June 29, 2007

NASBE Awards Literacy Grants to 5 States

NASBE is awarding planning grants to five states for the development of comprehensive state literacy initiatives. The Connecticut, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Utah, and West Virginia State Boards of Education will each receive $15,000 one-year grants to help guide state leadership efforts in inserting literacy strategies into core academic subjects and as part of the states’ overall school improvement activities. The funding comes from NASBE’s Adolescent Literacy Network and supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“We are pleased to support the leadership of these five state boards of education in making literacy instruction a coordinated set of state policies spanning all programs and academic subjects in school. Their success will help other states develop similar solutions for this deficit in student learning,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.

The year-long project will require states to commit to establishing ongoing collaborative partnerships and develop and implement a work plan that integrates improvements in literacy performance with school improvement efforts. It requires broad attention to the problems of connecting policy to practice and to the demands for systematic investments in the training and professional development of teachers.

The grants will support the design and implementation of state plans to improve adolescent literacy achievement which adhere to the recommendations put forth in the NASBE 2005 report, Reading at Risk: The State Response to the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy, and the 2007 publication, From State Policy to Classroom Practice: Improving Literacy Instruction for All Students. The recommendations urge states to base their decisions on a clear understanding of what needs to take place at the instructional core—the relationships between teachers and students around the content to be learned.

According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), approximately two-thirds of 8th- and 12th-graders read below the proficient level. For minority students—only 13 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of Latinos, and 17 percent of Native Americans are reading at or above proficient level. Overall, nearly half of African American and Latino 8th-graders read below basic level.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” Advancing Literacy is a relatively new subprogram of the Education Division aimed at advancing literacy by affecting policy, practice, and research.


Happy Belated Birthday, Title IX

Title IX turned 35 last Saturday.

Here's NASBE's look back at Title IX on its 30th anniversary.


DC Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso was on the hot seat this week, as he appeared before the DC City Council considering his confirmation to the post.

As expected, council members were interested in how the mayor’s school reform plan was plagiarized from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg document. Interestingly, Reinoso took full responsibility, but refused to say whether he’s the one who actually did the cutting and pasting.

Plagiarism is a concept taught to DC’s 8th graders. According to the DC school district’s academic standards (note my preceding attribution to the source and the link to it, as well as the important quotation marks (“) used subsequently to indicate a direct citation from said source): “Understand the concept of plagiarism and how (or why) to avoid it; understand rules for paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting, as well as conventions for incorporating information from Internet-based sources in particular.” In DC schools and academia generally, plagiarism is a serious offense. Punishable even, perhaps, by expulsion. When perpetrated by city government officials, however, it gets you promoted to oversee the schools.

Also of interest, Reinoso recounted his experience as a volunteer in two of the District’s high schools teaching students how to apply for jobs and interview. Thus, the two highest ranking leaders in the DC public schools – Reinoso and Chancellor Michelle Rhee – are former city teachers. One can’t help but wonder if the school system they hope to improve would be in better shape today if they, and their similarly minded and able colleagues, had remained in the classroom to teach rather than leaving it for other opportunities before returning to lead it.

A Mixed Opinion

Having had 24 hours to digest it, legal experts are of mixed opinions about the scope and ramifications of yesterday’s Supreme Court school race ruling, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1.

"In some ways, considering what we anticipated, it's not as bad as it could have been, but it's bad.” Theodore M. Shaw, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“What I see is that the majority of the court says there is a compelling interest in dealing with the harms of racial isolation, and the court found that school districts can make race-conscious measures in dealing with these harms.” Maree Sneed, Hogan & Hartson.

"These are the most important decisions on the use of race since Brown v. Board of Education." - - Sharon Browne, Pacific Legal Foundation.

“The Supreme Court enables the resegregation of schools by race” - - Washington Post editorial

“A Supreme Court ruling Thursday dealt a blow to schools that pick students by race to create diverse classrooms. But it didn't preclude less-racial means to achieve diversity.” Christian Science Monitor editorial.

“This isn’t a categorical ruling prohibiting all use of race in student assignment or college admissions decisions. I think the door is open to other designs of race-conscious programs that might pass a Supreme Court test.” - - said Art Coleman, Holland & Knight.

“a sad day for the court and for the ideal of racial equality.” New York Times editorial.

The court has left us feeling good about the overarching theory but left us very little maneuvering room to reach that intent. Many school districts are likely to give up." Michael Casserly, Council of the Great City Schools

June 28, 2007

"Death to America Schools" Unhelpful, Finn Suggests

Asserting presidential prerogative, no doubt, Checker Finn – president of the Fordham Foundation - pens a letter to the editor of the Gadfly, the weekly newsletter of…the Fordham Foundation.

What prompted the unusual missive? A Gadfly story on religious charter schools, featuring an Islamocentric school in Minnesota.

