet activity and public outcry that followed:
Sometimes, as a newspaper reporter, you write a story that touches enough readers that a few write you letters or e-mails in response.
Less often, but even more gratifying, you write a story that actually changes something, like getting a bad law fixed or a corrupt politician indicted or a donation for a kid who can't afford life-saving surgery.
And every once in a blue moon, you write something that literally explodes across the Internet in ways no one could predict...

More state gamesmanship - less education

This Week in Education's Alexander Russo outlines his read of a Chicago Tribune exclusive report:
Illinois Goes For Broke On AYP Avoidance Strategies
Apparently not content with being the last state in the nation to turn around its 2006 test scores (they came out at roughly the same time that kids were taking the 2007 tests), Illinois has made the news again for jimmying with student eligibility criteria in ways that generally help schools pass AYP (State uses test loophole). No, it's not the subgroup size loophole -- that's so 2006. It's the date of enrollment loophole, which Illinois moved back to May 1 of the PREVIOUS year.
Result? Thirteen percent of scores not counted, or 283K kids (one in four African-American kids), 53 schools made AYP that otherwise wouldn't have.
See the Chicago Tribune story:
State uses test loophole
Relaxed rule lets schools dodge failure list
More than 13 percent of the math and reading tests taken by Illinois students last year were not counted under the No Child Left Behind law, more than three times the percentage exempted the previous year, according to a Tribune analysis of state data.
The federal reform is based on the premise that every child can pass state math and reading exams if given access to a good school. But more than 283,000 exams were discounted. Low-income and minority students, whom the law was designed to help, were the most likely to see their scores negated, according to the analysis of recently released 2006 school report card data.
The dramatic increase can be tied to the state's decision to relax a little-noticed provision of the federal law.Under the reform, schools are judged only on the scores of students enrolled for a "full academic year." Each state is allowed to determine what constitutes a full year.
Until last year, Illinois schools were responsible only for students enrolled by Oct. 1 of that school year.Now, students must be enrolled by May 1 of the previous school year for their score to count under the federal law.
The relaxation of the rules helped 53 schools, including 28 in Chicago, escape the federal failing schools list. Schools that land on the roster face a series of escalating sanctions, including allowing students to transfer to better campuses and offering free tutoring to those who remain.

Realistic standards, rigorously enforced

Today's Los Angeles Times editorial gets it right
Son of No Child Left Behind
The education law -- up for reauthorization this year -- sets standards without looking at what's realistically achievable.

CREDIT THE No Child Left Behind Act for this: It helped to reveal how little learning was going on in many classrooms, especially those with poor and minority students. As a result, educators are working to change that.

This is no small accomplishment. Still, the law has not yet achieved its key goals: improvement in student scores and a narrowing of the achievement gap between white, middle-class children and their poor, minority counterparts.

Flaws in the law have held back real educational progress and unfairly placed blame on public-school teachers for everything but the weather. The law has labeled many good schools as failures, which has led to a bipartisan uprising against legislation that once had true bipartisan support. While its basic tenets should remain intact, and even be strengthened, the law needs an overhaul to deserve reauthorization this year.

It's stated goal is to bring every child to academic "proficiency" by 2014, and it sets yearly guidelines for getting there. At the same time, it allows the states, not the federal government, to define "proficiency." Some states (though not California[or Kentucky]) have set the standard laughably low, making a mockery of the law.

In states where proficiency actually means something, on the other hand, it doesn't necessarily help the students who most need help. Teachers often work most with the children who are just below proficient, getting them above the bar so they'll count as successes. Children at the bottom, who need the help even more, receive too little attention. Gifted students, meanwhile, are left out of the equation, prompting many schools to cut their programs for gifted children.

The law should be rewritten to require yearly improvement for each student — a realistic goal that teachers can meet whatever their students' scores were at the beginning of the year. This would encourage more good teachers to work at the schools that need them most, and would relieve schools from being blamed for the low scores of a new student whose poor performance is no fault of theirs. To close the achievement gap between minority children and white, and between poor and middle class, more growth should be expected from the lowest-scoring groups.

Other areas in which the law needs revision: It places too much emphasis on teachers who are "highly qualified," meaning they've got a lot of credentials. Instead, schools need teachers who are effective — meaning their students do well. The law must help pay for and design better tests that are true measures of what students are supposed to learn and, as President Bush has suggested, define what "proficiency" should look like.

