September 28, 2005

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Vol. 25, Issue 05
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Just a few years ago, a set of tests known as “dibbles” would have elicited little more than a chuckle from educators or anyone else. Today, they’re taking it seriously, because the acronym DIBELS has come to symbolize the standard for early-literacy assessment throughout much of the country.
Washington is a safe distance from the powerful winds that have been wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast, but a political storm continued to brew in the capital last week over President Bush’s plan to help pay the costs of private school tuition for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
State and local officials are slowly untangling complicated webs of accountability, testing, and graduation policies, hoping to give thousands of students displaced by Hurricane Katrina a better handle on their academic standing.
The Norfolk, Va., school district won the Broad Prize in Urban Education last week for its outsized progress in improving achievement, especially among disadvantaged and minority children.
Labor leaders, government officials, and educators last week mourned the death of Sandra Feldman, who headed the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union until cancer forced her into retirement in 2004. She died Sept. 18 at the age of 65.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
Concerned about increasing competition in the global marketplace—particularly from China and India—leaders from business, education, government, and the nonprofit sector called last week for combining their K-12 education efforts to better prepare students for the workplace.
Two multinational companies have announced plans to donate millions of dollars—and, in one case, encourage some of its own employees to become teachers—to help American students stack up better in mathematics and science against students from China, India, and other fast-developing nations.
When the state of Ohio was looking for a practical, roll-up-the-shirt-sleeves strategist to turn around the academically troubled Mansfield city school district last year, it turned to … the American Institutes for Research?
New research contending that current accountability pressures have yielded no real achievement gains touched off another round of skirmishing last week over the reliability of a series of union-financed studies criticizing high-stakes testing.
Report Roundup
Sports
New research findings provide fresh fodder for debates over whether teachers who skip traditional education school training are more demographically diverse than their colleagues, and whether they provide special expertise in math or science.
Facilities
Teachers who have been uprooted from their districts by Hurricane Katrina are facing a bewildering job market, waiting to hear when their schools will reopen as they ponder resettling to accept offers from far-flung locations.
In trying to reopen schools after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school board is contending not only with issues of money and safety, but also with more of the dissension and racially charged politics that have marked its business for years.
Mississippi legislators were scheduled to convene in a special session this week, and their Louisiana counterparts are expected to do so in the next month or so, as both states focus on issues of economic recovery and aid for coastal school districts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
California students won’t be sipping sugary sodas or munching on chips during school hours much longer, thanks to a new statewide ban on certain snacks and beverages in schools.
Maryland’s latest bid to improve its schools includes proposals to adopt a statewide pay-for-performance system for teachers, enact a stronger charter school law, and begin a program of school ratings.
State Journal
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
As schools torn apart by Hurricane Katrina look to rebuild, and districts welcoming displaced students wonder how to pay for their education, federal officials last week were still mulling options for providing aid to schools.
Citing a need for a more focused policy approach to education at the college and university level, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the formation of a commission last week to draw up a “comprehensive national strategy” on the future of higher education.
Federal File
The House approved a bill to reauthorize the Head Start preschool program last week, amid a ferocious debate over an amendment to allow faith-based service providers to make employment decisions based on religion.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Members of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education.
School districts and parents disagree over students’ special education plans all the time. Next week, one such case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The government should ensure that applicants for funds under the federal Teaching American History grant program continue their knowledge in the subject and continue the programs set up with public monies beyond their grant term, historian James M. Banner Jr. writes.
Stephen Chiger states that the new Consititution Day mandate promotes the idea that a day of classes can solve a national education crisis.
Letters
Letters
William J. Slotnik says pay for performance is miscast as a financial or programmatic reform, when it is in fact a systemic reform. The lesson of pay for performance is a lesson of institutional change, he writes.

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