October 26, 2005

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Vol. 25, Issue 09
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Questionable spending has come to light in more than a dozen school districts in New York state in the wake of a high-profile fraud case in a Long Island district. Prompted by the alleged theft of $11 million in Roslyn, N.Y., state Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi has sent auditors into 46 districts in recent months.
The Bush administration said last week that newly released 2005 results from “the nation’s report card” confirm that the No Child Left Behind Act is on track. But many in the education community questioned that conclusion, given that reading achievement remained relatively flat and that progress in math has slowed over the past two years.
From elementary pupils cracking open their piggy banks to companies and foundations writing seven-figure checks, a flood of donations has reached schools and students affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated parts of the Gulf Coast and the coast of Texas.
A judge has temporarily halted the move by the New Orleans school board to open all of its schools on the city’s West Bank as charter schools. She accused the plan’s leaders of exploiting the city’s vulnerability after Hurricane Katrina to advance their advocacy of charter schools without enough public input.
Denver voters go to the polls next week to decide the fate of a new pay plan for teachers, with only a small band of opponents challenging the property-tax hike that would finance the change.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
News in Brief: A National Roundup
Supporters of “intelligent design” ventured deep into the realm of biological and chemical research last week in an attempt to show the concept’s scientific legitimacy—as well as its legal standing in public schools—alongside the theory of evolution.
It may look like a pen. But it adds, subtracts, plays music and games, reads your handwriting aloud, reminds you to do your homework, and translates English words into Spanish. And oh, yes, it can write, too.
Education Inc.
Six weeks after securing a federal waiver designed to maximize the number of children who can receive free tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Chicago school district has announced that 23,000 fewer students than last year will be able to get that help.
Charter Schools
Students from low-income families are finding it harder to pay for college as a result of changes in federal student-aid policies and slow growth in federal Pell Grant funding, the College Board said last week in its annual reports on college prices and financial aid.
“Value added” models that track the test-score gains of individual students over time hold great promise but should not yet be used as the main basis for rewarding or punishing teachers, according to two reports released this month.
Despite problems that marred the program’s initial year of operation, the families of the first wave of students to take part in the District of Columbia voucher program are generally satisfied with their children’s experiences, according to a study released last week.
American taxpayers will have to take the word of federal officials that U.S. involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq’s education system since the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein is going well.
Report Roundup
Thousands of Louisiana students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina may not have enrolled in school anywhere, according to the state schools chief, and Louisiana is hard-pressed to keep track of students who have dispersed to almost every state in the country.
Special Education
Law Update
In a new book for educators, policymakers, and researchers, leading African-American scholars are proposing to reframe the way they study and think about educating black children, both in the United States and around the world.
When advance copies of “the nation’s report card” were distributed to news reporters last week, they came with tight restrictions on who could see that information before its official public release.
The campaign over California education measures pits a political superstar with sagging approval ratings against the state’s most powerful education group in a no-holds-barred bid for power that could leave the loser badly hobbled.
Vouchers and charter schools—not money—are the solutions judges should turn to when they decide that a state’s school system is inadequate, said participants in a recent conference that brought almost 30 scholars and litigators to Cambridge, Mass.
State Journal
With the Hawaii Department of Education unable to provide any additional money for the state’s charter schools, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has allocated $2.2 million to the 14 charter schools that have Hawaiian-focused programs.
A new requirement is expected to make Arizona one of just three states that require a videotaped lesson to advance from an initial credential to a more permanent one, according to data collected by Education Week. The other states are Connecticut and Indiana.
A new partnership of five states and a nationally known policy group is tackling what some experts are calling the next big education challenge facing states: targeting entire school districts, not just individual schools, for improvement.
Capitol Recap
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
States must take more comprehensive steps to address the inadequate reading skills of America’s adolescents, groups representing the nation’s governors and state boards of education urge in two recent reports.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Congress continues to debate—and add to—a long list of proposals that would provide federal education aid to districts damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and others taking in students displaced by the storms. But the initial urgency for school aid appears to have stalled, and by late last week those proposals had made little progress.
A $246,000 grant from the Department of Justice to the Prince William County school district will be used to pilot-test a new type of software that allows communication among a wide range of devices that school districts already have—including cellphones, walkie-talkies, personal digital assistants, and even video cameras.
Federal File
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
As Michael R. Bloomberg runs for re-election in New York City, voters will judge the extensive changes he’s made to the nation’s largest school system.
Educator and newspaper columnist Peter Berger writes on the pervasity of technology in education, counting much of it as "conspicuously nonessential."
Irving Hamer retells his experiences assisting Rudy Crew in turning around the Miami-Dade County public schools. His experience reinforced the belief that "quantum leaps" in urban school reform are possible, with sufficient will.
Education advocate John Simmons wants more urban districts and schools to adopt those reform practices that have been so successful in the commercial sector, what he terms "high-performance model for change."

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