News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Literacy Bills Would Emphasize Phonics, Annual Reading Tests

Two leading Republican voices on education policy have unveiled legislation designed to help students learn to read by the 4th grade.

The plan may face an uphill battle, though, because the money for it would come from an across-the-board cut to all federal discretionary programs, including those for defense and education.

Under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia and Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House education committee, participating states would be required to use phonics-based instruction, conduct annual reading assessments, and spend specific amounts on teacher training, curricula, and grants for reading tutors.

The lawmakers introduced companion versions of the proposal April 13, the same day the National Reading Panel released a report that stressed the importance of phonics in K-6 reading instruction. The bill took its cue in part from that study. ("Reading Panel Urges Phonics For All in K-6," April 19, 2000.)

The cost of the Coverdell-Goodling plan would depend on the number of students who participated. The bill would allow up to a one-half percent cut in the entire federal discretionary budget, roughly $3 billion per year.

—Erik W. Robelen

States Warned About Rules on Inclusion

The Department of Education recently cautioned states against several pitfalls that could prevent their student-assessment systems from meeting the requirements of federal law.

A preliminary review of four state systems found a few problems, including a failure by three of the states to include all students, particularly those with limited proficiency in English.

"While we recognize the challenge this may present, our review indicated that meeting this very clear inclusion requirement is not beyond the capacity of state assessment systems," Michael Cohen, the department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, wrote in an April 6 letter to state officials.

The four states, which were not identified, volunteered for the "pilot" review to get early reaction to their testing systems. Under the federal Title I program, each state is required to devise a set of academic standards and aligned assessments. States must submit evidence documenting compliance with Title I requirements no later than Oct. 1.

—Erik W. Robelen

Dept. Soliciting Thoughts on Special Ed.

The Department of Education is seeking help in planning special education research and figuring out how to better serve educators and students.

The office of special education programs is asking individuals with disabilities, parents, educators, and government officials to fill out a survey on how it could improve its services and which areas the office should focus its attention on in future research.

Officials say OSEP wants to improve its newly revamped national research program, known as Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to help translate and disseminate research findings to practitioners and families.

For more information, or to obtain a copy of the survey, go online to, call (800) 510-1668, or write to Westat, OSEP Comprehensive Planning Project, 1009 Slater Rd., Suite 110, Durham, NC 27703.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 19, Issue 34, Page 32

Published in Print: May 3, 2000, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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