News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Paige Supports Race-Neutral Policies

Secretary of Education Rod Paige has voiced his support for race-neutral policies in college admissions, saying he would direct his agency's office for civil rights to share information about alternatives to racial preferences with educators around the nation.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige has voiced his support for race-neutral policies in college admissions, saying he would direct his agency's office for civil rights to share information about alternatives to racial preferences with educators around the nation.

Mr. Paige's statements, made during a Jan. 24 speech in Austin, Texas, came about a week after his boss, President Bush, announced his opposition to race-based admissions policies at the University of Michigan. The legality of such affirmative action is being challenged in a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court rooted in the university's use of race as a factor in considering applicants. ("Bush Opposes Use of Race in Michigan Admissions," Jan. 22, 2003.)

"Admissions quotas and double standards are not the answer," Mr. Paige said in his remarks. He later added: "It is not right to fight discrimination with discrimination. ... I absolutely support the president's position" in opposing admissions practices of the kind used at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Paige's speech specifically lauded race-neutral "percentage plan" admissions strategies used for public universities in California, Florida, and Texas. He said the Department of Education would soon release a report to provide ideas about race-neutral admissions, and hold a national conference on innovative approaches to diversifying admissions at colleges and universities.

—Sean Cavanagh

'Early Reading First' Grantees Announced

Thirty providers of early-childhood education have received funding to implement the Department of Education's Early Reading First program.

The literacy initiative—part of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001—is intended to elevate existing preschool programs into "centers of excellence that provide high-quality, early education to young children, especially those from low- income families," according to a department press release.

Totaling more than $72 million, the grants went to a variety of providers in 22 states, including school districts, universities, and community-service agencies.

The funding is to be used for materials, curricula, and teacher professional development that help young children develop the language, cognitive, and early reading skills they need to enter kindergarten and avoid later reading difficulties.

Screenings and assessments will be used in the programs to determine the skills children are learning.

—Linda Jacobson

Democrats Fill Slots On House Committee

House Democrats named five new members to the Education and the Workforce Committee last week.

The committee newcomers, all of them new to Congress, are: Reps. Ed Case of Hawaii, Raul Grijvalva of Arizona, Denise Majette of Georgia, Timothy J. Ryan of Ohio, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Three of the new committee members previously served in state legislatures. Another, Rep. Majette, was a judge in Georgia. Rep. Grijalva was a member of the Pima County, Ariz., board of supervisors prior to his election to Congress. Mr. Grijalva also served on the school board of the Tucson Unified School District from 1974 to 1986, and has had an elementary school named after him.

Mr. Case replaced Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, a long-time member of the education committee. Mr. Ryan in an open election defeated Rep. James M. Traficant—who was expelled from the House earlier in 2002 for ethics violations—along with two other candidates.

—Erik W. Robelen

FTC, Firms Settle Case On Selling Student Data

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with two companies the agency has accused of collecting data from students for what appeared to be educational purposes and later selling it to marketers.

The Jan. 29 settlement names the Education Research Center of America Inc., of Pittsburgh, and Student Marketing Group Inc., of Lynbrook, N.Y. The FTC alleges the two companies sold personal information about students to private marketers, after asking teachers and guidance counselors to collect it on the premise that it would be given to public and private colleges and universities.

According to the FTC, the information gathered included students' names, addresses, religious affiliations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and other data. Under the agreement, which is open for public comment until Feb. 28, the companies will be barred from misrepresenting how the information they collect will be used, among other stipulations, FTC officials said.

In a statement, Student Marketing Group's president, Jan Stumacher, said that her company has admitted no wrongdoing or legal violations, and that the settlement reflected the company's belief that "there was no attempt to mislead students." The Education Research Center of America could not be reached for comment. The agreement follows the FTC's settlement last October of a case involving alleged use of student information for private marketing by two other companies. ("FTC to Companies: Follow Rules on Sharing Student Data," Oct. 16, 2002.)

—Sean Cavanagh

Study: Interventions Yield Limited Results

Key strategies laid out in the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 to turn around low-performing schools often do not succeed, according to a new study.

"While there have been successful turnarounds, the intervention experience is marked more by valiant effort than by notable success," writes Ronald C. Brady in the Jan. 30 report, "Can Failing Schools be Fixed?" from the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that states and districts intervene in low-performing schools. It mandates certain interventions, such as providing technical assistance and public school choice. It also contains a menu of other options for states and districts to use to improve schools: changing curricula, adding instructional time, reconstituting school staffs, and instituting state takeovers, among other steps.

The Jan. 30 report found that among many strategies, a success rate of 50 percent is high, and most approaches yield positive outcomes at lower rates. The report says a "common thread" in successful interventions was "good school-level leadership."

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 22, Issue 21, Page 23

Published in Print: February 5, 2003, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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