A Historic Month for School Choice
Bipartisanship Brings New Options for Students in Arizona, Iowa, and Rhode IslandThe Heritage FoundationJune 29,2006
June was a historic month for the movement to expand parental choice in education. Arizona, Iowa, and Rhode Island all created new school choice programs.
On June 2nd, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, signed the Education Opportunity Act, creating a new school choice tax credit program. Under the law, individuals can take a 65 percent tax credit for contributions to organizations that fund private school scholarships. The program will be capped at $2.5 million in contributions in 2006 and $5 million thereafter. The legislation passed with strong bipartisan support.
On June 21st, Arizona lawmakers enacted three new K-12 school choice programs. The first measure was a corporate scholarship tax credit program that will make $10 million available for tuition scholarships to help low-income students transfer out of public schools. Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, allowed the new tax credit program to become law without her signature.
But Gov. Napolitano did sign two targeted school voucher programs for disadvantaged students. The first program is an opportunity scholarship program for children with special needs, modeled on Florida’s successful McKay scholarship program. The second is a first-in-the-nation school voucher program for foster children. Together, the new voucher programs will provide $5 million for scholarships and help about 1,000 students attend private schools next year.
On June 24th, Rhode Island enacted a new corporate scholarship tax credit program for low-income students. Capped at $1 million in scholarships, the program offers businesses a 75 percent tax credit for a one-year donation or a 90 percent credit for a two-year contribution. This program will help hundreds of low-income students attend the school of their parents’ choice.
So far in 2006, school choice programs have been enacted or expanded in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin. Halfway through, 2006 has already been a banner year for expanding educational opportunities.
Dumbed-Down Schools Hurt StudentsMichael J. PetrilliNational Review Online
June 27, 2006
History, science, and the arts are being de-emphasized by most schools in order to make room for teaching basic reading and math skills, according to a recent study. Who's to blame for this? Critics of reform point to the No Child Left Behind law.
And they're right to do so — to a point. NCLB mandates that schools boost achievement in reading and math — only reading and math — or face tough consequences. To the surprise of some, the incentive has worked, but so, too, has the law of unintended consequences.
This is not the only example of that phenomenon. NCLB puts pressure on educators to get all students to a low level of proficiency, so schools ignore kids at the top of the class. The law leaves the standards-setting to the states but ties sanctions to the results, so the states "race to the bottom" and lower their standards. And yes, the statute focuses its accountability provisions on reading and math, so schools ignore everything else. The latter problem is easily fixed (if politically unpopular). Congress should add history testing to the law's requirements, and make the history and science results count. (Science testing will be required next year, but the results won't count for accountability purposes.) Now that we know that schools will respond to incentives, we should be clear about our aims.
But tweaking the law's carrots and sticks is not enough. We must also address the fact that schools are choosing the path of least resistance by narrowing the curriculum. After all, pushing other subjects aside is not the only choice schools face. Great schools beef up their students' basic skills while also providing them a broad, rich education. Why don't most? There are two reasons — one ideological, and the other political.
E. D. Hirsch tackles the ideological problem in his recent book, “The Knowledge Deficit.” Hirsch identifies an obvious solution to the challenge schools face: Teach reading through history, science, literature, and the arts. He argues persuasively that most of the students who have been "left behind" have successfully learned to decode words and sentences, but can't comprehend much because of their limited vocabulary and knowledge base. Especially in the upper elementary grades and middle school — where we see student achievement plateau and then begin its long, precipitous decline — the best way to teach reading is to teach content. Instead of "doubling up" on rote, mechanical reading instruction, schools can engage students with compelling historical accounts, fanciful stories, fascinating science, and riveting poetry. In fact, it is exactly the kind of rich content that students find in Hirsch's Core Knowledge schools that account for their strong gains in reading and math achievement.
So why don't schools embrace Core Knowledge or something like it? Hirsch: "The reason for this state of affairs — tragic for millions of students as well as for the nation — is that an army of American educators and reading experts are fundamentally wrong in their ideas about education and especially about reading comprehension." Still enamored with romantic beliefs that children can learn to read as naturally as they learn to talk, and disregarding knowledge and content as nothing but "mere facts," the leaders of the education establishment and their comrades in schools of education continue to indoctrinate teachers and principals in self-defeating ideas. The solution to schools' reading woes and their curricular conundrum is right in front of them, but these misguided ideas get in the way.
There's another solution to curriculum narrowing: Expand the school day. Excellent charter schools such as KIPP and Amistad Academy use this strategy and record great results. The KIPP middle schools, guided by their philosophy that "there are no shortcuts," equate their efforts to a ball game. A fifth-grader who enters KIPP several years below grade level is like a team down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. There is no time to spare. The only way they are going to make it is if they work harder than their competition. So KIPP runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., assigns several hours of homework daily, brings students in for Saturday morning classes, and adds a month of school in the summer. This allows them to provide extensive instruction in reading and math, plus engage students in a full, rich curriculum, complete with history, science, foreign language, physical activity, and the arts. What's most remarkable about the KIPP model is how un-innovative it is. Anyone could think of it.
So why doesn't every high-poverty public school embrace the KIPP model and lengthen its day? In this case, the answer is politics: It's not allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. As Frederick M. Hess and Martin R. West make painfully clear in their manifesto, “A Better Bargain: Overhauling Teacher Collective Bargaining for the 21st Century,” teacher-union contracts dictate every facet of school life. Consider a contract from Eau Clare, Wisconsin, from which Hess and West quote: "A standard day shall be defined as 435 minutes, excluding lunch but including a morning homeroom period of 7-15 minutes, e.g., where teachers will supervise students entering the building, take roll, take lunch count, make announcements, etc. The teaching day shall not exceed 349 minutes of classroom teaching, thirty (30) minutes for lunch and thirty (30) minutes of recess. ..." The reality in many big-city districts is even worse; a five- or six-hour school day is not uncommon. Of course schools cannot fit remediation in reading and math and broad exposure to the core curriculum into such a crammed schedule. But the unions are loathe to give up their hard-fought "gains" — in this case, the right to be home by 3:00 p.m. School-board members, most of whom are elected with union money and union votes, just sit and watch.
So yes, let's tweak NCLB and undo its perverse incentives. But we must also address the crazy ideas that still delude the education profession and the ridiculous union contracts that hamstring common-sense reforms. If the traditional K-12 system is unwilling to be so bold, then we should create an alternative system of schools that is. Narrow-minded solutions won't produce the schools our children deserve.
Michael J. Petrilli is Vice President for National Programs and Policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. He is co-author, with Frederick M. Hess, of "No Child Left Behind: A Primer."
Debunking the fictions that block school reformEdward AchornThe Providence JournalJune 27, 2006
A COALITION of unions published a glossy report this month complaining that poverty was largely to blame for the poor performance of Rhode Island's public schools. The report, "The Shape of the Starting Line," was designed to "start a real debate about education in this state," said Robert Walsh, the executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, the document discounted any responsibility by the unions for poor student performance, or any need for greater accountability by teachers. It advocated vastly more spending and the hiring of many more teachers, although Ocean State taxpayers face a crushing property-tax burden and are already among America's most generous in supporting public education.
The July-August issue of The American Enterprise crossed my desk at the same time. Therein, Jay Greene, the head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and the author of the new book Education Myths, offers an interesting counter-argument to that of Mr. Walsh and his fellow union bosses.
"No matter what aspect of public education is being debated, activists generally find the solution in more school spending," writes Mr. Greene, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. "This is the most widely held myth about education in America -- and the one most directly at odds with the available evidence."
Mr. Greene notes that, in inflation-adjusted 2002 dollars, public schools spent $1,214 per student just after World War II. By the middle of the 1950s, that figure had nearly doubled, to $2,345. By 1972, it had nearly doubled again, to $4,479. By 2002, it had nearly doubled yet again, to $8,745.
Did that extra money improve student performance?
"For twelfth-grade students, who represent the end product of the education system, NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores in math, science and reading have all remained flat over the past 30 years. And the high-school graduation rate hasn't budged. Increased spending did not yield more learning," Mr. Greene writes.
Economist Eric Hanushek, of Stanford University, Mr. Greene notes, examined 163 research papers and found that "extra resources are more likely to be squandered than to have a productive effect."
Is the problem, then, low teacher pay?
Again, research suggested no. Adjusted for hourly earnings (recognizing that teachers get the summers off), Mr. Greene found that elementary teachers ($30.75 an hour) and high-school teachers ($31.01) do quite well, earning more than secretaries ($14.77), social workers ($17.21), firefighters ($17.91), editors and reporters ($22.38), police officers ($22.64), nurses ($24.57), biologists ($28.07), mechanical engineers ($29.76), and chemists ($30.68). Physicists, computer scientists, electrical engineers and nuclear engineers did only slightly better than teachers.
Other myths that Mr. Greene ticks off: that lower class sizes (at great public cost) improve performance; that additional professional credentials for teachers improve performance; or that private schools do better than public schools because they are "richer" (in fact, private schools spend about half of what public schools do per student).
Is poverty an excuse for poorly performing schools, then? Clearly, our schools have to deal with urban problems, including a large number of poor students with limited English skills and many from broken homes.
Nevertheless, writes Greene, the "argument that schools are helpless in the face of social problems is not supported by hard evidence. It is a myth. The truth is that certain schools do a strikingly better job than others at overcoming challenges in the culture."
Mr. Greene developed a tool to measure the advantages and disadvantages schools confront in their student populations -- 16 social factors, such as poverty, family structure, and health. He found that Rhode Island schools, in fact, performed worse than one would expect. That finding, interestingly, parallels those of RAND and Standard & Poor's, though each study used a different methodology.
What does seem to work?
What common sense might suggest. Greater accountability (including rewards for teachers who do exceptional work) and greater competition (through the use of such tools as vouchers to let parents choose the school for their children).
Mr. Greene argues it will not be easy to turn the debate from myths to the facts yielded by honest research, since Americans for generations have been taught to believe things about public education that just are not so. It will take time before citizens choose to spend their tax dollars on what actually works to help students.
Part of the difficulty in changing education, he notes, is the money and power entrenched in unions. (I would note that Mr. Walsh earns $142,015 a year, and eight others at NEARI earn more than $100,000, with another five earning more than $98,000, according to recent Labor Department reports.) Such interest groups typically oppose any rethinking of existing mythology.
"But with time and diligent effort by truth-tellers, reason and reality have triumphed over mythology in many other fields," Mr. Greene writes. "There is no reason they can't prevail in schoolhouses as well."
Edward Achorn is The Journal's deputy editorial-pages editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center for Education Reform Newswire Vol. 8, No. 32
June 27, 2006
FROM THE STATES
NEW YORK BLUES: Despite going into overtime on myriad issues, the state legislature Friday failed to approve a measure that would permit more schooling options for children in the Empire state. Negotiations were heated and Governor George Pataki offered Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver a deal on Medicaid spending and a retirement incentive for union workers in negotiations intended to get support for raising the number of charter schools permitted in the state to 250. The Senate approved the measure, 44-17, but Silver’s Assembly refused to consider it. Despite overwhelming public support and support from leaders in the City and at every echelon, thousands of students who are on waiting lists, searching for an escape from failing conventional public schools, will have to wait at least another year to find a high-quality education.
FLORIDA SUNSHINE: A week after releasing the state’s impressive school grades in which charters showed significant gains, Governor Jeb Bush took another step towards improving school quality and accountability by signing House Bill 135 into law. The bill creates the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, a state-level charter school authorizer. In a press release, Gov. Bush and CER president Jeanne Allen praised the legislation. “This legislation opens the door for the expansion of more high quality charter schools in Florida, and the newly created Commission will ensure that these schools are held accountable for serving students needs,” said Bush. “It is no surprise that such innovation comes from a state that has led the way in all education reform,” added Allen.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'. Let’s make a deal! After months of pushing for control over Los Angeles Unified School District, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appears to have struck a deal with the unions. Facing opposition to his mayoral control bid last week, Villaraigosa met with union officials in an effort to breathe life back into his plan. Instead, he left with a compromise that could be considered in the Legislature this week. Some -- including the Los Angeles Times -- see the compromise as ceding too much to the teachers unions and offering too little to students.
MASSACHUSETTS MALAISE. A bill before the Massachusetts Legislature could threaten the integrity of standards and accountability practices in the Bay State. House #1100 will diminish the independence of the Office of Educational Quality Accountability (EQA), which has been at the forefront of the standards and accountability movement in the state. Its prospects are uncertain.
ARIZONA DIAMONDS FOR KIDS. Last week, Arizona moved away from partisan politics and closer to serving all students as two new choice programs were passed and the existing corporate tax-credit scholarship program was expanded to help families in need find a better education for their children. Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano—who allowed the two new programs to become law without her signature—also expanded the Corporate Tax-Credit Scholarships to a maximum of $10 million (up from the previous $5 million). The other two programs passed were special needs vouchers for students with disabilities to attend private schools and a first-ever voucher program for students in foster care, providing up to $5,000 towards private school tuition. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Clint Bolick of the Alliance for School Choice notes that popularity of school choice is growing nationally, and especially among Democrats, and “Arizona is not an aberration.”
