August 9, 2006

This Issue
Vol. 25, Issue 44
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With the results of a forthcoming federal study of educational software still under wraps, questions are arising about how it has been conducted—particularly the government’s decision not to disclose individual performance results for the 15 computerized curriculum packages being studied.
In a new wave of plans to recruit and retain teachers who say they cannot afford to buy or rent homes in pricey school districts, officials are considering measures that would put affordable housing within their reach.
Career and technical education programs will face new pressure to show that they are academically rigorous and guiding high school students through a lineup of courses that prepares them for college or the workplace, under a bill approved by Congress.
Upheaval in the highest ranks of the St. Louis public schools on the eve of a new academic year has prompted Missouri’s top education official to appoint a special committee to help fix the troubled district.
A major Chicago initiative to improve high schools by making them smaller has raised attendance, lowered the dropout rate, and created better learning environments, but has not improved students’ scores on state tests, a study has found.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
News in Brief: A National Roundup
The opportunity to swim, dissect sheep organs and crayfish in science class, and read interesting books is a big draw for Baltimore students attending an academic summer school program jointly run by private and public schools.
Harvard University researchers publicized findings last week calling into question the methodology of recent studies finding that students at public schools did as well as or better than their private school peers on some standardized tests when scores were adjusted for certain student characteristics.
Los Angeles officials are hoping a school improvement model that has shown promise on the opposite coast will help turn around secondary education in the school system’s Belmont attendance area.
The battle over who should control the public schools in Los Angeles continues to escalate, with a group of teachers challenging their union leaders’ decision to support Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s bid to win some authority over schools.
Private management of public schools has traveled a rocky road since the school choice movement took hold in the early 1990s.
Schools in the federal Reading First program dedicate more time to reading instruction and teacher professional development, and are more likely to use assessment data to inform teaching, than Title I schools that are not in the grant program, concludes a study on the $1 billion-a-year initiative.
Teaching & Learning Update
Technology Update
Report Roundup
Gov. Jeb Bush won’t be on the Republican ballot in Florida’s Sept. 5 primary for governor, but two of his former education commissioners will be. And the outcome will set the stage for a fall showdown that is expected to be, in part, a referendum on the two-term governor’s education policies.
The turnout for last week’s primary elections for the Kansas state board of education may have been low, but the impact of the results on policies concerning evolution, sex education, and other hot-button school issues could be anything but.
State Journal
Several Colorado school districts are challenging the legality of a statewide body recently established to approve charter schools.
The Kansas Supreme Court surprised people on both sides of the state’s 7-year-old school finance case late last month when it ruled that the state had complied with the court’s order to increase funding and dismissed the case, but declined to say whether the new spending plan is constitutional.
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
In a push to provide more children with free tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Department of Education is expanding two pilot programs that allow school districts to offer the extra assistance a year earlier than usual, and to serve as tutoring providers even if they themselves have been deemed poor performers.
Federal File
The Department of Education released final regulations last week on the latest reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, incorporating more than 5,500 comments from the public into guidance for states and schools that does not vary significantly from the draft regulations released a year ago, officials say.
Carefully constructed “growth models” can help meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s goal of getting the nation’s students to academic proficiency, but states face technical hurdles in crafting such models that work, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The demand for summer employees and the concerns of families have helped fuel a successful backlash in some states against school starting dates that have been getting earlier.
When it comes to getting into college, admissions experts differ on the value of summer jobs compared with that of academic programs, unpaid internships, foreign travel, or other activities designed to look good on a college application.
As a policy driver, the notion of standards-based accountability may be showing its age, and losing its punch, writes Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ross Rubenstein, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Leanna Stiefel list some factors for educators to keep in mind before adopting and implementing a weighted-student funding policy.
On July 19, questions from readers concerning the training, hiring, and retention of principals were answered by Richard A. Flanary, the director of professional-development services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in Reston, Va., and Richard Laine, the director of education programs at the Wallace Foundation, in New York City.
Paul T. Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, recommends that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation use a strategy of research and development, mirroring the one used for international health and other sectors, to improve U.S. schools.

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