News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
House Begins Work on OERI Revision
Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., who chairs the newly renamed Education Reform Subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has kicked off the first of what he promises will be several hearings this year on improving education research.
Mr. Castle, at the July 17 meeting, said he hopes to get a bill reauthorizing the Department of Education's office of educational research and improvement out of his subcommittee by year's end.
Last year, Mr. Castle proposed breaking the research office out of the department and making it independent. ("House Plan Would Create Research 'Academy'," Aug. 2, 2000.) But at the urging of subcommittee Democrats, he has revised his bill to keep the agency in the Education Department—at least nominally.
Rep. Castle did not say at the hearing last month whether he planned to try again to split off the research agency. But he promised that whatever measure emerged from his panel would not be "status quo."
Although fully funded, the OERI has been operating without formal congressional authority for two years.
Panel To Study NAEP Use as Check on Tests
The governing board that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress has formed an ad hoc committee to figure out just what it means to use the NAEP to "confirm" state test results.
Under legislation now pending in Congress, states could receive financial rewards or penalties based on progress on their own state tests, but only if those results were "confirmed" by NAEP (or, in the case of the House's version of the bill, by another national test of each state's choosing). The congressionally mandated assessment tests a sampling of students in key subjects.
The ad hoc committee of the National Assessment Governing Board plans to prepare a report by next March that discusses issues related to using NAEP to confirm state test results, including some possible models for how the "confirmation" process might work.
President Approves Extra Title I Funding
While lawmakers haven't agreed yet on how much to increase the Department of Education's budget next year, they just raised the bar.
President Bush last month signed supplemental spending legislation that kicks in an extra $161 million for Title I grants to school districts in the current fiscal year. That brings the revised total for the program to $8.62 billion for fiscal 2001.
The additional money is the result of a political compromise that tinkers with the formulas used to calculate how much every state and district receives.
Because of geographic shifts in population and poverty levels, some states and districts technically qualify for less Title I aid, or none at all.
The compromise provides enough money to allow each state and district to receive the greater of two options for distributing the aid: Either it will receive the same amount as the previous year, or it will receive the amount intended under the Title I statutory formulas.
—Erik W. Robelen
Math-Science Bill Clears House
The House approved two bills last week that seek to improve math and science instruction.
Both bills, approved on a voice vote July 30, would operate out of the National Science Foundation.
HR 1158 is modeled in part on a proposal by President Bush to establish partnerships between universities and school districts to improve K-12 mathematics and science education. It would authorize the NSF to distribute $200 million a year from fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1, through fiscal 2006.
In addition, the bill would authorize several other smaller initiatives, such as setting up four university research centers on teaching and learning, and awarding scholarships to top math and science majors in exchange for a commitment to teach two years for each year they received a scholarship.
The other bill, HR 100, would authorize $50 million a year in grants to colleges and universities to establish and run master-teacher programs in math and science.
—Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 20, Issue 43, Page 41