DELAWARE RETREATS. Representative Deborah Hudson has given up her fight to pass House Bill 422, which would have given charter schools an additional $750 per student. Hudson faced opposition from the unions and members of the Legislature who claimed that it wasn’t fair to conventional public schools to give charter schools “extra money.” (Try equal, folks). But a recent report by Aspire Consulting revealed that charter schools receive 66 percent less funding than conventional public schools. Charters in Delaware receive just $4,929 per pupil in state aid, while conventional schools receive $7,477 per pupil.
STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTIBILITY
BACKPACK. Arguing that every child in America should have “backpack” which carries equal funding, no matter where they live or go to school, former Secretary of Education Rod Paige today urged America to embrace the 100 percent solution on the pages of the New York Times. “What we need is a 100 percent solution, a reform that tackles America’s antiquated education financing system, gives dynamic school leaders more freedom, fosters true equity and opens the door wider to school choice,” Paige wrote. That is just the kind of reform described in a new school funding proposal released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance allows for funding to follow the child to whatever public school he/she attends and will weight the amount of funding depending on the specific needs of each student. The new proposal has already garnered praise from major state and national education leaders who have signed a petition to show support, and stands in stark contrast to the flawed thinking behind “The 65 percent solution,” a well-intentioned but faulty attempt by Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne to drive more money to the classroom. The 65 percent solution keeps control in the hands of the bureaucracies, not in the hands of parents, who should have control over their kids’ backpacks. The 100 percent solution is great idea whose time has come.
READING IS FUNDAMENTAL. The unions and the conventional public school system pundits like to claim that they could solve all educational problems with more money. But what are they doing with the money they are already getting? In Washington, DC, 15 percent of the money they receive is going to send 4 percent of the student body to private schools so they can learn to read. But as a New York Times editorial points out, those “special education” costs are “connected to a school system's failure to teach struggling readers effectively.” The problem isn’t limited to the nation’s capital. Nationwide, the parents of students who have been labeled “learning disabled” are beginning to question the conventional public schools that have given up on their children. For years, studies have provided educators with the best practices to teach struggling students to read. For as many as 50 years, these practices have been used in private schools and elsewhere. But as the editorial notes, “researchers who worked in Washington…could barely get an audience with the school system’s leadership, which appears to have been invested in unproven strategies and business as usual.” Again, conventional schools are asking for more money while dumping the money they do get into the status quo.
SCHOOL CHOICE PREVAILSDebbie SmithExecutive Director, PATHS Through School ChoiceJune 24, 2006
Polling indicates that 90% of Arizonans approve of school choice and the Legislature was apparently paying attention. Arizona Legislators recently passed new school choice measures that would make available scholarships to low-income, disabled, and foster care children. Each measure provides families with education dollars they can use to pay tuition at a school of their choosing, whether public, private, or charter.
This expansion of school choice reveals Arizona as "America's shining city on the hill," and further "give[s] hope to Arizona school children and offer[s] a model for the United States," says Darcy Olsen, President of the Goldwater Institute.
Several studies conducted on the effectiveness of school choice and school vouchers have concluded that through competition the education landscape can be dramatically altered and can perhaps offer the most effective form of accountability by allowing parents to choose which school their children will attend.
School choice programs may also provide that districts not receive money for children no longer served by the district - certainly a reasonable position for most people.
Eligibility criteria for the Disability Voucher Program: 1) attended public school the previous school year; 2) must be accepted and admitted to an eligible private school; 3) parent must notify the school district directly or through Arizona Department of Education of the request for scholarship at least 60 days prior to first scholarship payment; 4) child must be between the ages of 3 and 22 and in need of special education and related services due to physical, emotional, or learning disabilities and been issued an IEP.
Eligibility criteria for the Foster Voucher Program: 1) pupil who has been placed in foster care at some point - either previously adopted or not; 2) pupil is in good academic standing; 3) eligible pupils include both new pupils as well as those pupils who have previously received a grant.
Education Savings Accounts: Giving Families Ownership in Education
By Dan Lips The Heritage FoundationJune 22, 2006With college tuitions soaring, parents are beginning to save for their children?s education earlier and earlier. A growing number of families are putting their savings in education savings accounts (ESA), which enjoy certain tax advantages. The popularity of these accounts suggests that parents want to control the resources spent on their children?s education. Policymakers should consider how these accounts could be used to expand school choice and improve American education.
Federal law provides two kinds of educations savings accounts. So-called 529 plans allow for tax-protected savings for higher education through state-managed plans. Coverdell ESAs allow for tax-free savings in privately-managed accounts for K-12 and higher education expenses.
529 accounts-named after a section in the IRS code-offer families two ways to save for college expenses. This first option is to lock in today?s tuition rates and prepay tuition at a participating higher education institution. The second is to invest in a state-managed investment account where earnings grow tax-free and can be used for tuition when a child enrolls.
Under 529 plans, annual contributions can range from $10,000 up to $300,000 in some states. States contract with financial institutions to manage the 529 accounts, and each state offers families different investment options. Most states don?t require residency to invest in a 529 plan, and so families are free to shop the state plans to find the best investment. This is important, because some states offer different fees and rates of returns, and competition ensures that families can get the best deal.
The Financial Research Corporation reports that total assets in 529 college savings plans totaled $68 billion at the end of 2005-30 percent over 2004 levels. One reason for the growing use of 529 plans is that 25 states provide various tax incentives-credits or deductions-for investment contributions. (Learn more about 529 accounts here and whether your state offers tax incentives incentive here.)
Until now, states have limited tax incentives for contributions to the state?s own plan. But this year, the Maine state legislature enacted a per-beneficiary deduction worth $250 per year for a contribution to any state?s 529 plan. This could pave the way for more states to provide tax breaks for out-of-state plans. If so, families can look forward to greater competition among providers and better investment options and returns.
Unlike 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)-named after the late Georgia Senator-let families contribute up to $2,000 per child annually in a tax-free savings account that can be used for K-12 or higher education expenses. Eligible expenses include K-12 private school tuition, books, school supplies, tutoring, and after-school programs. Unlike 529 college savings plans, Coverdell ESAs can be opened and managed by banks and brokerage firms, similar to 401(k) accounts.
No state currently offers tax incentives for Coverdell ESAs. And since the tax benefits of Coverdell ESAs are deferred, few families are using them. But many American families could make good use of this opportunity to save for their children?s education.
As familiarity with education savings accounts grows, supporters of parental choice in education should consider reforms that give families control of education resources.
One option would be for states to level the playing field between 529 accounts and Coverdell ESAs by evening out the tax breaks for contributions to either savings vehicle. Another option would be for Congress to reform 529 accounts to include K-12 education expenses, like Coverdell ESAs do today. At a minimum, federal lawmakers could increase contribution limits for Coverdell ESAs to give families greater ability to save.
The promise of a system of widespread ESAs is great. Parents, grandparents, and other relatives would have greater opportunities to save for a child?s education. Charities, corporations, and individuals could be given incentives to make contributions to low-income children?s accounts, which could be used to pay school or college tuition or any other legitimate educational expense. State governments could create matching-funds plans to help needy children-seven states are already doing this with their 529 plans.
Widespread use of education savings accounts would improve the efficiency of education spending. According to the Department of Education, U.S. taxpayers spend approximately $500 billion annually on K-12 education. Government officials and bureaucrat largely dictate how it?s spent. Expanding access to education savings accounts would begin to return control of education decisions to parents. With parents in charge, educators would compete for students and tailor their products and services to individual children?s needs.
Choice and competition are keys to improving American education. By giving parents greater power to direct their children?s education, education savings accounts could make widespread choice and competition a reality.
Study: Oregon's grad rate lags
Dropouts - An analysis of high schoolers shows 69% -- less than the U.S. average -- earn a diploma in four years
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Fewer than seven in 10 Oregon high school students graduate on time with a diploma, according to a national study on graduation rates released Tuesday.
The analysis puts Oregon and Washington below the national graduation rate of 70 percent, with Oregon at 69 percent and Washington at 68 percent.
The four-year graduation rate across the country ranged from 53 percent in South Carolina to 85 percent in New Jersey. All figures are from the 2002-03 school year, the latest for which state-by-state comparisons are available.
The study was done by researchers for the Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes the national schools journal Education Week. The study compared the number of students in each grade of high school over a four-year period. As students move from ninth grade through senior year, more quit each year, reducing the size of their graduating class.
Many states reported graduation rates in the 80 percent to 90 percent range, but research director Christopher Swanson said they aren't calculating the four-year rate.
"Our research paints a much starker picture of the challenges we face in high school graduation," he said.
Oregon calculates its graduation rate by comparing how many students graduate in one year with the sum of graduates and dropouts for the same year. That ratio for 2002-03 was 81 percent, compared with the graduation figure of 69 percent for four years by Editorial Projects in Education researchers.
The national study showed Oregon had the lowest graduation rate in the country for African Americans, 25 percent, compared with 52 percent nationally. Brian Reeder, an assistant Oregon school superintendent, said he doubted the accuracy of that number -- he calculated the African-American graduation rate in Oregon at 57 percent for that year, using the same data the national study used.
Oregon historically has had a high annual dropout rate, reaching 7.4 percent in 1994-95. In 2002-03, the latest year for which figures are available, it was 4.6 percent. But that rate doesn't tell the full story because it typically doesn't count students who move to a second-chance alternative school and don't get enough credits to earn a diploma. The dropout rate also doesn't count students who get a General Educational Development certificate even though it is not equivalent to a diploma.
The United States pays a heavy price when students don't complete high school. Over a lifetime, an 18-year-old who doesn't finish high school will earn $260,000 less than a graduate and pay $60,000 less in federal and state taxes, according to Princeton University researcher Cecilia Elena Rouse. Other research shows that high school dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, less likely to vote and more likely to need public assistance.
Susan Castillo, Oregon school superintendent, said the report points up the urgency of high school reform.
"We are doing a terrific job with elementary schools," she said. "But when you start moving into middle and high school, we run into challenges. We need to approach this with a sense of urgency."
Castillo said she's hopeful that Oregon's improving economy means that schools will be able to restore some of the people and programs that help students stay in school. These programs were cut as school budgets shrank during the first part of the decade, she said.
Oregon has a goal for reducing the high school dropout rate to 4.0 percent a year by 2010. Individual high school rates for 2004-05 have been delayed by a new electronic reporting system that took school district clerks time to get used to. Department of Education officials said the figures are being double-checked by school districts before being released.
