News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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ED To Offer New IDEA Guidance

The Department of Education says it will help state officials devise special-education-implementation plans in line with the recently amended Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In releasing details of their special education monitoring efforts for the new school year, officials in the office of special education programs announced that they will help state agencies create implementation plans tailored to state systems for special education and in sync with the amended IDEA.

The office agreed to let states work with their existing plans to enact changes in the law rather than start from scratch.

Changes include requirements for systems to mediate disputes between parents and school officials, and revisions to the individualized education plan forms.

"We recognize that implementation efforts are already under way in most states," Ruth E. Ryder, the director of the office's monitoring and state-improvement division, wrote in an Aug. 12 letter to state special education directors.

"We encourage you to continue these efforts and we will coordinate our activities with those already being carried out in your state," Ms. Ryder said.

In most cases, two staff members from the special education office will spend a week participating in IDEA implementation meetings with state education officials. The IDEA reauthorization was signed into law in June. ("House, Senate Easily Approve Spec. Ed. Bill," May 21, 1997.)

Literacy Grant Awarded to Michigan

In line with its high-profile focus on literacy, the Department of Education has awarded a $2.4 million grant to the University of Michigan's National Research Center on Early Reading Achievement.

The grant will be used to study successful reading methods and encourage family and community involvement, said Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

The research will complement the America Reads Challenge, President Clinton's campaign initiative that would put volunteer tutors into schools, Mr. Riley said.

"Reading is clearly the most fundamental academic skill, and our goal is to have every child reading by the end of 3rd grade," Mr. Riley said in a news release.

America Reads, however, has not gotten widespread support in Congress, where a $260 million funding request for the program is on hold until fiscal 1999 pending congressional authorization of the effort by April 1998. ("Hill Appropriators Seek To Hike Education Funding," Aug. 6, 1997.)

GAO Looks at Remedial College Aid

Colleges responding to a recent survey reported that only "a relatively small portion" of federal financial aid went to pay for remedial courses for college undergraduates, the General Accounting Office says.

About 13 percent of the federal aid awarded to students at 430 institutions in fall 1995 went to freshmen and sophomores who enrolled in at least one remedial class, according to a report by the congressional watchdog agency.

In addition, it says, only about 6 percent of the freshmen and sophomores at the surveyed schools received federal financial aid and took remedial classes.

The GAO initiated its survey after lawmakers and others raised concerns that students were using federal aid to pay for remedial classes that did not constitute higher education.

Only 57 percent of the schools surveyed by the the GAO responded.

Copies of "Student Financial Aid--Federal Aid Awarded to Students Taking Remedial Courses," are available from the General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, MD 20884-6015; (202) 512-6000. More information is also available on the the agency's World Wide Web home page at Single copies of the report are free. Additional copies are $2 each.

Hispanic-Initiative Director Tapped

An American University official has been named the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

In her new role, Sarita E. Brown will serve as the Clinton administration's primary advocate on education issues affecting Hispanic students, the Department of Education announced.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Ms. Brown started her career there in 1978 and worked as founding director of the school's Graduate Opportunity Program, which sought to increase the university's minority graduate enrollment.

Since December 1995, Ms. Brown had been assistant dean of academic affairs at American University in Washington. She stepped down to take the White House post.

She also has served as diversity officer for the office of the provost at the university, where she designed a universitywide diversity plan.

ED Names Parent-Center Grantees

The Department of Education is awarding grants to 11 states and Guam to set up local parent-information and -resource centers.

The grants, totaling nearly $5 million, will support centers that foster partnerships between parents and school professionals, bolster child development, and increase parents' knowledge of effective child-rearing activities, department officials said. The centers will also identify and serve families and schools in areas with a high proportion of minority, low-income, and limited-English-proficient parents.

"Family involvement is essential if we are to give each child a high-quality education and a safe, disciplined learning environment," Education Secretary Richard W. Riley said in announcing the grants.

The centers may provide a variety of services, the department said, including parent-to-parent training, hot lines to respond to parent concerns, and workshops for parents.

Officials said the department will also continue to finance 28 existing centers now in their third year of operation. Grant funding for the effort is authorized under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.

Grant Restrictions Eased

Department of Education grant recipients will have more flexibility to use their money under changes announced recently.

Grantees will be given more time to spend federal aid and have fewer restrictions on their grant record-keeping. The changes are part of an Education Department effort to reduce bureaucracy and cut red tape for those receiving grants. The rules took effect Aug. 27, with the exception of some National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research grants, which will implement the new rules effective Oct. 1.

The changes were announced in the July 28 Federal Register.

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