January 18, 2006

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As students have returned to Alice M. Harte Elementary School here over the past month, they’ve found their old school far from the way they left it on the last school day before Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city.
While schools rightly fear break-ins to their computer systems by professional criminals, students are increasingly giving educators almost as much to worry about.
Researchers looking to tap into the treasure troves of long-term student-achievement data that states and districts are starting to pile up say their efforts are increasingly running up against a decades-old federal law designed to protect student privacy.
The Houston school district has launched a large-scale plan to pay teachers bonuses based on the year-to-year improvement of their own students’ test scores.
Unhappy with Philadelphia’s standardized-testing procedures, students from one of the city’s high schools have persuaded the district to improve test preparation and test administration for high school students districtwide.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
School systems that track students into certain classes and academic programs based on ability end up worsening disparities between high and low performers, according to a far-ranging report that offers recommendations for improving education across Europe.
Rural Education
Baltimore school officials are standing by their decision to use popular magazines and other nontraditional texts as part of a strategy to engage middle school students, despite criticism from some teachers and community members that the new language arts curriculum lacks rigor and downplays formal grammar lessons.
The Florida Supreme Court’s decision striking down a statewide voucher program has sparked speculation that the ruling will aid efforts to battle other voucher initiatives, and could even pose a threat to charter schools.
Report Roundup
Officials from the Maryland State Teachers Association say they are hearing stories every day about teachers who are either forced to delay retirement or who have already retired and are struggling to make ends meet. According to the union, the state’s teacher-pension benefit of 38 percent of pre-retirement pay is the lowest in the nation.
California’s schools chief will not support alternative measures for high school seniors without disabilities who have not passed the state’s high school exit test in time to graduate this June.
State Journal
State of the States
State of the States
State of the States
Alabama may be in the Bible Belt, but some there are finding that creating a state-approved course for public schools on the Good Book might not be easy.
State of the States
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the question of whether parents can be reimbursed under the main federal special education law for the fees of experts they hire as part of challenges to their children’s individualized education programs.
A coalition of school, civil rights, and child-advocacy groups handed a list of 14 recommendations for changing the federal No Child Left Behind Act to congressional staff members at the U.S. Capitol last week, just a day after President Bush vigorously defended the law on its fourth anniversary.
Federal File
Foreign-language experts are praising the Department of Education for taking a larger role in promoting the teaching of other languages as part of a proposed Bush administration initiative to bolster national security and the economy.
It took a while for education to squeeze past the dominant topics of abortion rights and wartime presidential powers last week at the confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The head of the Department of Education’s office of innovation and improvement left last week for a job in the private sector.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to rule on the constitutionality of federal AmeriCorps program grants that are paid to volunteers who teach in religious schools.
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has, over the past 12 months, tackled unrest over NCLB, the hurricanes' impact on schools, and Buster. What's next?
Education Week Staff Writer Michelle R. Davis sat down with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on Jan. 9 in the secretary’s office at the U.S. Department of Education. Here are excerpts from that interview.
Antonia Cortese and Claus von Zastrow state that to close the achievement gap, the staffing gap between rich and poor communities must be closed too.
English teacher Robert Barsanti explains why he thinks teachers could learn a lesson or two from driving instructors.
Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, discusses the impact philanthropic efforts have on K-12 schools.

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