The success of a nation depends largely on the quality of its educational system, and the international standing of the U.S. system is embarrassingly low. The key to improving it is realistic standards, rigorously enforced. No Child Left Behind has the standards and the enforcement, but it could use more realism and rigor.

Cincinnati Schools cut 87 administrative positions for budget flexibility

Without comment, the Cincinnati Public School Board on Monday voted to not renew the contracts of 87 administrators.

The board, which had discussed the non-renewals in executive session before the meeting, unanimously agreed to Superintendent Rosa Blackwell's recommendation.

Blackwell recommended the non-renewals to give the district flexibility while building its 2007-08 budget. The district has to cut $39 million from its $430 million budget.

The action affects those central office and school administrators whose contracts expire July 31. That includes interim and assistant principals. Only one principal, the head of Central Fairmount, is on the list. That school is slated to close at the end of the school year.

The school board had to act this week because the district has to notify administrators by March 31 of its intent not to renew contracts.

This from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Photo from Cincinnati Public Schools.

Finalist gets first look at district

The Courier-Journal reports: (Photo by Michael Clevenger)

During the first of two days of interviews, Berman, 58, superintendent of Hudson Public Schools in Massachusetts, answered questions from Greater Louisville Inc., the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation and the 15th District PTA Board.

Later, he took part in a large community forum inside Durrett Auditorium at JCPS Gheens Academy.

"I really liked what he had to say about the importance of arts in education, but it concerned me when he said that he wouldn't have a plan coming in (to the district)," Kaileigh said. "I did admire the fact that he admitted that he would have a lot to learn if he came here. I think it takes a lot of strength for a person to admit that."

Berman said he was intrigued by the questions the day brought and the people he met.
"This is a wonderful community and a wonderful school district," Berman said after the forum. "I have done enough research into it to know that there are a lot of advantages here; there's a solid foundation. And I think I can bring my knowledge to bear in continuing that tradition and enhancing that tradition."

Among those who attended yesterday's public forum were about 50 people associated with the Justice Resource Center, whose leaders have criticized the school board for failing to include more diverse candidates, and bringing in only Berman.

They held a silent protest, holding signs that gave the school board an "F" for its search and stated they were tired of the board's "done deals." They left after about an hour.

"I listened to what he (Berman) had to say and it doesn't sound bad, but I just don't think there are enough candidates to hear from," said Lamont Jenkins, who has two grandchildren in public schools in Jefferson County. "Several of us feel like he is being shoved down our throat."
Berman has been superintendent of Hudson Public Schools, a district of roughly 2,900 students 40 miles west of Boston, for the past 14 years.

He is the only person to interview for Jefferson County Public Schools' top job. Two other finalists dropped out last week.

Berman is seeking the position being vacated by Stephen Daeschner, who makes $201,074 a year.

A tough week for the Bullitt County Public School System: Board not surprised; believes work is in progress to succeed

Despite the heat, superintendent Michael Eberbaugh is pleased that the state Department of Education released an audit looking at deficiencies in the Bullitt County Public School System.

While he disagrees with many of the points made, Eberbaugh said a look from the outside is not bad. And it gives educators, and the public, a starting point to make more strides.

As some of the comments have been personally directed at the superintendent, Eberbaugh said he knows as a former football coach, the leader must accept the blame.However, he said the district has experienced tremendous growth and it has put a strain on all employees. Despite comments to the contrary, Eberbaugh said about half of his time is spent on curriculum issues and going out to the schools.

He said the curriculum development has been delegated to Central Office administrators but he said they are spread too thin. He said the district, which is near the bottom in terms of tax revenue generated and near the top in teacher salaries, must find more money for curriculum-based items.

This from the

Fairview Superintendent wants dispute to end - without needed tax

Ashland Daily Independent reports:
(Photo by Kevin Goldy)

Fighting for a tax that voters are certain to rescind isn’t worth the animosity, Fairview school Superintendent Bill Musick said Monday.

Musick asked the board of education to drop plans to put a utility tax on the November ballot if a recall petition drive is successful. Board members didn’t act immediately, favoring a last-ditch attempt to sway public opinion.

“I don’t want this thing dragging on all through the summer,” Musick said. Disagreement over the levy has divided an otherwise close community, he said. “I’ve lost sleep over it.”Musick said he didn’t want the tax issue to become personal but it has anyway.