Finn’s candor in highlighting the benefits of and strongest argument against religious charters is admirable.

Finn writes: “I continue to believe that it [religious charters] has great promise both to furnish charter pupils with some of what parents value most in private schools while affording cash-starved parochial schools a new lease on life and new ways to underwrite the education of children for whom they can do a great deal of good.”

Still, Finn notes that “one of the strongest arguments of school-choice opponents is that public funding of non-public schools will lead both to the erosion of our common culture and to the development--at taxpayers' expense--of "Klan schools," "witchcraft schools," and fundamentalist madrassas.”

What is needed, he suggests, is better marketing when it comes to promoting religious charter schools. And putting Christian charter schools front and center. “But I can't help thinking that the cause of religious charter schools would be more successfully advanced if the prototypes carried names like Martin Luther (or Martin Luther King), John Wesley, Notre Dame, and Brandeis,” he says.

Click here for the full letter.

Spellings: More "Nuanced" Accountability

Secretary Spellings signals her willingness to accept differentiated consequences in NCLB reauthorization during a meeting with the USA Today editorial board. This has been one of NASBE’s guiding NCLB principles – schools that barely miss AYP should not be lumped into the same group as chronic underachievers.

The Secretary has already discussed the issue with legislators. Even better news, Kati Haycock is on board with it.

Athletic Participation Scrutinized in Utah

Athletic participation of home school and charter students is the focus of a Utah legislative hearing. The state high school athletic association “makes allowances for both types of students, but it is up to individual school boards to actually allow participation,” reports the Deseret News, but there is a conflict among the local districts as to how charter students are handled.

The state board of education even gets a mention in the basic review of the athletic association’s operations. “The UHSAA gets its power from its members, which are the participating high schools, including public, private and several charter schools. They are state actors, but they are not a state agency. Their relationship with the state school board is one of cooperation and trust. Board members sit on the UHSAA's executive committee and its board of trustees and have input into policies and rules. The state school board does not create rules of its own governing prep activities that are sanctioned by UHSAA.”

The Golden Rule of Charter Schools

The NY Times looks at the bigfooting philanthropy of the Reich family and their threat to stop contributing to the Beginning with Children Charter School without major changes. The Times sees several trends in this development. To wit, “The clash has exposed fault lines of wealth and class that are perhaps inevitable as philanthropists, in New York and nationwide, increasingly invest in public education, providing new schools to children in poor neighborhoods while making communities dependent on their generosity.


And for those lucky to have such benefactors, the situation raises core questions: Who ultimately controls charter schools, which are financed by taxpayers but often rely heavily on charitable donations? Do the schools, which operate outside the control of the local school district, answer to parents, or to their wealthy founders?”


SCOTUS opinion

The much awaited Supreme Court ruling on the race-based school assignment case has finally arrived. As expected given the Court’s new composition and the telling questions and comments made during oral arguments, the high court finds in a 5-4 opinion that the Seattle and Louisville policies are unconstitutional. Here’s the breaking news articles from the NY Times here and the Washington Post here. For an unfiltered view, you can read the entire Supreme Court opinion here.

June 26, 2007

Dads Influence Daughters' Math Interest

“Girls' interest in math decreases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase, whereas boys' interest in math increases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase,” finds a new University of Michigan study.

The High Cost of Brain Drain

A new North Dakota study puts the state cost of losing educated residents, i.e., brain drain, to more cosmopolitan locales (and I say that as one whose great grandmother was from Fargo) over the past 13 years at more than $1 billion.

Neeley Leaving TEA Time

Texas Commissioner Shirley Neeley is leaving her post July 1, after Governor Rick Perry declined to reappoint her. The Dallas Morning News has the story here. Neeley was appointed after her predecessor, Felipe Alanis, was asked by Perry to resign. The Morning News profiles several potential successors, including Sandy Kress, Bill Hammond, and Robert Scott – all of whom better keep the governor happy if they want to keep the job once they get it.

Bush Calls for NCLB Reform, As Hickok Expresses 2nd Thoughts

President Bush called for the reauthorization of NCLB in a speech during a White House East Room event yesterday to honor the nation’s Presidential scholars. Members of the education establishment were there, as were Secretary Spellings, Senator Joe Lieberman (?) (I-CT), House Ed subcommittee chair Dale Kildee (D-MI), ranking Ed committee member Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) (who I could have sworn the President called “Newcastle.”)


The Washington Post has the story here, but the focus is - talk about stepping on the applause lines – former #2 Ed Deputy Eugene Hickok’s second thoughts about the law and his support for a conservative Republican alternative that would gut NCLB called the A+ Act. "I had these second thoughts in the back of my mind the whole time," said Hickok, a former deputy education secretary. "I believe it was a necessary step at the time, but now that it has been in place for a while, it's important to step back and see if there are other ways to solve the problem," reports the Post.


