August 31, 2007

20% of Students Absent on 2nd Day of School in DC

About 20 percent of students enrolled in D.C. public schools were absent on the second day of class this week, according to attendance records provided by school system officials. Records show that about 10,000 of the 51,000 students enrolled Tuesday did not report to classes.

Police picked up one truant on Monday and nine truants on Tuesday. "Ten is high," said Assistant Police Chief Bigelow, "My expectation is that there shouldn't be any."

Michelle Rhee, the newly appointed chancellor, should focus her efforts on eliminating absenteeism- it's impossible to reform the system at large if students don't even show up.

August 30, 2007

Spellings Speculation

White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has told administration officials that if they don’t plan to serve through the end of President Bush’s term in January 2009, then they should leave by this Labor Day. The deadline has given legs to a growing rumor that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings could be headed back to the Lone Star State as the president of the University of Texas. Other Texas confidants of then-Governor and now President Bush that came to Washington along with Secretary Spellings have recently departed, including such long-time, inner circle Bush loyalists as Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzalez. If Spellings does leave (either for UT or another position) - and in theory she has just days to decide - it is believed that Deputy Secretary Ray Simon would ascend to the top job at ED for the remainder of the Bush presidency.


The number of Florida students learning Chinese has skyrocketed in the last three years, from 300 to nearly 3,000 reports the Sun Sentinel. "Nationally, the number has risen from 5,000 seven years ago to between 30,000 and 50,000," notes the paper. Here's a good beginner's phrase: "有含铅油漆对孩子的玩具?" which in English means (according to the Google translator) "Is there any lead paint in my child's toy?"

The Real Fashion Police

Recently there has been lots of media attention about proposals banning saggy pants and exposed underwear. The New York Times published an interesting piece today on the historical roots of the trend, the legality of indecency ordinances, and the national attention the issue has received.

"Behind the indecency laws may be the real issue — the hip-hop style itself, which critics say is worn as a badge of delinquency, with its distinctive walk conveying thuggish swagger and a disrespect for authority. Also at work is the larger issue of freedom of expression and the questions raised when fashion moves from being merely objectionable to illegal."

August 29, 2007

NCLB 2.0

The leaders of the House Education Committee released a draft plan (summary here) for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said that they were inviting comments on the draft and hope to introduce the bill shortly after Labor Day.

Our resident governmental affairs guru and blogger Stan returns tomorrow and I'll leave it to him to comment on the draft.

August 28, 2007

A Too Low College Entrance Bar

“Thousands of Arkansas college students are taking noncredit math, reading and English courses this fall. Called various names — remedial, developmental or transitional — the courses are designed to close the gap between what students learned in high school and what they need to know for college.

The latest figures from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education show 52. 6 percent, or 9, 913 students, took at least one remedial class in fall 2006 because of their low college entrance exam scores,” reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The article goes on to say, “Education officials in higher education and kindergarten through 12 th-grade systems said they must work together for a solution. ‘This issue is so complex, you can’t have one group blaming another group,’ said Karen Hodges, director of remediation and special retention activities at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville ‘That’s not going to get us anywhere.’”

And yet, higher ed implicitly blames K-12 for the remedial problems of these students. Here’s a suggestion for Arkansas educators that no one ever wants to discuss: look at the college admissions standards. How do students unprepared for college work get accepted by the college in the first place? (Hint: it’s called tuition. My guess is that these colleges are charging these students for non-college work. The kids can’t do college level work, but the school gets paid anyway. And that’s the bottomline, literally, on college remedial classes.)

August 27, 2007

Flunking the SAT

The College Board and NCS Pearson are going to pay out $2.85 million to settle a class action lawsuit for wrongly scoring the SAT exams of more than 4,000 students back in 2005. The total, while large, works out to about $275 per student. “Amanda M. Hellerman, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., who said she initially received a score that was more than 300 points below what it should have been, said, ‘It is great to hear that the College Board is being held accountable… But what would be more promising to me is they gave some indication of how they were going to insure that this kind of thing does not happen again,’” reports the NY Times.

Intelligent Design in New Texas Science Standards?

“A majority of [the Texas] State Board of Education members said the theory of intelligent design should be left out of the science curriculum for public schools.

The board will rewrite the science curriculum next year and some observers expect backers of intelligent design to push for the theory's inclusion.

In interviews with The Dallas Morning News, 10 of the board's 15 members said they wouldn't support requiring the teaching of intelligent design. One board member said she was open to the idea. Four board members didn't respond to the newspaper's phone calls,” reports the Houston Chronicle.

