News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Bill Loosens Controls On Border Students
Students who live in Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez in Mexico would be allowed to legally attend colleges full time or part time in San Diego or El Paso, under federal legislation that has passed Congress and awaits action by the White House.
The legislation would create two new visa classifications for Mexican and Canadian "border commuter" students going to U.S. colleges and universities on a part-time, daily basis. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jim Kolbe, R- Ariz., passed the House on Oct. 15 and the Senate a day later.
Currently, Mexican and Canadian college students are allowed to attend college in the United States only with F-1 visas, for full-time study, or M-1 visas, for vocational study. Part-time study has been forbidden—although that law was only sporadically enforced, and many foreign students crossed the border to attend college. The Immigration and Naturalization Service initially vowed to crack down on part-time students after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year, but then issued a ruling in August allowing commuter study on an interim basis.
Rep. Kolbe's bill, sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, in the Senate, would create an F-3 category for part-time students and an M-3 class for vocational coursework. Such students would be subject to the INS' new online student-tracking system.
The bill would not change provisions on immigration rules governing K-12 students. Under current federal law, foreign K-12 pupils can attend schools in the U.S. full time for up to a year, as long as they have student visas and reimburse the local education agency, officials in the Western regional office of the INS said.
Chinese-U.S. Project to Aid In Language Instruction
The United States and China are planning a joint Web-based project to help students and educators learn a second language, initially English and Chinese, free of charge on the Internet.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Zhou Ji, China's vice minister of education, signed a memorandum of understanding last week to go ahead with the so-called E-Language Project.
U.S. officials said the project would aid American schools that want to offer foreign- language instruction, but lack qualified teachers, and would help schools with many immigrant students who need instruction in English as a second language, a federal priority.
In China, the project will help teach English to students in remote and rural areas.
ECS to Track Progress On New Federal Law
The Denver-based Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan education policy and research organization, will get a one-year, $2 million grant from the department.
Using that money, the ECS will track and report on how state policymakers do in carrying out the dictates of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. The sweeping legislation, signed by President Bush in January, carries requirements for states in numerous areas: accountability, school choice, teacher quality, and reading, among others.
With the help of the tracking information, the ECS will advise the Education Department, states, and education groups on the implementation of the "No Child Left Behind" Act from now through Sept. 30 of next year.
Paige Scolds States For Skirting ESEA Goals
Secretary of Education Rod Paige, engaging in some early watchdog efforts himself, last week chided "some states" for what he called efforts to lower the bar of expectations to hide the low performance of their schools.
However, the secretary did not say which states fit that description, and a department spokesman declined to single out any states.
"[I]t is nothing less than shameful that some defenders of the status quo are trying to hide the performance of underachieving schools in order to shield parents from reality," Mr. Paige wrote in an Oct. 22 letter to state schools chiefs about implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act.
He also said a few states were discussing how they could ratchet down their standards to remove schools from their lists of low performers.
Mr. Paige praised those state and local leaders who have embraced the new challenge.
Under the law, a revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, states must ensure that all public school students are academically "proficient" within 12 years. The law imposes consequences for schools that do not make "adequate yearly progress" toward that goal. The department has authority to approve each state's definition of adequate progress, but it lacks the same authority over how states define "proficient."
At least a few states, such as Colorado, Connecticut, and Louisiana, have taken steps to set "proficient" definitions for purposes of the federal law that are less demanding than the levels set under state law.
—Erik W. Robelen
Agency Publishes Guide On New Law
A new reference tome will now take its place next to the dictionary and the thesaurus for those watching education policy. The Department of Education has produced a 180-page desktop reference manual as a guide to deciphering the "No Child Left Behind" Act.
The spiral-bound guidebook provides a program-by- program analysis of the law. The goal is to help educators and administrators implement different aspects of the legislation.
In particular, officials hope it will help those who deal with the $10.4 billion Title I program for disadvantaged children. But the book also contains information on other programs and efforts, including preparing and recruiting teachers and principals, providing language instruction for English-language learners and immigrant students, and promoting parental choice.
Free copies of "No Child Left Behind, A Desktop Reference" are available by calling (877) 433-7827, or online at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/reference.html.
—Michelle R. Davis
Vol. 22, Issue 9, Page 29