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Instructional Materials Are Biased, Report Says

Many of the workshops and instructional materials that history teachers use to supplement textbooks inject bias into the minds of educators, who then pass on those biases to students, a new report contends.

The study, released last week by the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, says the workshops and supplemental materials mislead teachers, distort the curriculum, and shift classroom attention away from the content that students should be learning. At best, it says, the information presented to educators offers a one-sided view of complex issues; at worst, it fabricates facts.

The report examines a number of workshops and materials that address politically charged topics, ranging from Islam to the history of racism in the United States.

—Kevin Bushweller

Charter Guide

A resource center for Minnesota charter schools released last week what is being billed as the nation’s first consumer guide to consultants, businesses, and other organizations that provide services for the independently run but publicly financed schools.

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The guide lists more than 60 specific services, and it rates contractors based on schools’ satisfaction—or lack thereof—with those service providers’ work. In many instances, the ratings reflect feedback from only one school. As many as 20 schools, though, contributed to some of the ratings, which cover areas ranging from curriculum and technology to purchasing and payroll.

Produced by the Minnesota Charter School Resource Center, the guide is based on interviews and surveys with 43 Minnesota charter schools. The resource center is part of the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Many of the providers rated in the guide work only in Minnesota, but others have a broader client base.

—Caroline Hendrie

College Grades

A recent study ranks the nation’s state flagship universities according to their commitment to seeking out and serving high numbers of low-income students reliant on federal Pell Grants.

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The report, "Pell Grant Share of Undergraduates Enrollment at the 50 Best National Universities - 1992-93 and 2001-02," can be found at Postsecondary Education OPPORTUNITY. Fee required. (Report requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The study, conducted by Thomas G. Mortenson, a higher education analyst based in Oskaloosa, Iowa, finds that only four out of 50 state flagship universities earned grades of A for their commitment to educating low-income students from their states: the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico, which received A’s; and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and the University of Arizona, which received A-minuses. The study, which relies on data from 2001, gives 18 state flagship universities grades of F and 12 institutions D grades.

The rankings judged the institutions on the number of Pell Grant recipients they serve; the increase in the number of such recipients over time; and the share of Pell Grant awardees the institutions serve, compared with other public, in-state institutions, among other factors.

—Sean Cavanagh

K-16 Barriers

Efforts to establish a better bridge between schools and higher education are slowed by a number of obstacles, a policy brief suggests.

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The brief, produced by San Francisco-based WestEd—a nonprofit research, development, and service agency— says the obstacles include: the lack of an organizational hub for K-16 policymaking and oversight, separate funding structures that place K-12 schools and colleges in competition for limited dollars, and the dearth of incentives for college faculty members to forge partnerships with schools.

It recommends that each state education system be organized around a K-16 setup, rather than as two separate systems. It also suggests that states develop K-16 data systems that can be easily shared between higher education and the precollegiate community.

—Kevin Bushweller

Vol. 23, Issue 32, Page 14

Published in Print: April 21, 2004, as Report Roundup
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