"Like a Bucket with Holes"- America's Teacher Shortage

As schools across the country open their doors, many districts are struggling to find and hire quality teachers. An article in today's New York Times highlights the issues.

“The problem is not mainly with retirement,” said Thomas G. Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “Our teacher preparation system can accommodate the retirement rate. The problem is that our schools are like a bucket with holes in the bottom, and we keep pouring in teachers.”

Studies have shown that a third of all new teachers leave the profession after just three years, and that after five years almost half are gone. Turnover rates are even higher in urban districts. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found last June that teacher turnover costs the nation $7 billion annually.

What should states, districts, and schools do to curb the problem? In my opinion, quality induction systems are key.

August 24, 2007

Pro-Voucher Poll in Utah: Questionable Tactics

The referendum vote on the Utah voucher system is only a few months away and campaigning is in full force. The pro-voucher group Parents for Choice in Education asked the following question in a poll to voters last week:"If you knew that the same group that opposes vouchers, the liberal national teacher's union, aggressively supports same-sex unions, higher taxes and more government involvement, would you be very or somewhat more or less likely to vote for or against the Utah referendum?"

You can read more about the poll and public reaction here and here.

Dead Money in DC

In professional football, with its hard salary cap, applying a pro-rated portion of a released player’s salary to the annual cap is called “dead money.” It looks like something similar will soon happen in Washington, DC’s schools, where Chancellor Michelle Rhee “will pay nearly $5.4 million in full-time salaries to 68 teachers and staff who won’t work full-time jobs this year,” reports the Examiner. Rather than lay off younger teachers, as the city’s bargaining contract calls for, Rhee is sidelining more senior teachers who don’t fit into her reform plans and eating the salaries.

Rating PreK Programs on Kindergarten Results

In Texas, the new School Readiness Certification System rates preschools, Head Start programs, and daycare centers on how well they prepare students for kindergarten, making them the first state to do so. "We are the only state in the nation that now links the certification or rating of an early childhood classroom to what's happening in that classroom and how it predicts kindergarten readiness," said Susan Landry, director of the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development, the organization charged by state law to develop the certification system. The system tracks children from preschool to kindergarten and uses scores on reading and social skills tests given in kindergarten to determine whether students were properly prepared by the pre-k classrooms they were in the year before. A pre-k classroom passes if 80-percent of students pass the tests.

The system is currently voluntary, which worries critics who feel the system does not hold all programs accountable. The early childhood programs that are found to not prepare students will not face any penalties.

August 23, 2007

Back to School - From the Institute of Education Sciences

"Nearly 50 million students are heading off to approximately 97,000 public elementary and secondary schools for the fall term, and before the school year is out, an estimated $489 billion will be spent related to their education.  These are just a few of the statistics contained in Back to School Stats, compiled by the Institute of Education Sciences' research and statistical centers.”

Congratulations... Paul Reville, who was appointed yesterday by Gov. Deval Patrick as the new chairman of the Massachusetts State Board of Education. Reville was a member of the state board from 1991 to 1996 and is currently president of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and directs the education policy and management program at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

August 22, 2007

Fill in the Blank: One in Four Americans Hasn't _____

Answer: Read a single book in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released yesterday. The average American read just four books- that number increases to seven if you exclude the 27% of the population who didn't read a single book.

"Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious."

The Washington Post article includes some interesting SES and regional breakdowns...maybe I'm the only one interested/outraged, but I think it is worth taking a look.

Congrats... Mary Lord, who was elected yesterday to the DC State Board of Education. (Representing this blogger's district nonetheless!)

August 21, 2007

The Connection between Obesity & Absenteeism

A new study published in the August issue of Obesity found that the more overweight an elementary students is, the more school they miss. Of 180 school days, researchers found that on average the normal weight students missed 10.1 days, overweight kids missed 10.9 days and obese children missed 12.2 days.

Previously, researchers argued that student performance, race, socioeconomic status, age and gender were the top predictors for absenteeism. This new research suggests that weight is a better predictor of absenteeism.

The study didn't explore why the children missed school, but the researchers argue that it is unlikely that medical issues were the cause and that the absenteeism is more likely due to psychosocial factors, i.e. the stigma of being overweight.

NASBE's very own Jim Bogden, coordinator of the Healthy Schools project was quoted in the AP article about the study: "This is exactly the kind of study that will get the attention of policy makers. The correlation with absenteeism is very powerful."

Let's hope that Jim is right- what are you going to do in your state to help curb the obesity epidemic?

August 17, 2007

Blogosphere Not So Happy with What Works Review

Just wanted to bring it to your attention...

