News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Committee Alters, OKs Research Plan
A House committee last week approved a proposal to transform the
Department of Education's main research office into a sleeker, more
politically independent "academy of education sciences."
After winning bipartisan support from members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee last week, the bill now goes to the full House, where members are expected to take it up later this spring.
The version of the bill that came out of last week's committee meeting softens provisions in earlier versions that were seen as threatening to the department's existing—and politically popular—system of regional research laboratories, clearinghouses, and technical-assistance centers. While the new bill still does not explicitly authorize any of those entities, it would authorize more than twice as much money as earlier versions—a total of $111 million for fiscal 2003—to support the kinds of services they provide. It also removes wording that would have allowed regional boards, rather than the department, to let contracts for those services.
The revised version would keep the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing program known as the "nation's report card," and the National Assessment Governing Board, the panel that sets policy for it, under the umbrella of the academy's director. Some observers fear that such a configuration might risk the testing program's independence.
Study to Examine Reading Programs
The National Institute for Literacy will oversee an extensive analysis of the most popular reading programs to determine how well they conform to the essential elements of reading instruction outlined in President Bush's Reading First initiative.
The institute, an independent agency charged with disseminating information about effective instructional methods and materials, has solicited proposals for a national review of reading programs. Proposals are due by April 12.
As envisioned by the institute, the contractor would develop criteria for evaluating the content and effectiveness of programs, select programs to be assessed, and assemble a review panel of reading and instructional-design experts to judge the programs based on those criteria.
For more information, call the institute at (202) 233-2054, or send an e-mail message to Sharyn Abbott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Bills Seek Loan Relief for Teachers
Some lawmakers are trying to expand a federal student-loan-forgiveness program for teachers by raising the ceiling for the loans that can be wiped off the books.
Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill March 13 that would provide up to $17,500 in student-loan forgiveness to mathematics, science, and special education teachers who serve in needy schools for five years.
The proposed Canceling Loans to Allow School Systems to Attract Classroom Teachers, or CLASS ACT, bill has been endorsed by President Bush. The existing loan-forgiveness program, begun in 1998, provides up to $5,000 in college-loan relief to teachers who work in low-income districts.
Several such bills have also been introduced in the Senate.
—Michelle R. Davis
Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 26