September 7, 2005

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Evidence is mounting that federal employees and their agents may have directed or even pressured states to choose specific assessments, consultants, and the criteria for evaluating core reading programs as conditions for getting funding under the Reading First initiative, possibly in violation of federal law.
Many people predicted this would be the year that schools nationwide began feeling the bite of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, as states ratcheted up their performance targets and more schools failed to meet those benchmarks. But such dire predictions are not playing out uniformly across the states.
Thousands of children displaced by one of the most destructive natural disasters ever to strike the United States will be back in school soon, sometimes as far as 500 miles away from home.
School districts already struggling to meet the high costs of fuel are bracing for a rising tide of red ink in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the yet-untold damage it dealt to oil production along the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Department of Education will allow the Chicago school district to provide tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act, a reversal signaling more flexibility for districts in complying with the increasingly tough mandates of the law.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
News in Brief: A National Roundup
Correction
Under a policy approved by the school board, all elementary school principals who work in schools in which at least half the students are English-language learners, or formerly carried that designation, must learn the native language of those students.
A report by Barbara Kent Lawrence, with help from several other small-schools researchers, outlines how just about any community can provide efficient and academically successful small schools.
A small but growing cadre of researchers is taking a close look at the gestures people make and the role that they play in the classroom.
Schools across the nation will be on the same page next week—on the crinkled and sepia-toned parchment that records the basic liberties of U.S. citizens and the structure of the government.
The number of high school students taking challenging courses such as precalculus, calculus, and physics has increased over the past 10 years, contributing to a record-high score on the math portion of SAT for the class of 2005, the College Board said last week.
Students in Philadelphia are set to return to class this week to schools in which record numbers of teachers were hired for reasons other than their years of experience.
Early Years
The battle over what schools should teach about life’s origins has shifted to another front: the world of college admissions.
Leadership
Report Roundup

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The New Orleans public schools, already on the ropes, were dealt a knockout blow last week by Hurricane Katrina.
When Donna Berggren, a principal from Jefferson Parish, La., arrived in the Houston area late Sunday night after an 11-hour, bumper-to-bumper trek to escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, she did what she knows best.
Before Hurricane Katrina, school facility planners and New Orleans officials were already looking at ways to renovate or replace many of the district’s famously rundown schools. Now, according to one architect there, the district has an opportunity for a new start.

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Here are examples of the impact on schools from previous hurricanes and other natural disasters.
In buses and in cars, by the dozens and by the hundreds, the students left homeless by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation are arriving in Houston.
Nat LaCour, the secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, was in his native New Orleans for his uncle’s funeral when word came that a hurricane was bearing down on the city.
With buildings torn apart and buses underwater, school districts trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina will have to start by figuring out where they’ll get the money.

Top federal education officials pledged last week that they would streamline bureaucratic processes for states and school districts affected by Hurricane Katrina. .
State grant reviewers gave Dr. Cupp’s Readers a big, fat zero rating on one Georgia school’s Reading First application. Only later did its publisher find out that at least one of those reviewers had never laid eyes on the program.
Their initial choices rejected, many states turned to the DIBELS assessment and the “Consumer’s Guide.”
Four Virginia districts can provide students in low-performing schools with free tutoring before offering them the choice of switching to a higher-performing public school, under the first waiver granted by the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Thirty states have released the percentage of schools making adequate yearly progress in 2005 and the student-assessment results that help determine those ratings. But some states that are showing improvement on students' proficiency on state tests did not progress on AYP.
A little-noticed Iowa law, designed to protect children by forbidding schools to collect their fingerprints, has halted the use of new technology that district leaders say has improved cafeteria and library operations.
An education research and advocacy group in Massachusetts is launching a yearlong initiative to come up with a plan to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools and craft a national model for improving failing schools.
State Journal
California special education students who are on track to graduate next year wouldn’t have to pass the state’s high school exit exam to get their diplomas, under a settlement reached between the state and a legal-advocacy center for people with disabilities.
Capitol Recap
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Starting this week, lawmakers face a busy legislative calendar that includes such pending education issues as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Head Start preschool program.
The confirmation hearings that start this week for President Bush’s nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court are sure to draw upon tens of thousands of memoranda, letters, and articles concerning him that have been unearthed since July, including many that touch on education.
Federal File
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The decrepit building that a U.S. school planner spotted in Honduras a decade ago has led to blueprint for better facilities.
The dominant vocabulary about schooling limits our respect for the extraordinary nature of thinking and learning, says Mike Rose.
Jamin B. Raskin and Mary Beth Tinker say students can celebrate the value of student expression on Constitution Day by learning about the document through cases that affect them directly.
A interview with Sarah Sentilles, author of Taught by America: A Story of Struggle and Hope in Compton.
Letters
In an excerpt from a new book, Susan Senator shares her family's experience with autism.
The "Better Get Used To It" principle of education is overshadowing meaningful instruction, says Alfie Kohn.

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