State and local education policymakers know Hickok as one of the preeminent “enforcers” of NCLB requirements and perhaps its most articulate proponent during his days in the Department. So it’s surprising to read that Hickok blames Spellings for not being flexible enough in NCLB implementation. The need for payback isn’t clear, but what is that some former high-level ED officials still harbor some hard feelings, which the paper hints might be related to vouchers.


Notes the Post, “former officials said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, the top White House education adviser in Bush's first term, stymied efforts by top department officials to grant states more control over how they carried out the law. "Margaret wasn't very interested in flexibility," Hickok said…. Some former senior department officials said they have a strained relationship with Spellings over first-term disputes and her second-term agenda. That friction might hinder her efforts to gain support from key education groups and lawmakers for renewal of No Child Left Behind, several senior officials said. Many of those groups and lawmakers have close ties to top officials from Bush's first term.”

And He's Off

On the eve of the Supreme Court decision on his district’s race-based school assignments, Jefferson County (Louisville, KY) School Superintendent Stephen Daeschner is leaving after fourteen years to become the superintendent of the 29,000-student Indian Prairie School District in Aurora, Illinois.

Northern Exposure

Alaska is looking for a proven education leader to serve as commissioner of the innovative Alaska Department of Education & Early Development. The commissioner serves on the Governor’s Cabinet, is chief executive officer of the department, and is the ex-officio secretary of the State Board of Education & Early Development.


The deadline for the state to receive applications is 4:30 p.m. Alaska time July 10, 2007.


The commissioner serves at the pleasure of the State Board for no set term. By law, the commissioner must have at least a master’s degree with at least five years of experience in the field of education since receiving the degree, with at least three of the five years in an exclusively administrative position.


State Board Chairman Richard Mauer said the board is committed to closing the achievement gap, including between Alaska Native and non-Native children; preparing students for the workforce and college; and continuing to implement No Child Left Behind as some schools and districts enter the phase of requiring corrective action.


For application requirements, see www.eed.state.ak.us or call Information Officer Eric Fry at 907-465-2851


Priscilla Haden WV SBE to Serve ECS

From the ECS press release - Priscilla Haden was named to the Executive Board of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC) at the Education Commission of the States (ECS) on June 6, 2007. Haden is a member of the West Virginia State Board of Education and a committed advocate for citizenship education. She recently served on the Study Group of the National Association of State Boards of Education's national report Citizens for the 21st Century: Revitalizing the Civic Mission of Schools.


 "NCLC is indeed fortunate to have Priscilla Haden as a board member," said NCLC director Terry Pickeral. "Her leadership, experience, knowledge and commitment to ensuring all students gain the competencies for 21st-century citizenship are consistent with the goals and strategies of NCLC."


NCLC is a national center, within ECS, focused on citizenship education, service-learning, arts in education and disaster preparation, and is led by a 21-member board.


NCLC focuses on increasing policy support, quality practices and infrastructure to ensure every student in America has an opportunity gain civic competencies through school and community-based activities.


More coverage on the Bong Hits 4 Jesus decision. This from the Christian Science Monitor.

Are federal officials reluctant to provide Utah with requested flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act because the state’s voucher program is in limbo? Yes, suggests the office of U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop. Amazing, if true.


“The debate over Utah's school voucher program is extending to Washington, where U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop says the state school board's opposition to vouchers is hampering his efforts to get flexibility with federal education requirements.


Scott Parker, Bishop's chief of staff, said the Utah Republican has been asked why his state hasn't allowed for school choice that vouchers could provide.

"He's gotten the impression on more than one occasion that Utah's sort of being viewed as a little bit inconsistent when we keep asking for flexibility here at the federal level but won't allow for some parents and students at the local level to have choice," Parker said,” reports the Daily Herald.


Outgoing Pennsylvania State Board member David Saxe expresses regret over the erosion of local control in educational policy, the No Child Left Behind Act, too much testing, and not enough debate over decisions.

"'My position is that Pennsylvania should have been more direct with Washington and tell them, 'We are not going to do these things,' " said David Saxe, a former schoolteacher and Penn State professor. "'Instead, they negotiated with Washington and created policies that are difficult for the schools,'" reports the Centre Daily.

More Saxe from the article: "I think teachers and administrators are now marching to so many different masters -- the federal government, state Board of Education, teacher unions. It's just pulling them, and the kids are suffering."

"The testing is out of control. There is way too much going on ... It's like we made this 800-pound gorilla and now we don't know how to feed it."


Ohio State Board member Jane Sonenshein keeps her constituents informed about state board of education business via this column in her local paper.

The Orlando Sentinel editorial page likes the Florida State Board of Education's rejection of recommended accountability standards.

"The board clearly recognized that the last thing the state should do is ease the standards for school grades, which are based on how well students do on the FCAT exam that measures reading, math, writing and science," says the Sentinel.