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390education news bulletin, 9.7.2004

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    Sep 7, 2004
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      Education News Bulletin


      Audio: Debating the Success of Charter Schools

      NATIONAL – A new national study re-ignites the debate over the
      promise and limitations of charter schools. Created as alternatives
      to failing public schools, charter schools were supposed to offer
      more innovation and less bureaucracy. But what about academic
      achievement? Guests on this NPR Talk of the Nation segment included:
      Bella Rosenberg, author of the report "Charter School Achievement on
      the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress," published by
      the American Federation of Teachers; Joe Nathan, director of Center
      for School Change at Humphrey Institute at the University of
      Minnesota; David Domenici, co-founder of the Maya Angelou Public
      Charter School; and Mike Feinberg, superintendent of KIPP (Knowledge
      is Power Program) Academy in Houston and co-founder of KIPP.
      (National Public Radio)


      Commentary: Sixty Charter Schools Fall, With a Little State Shove

      CALIFORNIA – In some ways, this month's collapse of the state's
      largest charter school was school choice working at its best: A new
      school opened, to which parents could choose to send their children.
      The school was judged inferior; the school closed. But the case
      wasn't that simple. It wasn't parents exercising choice that closed
      the California Charter Academy's 60 schools across the state, but
      rather government actions that effectively choked off funding. By
      the standard of choice, the schools were a roaring success, with
      more than 10,000 students enrolled in the academy's satellites. But
      the whole network collapsed this summer after the state withheld $6
      million on grounds that about 10 of the satellites were set up
      illegally, without appropriate supervision by a local school
      district. The demise of California Charter Academy shows that
      sometimes choice and accountability run in opposite directions. (By
      LA Weekly staff writer Howard Blume, in the Los Angeles Times –
      registration required)



      The Secretary's Third Annual Report on Teacher Quality

      WASHINGTON, DC – Across the nation, states and institutions have
      launched a wide variety of innovative programs to meet the teacher
      quality challenge. As has been previously noted in Chapter 2,
      information in this report has been compiled from analyses of data
      collected through the HEA Title II system. As data systems, both at
      the state level and within institutions of higher education, are
      enhanced to better accommodate the provisions of NCLB and the HEA,
      the Department expects to be able to further refine indicators of
      state teacher quality status and progress as well as to allow states
      to more accurately report their positive efforts in improving
      teacher preparation. Between 2001 and 2003, the HEA Title II system
      has tracked changes in six key areas affecting the supply and demand
      of highly qualified teachers, including: Alignment of teacher and
      student standards; State certification requirements for new
      teachers; Numbers of teachers receiving initial state certification;
      State identification of low-performing teacher preparation programs;
      Alternative routes to teaching; Numbers of teachers on waivers. (US
      Department of Education)

      pg7.html (or go straight to the report at

      All Dried Up: California faces a nasty drought of qualified teachers

      CALIFORNIA – The teacher shortage, it seems, is back. Arguably,
      never really left, certainly not in the places where its impact and
      harm are most keenly felt. And now, with budget problems wracking
      both state and local governments, with districts slashing payrolls
      and programs to balance the books, with an inevitable age
      demographic looming, the once and future teacher shortage threatens
      anew. For evidence, you need look no further than "The Status of
      the Teaching Profession 2003" report, produced by The Center for the
      Future of Teaching and Learning, a public, not-for-profit
      organization based in Santa Cruz that promotes teacher development,
      in conjunction with the research group SRI International out of Palo
      Alto. (California School Boards Association)



      Good Schools or Bad? Ratings Baffle Parents

      NATIONAL – Students are returning to classes across the nation
      amid a cacophony of contradictory messages about the quality of
      their education, as thousands of schools with vaunted reputations
      have been rated in recent weeks as low-performing under a federal
      law. School ratings issued under the terms of the president's No
      Child Left Behind law have clashed with school report card systems
      administered by some states, leaving parents unsure which level of
      government to believe or whether to transfer their children, an
      option offered by the law. In North Carolina, which pioneered one of
      the nation's most sophisticated accountability systems, more than 32
      schools ranked as excellent by the state failed to meet Washington's
      criteria for academic progress. In California, 317 schools showed
      tremendous academic growth on the state's performance index, yet the
      federal law labeled them low-performing. (by Sam Dillon for the New
      York Times – free registration required)


      Some minority SAT scores up

      NATIONAL – SAT scores for the high school class of 2004 were
      mostly the same as a year ago, though scores for some minority
      groups showed an encouraging increase. The average cumulative score
      on the country's most widely taken college entrance exam was 1026,
      the same as for the class of 2003. Scores on the verbal section rose
      one point to 508 while math scores fell one point to 518. The
      stagnant scores were something of a disappointment following a six-
      point jump last year from 2002 that produced a 36-year high. But The
      College Board, which owns the test and was releasing the scores
      Tuesday, said it was good news that more students are taking the
      test and signaling they hope to attend college, even if that may
      have weighed down average results. There was also some consolation
      in improved scores for some minorities, who comprised a record 37
      percent of the 1.4 million test-takers, also a record. (Associated

      (see also press release from the College Board at


      Falling Behind

      NATIONAL – In study after study, scholars have investigated the
      effects of differences among white and black students in their
      socioeconomic status, family structure, and neighborhood
      characteristics and in the quality of their schools. To be sure,
      socioeconomic status and the trappings of poverty are important
      factors in explaining racial differences in educational achievement.
      Yet a substantial gap remains even after these crucial influences
      are accounted for. To take a fresh look at the gap and its sources,
      we examined a new data set, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
      Kindergarten Cohort, compiled by the U.S. Department of Education.
      The results are quite surprising: after adjusting the data for the
      effects of only a few observable characteristics, the black-white
      test-score gap in math and reading for students entering
      kindergarten essentially disappeared. However, our results show that
      the achievement gap, while negligible among black and non-Hispanic
      white children with similar characteristics when they enter
      kindergarten, expands as they grow older. (Education Next)



      18 School Districts May Face Sanctions

      LOS ANGELES – Eighteen California school districts that failed to
      meet federal goals in standardized testing for the second year in a
      row could face state takeovers or other sanctions if they do not
      show progress in the next three years, according to state data
      released Tuesday. The small school systems, including the Centinela
      Valley Union High School District in the South Bay and Oxnard Union
      High School District in Ventura County, would be the first in
      California to experience tough new penalties under the federal No
      Child Left Behind education law. Most of the districts wound up on
      the sanctions list because their students or a small segment of them
      scored too low on standardized exams. Others were named for not
      testing enough students, among other reasons. The school systems
      primarily serve high school students scattered in rural communities.
      … The state Department of Education on Tuesday also released
      preliminary data showing that 64% of its 9,100 public schools met
      their federal targets in testing this year under the No Child Left
      Behind law. That was up from 54% last year — largely because more
      high schools met required student participation rates on the tests,
      officials said. (Los Angeles Times)


      Technical Difficulties

      NATIONAL – The tendency has been to sprinkle computers and
      Internet connections across classrooms in the pleasant hope that
      teachers will integrate them into their lessons. The purpose is
      seldom to make teachers more productive or to rethink the way in
      which lessons are delivered. Indeed, PCs often serve as little more
      than high-priced typewriters, sitting in the back of classrooms
      unused for most of the school day. This state of affairs stands in
      sharp contrast to how technology is used by business and government
      enterprises that engage in competition with other manufacturers and
      service providers. To them, technology is not an end in itself,
      something to be adopted merely because it exists, but a tool for
      self-improvement. … Why have public schools failed so far to put
      all this fancy new technology to good use? (Education Next)