He still favors the tax but doesn’t think it can prevail at the ballot box. “The chances are slim to none,” he said. In fact, a petition drive to take the issue to a vote had around 700 signatures at last count, said Jamie Hinkle, one of the organizers.The signatures have to be validated by the county clerk’s office, but since only 191 are required to get the issue on the ballot, there’s little doubt, Hinkle said.

“(Musick) probably feels like he doesn’t want to do anything against the community. We respect that,” Hinkle said.

The board enacted the 3 percent levy in February; it would be added to all electric, gas, water, telephone, cable and cell phone bills.A previous similar utility tax was struck down by voters in 2005 by a wide margin.

Educators say state threatened to cut aid

Needy districts pressed to accept modest increase

[New Jersey] School superintendents from Orange, Paterson and other needy districts told lawmakers yesterday they were coerced into accepting inadequate aid for the coming year by state officials who threatened intense audits and potential funding cuts for those seeking more.

Of the 31 communities that receive special assistance under the state Supreme Court's Abbott vs. Burke rulings, only seven have sought more than the 3 percent increase offered by the state Department of Education.

"It's made very clear to us that if you would choose to go for additional funding, the tasks and documentation process would be much more arduous than it would be if you accept the 3 percent," Michael Glascoe, Paterson schools superintendent, told the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Public Schools at a hearing in Trenton yesterday.

"If you apply for more you run the risk of not even getting the 3 percent," added Trenton Superintendent Rodney Lofton. "It's one of those risks you take with no promise."

Assemblyman Craig Stanley (D-Essex), co-chairman of the committee on the Public Schools, called the situation "very, very, very troublesome."

"There's a serious issue here," he said. "What we're engaged in, perhaps, is not just deception but might even be considered criminal."

This from The Star-Ledger.

Clark plan calls for two new schools

Four older elementaries would be closed

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports:
A planning committee charged with reviewing schools in Clark County has recommended that a new high school and elementary school be built and that the district close four other smaller, aging elementary schools as part of a plan to be presented to the school board Thursday.

Doug Christopher, vice-chair of the Facilities Planning Committee says the changes are designed to be equitable to Clark County students. He says some elementary students attend a school with as few as 110 students, while other schools have as many as 600 students.

Architects have estimated it will cost the district about $60 million to implement the plan, including building the new high school. The price tag will require raising property taxes by 5 cents from 39.7 cents per $100 of assessed value to 44.7 cents, Christopher said.
And some parents don't want the small schools to close.

"Closing small schools, raising taxes -- I don't think there is anybody in the county that likes us right now," Christopher said. "But we looked at this from an equality standpoint and what's best for the students."

The plan, which has been in the works since November, centers around a new high school.
There are 1,650 students attending George Rogers Clark High School, which was designed to hold only 1,500, Christopher said.

He said the new building would hold 1,800 high school students and would feature an area for vocational classes and a freshmen academy, or a separate wing designed to separate freshmen as they transition into high school.

If the school board approves the committee's plan Thursday, the new high school could be up and running as early as 2010, Christopher said.

He said the old high school building would then be turned into a large middle school and the county's two middle schools -- Conkwright and Clark -- will be converted into elementary schools.

Five of Clark's eight elementaries -- Central, Fannie Bush, Hannah McClure, Providence and Pilot View -- were built in the 1950s and don't have central air conditioning.

Under the plan, Fannie Bush, Providence and Pilot View will close, as will Trapp Elementary. Hannah McClure will be turned into a preschool.

That would leave only five elementary schools: the two former middle schools, Shearer, Strode Station and Central. But the Central building is aging and plans call for a new facility to be built and the current structure to be torn down.

More from the Winchester Sun. "Facilities plan passes despite parents' protests"

Busload of students held hostage in Philippines reports:
Photo by Bullit Marquez / AP
A hostage gestures for a cell phone as a grenade is held close to her by a hostage-taker inside a bus in front of the Manila City Hall, on Wednesday, in the Philippines.
A man with a history of attention-grabbing stunts took a busload of students and teachers hostage from his day-care center and drove them to City Hall Wednesday, keeping them onboard for hours and demanding better lives for the children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Small steps produce big results

Since August, Clays Mill kindergartners and first-graders in Melissa McDaniel’s class have walked to Kansas – 10 minutes at a time.

Every morning, weather permitting, McDaniel’s students take 10 minutes to refocus and reenergize by taking a walk or run – a routine that has had a lasting impact on the students and the staff.

