December 20, 2006

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Vol. 26, Issue 16
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In the decade since he took charge of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Chester E. Finn Jr. has shaped the organization into one of the most provocative and prolific platforms for education ideas in the country.
A report calling for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. education and training system to help Americans compete in a global economy drew lavish praise and sharp criticism last week, foreshadowing what a heavy political lift its recommendations would likely be to carry out.
Any significant increases in federal funding for K-12 education before the 2008-09 school year would be unlikely under a short-term budget plan outlined by leading congressional Democrats last week.
In a move likely to raise the profile of teachers’ contracts as a force in school success or failure, education policymakers and union leaders came together last week under the auspices of the National Governors Association for a mutual look at collective bargaining.
Five years after the federal No Child Left Behind Act spawned a new tutoring market for students in low-performing schools, experts say some companies are struggling to keep afloat, and others have outright failed.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
Alarmed that so many young people lack the skills to excel at work, the business community has been using summits, papers, and political alliances to urge stronger preparation for adolescents. But in New Jersey, businesses have taken their ideas from the bully pulpit straight into classrooms.
Special Education
“Unschooling,” an educational approach that allows children to decide what and when they want to learn, is the subject of much debate among home-schoolers and traditional school advocates.
The Voices Reading program is an integrated method that draws on accumulating research that finds close connections between early-reading success and emotional development and behavior.
While the United States has shifted towards test-based accountability in recent years, Wales has charted a course for its schools that greatly de-emphasizes standardized student assessments.
Reading and math may be getting their due attention under the No Child Left Behind Act, but a lineup of education experts met in Washington last week to argue that the focus of the federal law is not enough to ensure students are receiving a “21st-century education.”
Nearly a year ago, a group of scholars working in education decided to form a professional society focused on advancing scientifically rigorous studies that could yield definitive answers on what works in education.
Report Roundup
As governors and lawmakers—many of them newly elected—polish ambitious new K-12 spending plans on the eve of the 2007 legislative year, the latest reports about the health of state revenues and budgets suggest that policymakers should tread cautiously even though their economies remain robust.
Despite requests for leeway, federal education officials are standing firm in requiring New York and Virginia education officials, as of this school year, to stop using scores from English-language-proficiency tests to calculate adequate yearly progress for such students.
State Journal
Colorado’s venture into online schooling comes under heavy fire in a new state auditor’s report that finds the schools have received lax oversight from the state and local districts.
The Education Commission of the States—beset by management and financial problems in the past year—should concentrate on being a nonpartisan information clearinghouse for state education policymakers, rather than an advocate for policy changes, members of a consulting firm told the organization’s steering committee last week.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Capitol Recap
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Federal File
As the chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. George Miller will spearhead efforts to restructure student-aid programs, overhaul the Head Start preschool program and possibly begin a federal effort for universal prekindergarten, and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.
The two veteran Democrats preparing to chair the congressional education committees say Republican lawmakers have largely looked the other way while the GOP administration has employed questionable practices for distributing federal grants, done little to gauge the effectiveness of tutors hired with federal dollars, and let states slide on some of the teacher-quality requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
As Congress gears up to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, some state officials are worried that the Department of Education is becoming increasingly less willing to give them leeway in implementing the law.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Long a font of opinions about what ails U.S. schools, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is getting a grounding in reality since becoming the authorizer of a mixed bag of charter schools.
For years, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been a good friend to the Omega School of Excellence. Recently, though, it became the Dayton charter school’s authorizer. And some analysts worry that the foundation’s old supporting role may clash with its new supervisory one.
DuBois Academy has been the subject of a special investigation by the state auditor’s office over the past year. Last spring, the school announced major cutbacks in its budget and staff to stay open. About 80 percent of the staff members are new this school year.
Marc Dean Millot, a former social scientist at the RAND Corp, argues that lessons must be learned from the federal investigation that uncovered abuses in the Reading First program.
Eastern Michigan University faculty members Brian Bruya and Russell Olwell write on the importance of flow—the psychological process that describes how people balance skill, interest, and challenge—and the essential role it can play in the school reform movement.
Letters
Despite the overwhelming evidence, writes Amy Stuart Wells, deputy director for research at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, the Supreme Court majority appears "bent on interpreting the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as barring any race-conscious policies whatsoever."
Letters
Letters
On Dec. 7, readers questioned Ken Danford and Catherine Gobron on self-directed learning.
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