To see the study, go to www.edweek.org/dc06 Steven Carter: 503-221-8521; email@example.com. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 21, 2006 The Goldwater Institute Four New School Choice Measures Make History
Arizona becomes first to adopt program for foster children PHOENIX?Today Arizona lawmakers enacted four new school choice measures. The Goldwater Institute provided the framework for each reform in policy reports published in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006. Each program gives families scholarships they can use to pay tuition at public or private schools. The programs are targeted toward low-income students, those with disabilities and children in foster care. A fourth program makes scholarships available to college students. ?When it comes to educational freedom, Arizona is America?s shining city on the hill. These school choice measures give hope to Arizona schoolchildren and offer a model for the United States,? said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. Arizona has consistently advanced educational opportunity, with recent school choice expansions in 2001 and 2005. But this is the first time in U.S. history that so many school choice measures were enacted in one legislative session. Arizona is also the first state in the country to offer school choice scholarships to foster care children, an idea first proposed by Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Dan Lips. Each bill passed with bipartisan support. Recent polling conducted for the Freidman Foundation and the Goldwater Institute by Dr. Margaret Kenski found that 90 percent of Arizonans support one or more school choice measures. Goldwater Institute research also informed the liberalizing of Arizona?s wine shipping laws, an across-the-board rate reduction in the personal income tax, and eminent domain reform. The Goldwater Institute is a research organization generating policy roadmaps that respect individual liberty, economic freedom, and the constitutional rule of law. Contact: Starlee Rhoades, director of communications, (602) 712-1257, or visit www.goldwaterinstitute.org. Legislature Passes Four School Choice Bills
June 21, 2006Starlee RhoadesThe Goldwater InstituteFour New School Choice Measures Make History
Arizona becomes first to adopt program for foster childrenArizona lawmakers have enacted four new school choice measures. The Goldwater Institute provided the framework for each reform in policy reports issued in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006.Each program gives families scholarships they can use to pay tuition at public or private schools. The programs are targeted toward low-income students, those with disabilities and children in foster care. A fourth program makes scholarships available to college students. The Displaced Pupils Choice Grant Program provides tuition scholarships for children in foster care. The Arizona Scholarships for Pupils with Disabilities Program provides tuition scholarships for children with disabilities. Arizona's corporate tuition tax credit has been expanded from $5 million to $10 million annually. This program provides tuition scholarships to low-income children. The Postsecondary Education Grant Program provides full-time college students a $2,000 grant annually for tuition, books and fees charged at any public or private Arizona college or university. **********Center for Education Reform Newswire Vol. 8, No. 31
June 20, 2006 PARENTS POWER TO PARENTS!!! Looking to catch up on the latest jargon and trends but have no time to take a graduate study in education? Now you can "Enroll" in "Education 101" at the Center for Education Reform's parent friendly Parent Power! Helping You Make Sense of Schooling Today. Get a quick rundown on the buzzwords and breakthroughs in schooling and education reform, and what they really mean for you and your child. Or find out how CER can help you get involved and stand up for your child's right to the best education available. The new Parent Power! website provides parents with everything they need to become informed and empowered. Find out about charter schools, school choice, innovative curriculums, and standards. Or get some ideas on how to make the most of your child's summer vacation. It's all available at the new Parent Power! website.STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY SUNSHINE ON THE RISE. No matter how you look at the results of Florida's school grades released last week, charter schools are making huge strides. While 75 percent of all schools received As or Bs, charter school grades improved by 19 percent - 12 percent more than conventional public schools. The results are proof that the A+ Plan for Education is working and that charter schools are improving and helping to improve conventional public schools. The impressive results of this year's school grades are the latest in what have been constant educational gains in The Sunshine State since the implementation of the A+ Plan for Education in 1999. In the last seven years, the number of schools earning an A or a B has skyrocketed from 515 to 2,074. "These results are further confirmation that reform, based on high standards and expectations, clear measurement and accountability, and rewards and consequences for results, is working," Governor Bush said in a release. "Thanks to the leadership of dedicated education professionals, Florida's students are achieving significant progress." CHOICE FUNDING GREATNESS. The Washington Scholarship Fund Signature Scholarship Program was created to give low-income students a choice in education and a chance to discover educational opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. One scholarship recipient - thanks to hard work and insight beyond her years - found opportunities few people in the world have had. Lauren Gaston-Hawkins, who has been a Signature Scholarship Program student for the last ten years, recently appeared with Oprah as one of 50 winners of Oprah's national essay contest. Bound for Yale in the fall, Gaston-Hawkins also got to meet Noble Prize winner Elie Weisel. Oprah's essay contest asked students to write about why Wiesel's book Night is relevant today. "It was such an honor to meet Mr. Wiesel and talk to him about his family's experience," Gaston-Hawkins said. "As I wrote in my essay, Night is a warning to us and all future generations that we bear responsibility for our actions and our choices. Today, we see those actions and choices played out on television news every night." Gaston-Hawkins is a graduating senior at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC and plans to study engineering at Yale. UNIONS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS? For years the unions have fought the involvement of the private sector in delivering instruction and providing more than just textbooks to kids. Despite being publicly accountable, they eschew charters, which contract with private management companies. But, it turns out, it's only someone else's business efforts the unions don't like. The New York arm of the American Federation of Teachers is up against allegations that they took their members' money and invested it under false pretenses. As Newswire noted on May 31, the unions have been pedaling bad retirement investments to their members in exchange for millions of dollars in payments from the insurance companies they endorse. Now New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has gotten involved, and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union has buckled, agreeing to adopt changes in how it endorses products and to disclose fully any payments it receives. The NYSUT, which represents 535,000 educators, accepted millions of dollars from ING Group for an endorsement of ING's products. Despite the agreement, David Brown, who headed Spitzer's investigation, noted that unions across the country are using the same money-making tactics. The unions claim they don't want business in education, but business sure seems good for them - just not for the teachers they are manipulating. In Other News KEYING IN ON EDUCATION. National virtual school provider K12 Inc. will bring its quality curriculum and academic services to all of the Keystone State with the new expansion of Agora Cyber Charter School. The school, which was created in 2005 to serve a limited number of students, will now be offered to students K-12 throughout Pennsylvania. They are now accepting new students and hiring certified teachers. How much must we know to be smart?More than most US kids are being taught today, says E.D. Hirsch. By Teresa Méndez CSMonitor.comJune, 20, 2006Reading is about much more than simply sounding out words. At its core, it is about comprehending. And too many of our young readers lack that ability.
E.D. Hirsch Jr., in his new book, The Knowledge Deficit, argues that without a better understanding of the "taken-for-granted knowledge" we're all assumed to share, children will never become great readers or truly literate Americans. He's especially concerned about children from poor families who may not be exposed to rich language or this shared knowledge at home. "It is not mainly comprehension strategies that young children lack in comprehending texts but knowledge - knowledge of formal language conventions and knowledge of the world," says Hirsch.
The prevailing trend in education is to provide children with the skills to read - or solve problems or think critically - assuming that the acquisition of information will follow. It's an approach Hirsch believes is misguided, dating back to the 19th-century Romantic notion that learning is a natural process. He counters that there's nothing natural about reading, writing, or arithmetic, and believes "the shared content we need for communication and solidarity with the nation as a whole" must be explicitly imparted.
This idea is not a new one. Those familiar with Hirsch's 1987 bestseller may recognize his latest work as a sort of "Cultural Literacy" repackaged for the No Child Left Behind generation. (That book included 5,000 essential facts from "absolute zero" to "Zeitgeist." "Test your cultural literacy," the back cover teases. "Can you put the following in context?")
Even rehashed and bound in a fairly dense read, Hirsch's idea is as compelling now as it was then. In an era of globalization with fewer common denominators and increasingly fractured interests, there's something quaint yet appealing about the notion of anything shared. It's hard not to be charmed by the suggestion that something as simple as "a common base of allusion" will help "encourage national solidarity and community."
Hirsch settles on reading as the key to bridging the "knowledge deficit" between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and between US students and the students from other countries who consistently outperform them. This deficit roughly translates to the "achievement gap" between black and white, poor and rich children, which the No Child Left Behind law was devised to address.
Using the lead paragraph from a recent New York Times book review, Hirsch shows how lost a reader is without "background knowledge." After a detailed account he concludes that the "knowledge domains" needed to understand this single paragraph include history, geography, astronomy, natural history, general history, and science.
Like most other educators, Hirsch supports the aim of NCLB. But he worries that schools, in an effort to improve reading scores, have stripped away history, science, and art - precisely the varieties of Hirschian knowledge essential for reading comprehension. Today, Hirsch's "Core Knowledge" curriculum, filled with those subjects and more, is in place in hundreds of schools.
The best argument he makes for a common curriculum is mobility. Our most impoverished students move most frequently. Certainly a common curriculum would ease their transition from school to school.
In many ways, the idea of "Core Knowledge" parallels the great books tradition, still in place in a small number of universities. They both have their supporters, but each has been assaulted for being elitist and Western-centric.
As someone not terribly adroit with facts, it was hard not to bristle a bit at so prescriptive and fact-laden an approach to learning, even for youngsters.
I once lamented to a friend how little I seemed to have retained through four years of college (and high school and elementary school). He assured me that my familiarity, fuzzy though it may be, with all I've learned is a base to which I can return. It's precisely the gossamer type of knowledge I imagine would so disappoint Hirsch - more "knowing how" than "knowing what." But it's helped compensate for my terrible "storage" and recall.
By no means am I the demographic that "The Knowledge Deficit" is most concerned with. Yet it's hard not to feel that the most useful thing I know is how to fill in blanks as they come up - and they do, frequently.
Teresa Méndez is a Monitor staff writer. The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children
By E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
Houghton Mifflin192 pp., $22
The Pride of Edmonton By Dan Lips The Heritage FoundationJune 16, 2006
Most Americans assume the pride of Edmonton, Canada, is its hockey team. The Oilers have historically been one of the NHL’s best franchises, and this year, they are skating against the Carolina Hurricanes for the Stanley Cup. But education policy experts know that the pride of Edmonton is its school district, which is fast becoming a model for school districts across the United States.
In the 1970s, under the leadership of superintendent Mike Strembitksy, Edmonton reformed its school district based on two principles: school choice and decentralization.
Edmonton implemented a “Weighted Student Formula” approach to education funding. Edmonton’s schools receive government funding based on student enrollment and each of their student’s individual characteristics. Children with special needs, for example, receive a higher share of per-student funding. Parents are free to choose the best school to meet their children’s individual needs, and funding follows the students.
Principals, meanwhile, have the freedom and autonomy to manage their schools as they see fit. That’s because they control more than 90 percent of a school’s budget. (Principals in other school systems often control far less of a school’s budget, and most decisionmaking occurs in the district’s central administration.) By giving school leaders power over spending, decisions can be made by those closest to the students: teachers and principals.
The key to Edmonton’s success is the balance between parental choice and school-based management. Parents have the freedom to choose the best schools for their children. And schools have to appeal to parents by designing educational missions that they can prove are successful.
Importantly, Edmonton holds schools accountable for performance by collecting and making public data on school performance and academic achievement. Armed with this information, parents can make well-informed decisions.
Edmonton’s education system has become a model for education reformers across the United States. In Making Schools Work, UCLA Professor of Management William Ouchi led a comprehensive research study of 223 schools in six cities. He found that successful schools implemented seven “keys to success,” including allowing principals to be entrepreneurs, giving schools (rather than districts) control over budgeting, and allowing families to have real choice among a variety of schools.
These are exactly the principles of Edmonton’s reforms. The result has been the creation of a school environment that fosters excellence. “In Edmonton, because families have freedom of choice, a weak school won’t be able to attract many students,” Professor Ouchi explains. And since principals have real management authority, they can take whatever steps are necessary to turn a weak school around. If a principal fails, he can be replaced or the school can be closed with “all the staff moving to other, more successful schools.” Successful schools thrive; failing schools close.
In the United States, public school districts are mimicking Edmonton’s approach. In a recent article for Reason Magazine, Lisa Snell describes how San Francisco has implemented the Weighted Student Formula along with public school choice and school-based management. The result has been a dramatic improvement in academic achievement: “Every grade level in San Francisco has seen increases in student achievement in math and language arts, and the district is scoring above state averages.”
Various reforms inspired by Edmonton’s schools have been implemented in cities like Houston, Oakland, and Seattle. Policymakers in many other cities, including Washington, DC, are also exploring similar reforms.
School choice supporters should see the growing support for student-centered funding reforms as an encouraging trend. Edmonton has proven the value of the approach that school choice advocates have been championing for years: that parents should have the freedom to choose their children’s schools and that school leaders should be free to innovate and create learning environments to attract children. Building consensus around these ideas will further the goal of widespread parental choice in education. And while the Edmonton model is typically applied only to public school choice (that is, without private school participation), there is no reason this limitation couldn’t be lifted.
