News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Education Dept. Issues Charter School Guide

Successful charter schools aren’t just the product of good ideas, but also of "mission driven" leadership that creates school cultures infused with "internal accountability," according to a guidebook released last week by the Department of Education.

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The 61-page guide lays out the characteristics of charter schools that manage to improve student achievement over time. It profiles eight schools that the department regards as among the best of the nation’s roughly 3,000 publicly financed but independently run charter schools.

Besides a powerful mission, the guide says, effective charter schools tend to be "infused with the spirit of innovation"; to have "cultures of continuous improvement"; to be small and close-knit; and to be led by governing boards focused on accountability.

—Caroline Hendrie

Income Guidelines Set For School Lunch Program

The Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service has set new income limits for families with students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

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Data on current eligibility requirements is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

Students from a family of four with an annual household income between $24,505 and $34,873 qualify for reduced-price meals and are charged no more than 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast, according to the service. Students from a family of four with a household income below $24,505 a year receive free lunches. The new eligibility levels take effect July 1 and will remain through June 30 of next year.

The income standards are based on the federal poverty guideline, which is set this year at $18,850 for a family of four.

—Michelle R. Davis

Education Law’s Impact On Indian Schools Weighed

Schools overseen by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs face high hurdles in trying to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, particularly in attracting and retaining qualified teachers and promoting students’ English proficiency, tribal education leaders told a Senate committee last week.

Carmen C. Taylor, the executive director of the National Indian School Board Association, based in Polson, Mont., described the law as a "top-down attempt at school reform" that did not recognize socioeconomic hurdles faced by many of the 174 elementary and secondary schools in the 48,000-student BIA system.

But Victoria L. Vasques, the director of the Department of Education’s office of Indian education, testified at the June 16 hearing that significant flexibility was built into the law to accommodate the needs of BIA schools.

The BIA is required under the No Child Left Behind Act to submit an accountability plan to the Education Department, in the same way that each state is expected to do so. In February, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton proposed rules for how BIA schools would be expected to comply with the school law’s requirement that schools make "adequate yearly progress." Those rules are receiving public comment.

—Sean Cavanagh

Vol. 23, Issue 41, Page 30

Published in Print: June 23, 2004, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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