May 18, 2005

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Researchers from two of the nation’s most eminent universities, Harvard and Stanford, recently unveiled studies on different, but equally controversial, education issues. One was on school accountability policy, the other on teacher certification, but critics’ responses were the same.
Under the IDEA, school districts are required to spend a proportionate share of their federal special education funding on students who were enrolled by their parents in private schools. That proportionate-share formula hasn’t changed since the 1997 reauthorization of the federal law. But the version of the law that Congress enacted late last year includes some changes that private school supporters have welcomed.
Faced with a tepid stock market, a rise in life expectancy, and teacher contracts that critics say inflate pensions, many states are seeking ways to tweak or even overhaul the way they underwrite educators’ retirement benefits.
Prekindergarten children are being expelled from their classes for behavior problems at a higher rate than students in K-12 schools, a study released May 17 reveals.
Unruly pupils in schools around the country have stirred concern among many parents, educators, and community leaders. Their question: Is it ever appropriate to handcuff an elementary school pupil?
The state of Texas has deposed the school board of a Dallas-area district that has been plagued by financial and academic problems.
Take Note
News in Brief: A National Roundup
A new phase is getting under way in an ambitious project to help Texas students succeed in high school and graduate ready for college and the workforce.
The new superintendent of the District of Columbia schools is proposing to revitalize art and music education as part of his strategic-improvement plan.
People in the News
Like a growing number of other places in America’s heartland, West Liberty, Iowa, is watching its share of minority students shift into the majority. With the federal No Child Left Behind Act pushing schools to improve instruction for immigrant as well as U.S.-born students, raising test scores will be no easy task, as many Hispanic students here are still learning English.
Spanish is the most common language among limited-English-proficient students.
Education Inc.
More schools are using credit-, debit-, and club-card rebate programs sponsored by big retail operations such as Target Inc. and Macy’s, or by restaurant chains, to help pay for sports uniforms, educational technology, field trips, and even facilities repairs.
A study of 28 urban districts identified as front-runners in “performance-driven practices,” which are designed to focus their school systems more squarely on student achievement, concludes that even those sites still have quite a way to go.
Few of 28 urban districts studied have taken “performance-driven practices” from start to finish. For example, district officials cited the number of times they used data in specified ways.
Report Roundup
School Safety
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has indicated she may be open to new ways of measuring school progress, known as “growth” models, under the No Child Left Behind Act. But state officials are still unsure what the federal government might find acceptable.
The U.S. Department of Education has indicated it may consider “growth” models for measuring adequate yearly progress. One model it has accepted is Massachusetts’.
New Jersey has announced a pilot program to improve middle and high schools in its poorest districts, an extension of a widely watched effort that for the past seven years has focused largely on preschool and elementary school children.
State Journal
As the 2005 legislative session closed this month, the GOP-led legislature rebuffed Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's plans, with lawmakers giving their fellow Republican his first significant defeat on education issues in his more than six years in office.
In search of more money for schools, elected officials in Illinois are weighing two markedly different funding strategies, both of which have proved popular in other states: raising income taxes while cutting property taxes, or tapping into more gambling revenues.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
States can start taking advantage of flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act for some of their special education students this school year, but they will have to clear several hurdles to do so, the Department of Education announced last week.
Given the legislative success of the No Child Left Behind Act four years ago, it’s striking how little attention Mr. Bush’s recent plans to expand the law at the high school level have gotten on Capitol Hill.
Federal File
President Bush’s top education lieutenants have given more attention lately to what would be a major boost to federal aid for improving teacher quality. But some call the proposed $500 million program to change the way teachers are paid a tough sell in Congress.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Slam poetry has gotten students who are often bored with how the subject is taught in school excited about the craft. Includes a photo essay and exclusive audio.
William A. Proefriedt explores what the works of James Bryant Conant, author of The American High School Today (1959), can tell us now.
Gary Ritter and Christopher Lucas, University of Arkansas public policy researchers, ask whether our reluctance to abandon the universal pay schedule for teachers is causing us to shortchange poor students.
Letters
Letters
Accountability, charter schooling, small schools, site-based budgeting—all hinge on the ability of school leaders to forge effective schools, write Frederick Hess and Andrew Kelly, education policy researchers at the American Enterprise Institute.

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