The Education Innovator
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Christopher J. Doherty, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary
June 14 , 2006
Volume IV, No. 8
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the award of more than $27 million in grants for emergency school repairs under the Department's Impact Aid Discretionary Construction Program. (June 9)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, Ray Simon visited Franklin Sherman Elementary School (VA) where he paid tribute to American troops as part of the "ThanksUSA" initiative to mobilize citizens to thank the men and women of the armed forces for their contributions to the country. Deputy Secretary Simon stressed the value of American history in schools along with the importance of Memorial Day as a national holiday for recognizing the sacrifices of service men and women. (May 26)
Secretary Spellings launched the fifth meeting of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Washington, DC. The Commission discussed access, affordability, accountability, innovation, and workforce development among other topics. (May 19)
Secretary Spellings announced that Tennessee and North Carolina are the first two States approved and implementing their growth model pilots for the 2005-2006 academic year. Tennessee has received full approval to implement its growth model for this year. North Carolina is approved to implement its growth model, provided that its assessment system is fully approved by July 1, 2006. Six additional States that had applied this year, but did not meet the necessary criteria to be approved for the 2005-2006 school year, will have the opportunity to submit revised proposals for the 2006-2007 school year. (May 17)
Secretary Spellings delivered commencement remarks and received an Honorary Associate of Arts in Public Service Degree at Montgomery College (MD). She lauded community colleges like Montgomery noting, “Community colleges can bob and weave to prepare students for new opportunities and better jobs." (May 17)
At the first national summit on the advancement of girls in math and science, Secretary Spellings and co-host Dr. Kathie Olsen, Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, joined representatives from the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Girl Scouts of the USA, Sally Ride Science, and other organizations to address the math-science gender gap in the nation's schools and its effect on women entering the future workforce. (May 15)
Secretary Spellings sent a letter to all Chief State School Officers requesting their assistance with more effectively implementing the public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act . The letter also invites States to apply to participate in an SES pilot for the 2006-2007 school year, in which up to seven districts per State would be allowed to offer SES to students who attend schools in year one of improvement. States and districts must meet certain eligibility requirements to participate. (May 15)
Secretary Spellings delivered the commencement address to the Texas Tech University Class of 2006. As the first U.S. Secretary of Education with school-aged children, she gave graduates advice and reminded them to never forget the lessons their mothers taught them. (May 13)
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released The Condition of Education 2006. This annual report summarizes developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The 2006 report presents 50 indicators on the status and condition of education and an analysis of international assessments. Secretary Spellings issued a statement regarding the report's findings. (June 1)
NCES released results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 science assessment, which show national performance in the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades and state performance for most states in the fourth and eighth grades. Fourth-graders made significant improvements in science over 1996 and 2000 levels, with the lowest-performing students making the largest gains and achievement gaps narrowing. (May 24)
NCES released the National Indian Education Study (NIES), which is a two-part report describing the condition of education for American Indian/Alaska Native students across the country. Part I of the report highlights the performance of these students in grades four and eight on the 2005 NAEP reading and mathematics assessments. Part II of the report is a survey of the educational experiences of these students and their teachers, and will be released later this summer. (May 23)
The new 2005 Digest of Education Statistics provides readers with an array of data covering topics in pre-kindergarten education through graduate school. Topics include: numbers of institutions, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, along with information about educational attainment, finances, federal funds for education, employment and income of graduates, libraries, and international comparisons. (May 17)
NCES has created a new version of the College Opportunities Online Locator (COOL) website, an information tool designed for students, parents, guidance counselors, and others interested in American postsecondary education. The site allows visitors to view and compare profiles of nearly 7,000 colleges and universities. (May 15)
A new NCES study examines the link between kindergarten enrollment status (e.g., repeating kindergarten or delaying entry into kindergarten) and students' first grade reading and mathematics achievement. (May 12)
The annual NCES Summer Forum and Data Conference will be held July 24-28 in Washington, DC. Activities will include training for Common Core of Data (CCD) Coordinators, presentations by national experts in school finance, and information about NCES survey and assessment programs. The registration deadline is July 13. (May 11)
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is accepting applications for the NAEP Secondary Analysis Research Program. The program was developed to encourage reports that analyze information in NAEP assessments and in the NAEP High School Transcript Studies (HSTS). The application package is available online. The application deadline is July 27. (Apr. 12)
From the Office of Innovation and Improvement
Grant awards for the Teaching American History program have been announced and a list of grantees is posted online. (June 2)
The U.S. Department of Education awarded two grants under the FY 2006 Congressional Academies for Students of American History and Civics competition. (May 31)
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has released two charter school reports. Trends in Charter School Authorizing uses information from surveys of charter school authorizers and finds that these organizations are becoming more selective and taking action to close unsuccessful charter schools. Playing to Type? categorizes charter schools across the country based on their instructional approaches. (May 4)
Desert Sands Unified School District (CA) has received national recognition for its Voluntary Public School Choice (VPSC) environmental studies curriculum. Second grade Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP) students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (CA) were honored with the President's Environmental Youth Award for their class project: The Wonderful Weird World of Worms. The Desert Sands district receives VPSC funds from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. (May 15)
Closing the Achievement Gap
A study from the Center for the Future of Arizona and Morrison Institute for Public Policy uses the methodology of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't, and finds 12 Arizona elementary and middle schools that are improving mathematics and reading scores for low-income Latino students. (March 2006)
The Big Read Program from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, encourages individuals to read for pleasure and enlightenment by engaging libraries and community and school partners across the country. Approximately 50 organizations will be selected for programming occurring between January and June 2007. The deadline for these applications is September 12, 2006. An additional 50 organizations will be selected for programming occurring between September and December 2007. The deadline for these applications will be April 2007. (June 8)
Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland's first female state superintendent, will receive the 2006 James Bryant Conant Award for her contributions to American education. The Education Commission of the States (ECS) will give the award, which is named for its co-founder, on July 13 as part of the ECS 2006 National Forum on Education Policy. (May 17)
A new report from the Colorado-based Daniels Fund offers advice about creating successful and lasting school/business partnerships and examines why some school partnerships are more effective than others. The report highlights seven strategies for successful partnerships based on its findings. (June 8)
Raising Student Achievement
A new study from ACT shows that high school graduates need similar skills to succeed in the workplace as they do to succeed in postsecondary education. The study offers a number of recommendations to policymakers. (May 8)
Teacher Quality Developmet
The Western States Certification Consortium offers a website and newsletter to recruit former military personnel and spouses to become teachers. The Consortium is funded through a Troops to Teachers grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. (June 8)
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released a report that examines coursework and textbooks used at 72 colleges of education. The report asserts that most of these colleges use outdated approaches to teaching reading, especially for underprivileged children. The report also posits that only 11 colleges studied currently introduce teachers to the five “scientific components of reading,” which highlight phonics, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, guided oral fluency, and reading comprehension. (May 2006)
As part of its annual National Teacher Day celebration (May 9) the National Education Association (NEA) released a list of the top five trends in the teaching profession as well as a “portrait” of the 21st century American schoolteacher. (May 2)
PBS has been selected to receive the 2006 Education Commission of the States (ECS) Corporate Award. Each year, ECS recognizes a for-profit corporation, nonprofit organization, or a foundation that has demonstrated a sustained commitment to improving public education in the United States. PBS has developed products under the Office of Innovation and Improvement's Technology in Education Program through Ready to Teach (RTT) and Ready to Learn Television (RTL) grants. (May 18)
The purpose of The Education Innovator is to promote innovative practices in education. This is one of the goals of the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII). The office looks at new ways schools, districts, and states implement education reforms in order to improve student achievement. The office is also responsible for promoting informed parental choice.
We invite you to explore the OII website for more information about our programs and services, parental options, and family rights.
The Education Innovator and website contain links to other websites and news articles. We believe these links provide relevant information as part of the continuing discussion of education improvement. These links represent just a few examples of the numerous education innovation reference materials currently available to the public. The opinions expressed in any articles or web pages do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Office of Innovation and Improvement or the U.S. Department of Education. The inclusion of resources should not be construed or interpreted as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any private organization or business listed herein.
Writer & Researcher
Margarita L. Melendez
Brain Matters: The Talking Page Literacy Organization's Tutoring Approach
Look at the word “bat.” Silently concentrate on reading the word. Now say the word out loud. Surprisingly, the brain uses very different circuits, or pathways, to perform each of these tasks: looking, reading, and speaking. The Talking Page Literacy Organization (TPLO) is employing recent research on how the brain works to inform how it may help children learn to speak, read, write, and understand the English language.
TPLO is a nonprofit organization that offers after-school tutoring services in English to local educational agencies, including school districts, and faith-based organizations using phonics and current research in Neurolinguistics. Neurolinguistics is the study of how the human brain learns and processes written and oral language. In order to tutor individuals with different learning styles, the program utilizes four “learning pathways to the mind,” which include hearing, saying, seeing, and writing. Students first practice how to recognize the sounds of letters, pronounce sounds, form letters, spell whole words, and then write sentences.
According to TPLO, this approach to instruction can be represented in the form of a “linguistics tree.” Phonemes , graphemes , and morphemes are the basic foundation of language and constitute the “roots” of the tree, which is where the tutoring program starts. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in language that is capable of conveying a distinction in meaning, such as the b in bat and the m in mat . A grapheme consists of all the letters and letter combinations that represent a sound, such as f , ph , and gh for the phoneme / f /. Next, a morpheme is a language unit that cannot be divided into smaller meaningful units, such as the – ed in walked . Once a student has mastered these three main roots, he or she can begin practicing how to say and write words and phrases, which make up the trunk of the “linguistics tree.” Sentence construction and grammar are the last elements of the program and form the branches of the metaphorical tree.
Martin Chekel, founder and president of TPLO, states, “The design we use is sequenced – we take the fundamental parts of language and then build upon them. In creating this service, I wanted to bring new ideas into classrooms and after-school programs, to change instruction and accelerate it.”
TPLO was established in 1998 for the purpose of improving “early childhood literacy in America” and the philosophy that all children should be able to read, spell, and write English by age six. In 1998, TPLO provided research reports and testimonials about effective early childhood writing, spelling, and reading programs to Congress, State legislatures, and local school boards. In 2001, TPLO began providing services to school districts in California, where the organization is based.
Currently TPLO offers three programs, “Early Childhood and Family Literacy,” “America's English Language Tutoring,” and “English Linguistics Literacy.” All three programs generally last seven to ten weeks and tutor students in writing, spelling, and reading. Within each TPLO program, trained tutors or teachers lead students. TPLO has developed a series of “Tutoring Academy” workshops for teachers and tutors in which they are trained using specific professional development modules. These modules are designed to support California's English-Language Arts Standards in kindergarten through eighth grade and focus on topics such as phonemic awareness, decoding, phonics, listening and speaking integration, and vocabulary and writing development. During professional development sessions, teachers and tutors view a presentation on neurolinguistic brain research, observe trained tutors during classroom demonstrations, review instructional materials, learn how to integrate a TPLO-developed audio system into their tutoring instruction, and analyze TPLO-created pre- and post-tests.
Individual mini-lessons for each program generally take five to ten minutes for students to complete. Students then spend time reviewing lesson concepts with their tutors before moving on to the next mini-lesson. TPLO uses explicit instruction with an audio system called SONO. Explicit instruction is a series of required instructional steps or procedures designed to guarantee that students understand explicitly what is expected of them and what is being taught. TPLO tutors speak with students before each mini-lesson about the lesson's objectives. The SONO system delivers the majority of tutoring instruction to students and consists of a headphone and microphone set as well as an audio player capable of voice replay and recording. During a lesson, a student first listens to a recording where a phonemic sound is pronounced. Next, the student repeats that sound into the microphone on the headset. The audio player allows the student to hear his or her own voice saying the phoneme. The student then writes the letter that represents the phoneme using a clock face as a writing guide. To write the letter g , for example, the student would start at the number two then trace all the way around the clock back to the number four, making a circle. Then the student would pull the line straight down, rounding the line up toward the number eight. After writing the letter four times, the student says the phoneme again. According to studies from the National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD), direct instruction in decoding skills emphasizing the alphabetic code results in more favorable outcomes than does a context-emphasis or embedded approach.
In his 2000 address to Congress, Dr. Reid Lyon, former Chief of Child Development at NICHD, noted, “The average child needs between four and fourteen exposures to a new letter, letters, or words to automatize the recognition in the brain.”
By listening to the phoneme, saying it twice, hearing the pronunciation of it, and then writing it four times, each TPLO lesson allows for nine exposures to a particular letter. Review is a large part of the process. Parents whose children participate in the Early Childhood and Family Literacy Program are encouraged to review the lessons with their children as homework.
TPLO has patented the term “SONOgram” to describe the working set of 26 letters and 44 phonemes that are needed to write English speech on paper. Each SONOgram is numbered and then introduced and reviewed in different mini-lessons. During the first five weeks of the program, students learn the sounds of 54 SONOgrams, how to form all the letters in the alphabet, write simple sentences, and spell several hundred words. During the next four weeks, students learn the remaining 16 SONOgrams, additional vocabulary words, and begin to read basic-level books.
The process is informed by the work of Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a neurolinguist and Co-Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention. According to Dr. Shaywitz, “In order to learn how to read, an individual must begin to learn that the letters, the orthography, the graphics that are present on a page, represent the same sound units that an individual hears in spoken language.”
TPLO conducts pre- and post-tests for students using two exams. Both tests were developed at the Reading Research Center at Cornell University and are administered by TPLO tutors. First, the tutor tests the student's ability to write the 70 SONOgrams heard in English speech and simple spelling words using the TPLO English Linguistics Assessment Tests that are on the SONO Audio System. Next, the tutor administers TPLO's Diagnostic Reading Test to assess the student's reading comprehension and skills. The diagnostic tests are offered for students in first through fifth grade and another set of diagnostic tests is offered for students in sixth through eleventh grade. Dr. Walter Pauk, director of Reading Research at Cornell University, Linda Browning, and her husband, Glenn Browning, developed both sets of diagnostic tests. The tests provide tutors, teachers, and parents with an indicator of the student's weaknesses and strengths. During the test, the student must be able to recall facts from a given passage, identify the main idea of a passage, draw conclusions, and choose the correct meaning of a vocabulary word from a particular context. The diagnostic tests employ the Fry Readability Scale to determine the student's reading level. The Fry Scale utilizes a special graph to plot the average number of syllables and sentences per 100 words in a piece of writing to ascertain the grade level of the material. Once TPLO tutors have gathered information from all tests, they generate Individual Student Learning Plans for each tutee.
In 2001, TPLO provided 145 Early Childhood and Family Literacy Program Kits to students at Garfield Elementary School in Santa Ana, California. Garfield has a student enrollment of 1,028 Hispanic children who perform significantly below average in English language skills measured by the state's STAR (Standardized Test And Reporting) exam. The TPLO kits included student books, SONO audio players, writing papers, lesson booklets, and reading comprehension tests for grades one through five. Students who were reading both below and far below basic in grades two through five were selected to participate in the after-school TPLO program. The organization trained 23 teachers and 20 aides for the project.
The year before the program was implemented, six percent of second and third grade students and 11 percent of fourth and fifth grade students were reading on grade level. By 2003, after fully implementing the TPLO program and other school-based interventions during the academic day, the percentages increased by 26 percent for the second grade, 18 percent for the third grade, 32 percent for the fourth grade, and 23 percent for the fifth grade.
The Talking Page Literacy Organization is an approved supplemental educational services (SES) provider in California under the federal No Child Left Behind Act . Currently, the organization has contracts in diverse areas across the state, some of which include Orange County, San Diego County, Los Angeles Unified School District, San Joaquin County, Pomona Unified School District, and Sacramento County. The term "supplemental educational services" refers to free extra academic help, such as tutoring or remedial help, that is provided to students in subjects such as reading, language arts, and mathematics. This extra help can be provided before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer. Low-income families can enroll their children in supplemental educational services if their children attend Title I schools that have been designated as in need of improvement for more than one year by the State. Across the country, providers of supplemental educational services include nonprofit and for-profit organizations, local educational agencies, public schools, public charter schools, private schools, public and private institutions of higher education, and faith-based organizations. The Office of Innovation and Improvement coordinates the supplemental educational services provision of the No Child Left Behind Act .
