May 4, 2005

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Over the past decade, an explosion of data on student performance has generated increasing attempts to identify what have been dubbed high-flying schools and learn from them.
At the heart of two high-profile legal challenges to the No Child Left Behind Act is a fairly straightfoward argument: Washington is breaching its promise not to make the No Child Left Behind Act an “unfunded mandate.” But whether Washington actually made that promise, and whether it is now being broken, may prove anything but straightforward in a court of law.
As the first new president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in more than 30 years, at a time when the demands for well-trained educators are at their highest and new players are entering the field, Sharon P. Robinson knows she has a weighty and sometimes unenviable task in front of her.
The influx of immigrants that has shifted the demographics in border states and urban centers across the country is taking root in interior states such as Arkansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. And while the scope of change is far less dramatic in that region, the impact on schools is nonetheless significant—and growing.
The Pinellas County, Fla., school district has relocated hundreds of bus stops and launched a safety campaign after the deaths of two students in accidents near school bus stops.
It was an ending to teachers’ contract talks that only cockeyed optimists in Middletown, N.J., would have been likely to predict a year ago: praise for both sides, hugs all around, and an agreement ratified more than two months before the current one expires.
Take Note
News in Brief: A National Roundup
Two studies unveiled last month paint a fuller picture of the persistent achievement gap in mathematics that separates the nation’s black and Latino students from their higher-achieving white peers, and the kinds of efforts that might—or might not—help to eliminate it.
The percentage of black and Latino 12th graders who reported being on the academic track rose during the 1980s.
People in the News
Researchers, psychologists, and educators have spent years trying to decipher the riddle of nature vs. nurture, and when the topic is male and female students’ abilities in math and science, the arguing never stops.
After nearly 40 years in elected office, North Dakota schools chief Wayne G. Sanstead has formed an enviable bond with voters and schoolchildren throughout his state. But the brisk 70-year-old has drawn increasing criticism from teachers and administrators.
The Milken Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., that underwrites medical and education ventures, announced last week at its annual conference the formation of a new education foundation designed to address teacher-quality requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Early Years
While learning enough about instruction to hold his own with career educators, superintendent John C. Fryer built a districtwide system of school improvement based on staff training and data-driven decisionmaking. The goal has been to help teachers better recognize when students have mastered what they’re expected to learn, and to know what to do when they haven’t.
About half the states require exit tests for students to earn a standard high school diploma, but only a few have alternative assessments for students with disabilities that are as rigorous as the tests required of other students, according to a survey by the National Center on Educational Outcomes.
States are spending millions of dollars to build powerful new data-management systems to help them keep up with the reporting requirements and student-achievement goals of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, an Education Week report set for release this week has found.
In its second year of operation, the U.S. Department of State-sponsored venture, Partnerships for Learning: Youth Exchange and Study program brings students and teachers from countries with significant Muslim populations to live and study in the United States for a year.
Report Roundup
This three-part series examines the influx of immigrant students into six heartland states and the impact those students are having on public schools.
In a demographic shift that is ahead of the state as a whole, but representative of many small towns in the region, Hispanics make up nearly 27 percent of the enrollment in the 800-student Hennessey school district, up from 18.2 percent in the 2000-01 school year. The district is one of four in Oklahoma to launch a two-way language-immersion program.
Spanish is the most common language among limited-English-proficient students.
The percentage of growth in limited-English-proficient enrollment in five of these six heartland states has far outpaced that rate nationally.
Michigan educators recently got a lesson in how to benchmark their work against promising practices in higher-performing schools with similar socioeconomic profiles. Michael Stewart and Larry Fieber of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services led the first of several two-day workshops, March 21-22. The second took place April 11-12.
The National Center for Educational Accountability structures interviews with district administrators, principals, and teachers around a common framework.
With an eye toward cost overruns, questionable architectural features, and rising bottom lines, several states are taking a closer look at how districts manage their school construction projects.
The U.S. agency says it will withhold Texas' federal funds for administration of the No Child Left Behind Act because state officials failed to meet the deadline for informing parents of their right under the law to transfer their children out of struggling schools.
State Journal
State of the States
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Touting charter schools as the key to improving public education in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched a campaign to increase the number of such schools and appointed a charter school advocate to the state board of education.
States seeking to rein in school construction budgets are running up against the fact that lofty goals for facilities combined with the rising costs of materials and real estate continue to drive up the price tags of new and renovated schools.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has seen a sharp rise in the past two years in the price of the materials and components for construction that it indexes and tracks.
Capitol Recap
Federal lawmakers expressed concern last week that there appear to be too many obstacles to full participation in the free tutoring services offered under the No Child Left Behind Act, and possibly too little oversight.
Federal File
Congress has passed a budget blueprint that strips out more than $5 billion in extra education spending Democrats had inserted in the original Senate version in March. Still, the final plan would add $1 billion above President Bush’s fiscal 2006 budget request for the Department of Education.
Despite a record of acrimony and tension between some supporters of the Head Start program and the Bush administration, the leader of a powerful Head Start lobbying group said last week that there is a new spirit of cooperation as Congress reworks the law authorizing the federal preschool program for disadvantaged children.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Forty years after they stood up for their right to wear anti-war armbands, Mary Beth and John Tinker advise students that free speech is still worth fighting for.
What will it take to create and support a core teacher workforce in the high-stakes-assessment environment of the No Child Left Behind Act? Jack D. Dale, the superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools, in Fairfax, Va., offers his suggestions on teacher-workforce and compensation solutions.
"Accountability should not stop truly good, creative teaching—in many cases, it will allow that good teaching to be noticed, showcased, studied, and replicated for the first time," writes Karin Chenoweth in a commentary on school reform.
James W. Guthrie, a professor of public policy and education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., reflects on ways the Institute of Education Sciences can provide more guidance to researchers.

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