“I like to walk because it’s healthy for you and makes you strong,” said kindergartner Matt Polard. “It gets my mind working.”

The class doesn’t waste precious instructional time during their physical activity. Students learn while they move – reciting the alphabet or reviewing their sounds.

“Their focus during academic time has increased in a phenomenal way,” said Clays Mill principal Edwina Smith. “They’ve had a large increase in time on-task since their activity breaks.”

Once a week, the class charts its progress on a map by counting the miles they walk. The goal is to cover enough ground to reach California before the end of the school year.

“As teachers, we’ve come to think that it’s the parents’ responsibility to get their kids moving and that’s not always the case,” said McDaniel. “It’s up to us to help give our kids a start on a healthy life.”

The primary assistant in McDaniel’s class was skeptical when the group first started walking. Now 36 pounds lighter since September, Deb Miller is a confirmed believer.

“I’ve been a changed person over this,” said Miller. “I don’t think people realize the importance of physical activity. I know I didn’t.”

Last year, her son was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Unless his eating habits were altered and his physical activity was increased, he would need to go on medication. She got him moving.

Now, every evening, Miller and her family participate in some form of physical activity.

Family Circle magazine invited Miller to participate in a family fitness challenge along with two other families from across the country. You can follow their progress in this month’s edition.
“My goal is to incorporate another mile each day after work,” she said.
Press Release and Photo: Fayette County Schools

California Judge has a great Idea...Funded mandates

Districts Win in Court on Reimbursements

School districts and local governments are entitled to be repaid for the costs of running programs the state legislature requires, a Sacramento County superior court has ruled.

The California School Boards Association, the city of Newport Beach, Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego County, and the counties of Fresno and Los Angeles sued the state over a bill passed in 2005. They objected because it allowed the state to avoid reimbursing districts for the costs associated with operating state-mandated programs.

From Education Week.

Kiddies go door-to-door raising money. "Former" Principal Swipes it.

“It is a sad day when leaders in our schools are charged with stealing from their students,” New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner said last week in announcing state indictments of Michael Hailey, the former principal of H.B. Wilson Elementary School, and his top administrator, Patricia Johnson.

Students from a Camden, N.J., elementary school hosted bake sales and sold candy door to door last year to raise money for field trips to the zoo and other places. Teachers reached into their own pockets to help. But their principal and his top aide kept the money, a grand jury alleges.

The March 19 indictments accuse the two of pocketing $14,298 collected for 13 field trips.

Pathetic story from Education Week.

North Dakota Poised to Remove Mandate for State Schools Chief to hold Teaching License

Education Week reports:
Forget being a “highly qualified” teacher—in North Dakota, the state superintendent soon may not need to be a teacher at all.

After party-line votes by Republicans in both houses of the state legislature, North Dakota is poised to eliminate its long-standing requirement that the state’s elected schools chief hold a teaching license. Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican, is expected to approve the bill, which has failed several times in the past.

Fired New Orleans Teachers Can Continue Suit, Court Rules

A state appellate court in Louisiana has upheld a decision allowing a lawsuit brought on behalf of former Orleans Parish school employees to move forward.

A three-member panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, ruled on March 8 that the employees can continue the case in state court.

The lawsuit contends that the Louisiana law that let the state take over more than 100 schools in the city violated workers’ rights to due process and compensation, as implemented.

Read the Education Week article here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Six year old girl hacked into British Parlimentary computer system

IT sounds too far-fetched for even the most fanciful of spy novels.

However, in this time of heightened terrorist alert, when the House of Commons is under constant guard from any sort of attack, a six-year-old girl from Winchester was able to hack into the parliamentary computer system.

It took the youngster, who has little knowledge of computers, just 15 seconds to seriously breach security using a simple device that can be easily, and legally, bought on the Internet.

This from the Southern Daily Echo.

Acing the final...but falling short of graduation

The Washington Post reports: ...colleges that excel in the top tier of basketball — Division I — have dismal graduation rates overall, not just for their players. There are also profound gaps between their graduation rates for white and black students.

Three of the Sweet 16 schools fail to graduate even half of their overall student populations. Fourteen schools have overall black-white male graduation rate gaps of more than 10 percentage points.