The Talking Page Literacy Organization
Supplemental Educational Services
Innovations in the News
Options for Youth (OFY), a group of public charter schools serving at-risk middle and high school students in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Sacramento (CA), is posting higher test scores than the majority of its counterparts statewide. The scores are based on the State's official accountability measures, including the Academic Performance Index (API) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). According to data collected from the State, all OFY charter schools' API scores are, on average, 105 points higher than the scores of other alternative schools in the districts where they operate. Additionally, in comparison to peer schools, OFY charter schools' passage rates are, on average, 36 percent higher in English language arts and 17 percent higher in mathematics. [More- U.S. Newswire] (May 25)
Closing the Achievement Gap/School Reform
A new study finds that female primary and secondary school students often perform better than males in timed situations, an advantage that could explain why girls generally outperform their male counterparts in school. The study, by professors Stephen Camarata and Richard Woodcock from Vanderbilt University (TN), involved more than 8,000 people aged two to 90 from across the United States. Professor Camarata notes, "The higher performance in females may contribute to a classroom culture that favors them, not because of teacher bias but because of inherent differences in processing speed." [More- The Age] (May 25)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded North Carolina more than $10 million to continue the state's New Schools Project, which aims to create 150 new reformed high schools over the next five years. The funds also will be used to expand Governor Mike Easley's Learn and Earn program, which gives students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma along with an associate's degree or college credits. Governor Easley hopes to create 75 Learn and Earn schools by 2008. North Carolina's latest Gates grant comes after an $11 million contribution from the foundation in 2003 to begin high school improvements, develop teacher curriculum, and offer students more relevant coursework. [More- eSchool News] (May 24)
According to a new University of Michigan study, the Federal Reading First program is successful in improving grade-school students' reading scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The Reading First program was established as part of the No Child Left Behind Act . Funds are dedicated to help States and local school districts eliminate the reading deficit by establishing high-quality, comprehensive reading instruction in kindergarten through third grade. As part of its Federal grant, Michigan is receiving $28 million a year for six years. [More- The Ann Arbor News] (June 1)
A professional team of educational examiners and observers has found that the Alamo Navajo Community School (NM) has improved its reading scores in kindergarten through third grade by 71 percent. According to the team, “Alamo Navajo Community School is a national leader among all Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in the country including Hawaii and Alaska.” As a result of the school's performance, it will automatically qualify for a fourth year of continued Federal funding through the Reading First program. [More- The El Defensor Chieftan] (June 1)
Teachers and administrators at Iroquois High School in Jefferson County (KY) are dealing with a different kind of problem: they can't get many of their students to stop reading. With most incoming freshmen in any given year identified as struggling readers, getting students to read, even for pleasure, has always seemed a struggle. According to school staff, now that Iroquois High has adopted the Ramp-Up to Literacy program, developed by the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy, students' reading skills and their motivation to read has greatly improved. The school has trained dozens of teachers to use the curriculum, purchased thousands of books, and assigned instructional coaches to classrooms. The program also has spread to 18 of Jefferson County's 21 high schools. [More- Education Week] (May 24) ( Subscription required .)
Gene Noel's retirement was short: just two days. Mr. Noel retired on a Friday after working for 24 years with the U.S. Air Force handling weapon systems. The next Monday, he walked into a classroom and began working at a Phoenix (AZ) school serving low-income children. Mr. Noel is one of more than 8,400 former military personnel who, since 1994, have changed careers under the Troops to Teachers program. The Federal grant program, which is managed by the Office of Innovation and Improvement, covers teacher certification costs and pays bonuses to individuals who teach in schools with a high percentage of disadvantaged students. Mr. Noel says, “[Teaching] is the fulfillment of a dream.” [More- The Arizona Republic] (June 2)
Pamela Bookbinder thought that after graduating from Washington University (MO) she would enter law school. Her plans changed, however, after being actively recruited by Teach For America (TFA) on her college campus. Now, after many emails, meetings, interviews, and phone calls, Ms. Bookbinder is preparing for her two-year teaching commitment with TFA. TFA places recent college graduates in poor urban and rural areas to boost the academic achievement of students. About one in ten seniors at Washington University applied to TFA this year, twice as many as two years ago. About one-third of the students who applied were accepted. Nationally, about 19,000 individuals applied this year, up from 17,000 last year, for 2,400 positions. TFA's ramped up recruitment efforts at colleges and universities like Ms. Bookbinder's school are aimed at doubling its teaching corps to 7,500 teachers by the year 2010. [More- The Kansas City Star] (May 31)
Master Sergeant Bobby Matthews, a senior Army instructor with the Junior Officers' Training Corps in St. Stephen (SC), is one of many former military members now teaching in public schools. Former soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen can enter classrooms in different ways. Some serve as Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps ( JROTC) instructors while others earn accreditation through the Troops to Teachers program. Sergeant Matthews says that his mission is to provide students with training for jobs and for life. In March, Sergeant Matthews was honored at his school as the Cross High School Teacher of the Year. [More- The Post & Courier] (May 1)
A grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education is helping more American Indians become school administrators. Sandy Johnson, a 20-year veteran of special education, is one of 15 Indian educators who will move to the principal's office after studying at the University of North Dakota (UND). UND and the United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) secured the Federal grant, amounting to more than $1 million. The grant covers the costs of tuition, books, and fees and offers participants a stipend. UTTC manages the financial aspects of the program, while UND provides the coursework. Participants engage in several internships and job shadowing experiences. After graduating from UND, participants are paired with veteran administrators who serve as mentors. [More- The Bismarck Tribune] (May 10)
The Call Me MISTER (Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program seeks to address a shortage of African-American male teachers, particularly in South Carolina's lowest performing schools. The program aims to place 200 participants, or MISTERs, in the State's elementary schools. This number would more than double the number of African-American male teachers currently teaching in South Carolina elementary schools. Fifteen MISTERs now are in their first or second year of teaching. The program was recently recognized as a member of Oprah Winfrey's “Angel Network” and received the first Southern Regional Council Corporate/Community Partnership Award in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. Call Me MISTER receives funding from the Office of Innovation and Improvement's Fund for the Improvement of Education program. [More- Teachers of Color] (Apr. 2006)
School districts across the country are working to implement data-management systems that analyze student performance. In Plano, (TX) elementary school teacher Stacy Kimbriel used her school's data system to target students that needed extra help and is now able to see how those students performed on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) after they received tutoring. In addition to tracking grades and attendance in one easily accessible place, some new data systems are noting standardized test questions, the skills they measure, and individual student answers. By matching student errors with skills tested, the data systems can show “who knows what.” Systems can also spot class-wide weaknesses so that teachers can identify when they need to re-teach particular topics. [More- The Dallas Morning News] (May 30) ( Subscription required. )
The Bluegrass State will soon celebrate its status as the first State in the nation to send a satellite into space. The venture is a cooperative effort among State universities and agencies to promote economic development as well as education and research for Kentucky students ranging from kindergarten through college. The satellite program could help attract high-tech businesses to what is being called “Silicon Holler,” an area near Morehead State University. Morehead State will house the satellite's ground operations and a team of undergraduate and graduate students from Morehead State, Murray State, and Western Kentucky Universities will design, build, launch, and guide the satellite through its estimated 18-month orbit. The cube-shaped, Pico KentuckySatellite (KySat) is scheduled to launch in late 2007 from a site in Kazakhstan. [More- Lexington Herald-Leader] (May 26)
Richard Baraniuk, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Rice University has created an online system called Connexions where users can freely exchange curriculum material and other educational research. Members of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) plan to use the resource to store peer-reviewed materials on various aspects of educational leadership and are encouraging school administrators and other educators to consider submitting reports to the website. Though the website is intended as a resource for instructors and students, anyone with an interest in learning more about a particular subject area can log in and use the information they find. [More- eSchool News] (May 25)
**Editor's Note: The Education Innovator will take a brief summer break in July. Look for the next issue during the second week of August. In the meantime, the Office of Innovation and Improvement wants to know what you think about the timeliness and usefulness of The Innovator's new distribution cycle. The newsletter recently moved from publishing once each week to publishing once each month. Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .
History, lost in translationBy Chester E. Finn Jr. & Martin A. Davis Jr.National Review OnlineJune 13, 2006
For young Americans in 2006, world history must no longer be seen as an elective subject. Everyone needs to be conversant with the history, culture, and geography of the flattening world they inhabit.
This wasn’t always so. Two decades ago, Americans would nod vaguely in agreement if someone remarked that China was a “sleeping giant,” that Iran was a cauldron of radical Islam, or that Mexico was in economic turmoil. Few knew, or cared to know, much beyond these stereotypes and oversimplifications. It just didn’t seem all that important.
No more. Nations that were little more than curiosities to most Americans have transformed themselves into places of vital interest and concern to us. The influx of Latinos and Asians, who have radically altered our demographics, is just one example.
Will future high-school graduates be any more knowledgeable than their parents about the world they inhabit? Not if state academic standards for K-12 world history are an indicator, according to “The State of State World History Standards“ released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Only eight states received A grades and four more earned Bs. A whopping 33 received Ds and Fs.
The eminent historian Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, conducted the study. It is arguably the most difficult state-standards review that Fordham has undertaken. (We have been grading state standards since 1997.) Crafting good standards is always hard, but creating them for world history is complicated by the fact that it’s not possible to provide students with a course of study in world history — even one spanning several years of school — that covers everything. “Decisions,” Mead writes in his introduction, “must be made.”
Regrettably, most states made poor decisions.
The greatest single explanation for their poor showing on Mead’s grading scale is the lack of solid historical content in their standards. Sometimes this results from states’ obeisance to a social-studies mindset that eschews knowledge (often dismissed as “rote learning” or “mere facts”). Alaska, for example, asks its students to understand “the forces of change and continuity that shape human history.” How are they supposed to do this? By examining the “major developments in societies, as well as changing patterns related to class, ethnicity, race, and gender.” One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Other states’ standards are so nebulous as to yield little real guidance for teachers, students, textbook writers, test makers, etc. Michigan, for one, asks students to “identify major decisions in the history of Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, and Latin America, analyze contemporary factors contributing to the decisions and consider alternate courses of action.” Which decisions? Analyzed how? What, exactly, is expected? Teachers looking to such vague standards for clear advice about what to put in their lessons would come away in despair.
Among Mead’s more surprising findings is that, among the eleven content areas he examined, states fared worst in their treatment of Latin America. With ten points possible for a state’s treatment of Mexico and the Western Hemisphere, the average was a meager 4.2. States with large Hispanic populations (Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and Texas) ranged from 2 to 5 points. Young people in all states need to be aware of Latin American history; it’s especially troubling that those most affected by Latino immigration haven’t stepped up to this plate.
Despite plenty of low marks, this study had some bright spots. Eight states-California, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia — get the world-history package close to perfect. Other states seeking to improve their standards would do well to follow these models.
Some good news can also be found in states’ treatment of geography, an essential part of world history. Most do this adequately, perhaps because they have drawn upon the very good standards developed by the National Geographic Society.
Yet a cloud hovers over even states with the best standards. How can we be sure schools are teaching the material? Even in those that require students to take courses labeled world history, few have any statewide test in this subject or build it into their accountability systems, such as making promotion or graduation contingent on passing such a test. As the educators’ adage goes, what gets tested gets taught.
So Mead also looked at highly visible exams in this field. The Advanced Placement world-history exam and the SAT II test in world history are popular with college-bound students (64,000 took the AP exam in 2005, up from 21,000 in 2002). The same is true with the New York Regents test in world history (more than 220,000 test-takers in 2005).
All three exams earned high marks, but the AP looks to be best of show. What sets it apart is the course description that accompanies the exam. It’s a terrific guide for those struggling with what decisions to make about the world-history curriculum. (View it here.)
How to ratchet up the quality of world history being taught and learned in U.S. schools? The first step, obviously, is for states to get their standards right. Many could make notable improvements by revising their current documents, perhaps using sound standards from highly rated states to help guide their work.
Those states with standards too weak to salvage could simply substitute those of a state that’s gotten world history right. Or they could model their standards on the New York Regents Exam, the SAT II test or, ideally, the AP exam and accompanying syllabus.
For evidence that states can turn things around, look to Minnesota. When Sheldon Stern reviewed that state’s U.S. history standards in 2003, the Land of 10,000 Lakes received an F. But that same year, Cheri Yecke, now chancellor of K-12 education in Florida but then Minnesota’s education commissioner, undertook a thorough overhaul of that state’s social-studies standards (including U.S. and world history). The result is the A-rated standards that Minnesota enjoys in this report.
