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Assessing All Not Easy, Research Group Warns

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amendments of 1997, states and districts must include disabled students in general state and districtwide assessments and report their results with the rest of the students. That change earned widespread praise from educators and disability-rights advocates.

But now, the National Center on Educational Outcomes is warning that measuring the educational progress of students with disabilities may be more difficult than expected.

Problems will arise because of different interpretations of the IDEA assessment language and its requirements, the University of Minnesota-based federally funded research center says in a recent report. Different states have varying guidelines for such terms as "accommodations," "alternate assessments," and "disaggregated scores."

In addition, states are taking divergent approaches to designing assessments and accountability systems, and some are further along in the process than others.

The center calls on the U.S. Department of Education to write clear definitions and guidelines on the new IDEA requirements, and to research and create model demonstration projects for alternative assessments. It also recommends that teachers receive adequate professional development to administer tests.

"Accountability for the Results of Educating Students with Disabilities," is available from NECO. Order the report for $10, from the Publications Office, NCEO, University of Minnesota, 350 Elliott Hall, 75 E. River Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-8561.

Girls' Education: The idea that "schools shortchange girls" is false, according to a report by a University of Alaska researcher.

In her study, Judith Kleinfeld, a psychology professor at the university's Fairbanks campus, criticizes previous claims by the American Association of University Women and other groups that girls are silenced in the classroom and that they lose self-esteem when they reach adolescence.

The evidence, she says, shows instead that girls often get higher grades than boys, have as much self-confidence as boys in adolescence, and get favorable treatment from teachers. Her report was published last month by the Women's Freedom Network, a Washington-based advocacy group.

"The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls: Social Science in the Service of Deception," free, from Judith Kleinfeld, College of Liberal Arts, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775; (907) 474-5266.

Bilingual Education: Cautioning against a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching language-minority students, a report urges policymakers to allow for maximum local flexibility in making such instructional decisions.

The report, from the Los Angeles-based Reason Public Policy Institute, was released just before California voters last month approved a ballot measure that would virtually eliminate bilingual education in the state's public schools. The measure is being challenged in the courts.

The study identifies features shared by successful programs, whether they use mostly English or a combination of English and students' native languages as the medium of instruction. Programs designed around the needs of the specific student population that have clear goals, objectives, and evaluation methods--not to mention community support--were generally successful, according to the report.

"Bilingual Education: Reading, Writing, and Rhetoric," (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader), from the Reason Public Policy Institute. A hard copy of the report is available for $5 from RPPI at (310) 391-2245.

Charter Schools: Constituents of New Jersey charter schools and the districts that subsidize them have different opinions about the state of the experimental schools, according to a recent report.

Researchers from Teachers College, Columbia University, took a comprehensive look at charter schools through site visits and interviews with those directly associated with the publicly funded but largely independent schools. The study set out to identify how charter schools differ from other schools in the area, to determine the concerns and opinions of those involved, and to obtain information that may be helpful to others starting charter schools.

Teachers surveyed said they work longer hours at charter schools, but enjoy being involved in decisionmaking and curriculum design. Student respondents said that they get more attention from teachers at their charter schools than they received from teachers at their previous schools. An overwhelming majority of parents--more than half of whom have volunteered some time to the schools--report an increase in their children's enthusiasm for their studies.

Although parent-teacher organizations said they see parent choice as an advantage, many said that charter schools create tension in communities. And districts surveyed said that charter schools drain an inordinate amount of money from the system and are not publicly accountable.

"New Jersey Charter Schools: The First Year," $12, from the Charter School Resource Center of New Jersey, 109 Church St., New Brunswick, NJ 08901; (732) 296-8379.

College Counselors: The National Association for College Admission Counseling has released a national survey of secondary school counselors that chronicles the state of the profession and covers such issues as workload and job satisfaction.

The 59-page report presents a portrait of a largely middle-aged, white, female workforce with an average of nearly 14 years of career experience.

The survey found that counselors are responsible for a wide range of activities not directly related to their jobs, such as lunchroom duty and public relations.

At least seven in 10 respondents said they were responsible for college counseling, personal counseling, academic counseling, students' schedules, testing, and clerical tasks.