Kevin DeRosa at D-Ed Reckoning thinks EdWeek is skewing the data and a bit too in love with Reading Recovery. Alexander Russo, the resident EdWeek blogger, wants to know what you think (There's A Scandal Going On All Around Me).

The Nothing Works Clearinghouse

After a two-year wait, a new review of beginning reading programs by the What Work's Clearinghouse has found only a handful of comprehensive or supplemental programs that have evidence of effectiveness in raising student achievement. As Ed Week points out, "But what is missing from the review may be even more telling: None of the most popular commercial reading programs on the market had sufficiently rigorous studies to be included in the review by the clearinghouse."

Most of the programs that made it into the Clearinghouse were supplemental programs- only one comprehensive program, Reading Recovery, met the requirements for all the domains reviewed. It wasn't so long ago that federal officials were discouraging states and districts from using Reading Recovery under the federal Reading First program.

NCLB demands the use of programs that are proven to be effective through scientifically based research. With just one program making the cut for early readers, the pickings are slim.

Michigan Exams a "Wake-up Call" Says State Board Prez

“More than 40,000 Michigan teens are guaranteed a state scholarship because of their strong scores on the new Michigan Merit Exam. But more than half of the students who took the exam this spring failed to meet the standards in math and weren't much better in other subjects,” reports the Free Press.

State Board of Education President Kathleen Straus calls the results  a "wake-up call” for students. "They can't afford to blow off their senior year," she warns.

August 15, 2007

Advice from a Knight

Interesting article published in the NY Times today about Sir Michael Barber, a senior education adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 through 2005. Now a partner at McKinsey & Company, he has been advising education policymakers, including the Ohio State Board of Education. Barber believes that the key to successful education systems is teacher recruitment and training. He makes several interesting comparisons between the U.S. and the "four systems that deserve to be called great," not to mention some commentary on the challenges to successful reform inherent in the American political system. Overall, a worthwhile read.

(FYI, the four "great" systems- Finland, Singapore, South Korea and Alberta, Canada.)


A new survey of 9- to 17-year-olds found that 50-percent discuss schoolwork when text-messaging, IMing, and using social networking sites like Facebook. 60-percent said they discuss education-related topics such as college plans and careers. The study suggests that educators “find ways to harness the educational value” of social networking. Researchers also found that more than eight in 10 districts bar online chatting or instant-messaging, and more than half prohibit the use of social-networking sites.

Maybe it's time 2 embrace the TXTing generation...TTFN.

Candidates for Florida Commissioner Named

The Florida State Board of Education narrowed down the list of candidates to fill John Winn's shoes after his departure at the beginning of the Crist administration. The board will interview seven candidates, including two former chiefs, Cheri Yecke from Minnesota and Bill Moloney from Colorado, in mid-September. The board voted 4-3 not to interview four applicants who turned in applications after the deadline, including the head of the Florida school superintendents association, Bill Montford, who had received support from the Governor.

August 14, 2007

Cost Calculations

Arkansas legislators have followed the lead of their Nevada colleagues and tallied the costs of educating illegal immigrants. By their calculations the cost runs to $154 million per year in the Razorback state. With the national debate over immigration having reached a boil some time ago, it’s a wonder that this issue hasn’t arisen sooner. Don’t be surprised if a court challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Plyler v. Doe decision isn’t soon in the offing (remember you heard it here first). Would the Roberts Court overturn the 5-4 ruling in which Burger, White, Rehnquist, and O’Connor dissented? Possibly to likely, I would say.

Report Cards that Actually Report Something

A new report card system developed by a longtime Baltimore educator is being made available on a voluntary basis to all Baltimore County teachers this coming school year. The Articulated Instruction Module (AIM), which will be used in addition to traditional report cards, will give parents progress reports that tell them whether their children can, for instance, convert fractions to decimals or determine percent of a number. Until it is mastered, a skill or objective follows a student from grade to grade.

In this era of standards-based education progress reporting systems like AIM offer parents, students, and teachers alike a much clearer and realistic portrait of academic achievement. Knowing that your child is struggling with two-digit multiplication means a lot more than a 'B-' in math.

To read more about AIM, read this.

August 13, 2007

“The Idaho State Board of Education has decided to create an interim teaching certificate to make it easier for teachers to work in Idaho,” reports the Associated Press. Left unanswered is if such a temporary credential will pass “highly qualified teacher” muster with the feds in Washington.

Slow Search in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Chief Dave Driscoll announced his intention to retire last year. His August 1 departure date has come and now he is gone from the state department of education he oversaw for ten years. Jeffrey Nelhaus is the acting commissioner while the search for a permanent successor grinds slowly on. So what’s been the hold up? Governor Patrick’s grand (but on again, off again) governance plan, says this article.