At schools in this year's Sweet 16, only 38.5 percent of men's basketball players have left with a diploma in hand. Superstars such as Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden, who can head for greener NBA pastures before completing college, are only a small part of this phenomenon. Even schools with high overall graduation rates fail to graduate many of their players. Georgetown University, for example, graduates 93 percent of its undergraduates but only 47 percent of its men's basketball team. Georgetown also reports a huge gap in the overall graduation rates of white and black men — a 20.4 percentage-point difference.

Butler and Vanderbilt have the best basketball team graduation rates of the Sweet 16. Anyone have a Butler-Vandy final in their office pool? We didn't either

SOURCE: Graduation rates are based on the most recent NCAA data, drawn from players who entered college between 1996 and 1999 and graduated within six years of initial enrollment. See the brackets_GRAPHIC: By Tobey, The Washington Post.

Bush's Alamo: Public Schools

Dan Brown writes about the impact of NCLB on his 4th grade classroom in the Bronx. His slice of life ran in the Huffington Post.

"P.S. 85, like most public schools in poor neighborhoods, is desperately short on quality teachers and classes beyond the bare bones; art and music are nonexistent for most classes and a rare period of physical education runs like a farce..."

"...Eddie is going through his fourth year in fourth grade because of rampant absences and standardized test failures. I need to get him engaged in school, somehow invested in his own achievement. He loves to draw and has a remarkable, natural talent for perspective sketching. I want to take down some of the mandated bulletin board material in order to put up an exhibit for his art. If he is recognized for his talent, maybe he'll be more inclined to participate in his education. But the last time I tried to finesse the bulletin board mandates, I got reamed by my compliance-obsessed assistant principal. How can I help Eddie?" ...

"...The stakes are high in inner-city schools, not for administrators and bureaucrats, but for the students. Children perpetually teeter on a precarious ledge--will they succeed in school and build self-worth, or become disenfranchised and drop out? Tragically, despite all the best efforts to help children by most teachers, the federal government, via the No Child Left Behind legislation, is taking a buzzsaw to the education and empowerment of voiceless, unwitting children. "

"...The stakes are high in inner-city schools, not for administrators and bureaucrats, but for the students. Children perpetually teeter on a precarious ledge--will they succeed in school and build self-worth, or become disenfranchised and drop out? Tragically, despite all the best efforts to help children by most teachers, the federal government, via the No Child Left Behind legislation, is taking a buzzsaw to the education and empowerment of voiceless, unwitting children.

"...NCLB, with its fixation on measuring success solely via high-stakes standardized testing, has created a poisonous culture of intimidation and compliance that hurts, not helps, needy students. "

Allergic to the Charming Peddlers of Panaceas

Lessons Learned from Urban School Reform

As H. L. Menchan understood, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.

Larry Cuban's sober commentary in Education Week outlines the the "dismal history of school reform policy" and discounts those snake oil peddlers who try to reduce the complex problems of school reform to simple sounding solutions. Cuban argues that we "need to think smarter about the steady rollout of school reforms."

Let's review.

Four reform strategies have dominated national policy agendas over the past 25 years.
  1. Whole-school reform began in the early 1980s, with the “effective schools” movement’s focus on transforming one school at a time by working on school climate, curriculum, instruction, and testing.
  2. Since the early 1990s, vouchers, charter schools, magnets, and theme schools have breathed life into the theory that having a choice of schools motivates parents and engages students.
  3. Standards-based accountability shifted into high gear in the 1990s, when U.S. presidents, governors, and mayors embraced it wholeheartedly.
  4. The fourth reform strategy is to concentrate authority and accountability in elected federal, state, and local officials who can do something about bad schools.

"The good news in all of this is that some strategies have worked in some districts for a while. Many urban systems using standards-based accountability strategies, for instance, have raised the percentages of their students testing proficient in reading and math in the elementary grades."

"There is bad news, too, however. None of these district reform strategies, alone or in combination, has yet to overcome persistent challenges in raising test scores and graduation rates."

Cuban outlines the challenges school reformers face:
  1. Few district reforms are implemented full.
  2. Fully implemented strategies still may not alter classroom practice.
  3. Failure to improve the lowest quartile of students continues.
  4. Sustaining reforms still remains out of reach of most districts.

"If these are the challenges, then what must be done? In trying to think smarter about district reform, I offer the following five questions that reform-minded civic and business leaders, parents, and practitioners must ask again and again when districts advertise major changes in direction:

1. Did the reform strategy’s new structures and processes (standards-based accountability, choice, governance, and so forth) get fully implemented? Incompletely implemented reform means you never know whether what was invested ever worked, much less touched teachers and students.