Once their standards are solid, states need to incorporate world history into their assessment and accountability systems. At the very least, they should ask students to pass a suitably demanding test in this subject in order to earn a diploma. Standards, however, remain the starting place. If they aren’t right, the rest is an educational house of cards, destined to fall. And there’s too much at stake for our nation to base its future on so wobbly a structure.
—Chester E. Finn Jr. is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Martin A. Davis Jr. is senior writer and editor for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
Center for Education Reform Newswire
Vol. 8, No. 30
June 13, 2006
TAP INTO NEW ORLEANS. The New Orleans school system that was failing so miserably before Hurricane Katrina is finding new life with the help of charter schools. A $23.9 million grant to open charter schools in the state was just announced by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and several organizations are moving in to assure that every new school that opens is of the highest quality. The Algiers Charter School Association (ACSA) has teamed up with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching's (NIET) Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) to attract and retain high quality teachers in their six charter schools. TAP, started by the Milken Family Foundation in 1999, offers teachers multiple career paths, professional growth opportunities, and performance-based compensation. The two organizations hope the program will attract high quality teachers who are focused on the achievement of their students. New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), a newly formed non-profit organization dedicated to public school reform in the Big Easy is also joining the fight to rebuild the system. Like TAP, NSNO will offer teacher recruitment services, but also pledges to offer business and operational assistance, and has partnered with a national charter board training program to offer support to charter school boards. "We are excited to be a part of the revitalization of our city's public school system, and look forward to helping create and promote a sustainable model of school reform," the NSNO said in a release. The New Orleans school system has the rare chance to start over and the right people are stepping in to make sure it isn't another missed opportunity.
POLITICS OF CHARTER SCHOOLS. A recent report by Michael Kirst of Stanford University looks at the politics surrounding the charter school movement and the obstacles charter school proponents face. Citing CER's Raising the Bar on Charter School Laws: 2006 Ranking & Scorecard, Kirst breaks the nation into three distinctive political cultures regarding charter schools: traditionalistic, individualistic, and moralistic. Drawing from CER's findings on "weak" and "strong" laws, Kirst notes that traditionalistic cultures (many Southeast states) have weak laws and are determined to maintain the status quo by creating caps. Conversely, individualistic cultures (Colorado and Arizona) support competition in education, while moralistic cultures (Minnesota and Massachusetts) support reforms for the better of the community. "Charter politics are fluid, varied, and complex," Kirst writes. "It is unlikely that many existing state charter school laws will be repealed completely, but most attempts to allow state laws to expand charters will be hotly contested." As anyone paying attention knows, that fight will come from the powerful teachers' unions. Kirst points to the unions and their millions of dollars in membership dues, along with other parent and teacher organizations as the greatest obstacle to the charter school movement. But just as CER discovered in its own surveys, Kirst notes that polls have found that once the public gets past the union misinformation, support for charter schools is overwhelming.
SABIS GOES GLOBAL. Charter schools may face the constant opposition of the teachers' unions, but that hasn't stopped the rest of the world from seeing the innovation and opportunity these schools provide. In fact, their allure has reached all the way to China. Now, SABIS Educational Systems, a Minnesota-based charter school provider, has teamed up with the Xiehe Education Group in Shanghai to create The Shanghai United International School - Min Hang. Scheduled to open in September of 2007, the school will serve 1,500 Chinese nationals and international students in grades 6 through 12. "We are honored to be partners with Xiehe in this ground-breaking undertaking," said SABIS president Carl Bistany. "Our shared commitment to providing the highest-quality education along with a long-standing track record of success worldwide will ensure the success of this project and all others which follow." SABIS currently operates 31 schools in 11 countries, but the Shanghai United International School - Min Hang is the first in China.
ALPINE ULTIMATUM. What would make a school so controversial that it ends up in the local papers on a daily basis? Violence, a sex scandal, horrendous dropout rates, dismal test scores? Nope. Traffic. In Alpine, Utah, residents have flooded city council meetings to protest a new charter school because they believe it will create too much traffic. Unfortunately, that's not the only obstacle facing the developers of Mountainville Academy. The Alpine City Council members voted to impose a moratorium that would stop construction of the charter school. Set to open in September and serve 625 students, the school's plans to build a two-story building were rejected by the city council. Glenn Way of US Charter Development and Rebecca Whitchurch, one of the school's founders, put the needs of the children ahead of the town's bickering and starting building anyway. Using an alternative site plan that called for five smaller buildings, Way and Whitchurch broke ground last week in hopes of still finishing in time for the next school year. While the developers do not consider the five-building campus ideal, the plans were approved in 1999 and offer the only opportunity to provide education to students next fall. "Our negotiations have always put us in a position that is not what we really applied for, and we have constantly given up (made concessions)," school co-founder Gaylee Coverston told the Deseret Morning News. "But that's OK, because in the end, our education is wonderful - and that's what I wanted for my kids."
STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
DIPLOMAS COUNT. Next Tuesday, Education Week will release the first edition of a new annual report on national graduation rates titled, "Diplomas Count." Using the methods created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Graduation Project, Education Week is teaming up with the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center to evaluate every U.S. school district on the health of its high schools and its ability to graduate students. The report uses the Cumulative Promotion Index, which tracks four key steps to graduation, to evaluate each district. Also released will be an online mapping tool that allows visitors to pull data on graduation rates and other stats for a school district, state or the nation.
SCREW LOOSE. Teacher Debra Craig, a self-proclaimed anti-No Child Left Behind activist and founder of the "Million Erasers Campaign" is starting a new, more vulgar campaign against the reform law. In a press release, Craig announced her new "Screw NCLB" campaign, which calls for citizens to send a screw to legislators. A real nice message for children. In the release, Craig calls for people to send erasers because "NCLB is screwing up public schools with an 'almost evil' overemphasis on raising test scores." Her fight against NCLB blames the law for public school's failure and even claims that failing public schools have "loser students" who don't "care about education." Whether for or against No Child Left Behind, it's hard to believe any educator would take this kind of tactless approach to opposition.
In Other News
JUST THE FACTS MA'AM. A new ad campaign recently hit the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal exposing the facts on union spending. The ad campaign website boasts 12.5 million facts union officials don't want you to know. Included in those facts is that more than $1 million in union dues was spent on golf. Visit www.unionfacts.com to find out more.
WORTH REPEATING. In a recent New York Times article about charter schools in Harlem, one charter opponent couldn't seem to get his messages straight. The parent and president of the central Harlem council of parent associations complained that, "They've picked this population as a guinea pig district." But, much like the rest of the Harlem population, which is lining up for a spot in the successful neighborhood charter schools, he admitted to the reporter that he entered his daughter in a charter school lottery - and she won.
How to Increase American Competitiveness
By Dan LipsThe Heritage FoundationJune 9, 2006
In his recent bestseller, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman warned Americans about the challenges of an era of increased globalization and international competition. In an ever “flattening” world, many jobs can easily be outsourced to skilled, lower-cost workers in other countries. Today, American workers have to compete against workers from around the world.
Friedman explained what this should mean to American students by recounting a warning he offered his daughters: “Girls, when I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ‘Tom, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.’ My advice to you is: Girls, finish your homework. People in China and India are starving for your jobs.”
Too few American students are heeding this advice. The Department of Education released a report last week on American students’ and adults’ performance on international tests. The findings of this report, The Condition of American Education 2006, are not inspiring: American students rank in the middle or low end of the pack.
For example, American students scored below average on math and science tests administered to students in OECD countries. In math, U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 21st out of students from 28 countries. In science, U.S. students ranked 16th.
American students fared somewhat better on reading exams; U.S. 15-year-olds scored at the average of OECD countries. That’s still too low.
Thomas Friedman isn’t alone in recognizing the challenge facing Americans in the increasingly competitive global economy. President Bush focused on this looming problem in his State of the Union address when he unveiled his American Competitiveness Initiative. “We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity,” the President said. “Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge.”
Everyone can agree with that goal. But what can policymakers do to help Americans keep their edge? President Bush proposed a series of new federal programs to improve American students’ performance in math and science, including plans to train 70,000 high school teachers for math and science advanced-placement courses and to encourage 30,000 math and science professionals to become classroom teachers.
This Band-Aid approach is unlikely to deliver results. Already, more than a hundred math and science programs are scattered across more than a dozen agencies in the federal government. If teacher training programs were the solution, we’d have already solved the problem. Before financing another program, taxpayers deserve to know why the existing programs aren’t making a difference.
More broadly, taxpayers should question why the $66 billion the federal government currently spends on K-12 education has failed to deliver meaningful results. Long-term assessments of National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores show that student achievement has remained flat since the early 1970s. Over this period, federal education spending has increased dramatically.
The real challenge in American education is getting more out of our already considerable investment. According to the OECD, the U.S. spends much more per student than most other developed countries. For example, the U.S. spends more per pupil for primary education than the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and 22 other OECD countries. Only Luxembourg spends more than the U.S.
In all, Americans spend more than $500 billion annually on K-12 education-nearly 5 percent of the entire U.S. economy. A student enrolled in public school from kindergarten through 12th grade can expect local, state, and federal taxpayers to invest more than $100,000 on his or her education. Students in emerging economies like India and China-our competitors in Thomas Friedman’s flat world-certainly don’t have this advantage.
So how can we get more out of our investment in education and make American students more competitive? One answer is to introduce competition into American education. We should allow families to control that $100,000 by choosing their child’s school.
For too long, politicians and bureaucrats have controlled America’s schools, and the result has been a lack of innovation and steadily rising costs. But student-centered educational reform is beginning to change this.
Just in the past fifteen years, American families now have unprecedented flexibility and choice about how to educate their children, thanks to the spread of charter schools and scholarship programs. The result has been innovation as schools compete to attract students with promising new learning models. Unfortunately, we’ve only seen a glimpse of what could be possible if families had full control over the $100,000 invested in their child’s education.
Thomas Friedman argues that a key to succeeding in the new “flat” world economy is making oneself irreplaceable. “You have to constantly upgrade your skills,” he writes. “There will be plenty of good jobs out there in the flat world for people with the knowledge and ideas to seize them.”
Families deserve the opportunity to help their children acquire the knowledge and skills to compete in the world economy. School choice policies can give them this freedom. The byproduct will be widespread innovation in our schools-an important key to increasing American competitiveness.
Center for Education Reform Newswire
Vol. 8, No. 29
June 6, 2006
HOW 'BOUT THEM APPLES? There is only one real way to measure charter school achievement versus achievement in conventional public schools - compare apples to apples. A good researcher must consider race, income and other factors to truly look at similar students and determine achievement gains over several years. Those were the findings of a new report by the University of Washington National Charter School Research Project Center on Reinventing Public Education. A panel of researchers in sociology, economics, psychometrics, and political science studied the research landscape and found that the majority of existing studies are seriously flawed because of the type of data they review. "Everyone wants to know how charter schools are performing," says Paul Hill, Chair of the Charter School Achievement Consensus Panel, "but largely because of inadequate data we aren't learning what we need to know from existing research." Much of that existing research - often backed by the unions - has drawn media attention and created a research battle on the success of charter schools. This report, titled Key Issues in Studying Charter Schools and Achievement: A Review and Suggestions for National Guidelines, steps away from the data war and offers a new path to accurately measuring charter school achievement. "This report reinforces what the experts have been saying for years," CER president Jeanne Allen said. "You can't use an apples to oranges comparison and extrapolate it across every charter school in America and say this group is outperforming that one." That is not to say there isn't strong information in dozens of states about a charter school's (positive) effectiveness on a student. But one must start with good trend data using consistently administered tests to understand how the apples grow.
STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
NATION AT RISK. Yet another report has confirmed a sad truth - that the United States is falling behind in math and science achievement. Some have tried to deny the trend, but the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released The Condition of Education 2006 last week, showing that U.S. high school students are outperformed by Asian and European students on assessment tests. There is positive news, however. Fourth graders in the United States scored better than all but three countries in science and were better than 13 countries in mathematics. The positive data is only fleeting though, as fourth-graders' scores have not improved since 1995 while other countries have made significant gains. The report also provides valuable data on student-teacher ratios, minority/at risk student population, and school choice. According to the report, "The percentage of students in grades 1-12 whose parents enrolled them in a 'chosen' public school (i.e., a public school other than their assigned public school) increased from 11 to 15 percent between 1993 and 2003."
REALITY CHECK. "If an adult were forced to work in an environment where disrespect, bad language, fighting, drug and alcohol abuse and other bad behaviors are inflicted by a relative few, but tolerated or winked at by management, it might be considered a 'hostile workplace.'" That was the conclusion of a recent report by Public Agenda that shows that black and Hispanic families deal with horrible conditions in their schools and are not blind to the problems they call "very serious." The Public Agenda report, Reality Check 2006, Issue No. 2: How Black and Hispanic Families Rate Their Schools, was a national survey of parents, middle and high school students, and teachers. According to the report, three in ten black youth reported serious levels of disruption and unrest in their schools, and nearly a third say that "very few" or "only some" teachers offer extra help. Based on the responses of the young people actually in these schools, rather than outside observers, the report reveals an atmosphere of fear that is taking its toll on minority students. Twenty-three percent of Hispanic students and 39 percent of black students believed dropping out is a very serious problem in their school. More than half of all black students appear to have lost hope, saying they do not believe they will have the skills to pursue college. If adults would not accept such a "hostile workplace," why should our children have to?
