April 27, 2005

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Private foundations can play a critical, catalytic role in changing American public education for the better, but they could and should be getting more bang for their bucks, according to a diverse collection of research papers commissioned for a conference this week.
Students learn more from certified teachers than they do from uncertified teachers, even when the uncredentialed teachers are Teach For America recruits from some of the nation’s top colleges, a Stanford University research team concludes from a study of test scores in Houston.
Widespread sniping at the Bush administration’s centerpiece education law escalated into a frontal attack last week as the nation’s largest teachers’ union and several school districts sued federal officials over the measure, just a day after the Utah legislature approved a bill challenging the reach of the law.
Since President Bush came to town in 2001, the Education Department has taken aggressive and sometimes creative steps to promote its agenda to the public, including its support for school choice options such as charter schools and for Mr. Bush’s signature program, the No Child Left Behind Act.
A liberal organization that opposes the federally financed voucher program in the District of Columbia has filed a suit that seeks to force the U.S. Department of Education to disclose documents detailing how the program is being implemented.
As yet another drama unfolds over the teaching of evolution in Kansas, highlighted this time by a series of upcoming public hearings on the topic, several groups from the mainstream scientific community say they will not participate.
Take Note
News in Brief: A National Roundup
News in Brief: A National Roundup
Even as Americans wage epic legal battles over religion in public schools—the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance, the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, and lessons on alternatives to the theory of evolution—teaching about the Bible remains taboo in many districts across the country.
People in the News
The humble printer cartridge—a necessary item in an ever-growing number of businesses, homes, and schools—is a bone of contention in an industrial struggle worth billions of dollars to corporations and, potentially, thousands of dollars to individual schools.
In an unusual collaboration, faculty members and students from Harvard University’s graduate school of education have teamed up with educators from the Boston school system to write a book on how to use data to improve instruction.
The theme of the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, held here this month, was “Diversity and Democracy in the Era of Accountability.” In keeping with the first part of that title, the gathering drew researchers from 53 nations, and all walks of the field.
Teaching & Learning Update
Teaching & Learning Update
The final report in a three-year study of the federally supported 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school program affirms the researchers’ controversial earlier findings that the program offers students little or no academic benefit.
Report Roundup
Vocational Education
More than 1,100 Chicago teachers won’t be returning to their jobs in the fall, now that principals in the city’s school district are using a new system that makes dismissing ineffective educators a lot easier.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings arrived early enough to have breakfast with the nation’s top state school officials during their recent gathering here. Later that day the secretary took questions in a 90-minute session that saw some state officials vent their frustration over implementation of the federal law.
With Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. pledging to sign a bill that puts Utah education policy ahead of the No Child Left Behind Act, state education officials now hope to make the case to the U.S. Department of Education that Utah should not be penalized for failing to comply with the federal law.
State Journal
Ohio is poised to take one of the biggest steps toward expanding school choice during a legislative season that has seen voucher proposals in other states gain early momentum, only to be dashed by political opposition.
As state lawmakers hammer out their education budgets for fiscal 2006, leaders in many states are seeing promising revenue projections countered by the spiraling costs of Medicaid and other health-care programs.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Capitol Recap
Raymond J. Simon appears on track for a big promotion at the Department of Education.
Under a proposal by President Bush, a portion of federal community-development money would be distributed to cities and towns based in part on how well their local schools had performed under the No Child Left Behind Act’s standards.
Federal File
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
One investigation into the Department of Education’s public relations arrangement with the commentator Armstrong Williams has found no legal or ethical violations, while a second report taking a broader look at the department’s PR efforts—and the possibility they could be deemed covert propaganda—will likely be released in several weeks.
High-profile attacks raise concerns, but statistics show school violence is down. Federal figures, for instance, show that the rate of reported violent crimes against students at school declined from 48 victims per 1,000 students in 1992 to 24 per 1,000 for 2002.
Both mathematicians and math educators have urged improving the preservice education of math teachers and providing them with more and better in-service programs to upgrade their skills and knowledge. But practically nothing has been said about the quality of those entering teacher education programs in mathematics, writes Anthony Ralston.
If we value the employment advantages it produces, we should be wary about adopting policies that squeeze career and technical education out of the curriculum, writes Gary Hoachlander, president of MRP Associates.

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