November 8, 2006

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Vol. 26, Issue 11
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Steve Barr, a Democratic political organizer turned charter school mogul, has waged a contentious, two-year campaign to persuade leaders in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, to let him run one or more troubled high schools. With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an ally, set to assume some control of the district on Jan. 1, Mr. Barr may now get his chance.
By granting review of its third case in two years involving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled a renewed interest in resolving legal conflicts arising under the federal law that governs services provided to nearly 6.7 million schoolchildren in special education.
When education researchers want to measure the collective poverty level in a school, they typically use the same yardstick: the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-rate meals under the federal school lunch program. But dissatisfaction with that indicator is prompting some researchers to cast about for better ways to gauge the socioeconomic status of schools.
A federal research center has added another Web site to the lengthening list of similar ventures that distill what the research says on “what works’’ to improve the achievement of students in grades K-12.
District Dossier
A year after adopting what may have been the first school district policy requiring some principals to speak Spanish, the Dallas school board has decided to loosen the requirement.
News in Brief: A National Roundup
People in the News
When the Springfield, Mass., school district decided five years ago that it needed administrators with a different set of skills, it took matters into its own hands. Under a highly unusual arrangement, the district won state approval to run its own licensing program.
Children riding school buses suffer more injuries than previous public data have suggested, according to a report in the November issue of Pediatrics that examined a national database of emergency room visits.
Health Update
School days in Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and several other nations in sub-Saharan Africa are now just that for more children than ever before. Millions who, in the past, were more likely to stay home or go out to work than sit in a classroom—especially girls and poor youngsters—now are crowding into government schools.
States should expand precollegiate online learning by allowing teachers to teach across state lines and removing student seat-time requirements, according to a report that tracks the fast growth of state virtual-learning programs.
The nation’s major accrediting body for teacher education has given its stamp of approval to a non-profit online university, the first time a nontraditional program to prepare teachers has won national accreditation.
Report Roundup
The U.S. Department of Education announced a dozen more grants last week for schools and districts willing to link the pay of teachers and principals to student test scores.
Despite the attention focused on poor and minority students by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, most states are doing a poor job of narrowing achievement gaps, concludes a "report card" released last week.
Indiana is on pace to change how and when it tests students, following the state board of education’s approval last week of a new assessment system that is supposed to be a little cheaper for the state, and a little shorter for students.
State Journal
News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Educators and policymakers looking for advice on the most highly charged issue affecting the education of English-language learners won’t be getting it from the Department of Education.
With funding from the Department of Education, researchers are closely examining “response to intervention,” an instructional framework that many educators say offers promise for treating children with learning difficulties before they fall behind their peers.
Federal File
The Department of Education is preparing to take another small step in its experiment in evaluating schools based on individual students’ academic growth, while state officials say they are working toward the day when that approach is commonplace.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
The Department of Education is giving state officials a small break on carrying out the requirements for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act.
News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Picked up by immigration authorities, undocumented children who are apprehended without their parents are sent to shelters throughout the United States and educated while they wait out deportation proceedings. At one such shelter in Miami, new students appear almost as rapidly as others leave.
As Americans, we have profound, passionate beliefs in the power of education to transform lives but, for many, the connection between school and learning is a negative one, writes Kirsten Olson.
Many aspects of American public education that attract attention for one reason or another, no matter what their seeming subject, turn out at some level to be about the American Dilemma: race, writes Michael Holzman, a consultant to the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
On Oct. 25, readers’ questions on teacher-pay incentives were answered by a panel that included Tricia Coulter, the director of the Education Commission of the States’ Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute, in Denver; Sabrina W.M. Laine, the director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, in Washington; and Ben Schaefer, the program manager of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
Clifford Adelman warns that the United States cannot afford to sleep through the international revolution currently under way in higher education.

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