PRESCHOOL MISCONCEPTION. Conventional wisdom tells us that preschool helps students later in life. In fact, eight of 10 Californians agree about the importance of preschool. But what is confusing people on today's ballot initiative is whether or not a massive state-funded preschool initiative will help or hurt kids. Like so many such efforts before, Proposition 82 gives public schools a new job: being the primary delivery agent for universal preschool in the Golden State. The parents of children who need subsidized preschool the most would not have a choice as to where their babies would best be served. The celebrity-driven initiative puts the kids who are already destined for failing schools in those same schools for additional years. As indicated by research performed in Head Start more than twenty years ago, preschool program effects are not long-lasting if the schools that educate children from K-12 are not effective. Californians not only have to face this logic, but also a 1.7 percent income tax increase to pay for what is questionable social policy. If that's not enough, it turns out that even middle and upper middle income taxpayers qualify for a benefit that most agree should largely be aimed at children who have no early childhood options. The Reason Foundation has dogged the Rand Corporation and others who have pushed this effort for months. Rand claimed that universal preschool would more than pay for itself by delivering $2.62 in benefits for every dollar spent by taxpayers. The Reason Foundation responded:
"…the Rand study claims that low-income students who already attend government-run preschools will suddenly receive an extraordinary boost in the quality of their education when they are in the same government-run preschools under the universal preschool plan, presumably because the teachers would be required to have bachelor's degrees. However, the Reason Foundation study finds that if we take a much more realistic approach and assume that government-run preschools under the universal preschool program would produce results similar to those of today's government-run preschools, the supposed benefits nose-dive even further.
"When the benefits to low-income children who already attend government-run preschools are sensibly reduced while using the rest of Rand's analysis, the benefits fall to 82 cents for every dollar invested - meaning Californian taxpayers actually lose 18 cents on every dollar they invest in universal preschool."
Celebrity Rob Reiner ("Meathead" from All in the Family) is campaigning today to the bitter end, while Gov. Schwarzenegger has come out against the proposition. The people seem as split as the celebrities with roughly half supporting the initiative. Keep an eye out for today's ballot results.
AFT PHONE HOME. Most people will agree that telemarketers are the bane of our existence. That's why the National Do Not Call Registry was created. But apparently The Warwick Teachers Union believes they don't have to abide by those laws. The WTU has hired a telemarketer to reroute phone calls from the public about a teacher contract dispute to the home phone of school committee Vice Chairman John F. Thompson Jr. Thompson says he has been receiving 10 to 20 calls a day despite being on the Do Not Call list. Last week, Thompson filed a complaint and says he wants the calls stopped. "It is a pretty sad state of affairs when the teachers union stoops to hiring telemarketers for the sole purpose of harassing both elected officials and the citizens of Warwick," Thompson said in the Providence Journal. The WTU conducted the calling campaign with the help of the American Federation of Teachers, who claim that this is something they have done many times before.
CRUISING TO DEBT. Membership in the Washington Teachers Union has fallen from 4,500 teachers to 4,128 in the last year and they have posted more than $600,000 of debt for the second straight year. That sounds like a good reason for the union to celebrate with a cruise, right? According to a report in the Washington Times, the Washington Teachers Union spent tens of thousands of dollars last fiscal year for a cruise, an annual conference, and the services of a public relations firm despite their alarming debt. The union's 2005 financial disclosure report included $8,960 to Odyssey Cruises, $37,277 to the public relations firm Walker Marchant Group, and $20,336 to the Maritime Institute for an annual conference. All of these lavish expenses came despite the substantial debt racked up after former President Barbara A. Bullock was sentenced to federal prison for misappropriating nearly $5 million in union dues. The dues were spent on personal items such as tickets to baseball games, artwork, furs and wide-screen televisions. Education, anyone?
In Other News
KIPP, HIP HOORAY. KIPP Academy Middle School in Houston, Texas is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed party. On June 11 from 8 to 10 pm, the KIPP rock band, dancers and step team will perform at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, Texas. According to their flyer, "A KIPPnotized rendition of the Roald Dahl classic will honor the more than 470 Golden Ticket winners that have walked through the gates of KIPP Academy over the last 10 years."
PARENTS ARE KEY IN SCHOOL REFORMJune 5, 2006Debbie SmithExecutive DirectorPATHS Through School Choice
The argument over whether parents should have the opportunity to send their child to any school of their choosing is over. Increased choice in charter, private, and public schools has provided parents with more control over their child’s education than any other time in history.
In addition to changes that market-based reform has brought, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the federal education legislation passed in 2001, has given parents the tools they need to hold public schools accountable. But in order for the legislation to be truly meaningful parents must act, knowing they have the full strength of the law on their side, to uphold the intended reforms illustrated in NCLB.
It is this combination of market-based reform and legislation that provides parents with the best possible opportunity to secure the finest education for their children. However, parents must recognize the power they have.
Parents need to stay informed, positive, and focused when working to secure the most appropriate education for their child, realizing the strength they have as parents, the best advocate their child could ever have.
The Heritage Foundation
June 1, 2006
Waiting for a Quality Education
By Dan Lips
Think back to the year 2000. President Clinton was in the White House. The dot-com bubble was still inflating. The Twin Towers were standing, and Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq. It’s amazing how much has changed over the last six years.
For many of America’s schoolchildren, however, far too little has changed. Millions were enrolled in persistently failing public schools back in 2000, and millions are enrolled in failing schools today.
The Department of Education recently reported that 1,065 public schools across the United States qualify for “restructuring” under No Child Left Behind. This means that a school has failed to make adequate yearly progress on state tests for six years or more. By September, the list of “restructuring” schools could grow to as many as 2,000.
Not surprisingly, many of these persistently failing public schools can be found in our nation’s biggest cities. The Department of Education estimates that there are 167 “restructuring” schools in New York City, 181 in Chicago, 75 in Los Angeles, 82 in Philadelphia, and 48 in Detroit. In these cities alone, as many as 500,000 children are enrolled in persistently failing public schools, according to a new Heritage Foundation report.
“Restructuring” can mean different things in different states and school districts. Though reforms are required by NCLB, the school district can choose which reforms it will undertake to satisfy the law. The reforms range from the expected (such as redesigning the curriculum and changing school programs) to the drastic (such as becoming a charter school). If history is any guide, few school districts will choose the latter option. Last week, for example, Chicago announced that its schools would implement the weakest range of reforms allowed under NCLB.
In contrast, President Bush has proposed an emergency plan to make good on NCLB’s original promise and give thousands of children trapped in persistently failing public schools the opportunity to choose a better school. In his 2007 budget, President Bush included $100 million for the America’s Opportunity Scholarships for Kids initiative. The plan would provide grants to local organizations to award private school scholarships, worth $4,000 apiece, to low-income children enrolled in “restructuring” schools. In all, more than 23,000 underprivileged children could receive scholarships to attend better schools.
Children in persistently failing schools already are entitled to public school choice and subsidized after-school tutoring under No Child Left Behind. But Department of Education statistics suggest that far too few children benefit from these limited choice options. Less than one percent of the 3.9 million eligible students used the public school transfer option in the 2003-04 school year. Fewer than 17 percent participated in after-school tutoring.
Evidence suggests that poor implementation by school districts is partly to blame for the low participation rates. For instance, the Department of Education reports that half of all school districts notified parents of the public school transfer option after the school year had already begun. In these school districts, these letters came, on average, five weeks after the first day of school.
Despite recent successes for school choice on Capitol Hill, President Bush’s Opportunity Scholarship proposal faces an uncertain outlook. In 2001, the Administration’s proposed voucher plan was stripped from the original No Child Left Behind plan early in the legislative process. During an election year, many members of Congress may prefer to avoid a political battle over school choice, fearful that powerful interest groups like the teachers unions will fiercely oppose any threat to the status quo.
But the parents of the millions of children stuck in persistently failing public schools have a different perspective. They must wonder why their congressional representatives are so unwilling to give them the option to send their child to a quality school. After all, a 2003 survey found that 42 percent of members of Congress had chosen to send at least one child to private school. These constituents want the same opportunity to give their children the best education possible.
Some members of Congress may try to dismiss figures showing that millions of children are trapped in failing schools as just another statistic. But for every child denied the opportunity to receive a quality education, it’s much more than a statistic. It’s a tragedy with lifelong consequences.
Center For Education Reform
For Immediate Release Contact: Jon Hussey
June 1, 2006
Study Reveals Problems In Measuring Charter School Achievement
Washington, D.C., May 31, 2006 – A study released today by the University of Washington National Charter School Research Project Center on Reinventing Public Education provides a detailed analysis of recent research conducted on charter school achievement versus test results in conventional schools.
The report, titled Key Issues In Studying Charter Schools and Achievement: A Review And Suggestions For National Guidelines, is a product of the Charter School Achievement Consensus Panel, consisting of researchers in sociology, economics, psychometrics, and political science. The report looks at the various types of achievement data and draws strong conclusions, finding that the majority of studies are seriously flawed because of the types of achievement data they review.
Two factors that must be considered, according to the researchers, are how well the methods eliminated extraneous factors such as differences in students' race and income and whether the schools studied represent all charter schools and charter school students or just an isolated subset of either the schools themselves or the students who attend them.
The report outlines five key methods of researching charter achievement, and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each. "Studies using one-year snapshots of achievement cannot have high internal validity, no matter how large a database they draw from or how carefully the analysis is done," the report states.
Of the five methods discussed in the study, only two, tracking the same students before they enter a charter school and after, and tracking demographically similar sets of students, possibly even students denied access to a charter school because of space limitations with those who were successfully admitted, to determine value-added achievement over multiple years, adequately offer an accurate comparison.
"This report reinforces what the experts have been saying for years," said Jeanne Allen, President of The Center for Education Reform in Washington, DC. "You can't take an apples to oranges comparison and extrapolate it across every charter school in America and say this group is outperforming that one.
"The most accurate way to measure charter student achievement is to take a benchmark of students' test scores as they enter the charter school, and then chart their progress over time," said Allen. "First you have to see where they are coming from, then compare that to students from similar socio-economic backgrounds and see which children progress at a faster rate."
The researchers also argue that making assessments of charter school performance also requires analysts to consider other factors that influence achievement including the grade configuration of a school (which often differs in charters), how long the school has been open, who authorizes and under what circumstances.
"Everyone wants to know how charter schools are performing," says Paul Hill, Chair of the Charter School Achievement Consensus Panel, "but largely because of inadequate data we aren't learning what we need to know from existing research."
The study is available on the National Charter School Research Project at www.ncsrp.org or on The Center for Education Reform website at www.edreform.com.
U.S. Department of Education The Achiever: June 2006 • Vol. 5, No. 5
President Establishes National Advisory Panel on Math
Experts to Advise on 'Best Available Scientific Evidence' for Teaching, Learning Strategies
On April 18, President George W. Bush issued an executive order creating the National Mathematics Advisory Panel to advise him and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on the "best available scientific evidence" for teaching and learning math.
Following in the footsteps of the influential National Reading Panel, the math advisory panel will convene experts to evaluate the effectiveness of various math teaching approaches and, in so doing, create a research base to improve instructional methods for teachers.
The group's interim report will be submitted by the end of January 2007, with specific recommendations on a range of topics related to math education. A final report is due by Feb. 28.
"It is more important than ever that our students receive solid math instruction in the early grades to prepare them to take and pass algebra and other challenging courses in middle and high school," Secretary Spellings said.
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel is part of the president's American Competitiveness Initiative for strengthening math education so that the nation's students develop the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. Included in his fiscal year 2007 budget request is $10 million to carry out the group's recommendations by supporting additional research and $250 million for the newly proposed Math Now programs.
Math Now for Elementary School Students, which is modeled after the popular Reading First program, would use the recommendations of the math advisory panel on scientifically based research and promising practices in math instruction to help prepare students for more rigorous course work in middle school.
Similar to the current Striving Readers Initiative, Math Now for Middle School Students would provide intensive instruction to students whose achievement is significantly below grade level.
'Out of the Ordinary'
Washington State School Rises Above Poverty, Mobility Challenges to Reach Record Achievement
Holmes Elementary School
Grade Span: K-6
Locale: Mid-size central city
Total Students: 375
Race/Ethnicity Enrollment: 73% white, 10% American Indian, 9% black, 7% Hispanic, 1% Asian
Free or Reduced-Price Lunch Eligible: 92%
English Language Learners: 11%
Special Education Students: 15%
Percentage Proficient: In reading, 76.1%; in math, 60.9% (based on fourth-graders assessed on the 2005 state exams).
Interesting Fact: Holmes doubled the number of students at proficient levels in reading and math despite losing half of the student population while gaining another half within the same year.
Principal Steve Barnes describes Holmes Elementary School as simply "special." It is an interesting word choice for a school with the highest student mobility rate in Spokane Public Schools and one of the highest poverty rates in the state of Washington. Nevertheless, to define Holmes as "out of the ordinary" has proven to be an apt description. Consider the fact that, in 2005, Holmes lost half of its population to transfers and gained another half from new enrollments, yet still managed to double the percentage of students reading and doing math at grade level.
