March 29, 2006

This Issue
Vol. 25, Issue 29
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At a time when many policymakers and business leaders are clamoring for American children to take up the languages of Asia and the Middle East to help buttress the United States’ international competitiveness and national security, the policies and resources are as much of a mismatch as the languages that are being taught.
With urban school districts wrestling with how to raise student achievement, education leaders are showing growing interest in the notion of creating what some are calling a diverse “portfolio” of publicly financed schools.
As federal aid for students uprooted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita begins making its way to cash-strapped school districts, many educators are worried that the money Congress allocated will fall well short of their costs.
A team of conservative legal scholars last week filed a complaint charging that two Southern California school districts fail to offer students school choice as required under federal law and asked the U.S. Department of Education to withhold the districts’ federal funds.
With three months left in Thomas W. Payzant’s decade-long tenure as superintendent of the Boston schools, those charged with finding a successor are getting an earful from scholars, community groups, and civic leaders as they consider how much of a change agent the district needs.
District Dossier
People in the News
News in Brief: A National Roundup
News in Brief: A National Roundup
A legal challenge to a virtual charter school in Wisconsin has failed, the second time in three years that a state court has turned down arguments from Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union that the Internet schools are illegal.
Known for its demanding curriculum and global outlook, the International Baccalaureate is seeking to capitalize on an endorsement from this country’s top elected official, even as it faces a challenge at the grassroots level.
As immigrants have moved into new territory in growing numbers, state lawmakers are becoming increasingly embroiled in debates over what public services to provide the newcomers among them living in the United States illegally.
Driven by the accountability movement and the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states are requiring students in special education, like their peers in general education, to take state-mandated tests.
Students in urban school districts have made steady gains on state tests in the past four years, in many cases outpacing their states’ average rates of improvement, a study issued last week concludes.
Charter Schools
A high-profile group formed to boost the quality of the nation’s teaching corps says progress toward that goal has been just middling over the past three years.
Report Roundup
Even with growing demand and the prospect of new federal and state aid for improving foreign-language instruction, expanding offerings is especially difficult because of a shortage of qualified teachers in what are deemed critical languages, many experts say.
By all accounts, interest in language classes outside the traditional offerings has grown over the past several years as more attention is paid to the need for speakers of Arabic and Chinese to help deal with the United States’ security and economic concerns. But hard data are lacking in a field that is measured only periodically.
Gulf Coast school districts teetering on the brink of financial disaster after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck last year have high hopes for the pot of federal aid intended to help them recoup money they used to get up and running again. But many have yet to see the funds, and others say it won’t be enough.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are calling for major reforms in compensation practices for public school administrators in the wake of a scathing report that concludes that millions in taxpayer dollars were spent on lucrative contracts, hidden perks, and pension padding for dozens of superintendents and their top deputies.
State Journal
California students face major roadblocks en route to college, according to a report, which found the Golden State sends a smaller proportion of high school seniors—23 percent—to four-year colleges than any other state but Mississippi.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Four of the Department of Education’s 10 regional educational laboratories will be run by different contractors, and all of them will have a revised mission, under a round of newly awarded five-year contracts worth more than $326 million.
College presidents last week told a federal commission considering ways to bring more accountability to higher education that some measures for assessing a college’s effectiveness, including graduation rates and standardized tests, might present problems.
Federal File
A plan to restructure children’s programs in the Department of Health and Human Services is drawing fire from advocacy groups and members of Congress.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The schools in Hidalgo used to be among the worst in Texas. But now, the low-income Latino children who fill its classrooms are outperforming students in wealthier, whiter communities.
Authors Jane L. David and Larry Cuban offer guidance to reformers and citizens on how to cut through the hype surrounding the different types of school reforms.
Education researchers Jay P. Greene, Marcus A. Winters, and Christopher B. Swanson respond to an essay economist Lawrence Mishel wrote in Education Week in which he criticized the data they used to calculate high school graduation rates.
On March 15, the topic for discussion was “The Problem With Boys,” and readers addressed their questions to Thomas Newkirk, a University of New Hampshire professor of English and the author of Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture (Heinemann, 2002).
Honors & Awards
Theodore Hershberg and Barbara Lea-Kruger make their case for linking teachers' pay to student achievement.

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