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Published in Print: January 8, 2003, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Title IX Panel's Report Will Be Delayed

The Department of Education's panel studying Title IX has pushed back its deadline for a final report. The Secretary of Education's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics had been slated to turn over a report by Jan. 31, but will postpone that step for several weeks along with its final meeting, said Susan Aspey, a department spokeswoman.

Members of the 15-person commission said they needed more time to review draft findings and recommendations proposed during the group's December meeting in Philadelphia. ("Title IX Panel Contemplates Easing 'Proportionality' Test," Dec. 11, 2002.) A final meeting had been scheduled for Jan. 8 in Washington. That meeting now is likely to be held at the end of the month, and the final report is now expected some time in February, Ms. Aspey said.

The commission is studying the effects of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal aid. Critics say the law has led some colleges to scrap men's teams in order to expand women's athletic opportunities. Defenders say the law ensures that women get athletic opportunities equal to those of their male counterparts.

—Michelle R. Davis

New Inspector General In Place at Department

John P. Higgins has been sworn in as the Department of Education's inspector general. Mr. Higgins, who was serving as acting inspector general when appointed, will lead the office that strives to detect and prevent fraud and abuse within the department and to recommend changes to promote efficiency and effectiveness there.

John P. Higgins

Mr. Higgins, 56, has worked at the Education Department since it became a separate Cabinet agency in 1980 and progressed through the ranks to become deputy inspector general. He also served as the director of the department's Management Improvement Team, a task force formed in 2001 to hold the agency more accountable and correct fiscal abuses.

Mr. Higgins was confirmed by the Senate Nov. 14 and sworn in to the presidentially appointed position on Dec. 12.

—Michelle R. Davis

Agency Clarifies Rules On Teacher Qualifications

The Department of Education has released an updated version of its guidance on "highly qualified" teachers to help states and districts comply with provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. The department had released initial guidance last June. The update reflects the final regulations for the law, which were released late last year.

Among the changes, the revised guidance clarifies the requirements for teachers who enter the profession through alternative, or nontraditional, routes. It also specifies that to be "highly qualified," middle school teachers must demonstrate competence in all of the academic areas in which they teach.

—Lynn Olson

States Get 'Workbook' For Accountability Plans

An "accountability workbook" from the Department of Education is designed to help states document their plans for complying with accountability provisions in the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001, which states must submit to the agency by Jan. 31.

The workbook will serve as a state's preliminary application to the department, Susan B. Neuman, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, wrote in a Dec. 5 letter to the state schools chiefs that accompanied the newly released workbook. Upon receiving the workbook from a state, the department will arrange a peer review of that state's accountability plan. Following that review, the department will provide the state with an evaluation of its plan, indicating preliminary approval or any changes needed for the state to gain final approval by May 1.

To ensure that states can meet the May 1 deadline, the department is inviting states to seek early approval of their plans and will provide them with technical assistance to do so. Department officials had met with 17 states by Christmas and held conversations with others. Federal officials expect to issue additional guidance about the peer-review process soon, Ms. Neuman wrote.

—Lynn Olson

Cash Problems Put Hold On AmeriCorps Signups

An unprecedented surge in applications has prompted the Corporation for National and Community Service to suspend all applications to the national-service program AmeriCorps, which supplies workers for such endeavors as after-school programs and tutoring services.

According to federal law, the corporation, which is a public agency, must have enough money in its coffers to pay for each member's education award, which can amount to $4,725 for each of the program's 250,000 members.

By late November, it became clear to officials at the corporation that the National Service Trust, a $200 million federal fund that pays for AmeriCorps, did not have enough cash on hand to pay for the awards of every corps member, according to a corporation spokesman. At that time, 50,000 members were enrolled for the 2002 program year, putting the program at capacity, according to a statement from Leslie Lenkowsky, the chief executive officer of the corporation.

Corporation officials said AmeriCorps would start accepting members again after the National Service Trust receives additional funding from Congress, which is expected before the end of the month.

—Michelle Galley

Morris Brown Seniors Eligible For Certification

Morris Brown College in Atlanta was stripped of accreditation last month, creating the possibility that its students would lose their federal financial aid and putting the future of the historically black institution in jeopardy. But officials from a top state agency say they will allow seniors in the college's teacher-preparation program to remain eligible for certification, regardless of the school's fate.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission will allow students scheduled to graduate this spring to become certified, as long as they have met all of the other necessary teaching requirements, said F.D. Toth, the executive secretary of the independent agency.

His agency's decision to grant certification to the college's seniors, Mr. Toth said, was one of fairness, since those students had no role in the accreditation issue. Juniors, and other students who were not as far along in the teaching program, will not be eligible for certification through the commission, he noted.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, in Decatur, Ga., voted to terminate Morris Brown's accreditation on Dec. 9, citing lack of budgetary controls, among other shortcomings. Officials from the college, established in 1881 to serve African-American men and women, have said they will appeal the decision.

—Sean Cavanagh

DOD Schools Said Stocked With High-Quality Teachers

Overseas schools run by the Department of Defense have no difficulty attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers, a federal report says.

The December report by the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, said recruiters filled 99 percent of vacant teacher positions with highly qualified teachers in the 2001-02 school year.

Federal lawmakers had asked the GAO last year to assess compensation for Defense Department teachers overseas.

In general, those teachers are paid more than teachers overall in the United States, the report says. For example, starting salaries for DOD overseas teachers are almost 6 percent higher than the average starting salary for stateside teachers. Teachers in the United States also do not receive the allowances that many DOD overseas teachers receive for their living quarters.

—Lisa Fine Goldstein

Study: No Consistent Gap In Urban-Suburban Funds

When federal auditors tried to determine if inner-city or suburban schools spend more money per-pupil, they found no easy answer. Spending varies by metropolitan area.

A December report by the General Accounting Office showed inner-city schools spent more per pupil than did suburban schools in Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis. But it was an entirely different story in Fort Worth, Texas, and in New York City, where suburban schools spent more per-pupil than inner-city schools did. In Denver and Oakland, Calif., spending differences between the two types of schools were mixed. The report analyzed data from three suburban and three inner-city schools from each of the seven metropolitan areas.

Congress had asked the GAO to study the per-pupil spending of the inner- city and suburban schools after passing the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. At that time, lawmakers wanted to track issues related to equal education opportunities for students. In general, the study found, schools spent more per pupil because of higher staff salaries, regardless of whether the school was in a suburban or inner-city setting.

—Lisa Fine Goldstein

Vol. 22, Issue 16, Page 22

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