Barnes explained, "Our goal here is to challenge the stereotypes and change what's said about Holmes and the community," a mission that has brought him back to the school for a third time.
In 1983, when Barnes started his education career as a student-teacher at Holmes, the community was known as a "tough area," he recalled. High crime, widespread substance abuse and dilapidated housing stigmatized the West Central neighborhood. Even when Barnes returned in 1996 for a three-year term as assistant principal, he said that the notorious reputation clung despite the joint efforts of residents and police officers to combat crime. So two years ago, when Barnes took the position as Holmes' leader, "A few people were asking, 'Are you nuts?'" he joked.
Although Barnes remained hopeful because of the staff's longstanding commitment, the enormity of his undertaking was soon apparent. He inherited an academic record of plummeting test scores, which dropped approximately 20 points in math and 10 points in reading his first year. In the same school year, a staggering 122 children transferred into the school while 115 transferred out, which amounted to nearly one student entering and exiting the school per day in 2004. (Holmes' student mobility index of 56 percent—surpassing the next highest in the district at 41 percent—is a continuing trend said to be partly the result of families in crisis that are homeless, struggling to pay rent, or sharing temporary housing with multiple families.)
Moreover, Holmes was tackling the demands associated with a high concentration of children from low-income families as well as a considerable sum of students with special needs, many of whom suffered from cognitive disabilities.
But Barnes, the district's 2005 Dick Stannard Distinguished Principal of the Year, preferred to accentuate the positive. He told his staff, "Let's spend our time on things we can control. We can control the delivery of instruction, the curriculum alignment, the assessments we give kids. We can focus on the belief that these kids—sure, they have challenges in their lives—are capable of learning just like other children."
Looking beyond the challenges, though, did not mean ignoring them; they still had to be addressed. The school's motto, "Teaching to the heart as well as the mind," speaks of its vision for the whole child. "Yes, school is basically for education, but if kids don't have a good night's sleep, food and a good relationship with an adult, they can't learn. I think that Holmes has combined those two very effectively," said Louise Stamper, whose two eldest sons attended Holmes and whose youngest son is now in the third grade there.
After the faculty implemented a series of reform measures, their hard labor showed through in the next batch of test results. In just one year, from 2004 to 2005, the scores for fourth-graders, one of the state's benchmark levels at the time, jumped from 43.7 percent to 76.1 percent in reading, and from 28.2 percent to 60.9 percent in math, making it the first time that more than half of Holmes' students achieved proficiency in both subjects concurrently.
Chief among these measures was the issue of teacher collaboration, which Barnes addressed with the support of a leadership team comprising an assistant principal and three new instructional coaches. When he arrived at the school, Barnes noticed that there were "hard-working, dedicated teachers but a bunch of private enterprises doing their own thing." Time had been scheduled for teachers to team up but it needed to be used "intentionally," he added.
The staff embraced the concept of time on task. "As we learn to be more intentional in the way we teach," said Mary Lutton, who has taught at Holmes for 16 years, "I see us working as colleagues [from grades] K to 6 ... because it takes everybody to build the child, especially in a poverty school. There're so few people helping these children to be successful and so many trying to beat them down."
The next crucial area under scrutiny was curriculum alignment. Again, there was an effort in place but it lacked the necessary focus for drastically improving learning. In response, Barnes introduced the idea of "data walls," also referred to as "instruction walls," to help teachers become experts at using data to drive instruction. Stored in a staff-only room, the data wall is a system of pocket charts spreading across the walls that identify each child's skill level. The data are drawn from a range of assessments and organized vertically by student performance and horizontally by academic goals to cross-reference students' grade levels. As new data become available, teachers and instructional coaches update the students' charts, which are maintained on index cards and color-coded to signal special services for improving achievement.
The first year Barnes looked at the data walls—a model borrowed from a project piloted in Arkansas classrooms—he immediately saw that half of the incoming first- through fourth-graders were below grade level. This ability to see the whole picture in one snapshot has helped teachers to better prepare for the academic needs of their children. Said Lutton, "We have better practices in teaching because we can see what we're looking for."
Another plus side of the data walls, Barnes pointed out, is that they revealed where the staff needed to align not only the curriculum with assessment results, but also services with students' needs. The Student Success Planning team—a group of Holmes' administrators, special education teachers, instructional coaches, Title I teachers and reading specialists—meets every Thursday in the data walls' room to discuss how to pool the school's resources, such as with intervention and remediation support, to bring children up to grade level.
These new initiatives at Holmes come at a time when the neighborhood is also experiencing a revival. For the staff, it is a forecast of a brighter future as they work toward the goal established by the No Child Left Behind Act, to have every child proficient in reading and math by 2014. "So we're going to continue to strive to make sure our kids can attain that," Barnes said, "because really that's our kids' way out of a different lifestyle. We have to give them the best education possible so that they can see there's another world out there."
— By Nicole Ashby
President Discusses American Competitiveness Initiative
In April, President Bush, accompanied by Secretary Spellings, spoke before an assembly of students and staff at Tuskegee University in Alabama about his American Competitiveness Initiative. The following is an excerpt of his remarks.
Teacher of the Year
On April 26, President Bush honored Kimberly Oliver of Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., as the 2006 National Teacher of the Year and the first to represent Maryland. She was recognized for her role in helping to turn around the high-poverty school, which was in danger of state restructuring. In the past six years, Oliver has helped to create and implement several programs at Broad Acres to improve instruction, including a Books and Supper Night to promote literacy in the predominantly Spanish-speaking community.
A committee comprising 14 national education organizations chooses the National Teacher of the Year from among the State Teachers of the Year, who represent the 50 states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the Department of Defense Education Activity and the District of Columbia. Sponsored by ING in partnership with Scholastic, Inc., the 56-year-old program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
... Perhaps the most important way that this United States of America can remain the leader when it comes to economic development and opportunity is to make sure our education systems work well. ...
... But here's the problem: By the time our kids get into high school, we've fallen behind most of the developed world in math and science. In other words, we're closing the achievement gap, and there's improvement in the public school system around America, but what ends up happening is that we're beginning to fall off. And that's where the challenge exists.
And so, how do we make sure that our high school students are coming out of school ... with a skill set necessary to even go further, so we remain a competitive nation? Here are some ideas.
First, one of the programs that works well is the Advanced Placement [AP] program. ... Therefore, the federal government needs to provide money to train 70,000 high school teachers on how to teach AP. In other words, take a system that's worked and see to it that it's spread all across the United States of America.
Secondly ... [my competitiveness plan would] bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in our classrooms. They're called adjunct professors. I think it's a smart way and a practical way to excite children to take the courses that are necessary to make sure this country is a competitive country. ...
... So I set up ... what's called a national math panel. We've got experts coming together, and they're going to analyze the best teaching methodology for math, the best curriculum for math. We did the same thing for reading ... and it's working. ...
And then we're going to implement what's called a Math Now program that will get those recommendations into the teacher's hands. But there's also another interesting aspect of Math Now ... that is, when we measure and find a child slipping behind in math in the eighth or ninth grade, that child gets extra help.
... I also understand that the federal government has a role in helping people go to college. See, it's one thing to make sure the students have got the skill set, but if there's not the financial means to get to a university, then that skill set could conceivably be wasted. ... And Congress this year listened and passed a bill which I signed into law .... There are two new grants associated with Pell Grants.
... One is called the Academic Competitiveness Grant, which will provide additional money to first- and second-year college students who have completed a rigorous high school curriculum and have maintained a 3.0 GPA [grade point average] in college. There will be up to $750 for first-year students, and up to $1,300 for second-year students. ...
And then we've got what's called Smart Grants. Now, these grants are for third- and fourth-year college students who have maintained a 3.0 GPA and who major in math, science or critical foreign languages. ... These grants will be up to an additional $4,000 per person.
So the federal government needs to play a vital role. One vital role is to set the goals and strategies, to make it clear to the American people we've got a choice to make: Do we compete or do we retreat; do we become isolationists and protectionists as a nation, or do we remain a confident nation and lead the world. ...
Visit www.whitehouse.gov and click on the "Education" link for the complete April 19, 2006, remarks.
Around the Country
Arizona — All seven of the graduating seniors on the robotics team at an inner-city high school in Phoenix will be attending college this year on full scholarships. For the past three years, every senior in the Science and Technology Club at Carl Hayden Community High School has gone into the military or to college, mostly on scholarship. The school's team of young engineers, which has grown from a handful of students to 50, gained national attention in 2004 when it beat many prestigious colleges and universities to win an underwater robotics competition sponsored by NASA and the Office of Naval Research.
District of Columbia — The SEED Foundation, a nonprofit organization that opened the country's only urban public boarding school eight years ago in the nation's capital, is working on replicating the program in nearby Maryland. The SEED School, which spans grades 7-12, provides a rigorous, college-preparatory environment for underserved students, who must take seven classes a day. Last month, SEED officials received approval from Maryland lawmakers to create a state-financed boarding school that the foundation would manage and possibly open as early as fall 2008. They also have plans to open a second school in Washington, D.C., in fall 2009.
National Safety Month, sponsored by the National Safety Council. This 10th anniversary, monthlong observance provides injury-prevention tips for people in the workplace, on the road, in the home and around the community. Visit www.nsc.org or call (630) 285-1121.
Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative Summer Workshop, Denver, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. This first free workshop will offer sessions for teachers of grades 6-12 in all subject areas for professional development credit. Some of the nation's best educators will share strategies for raising achievement. For more information about this workshop series, visit www.t2tweb.us and click on "Teacher Workshops," or call (800) USA-LEARN.
Presidential Scholars Program Medallion Ceremony, Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. This year's ceremony will honor 141 outstanding graduating American high school seniors for their academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership and community service. For complimentary tickets to the Kennedy Center performance by Presidential Scholars in the Arts, e-mail Presidential.Scholars@ed.gov or call (202) 401-0961.
Q & A Glossary
summer learning loss:
the fall-off in reading and math skills during the summer months due to the lack of participation in academic enrichment activities.
How do I find a summer program for my child?
A quality summer program that includes activities for academic enrichment can help to prevent the learning loss that research shows takes place during the summer months and can ensure students return to school prepared to learn and achieve. Following is just a sample list of organizations that provide assistance in locating an engaging and educational summer program in your community for all ages.
YMCA — (800) 872-YMCA, www.ymca.net—has more than 2,500 locations nationwide, many of which offer arts and humanities programs, including its National Writer's Voice, a network of independent literary arts centers.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America — (800) 854-CLUB, www.bgca.org—staffs some 44,000 trained specialists to support programs that provide writing assignments, help for setting academic goals and hands-on learning about the environment.
4-H Club — (301) 961-2800, www.fourhcouncil.edu—provides 7 million American youths with programs that promote literacy in science, engineering and technology as well as rural youth development.
Camp Fire USA — (816) 285-2010, www.campfire.org—sponsors mentoring opportunities and service-learning programs through 145 councils and community partners across the nation.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Education—at (800) USA-LEARN and at www.ed.gov—offers a database that includes approximately 6,800 participating schools and organizations across the country that have been awarded 21st Century Community Learning Center grants to establish summer, weekend and after-school programs.
News Show Examines Child Health, Nutrition
"Child Health and Nutrition"
8-9 p.m. EDT
The ways in which schools and families can promote healthy food choices and active lifestyles for students will be the focus of the June edition of Education News Parents Can Use, the U.S. Department of Education's monthly television program.
Healthy, active and well-nourished children are more likely to be prepared and motivated to learn. However, a recent government report revealed that one-third of U.S. children and teens—approximately 25 million—are either overweight or on the brink of becoming so. June's show will address this issue by: highlighting national and local programs that encourage students to eat right and exercise; discussing the latest research on the health and fitness of America's youths; spotlighting the new federal guidelines for child nutrition; and providing tips for parents on how they can ensure their children adopt healthy habits that will help them to grow and learn.
Each month, Education News Parents Can Use showcases: schools and school districts from across the country; conversations with school officials, parents and education experts; and advice and free resources for parents and educators.
Secretary Spellings recently released a checklist outlining the key things parents can do to help ensure that their children are prepared for higher education as well as for the competitive workforce of today's global economy. The checklist includes action steps for preparing children for their futures, as sampled below.
Make sure your child understands the importance of math in elementary school. At the high school level, encourage your child to take a rigorous program of study, such as four years of math and science classes along with critical foreign language courses that include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
Encourage your child to take Advanced Placement courses in high school, as research shows that students who take rigorous courses in high school are more likely than their peers to graduate from college in four years or less.
Get involved in helping your child's school to improve by finding out about the U.S. Department of Education's numerous grant programs, including Early Reading First, Teaching American History, and Improving Literacy Through School Libraries.
Encourage your child's teacher to take advantage of the Department's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which engages some of the nation's top teachers and principals to share strategies for raising student achievement.
Take advantage of the new opportunities No Child Left Behind may provide for your child, including the possibility of transferring to another public school or receiving free tutoring.