‘F’ Doesn't Stand for Fabulous

The New York Times published an article today about the office at the New York City Department of Education responsible for translating school documents, like report cards and parent surveys, into the eight languages most commonly spoken in New York, after English: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Arabic, Urdu, Korean and Haitian Creole.

"It has since expanded to an office with 40 employees and a $4.5 million budget...In one respect, the office even surpasses the translation division at United Nations headquarters, which translates most documents into only five official languages other than English: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish."

With ever-increasing diversity in school districts large and small across the country, what are local departments of education to do to meet the challenge of engaging communicating with parents?

Two Times the Fun

We’re pleased to introduce a new contributor to the Board Bulletin starting today, Polly C. Associate. She’s knowledgeable in ed policy, an astute analysis, a quick wit, has a keen sense of a well-turned phrase, and is well-versed in the education blogosphere, including offering helpful critiques of this forum. Who could ask for anything more? No mere guest-blogger, she’ll help feed the voracious beast that this blog has become. So if you notice a different tone, style or substance from the usual posts, you’ll know that Polly got a cracker.

August 10, 2007

Penny for Your Thoughts

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released The Nation’s Report Card:  Economics 2006 has part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). According to NCES Commissioner Mark Schneider, “This was the first NAEP assessment of economics and was added because of the growing emphasis on economics instruction at the high school level.”

The 11,500 students that participated were tested on three areas of economics:  market economy (microeconomics), national economy (macroeconomics), and international economy. The grading for the test placed students at one of three achievement levels:  basic, proficient, or advanced. About eight out of ten students (79 percent) scored at or above the Basic achievement level, with 42 percent of those students scoring at or above the Proficient achievement level. On average, the results showed that male students scored four points higher than female students, with more males scoring at the advanced level. 

Results also showed that white students scored higher than their ethnic counterparts. Asian/Pacific Islander students came in second, and Hispanics and African-Americans scored at the lower end of the proficiency scale. Information gathered from the test concluded that 87 percent of high school seniors were at some point exposed to economics in their educational careers so far. The research also showed that students who were currently enrolled in a 12th grade economics course performed better than those with earlier exposure to the subject. The NAEP plans to perform another economics assessment in 2012. Click here for the complete report and additional information regarding The Nation’s Report Card.


NASBE established a national commission to examine Americans’ fiscal condition and the status of financial education in K-12 schools. Their findings and conclusions about the national imperative for greater and more comprehensive financial instruction in public schools are included in a 2006 report, Who Will Own Our Children?


Kentucky Commissioner Search Schedule Announced

The Kentucky State Board of Education has set the schedule for its selection of a new Commissioner of Education. According to the Herald Leader, advertisements will go out immediately, on October 3rd the board will begin reviewing applications and narrow the field to between 3 and 7 candidates, finalists will be announced in early November and interviews with the board will start on November 13.and

August 9, 2007

Didn't Take Long

Arguments were only a week ago, but an Arizona state judge has “denied a request by five charter schools challenging a new state social studies curriculum mandate” but other claims related to the autonomy of charters in Arizona to set the curriculum are pending.

August 7, 2007

Charter Free

Charter school advocates in Arizona are arguing in court that the state’s charters are exempt "from all statutes and rules relating to schools, governing boards and school districts'' except for, um, all the statutes and rules relating to schools, governing boards and school districts that apply to charters.

The Attorney General’s office counters that the state board can "adopt any rules and policies it deems necessary,” even those governing charter schools. Or in this case, especially charter schools.

Kicking the Coke Habit

“The [Utah] state school board decided Friday to draft a rule that would ban foods of minimal nutritional value in vending machines during school hours, throughout school campuses and in all grade levels. That means soda pop — exceptions would be made for diet soda — candy and candy-coated popcorn would be out,” reports the Deseret Morning News.

IES Alert

Results from the first-ever NAEP assessment in economics are scheduled to be released on Wednesday, August 8, 2007.  The Nation’s Report Card: Economics 2006 reports on the economic literacy of America’s twelfth-graders.  Student knowledge was measured in three areas: market economy, national economy, and international economy.


For more information on the assessment, visit:


On Wednesday the 8th of August, at 10 a.m. ET, view the results online at:


and view a webcast of the report release event. Join NCES Associate Commissioner Peggy Carr for an online StatChat about the results on the day of the release at 2 p.m. Submit your questions now, and at any time until the end of the chat at 3 p.m., at: