September 27, 2006

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Vol. 26, Issue 05
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As pressure grows to use research-based practices to improve schools, it’s almost a wonder policymakers are so quick to join the teacher-pay incentives trend. States have little evidence that using financial incentives to entice teachers to certain jobs actually reduces turnover or raises student achievement.
Concerned about the credibility of federally financed education studies, Congress passed a law in the fall of 2002 that replaced the U.S. Department of Education’s top research office with the Institute of Education Sciences. Now, four years later, critics and outside experts are giving the institute mixed, but mostly positive, grades.
The two top Democratic lawmakers on education policy have signaled that if their party regains control of one or both houses of Congress in November, they will seek to retain the core accountability features of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
As consumer and child-advocacy groups voice objections to a commercial radio venture that aims to outfit school buses with music and advertising that targets children, the safety of offering any radio programming on buses is also being debated.
After four years as a finalist, the Boston school district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education last week in recognition of its success improving achievement, especially among racial- and ethnic-minority groups.
District Dossier
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
Through an unusual partnership with a nationally known for-profit company, a Colorado school reform group is working to address what it calls the “Colorado paradox”: While more than a third of the state’s residents have a college degree, only one-fifth of the state’s entering 9th graders go on to graduate from college on time.
Optimism was running high in September 2002 when the U.S. Department of Education unveiled its plans for a clearinghouse to vet effectiveness studies on educational programs and practices. But four years and nearly $23.4 million later, critics call the What Works Clearinghouse the “nothing works” clearinghouse.
When Utah state Rep. David N. Cox persuaded fellow Republicans to vote against a school voucher bill last year, he did more than help doom the idea. He became an election-year target.
In a campaign that’s almost entirely about the Michigan economy, wealthy businessman and school choice supporter Dick DeVos Jr. is giving Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm a tough challenge.
The federal Reading First initiative has led to improved reading instruction, assessment, and student achievement in schools taking part in the $1 billion-a-year grant program, as well as in some of the nonparticipating schools in districts that have widely adopted its principles, a study released last week concludes.
Allowing preschoolers to choose their own classroom activities, giving them well-trained teachers, and requiring them to spend less time in whole-group instruction can help build strong language and thinking skills by age 7, according to an international study of early-childhood programs.
To develop a strong understanding of science, students in elementary and middle school should be encouraged to master a relatively small number of crucial concepts, and gradually expand their knowledge of those topics, a new study argues.
When Louisiana leaders said this month that they would provide 250 modular housing units for teachers in New Orleans, they were hoping to draw educators back to the city’s schools. But the news instead has irked some teachers displaced by Hurricane Katrina, who say that by offering them “storage pods” for homes, authorities are rubbing salt in their wounds.
Report Roundup
A controversial state plan to break up the Omaha, Neb., public schools into three districts, largely along racial and ethnic lines, and join the entire metropolitan area in one united “learning community” has hit a major roadblock.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott delivered a mixed verdict last week on an effort by the state board of education to get more control over the textbooks used in public schools.
State Journal
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Capitol Recap
A national advisory board signed off last week on a flurry of far-reaching recommendations—some of which may prove controversial—for strengthening research on education.
As election season heats up, a few members of Congress, and many more congressional aides, filed into a House conference room last week to cast their votes in one of this fall’s hottest races. The contest: favorite school lunch.
Federal File
President Bush said last week that ensuring that people can read and write is one way to combat poverty and “radicalism” in the world.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
With fewer than a fifth of eligible students taking advantage of federally financed tutoring and afterschool programs, policymakers here have begun exploring options for expanding the reach of those services.
When school library books are questioned, contention usually results. Here’s how one district in Fayetteville, Ark., wrote a new chapter in handling parents’ complaints.
School libraries tend to be the subject of the greatest number of formal complaints about the content of books and materials available to students. But challenges to curriculum materials, such as classroom libraries, films, and assigned readings, have seen an uptick over the past several years, according to the National Council of Teachers of English.
Why are we drugging so many of our children, and what effect is this having on their well-being, writes Julian Weissglass, director of the National Coalition for Equity in Education.
The progress in K-12 education brought about by market-based reforms is now being threatened by the “65 percent” school-finance regulation, writes Jonathan A. Plucker, director of the nonpartisan Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.
One professor of education believes that empirical evidence alone—valuable though it may be—can never be enough to determine what "evidence-based” education policy is best.

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