2. When implemented, did they change the content and practice of teaching? Putting parental-choice structures and curriculum standards in place occurs frequently. But if these are intended to alter classroom content and practices, and yet cause hardly a ripple of change in what teachers and students do daily, then the reform has failed.

3. Did altered classroom content and teaching practice lead to desired student learning? If the answer is yes, exactly what students learned from the changes teachers instituted in content and methods must be determined and documented. If the answer is no, then dump the reform.

4. Was student learning captured by state tests? Some of what students learn in classrooms as a result of reform policies can be assessed by standardized tests, but much cannot. If the state tests miss, say, critical-thinking skills—a desired outcome—then either they should be changed or other assessments used.

5. Did students who achieved proficiency on state tests go to college, graduate, and enter jobs paying solid salaries? This question puts on trial the quarter-century- old assumption that education is linked to the economy, and demands evidence on whether the assumption is accurate. Few districts do this.

If the challenges to current reform strategies are met, and these questions answered, then the deeper (and unaddressed) issues of student access to equitable resources can come to the surface: the narrowness of current definitions of “good” schools, for example, and whether or not schools alone can make a difference in students’ lives. If that happens, we will finally be thinking smarter about school reform."

Charter Schools Missing the Grade

This is a four-part special report by the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida is home to more than 300 charter schools – public schools funded by your tax dollars but run by groups, such as cities, nonprofits or management companies. Some operators are steeped in education experience, while others have no academic credentials. Many charter schools enjoy good reputations. But scores of them continue getting education dollars despite records of low student achievement and financial mismanagement.

A yearlong investigation by the Orlando Sentinel found that the state's lack of oversight has allowed students to fail academically and charter operators to profit from their relationships with the schools. This series looks at student performance, charter-school spending and what the state is doing – or not doing – to hold the campuses accountable.

Arizona Principal Hesitates to Excuse Absences of GI's Kids

When her husband comes home to Tucson on leave from Iraq, Keila Rios could face a dilemma she finds infuriating.

She plans to take their children out of school for a week to spend time with their Army dad.
But when she asked for makeup work they could do at home, she initially was told they'd receive zeros if they didn't go to class.

The head of the charter school they attend declared the absences inexcusable and told the Arizona Daily Star that Rios' children would not be allowed to make up missed assignments.

It now seems the principal is reconsidering.

This from FoxNews.

Catholic schools consolidating

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Superintendent: Collaboration is the key to Survival
Two or more schools coming together to form a new school is the wave of the future as Catholic schools look for ways to survive as they struggle with dwindling enrollments and finances.
"I see collaboration as the key," said Brother Joe Kamis, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. "More and more parishes will be doing this, and are actually doing this."

For example, Springfield already has an interparish school consisting of four schools rolled into one K-12 school and governed by a unified board. Parishes in the St. Lawrence Deanery on the West Side have been looking for more than a year at ways to collaborate, Kamis said.

St. John the Evangelist and Holy Trinity were among six Archdiocese of Cincinnati elementary schools that were in danger of closing.

Louis Coleman raises Concerns about Jefferson County school chief selection

See today's OpEd by Rev. Louis Coleman, director of the Justice Resource Center in Louisville, in the Courier-Journal.

"Our concern is not that Dr. Berman is not qualified to serve somewhere as a superintendent, but it is apparent that he is not the one for this system, and it is disturbing that individuals whose duty it is to plan and look out for the future of our children know so little about their needs. It shows zero interest. It's an old saying that you eventually get out of a project what you put in, and that's what seems to be happening with this leadership...

Maybe this choice was made due to the futuristic thinking of the board, when the Supreme Court makes its decision this spring. Maybe neighborhood schools will become a reality; just maybe the board's thinking is to hire a suburban superintendent now and be ahead of the game in the spring. Just maybe the school board's prime thought is to have a more suburban system, tolerate African Americans, the poor and other minorities, just so long as the state dollars keep coming in. Who cares if they are being taught and are learning? If not, find a timeout program."

Pop Quiz on Women's History

Quiz from the Courier-Journal.

Is the Average Photojournalist Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

This Week in Education Blogger Alexander Russo included a brief (4:13) video excerpt from This American Life. It will make perfect sense to those of you familiar with the 5th grade mindset.

This from Alexander.

