March 9, 2005

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Vol. 24, Issue 26
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The nation’s governors adjourned their two-day summit on high schools armed with an expanded arsenal of political and financial commitments to prepare all students for success in college and the workplace.
Faced with a conflict between state and federal laws, Texas officials have come down on the side of their own law and set up a possible showdown with the U.S. government over millions of dollars in education aid.
Recents closings are raising grave concerns over the toll that rising costs, changing demographics, and declining enrollments are taking on the longtime Roman Catholic mission of providing schooling for needy children.
No one is calling it a miracle, but the Kansas City, Kan., district’s experience with First Things First—with backing from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation—is offering hope that the redesign of urban high schools is not a lost cause.
In the wake of a audit raising questions about the New Orleans school district’s spending of some $70 million in federal money, Louisiana’s top education official is considering putting outside consultants in charge of the district’s finances.
A misunderstanding about students’ rights to express their opposition to military recruiters at their Minnesota high school sparked a flurry of accusations that spilled onto the Internet, generating a slew of angry phone calls from across the country.
Take Note
News in Brief: A National Roundup
In what sounds like a script for the latest reality-TV show, 200 teachers, administrators, and other school employees working in San Diego County, Calif., have accepted a challenge to achieve personal weight-loss goals over the next year.
People in the News
Participation in distance education courses is most popular at the high school level.
Students in one-third of the nation’s public school districts took distance education courses in the 2002-03 school year, illustrating such classes’ growing popularity, says a report released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Smoking-prevention programs in schools do little to keep teenagers from lighting up in the long run, concludes a research review out last week.
The recent closure by a Southern California manufacturer of modular buildings has left several districts there stranded with half-completed school projects.
More states are requiring school districts to offer personal-finance courses to high school students and to put in place standards for economic literacy and education, concludes a nationwide survey released last week by the National Council on Economic Education.
Special Education
A group of researchers and advocates unveiled a framework last week for a new generation of education studies that might better meet the needs of the nation’s growing population of Latino students.
Report Roundup
As its headliner role at the national summit on high schools here highlighted, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has moved beyond a focus on individual schools and entered the fray of national politics and policy.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last week called on the nation’s Roman Catholic schools to become active in providing tutoring to public school students under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
A nationally watched showdown between the U.S. Department of Education and Utah state officials over the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act turned into a political soap opera last week.
The school voucher proposal that helped topple the career of Utah’s previous governor last year has gotten a thumbs-up from the state legislature and is expected to be signed into law by the new governor.
State Journal
The nation’s governors last week identified spiraling Medicaid and other health-care spending as their top budget concern, and asked President Bush and Congress for help in keeping such costs from bleeding other state budget priorities, such as K-12 education.
Maryland parents are asking the state for a more prominent role in setting public school policy, including two designated seats on the state school board.
The U.S. Department of Education, after indicating that veteran elementary teachers in North Dakota and Utah might not meet the standards to be rated “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act, has given its approval to both states’ definitions of teacher competence.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
The future of Nevada’s Millennium Scholarships, which state Treasurer Brian K. Krolicki warned last fall were in jeopardy because of a drop in supporting revenues and an unexpectedly high number of enrollees, appears to be taking a turn for the better.
The U.S. Supreme Court made clear last week that it would not have an easy time laying down the law on whether government displays of the Ten Commandments pass constitutional muster, and if so, under what circumstances.
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings came to Capitol Hill last week to deliver her sales pitch for President Bush’s plans to rearrange—and slightly shrink—the Department of Education’s budget, but she received a fairly skeptical reception from key senators on both sides of the aisle.
Federal File
Indiana state education officials must do a better job making sure school districts provide parents with information about students’ opportunities for tutoring and transfer options out of schools identified as needing improvement, a federal Department of Education audit has found.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down the death penalty for juvenile offenders, saying that both a national consensus and research on the adolescent brain make it “misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult.”
Arts teachers are integrating computer software with traditional instruction in dance, music, theater, and visual arts to spark students’ creativity.
Although the mandates of No Child Left Behind and the IDEA are steps in the right direction, special education still has a long way to go in overcoming the barriers of low expectations, says pro bono education attorney Kalman R. Hettleman.
Expanding school choice would help alleviate the political and ideological conflicts that plague today's single official state school system, says Andrew J. Coulson.
Grants awarded and available with applications due in March and April.
Author William G. Howell weighs the implications of the current trend toward drawing power away from local school boards.

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