Overall, 62 percent of the 900 respondents said they were "very satisfied" with their career choice; another 33 percent said they were "satisfied." A University of Georgia emeritus professor conducted the survey last year.

"Secondary School Counselors Report," $25 ($10 for members), plus $3 shipping, from NACAC, Publications Ordering Department, 1631 Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314-2818; (703) 836-2222 or (800) 822-6285, ext. 105.

Academic Freedom: In the past year, a school board in Oregon decided that portions of the film "Schindler's List" were too graphic for high school students, a civil rights group sought to remove Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from all reading lists in Pennsylvania, and three high schools in the South turned down the offer of free concerts by a Grammy-award-winning rock band when officials discovered some of the musicians were gay.

All are examples of attempts to undermine academic freedom, according to an on-line report by People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group based in Washington.

The report, available on the World Wide Web, has replaced the group's annual printed report on efforts to deny or restrict access to books and other instructional materials in schools.

"Attacks on Freedom to Learn Online," will be updated regularly. E-mail subscriptions are available from PFAW.

SouthernProgress: Sixty years ago, the South was America's No. 1 economic and educational problem. Not any longer, a report by the Southern Regional Education Board says.

The 16-page report, released last month, says that in 1938, the poorest state outside the South was richer than the wealthiest Southern state. It also says that the South had to educate one-third of the nation's children with one-sixth of the nation's school revenues. And Southern states spent about one-half the national per-pupil average.

Today, financial resources in the South to educate both children and adults are catching up with the rest of the nation. Spending for K-12 school students in the South averages 82 percent of the national average. Per-capita personal income in the South is 92 percent of the national average.

Nearly half the growth in college enrollment in the United States in the past decade has been in Southern colleges and universities, the SREB reports.

"Education and Progress in the South," $10, from the Southern Regional Education Board, 592 10th St. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30318; (404) 875-9211; fax: (404) 872-1477.

Student Loans: College students value higher education and are willing to go into debt to finance it, but they don't want to think about their indebtedness until they start paying it off, a report says.

Compiled by the Sallie Mae Education Institution and the American Council on Education, the report found that students often amass debts exceeding $75,000 and consider loans a necessity, but many don't completely understand the terms of loans or procedures involving repayment.

In interviewing 80 traditional and nontraditional undergraduate and graduate students from Boston, Miami, Washington, and Columbus, Ohio, moderators found students knew they had a six-month grace period following graduation before they begin repaying federal loans.

The study also found that students worry about making enough money after graduation to pay back their loans.

"Students in Debt: Attitudes and Behavior of College Students Toward Borrowing Money," (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader), free from the American Council on Education; (202) 939-9367.

Mathematics: A new collection of essays suggests ways to strengthen the mathematics education of all students.

The essays take up such issues as finding common ground between science and math standards. The 177-page book provides views from mathematicians, educators, and other experts. It also identifies possible ways to teach math and prepare students for future technological challenges.

High School Mathematics At Work: Essays and Examples for the Education of All Students, can be ordered for $27.95, from the National Academy Press, (800) 624-6242.

Workplace Skills: From providing input on one state's workplace-skills standards to creating a Web site to educate teachers about the Internet, semiconductor manufacturers are working to improve K-12 education, according to a report by the semiconductor industry.

The report summarizes the efforts of 16 U.S. semiconductor companies to assist K-12 education. The companies include Intel Corp., the International Business Machines Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., Motorola Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., and Hewlett-Packard Co., which manufacture computer products, such as microprocessors, memory chips, or other kinds of semiconductors.

All are members of the San Jose, Calif.-based Semiconductor Industry Association, the report's publisher.

The 30-page report notes, for example, how several companies support the Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center, a organization in Tempe, Ariz., that writes curricula and trains faculty members for high school and community college programs in semiconductor manufacturing.

"Educating Tomorrow's Workforce: A Report on the Semiconductor Industry's Commitment to Youth in K-12," free, from Jeff Weir, Semiconductor Industry Association, (408) 573-6611; e-mail: [email protected]

Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 16

Published in Print: July 8, 1998, as Report Roundup
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