"Once in a while, strange little crazes start in schools, often making adults crazy in the process. Showing his roots as an education reporter, This American Life's Ira Glass included a segment about a video-making craze that overtook one set of kids in the show's video premier, which aired last week. Not surprisingly, the craze turned out badly, and the grownups had to step in. It's shown here for free: Video: embedded. I think you can also watch the full segment online here."

Form over Substance: Key to SAT writing test?

Les Perelman, [MIT] professor, is among the many writing experts who fear that the new essay portion of the SAT and the push to use standardized testing for writing are harming American students.

Perelman has had various skirmishes with the College Board on the issue, with each side offering analyses of the test.

Perelman helped a student (over the age of 18 and with informed consent) take the SAT in October, intentionally paying no attention to whether any historical facts he cited were correct, following certain formulas (including examples from the arts and history, but not worrying whether they make sense), and including key words [like "plethora” and “myriad”] that the SAT scoring teams are thought to favor.

Read the story (and the bogus essay) from

No Retreat on School Reform

This OpEd from Senator Edward Kennedy ran in today's Washington Post. Kennedy, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was a lead author of the NCLB.

(Emphasis added)

Five years ago, Congress and President Bush made a bold and historic promise. We pledged in the No Child Left Behind Act that the federal government would do all in its power to guarantee every child in America, regardless of race, economic background, language or disability, the opportunity to get a world-class education.

We have made progress toward fulfilling that commitment. Before the act was passed, most states lacked ways to track student progress and teacher effectiveness. Many state accountability requirements had no commitment to improving education for every child. Only four states had approved assessments that tracked and reported the achievement of every group of students in their schools.

Today, all 50 states have standards, assessments and accountability procedures that enable us to track the achievement of every group of students. Every school measures performance, based not on overall student population but on progress in closing achievement gaps and getting all students to meet high standards. Schools across the country are using assessments under the No Child law to identify weaknesses in instruction and areas of need for their students.

These are significant reforms, and we can't simply ignore them. But to fulfill our promise, much more remains to be done.

The No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization. Some in Congress feel the challenge is too great and want to turn back the clock on reform. One Republican proposal would even let states avoid accountability requirements and still receive federal funds.

Most of us in Congress know that a retreat to mediocrity is wrong. To meet the demands of the 21st century, we have to expand opportunity for all and keep our commitment to leaving no child behind.

We know the law has flaws, but we also know that with common-sense changes and adequate resources, we can improve it by building on what we've learned. We owe it to America's children, parents and teachers to reinforce our commitment, not abandon it.

We need to strengthen our academic standards and assessment methods to ensure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary for today's knowledge-based global economy.

We can improve accountability by helping states modernize their curriculums from prekindergarten through high school so that all students graduate with the education they need to pursue a college or technical degree, participate in the workforce or serve in the armed forces. We should also help states develop better assessments to track the progress and growth of all students, including students for whom English is a second language and students with special needs.

We must expand and fortify the teacher workforce. Researchers agree that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student achievement. Good teachers can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students. The same research also shows, however, that our most at-risk students are often taught by the least prepared, least experienced and least qualified teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act made a commitment that every child would be taught by a highly qualified teacher. To reach that goal, a greater federal investment is needed.

Finally, we can't just label schools inadequate. We must help them improve. States and localities need to initiate and support school improvement. Part of the act's promise was that greater accountability would be accompanied by greater support. We knew that federal resources would be critical to achieving the goals. When the law was adopted in 2002, Congress delivered $22 billion to support public education -- an increase of 20 percent over the previous year. This was an unprecedented federal investment. The law promised increased funding levels over the life of its provisions, in step with the increase in targets for student performance. Yet year after year, the federal government has failed to provide the resources that states and school districts need to improve struggling schools. Assessment and accountability without the funding needed to implement change is a recipe for failure.

In the weeks ahead, those opposed to doing what it takes to leave no child behind will do everything in their power to impede our progress. Don't let their rhetoric fool you. Local control means nothing without the resources for improvement. Increasing flexibility without preserving accountability is fiscally irresponsible and educationally unwise.

No Child Left Behind is not just a slogan. It's a national commitment, inspired by our fundamental values and aspirations. It's a promise to do all we can so that every American child receives the high-quality education he or she needs and deserves. We may never achieve that lofty goal, but if we hope to keep America strong and just, prosperous and free, we can never stop trying.