June 25 2004 Edition

NCLB Authors Split Over Fixing NCLB: While few have noticed, the unlikely and increasingly awkward alliance between Ted Kennedy and the Bush Administration over NCLB appears to have finally broken over the issue of whether the new, slightly softer NCLB rules for rating schools should apply to last year as well as this one -- a change that would likely alter thousands of schools' AYP status. Bill Would Make No Child Flexibility Retroactive (Education Week). Kennedy and his partner in crime George Miller (D-CA) both issued harsh press releases last week calling for the change to how LEP and special education students' scores are treated for last year, which the USDE has refused to agree to. To be sure, changing the rules retroactively would cause additional confusion about which schools are on which lists. In addition, however, making the change would also make NCLB less seemingly harsh and arbitrary this summer -- and mute the 'fix NCLB' issue for John Kerry in the presidential campaign. The Candidates on the Issues: Education (NPR). Still, I'd give up the political issue and even take a little bit more confusion if it would help make NCLB more viable in the long run. The feds make retroactive tax changes all the time, why not retroactive education changes?

Of Note:
School Law's Story: Read All About It (Education Week)
In a sea of school choice, a city's schools fight back (CSM)
Survey: Most New Jersey teachers 'highly qualified' (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Parents take schools to task (USAT)
3 city schools face changes over test scores (Columbus Dispatch)
Pa. moves to waive some teacher tests (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Urban School Leaders Express Their Support for NCLB (House Education Committee)
It looks like tests, not schools, are real failures (St. Paul Pioneer)
US eases rules on test results for Jersey's special ed students (Newark Star Ledger)

Rebirth -- or Rehash -- in Chicago? This week, Mayor Daley and schools chief Arne Duncan pleased the business community and others who were impatient with the slowed pace of improvement in recent years by announcing a new initiative called Renaissance 2010 to create a whole passel of new, hopefully better, schools. 100 new schools to be created (Chicago Tribune). Daley will rebuild 100 schools (Daily Southtown). Daley set to remake troubled schools (Chicago Tribune). Chicago Business Leaders Applaud Renaissance 2010 (Business Wire). Chicago to unveil major school reform plan (Chicago Tribune). Private sector steps in to help lagging schools (Sun-Times). The proposal represents a belated acknowledgment by the somewhat scandal-plagued Mayor that, after nine years on his watch and three years with Arne Duncan, school reform efforts needed a big new boost of energy (and an infusion of outside cash to pay for the effort). The proposal is also full of ideas about opening up the school system to more small, charter, and contract schools, including spinoffs of successful magnet schools, university-based school efforts, and schools based on parochial models. Catholic Order Could Run New Public School (Sun-Times).

The vision of an urban school system with so many more school options and outside groups involved is indeed a compelling one. But many of the ideas are not so new, and to some extent Renaissance 2010 represents no more than a repackaged version of initiatives that are already in the works -- just on a larger scale. And there are obvious problems. Even with business and foundation support, there probably isn't nearly enough money to open these schools. Uncertain Funding for 100 New Schools (Catalyst). Principals and teachers are likely to stand in the way. Teachers may have to re-apply for jobs (Sun-Times). New CTU chief wants to return to three basics (Sun-Times). Old Guard Retakes Helm of Union In Chicago (Education Week). Community activists and LSC loyalists can't be happy that most of the new schools won't have local control.

In addition, rolling out so many new schools will require among many many things that CPS gets a LOT better at closing existing schools, which is currently an almost deliberately irritating, seemingly arbitrary, and brutal process. Board Votes To Close 10 Chicago Schools (Sun-Times). Not all welcome the news of city schools overhaul (Chicago Tribune). The new schools under Renaissance 2010 will suffer mightily and at length if the process by which their predecessors was closed seems illegitimate. Most fundamentally, turning around persistently failing schools is a daunting, intensive task that doesn't always work out as well as hoped, even on a small scale. Ailing schools aim for 'renaissance' (Tribune). It's also a task that CPS has failed at any time it's tried to do it at more than a couple of schools at a time (i.e., reconstitution under Vallas). And the experience of other cities with new school creation has yielded both successes and strife. Some Feel Squeezed Out by Small-Schools Program (NYT).

For more on this, check out tonight's edition of WTTW's The Week In Review on Channel 11.

In the meantime: Math Reprieve Cuts Summer Enrollment 25% (Sun-Times)
School Life:

High schools in the money also are rich in sports titles: Least affluent teams win half as many trophies (USAT)
Students say teachers should butt out (Des Moines Register)
The Harlem Project (NYT Magazine)


June 14 2004 Edition

Teachers' Unions Seize Opportunity To Provide SES (Education Week)
NCLB puts focus on para-educators: Education Week
Feds look into Fresno tutoring (Fresno Bee)
Fresno Unified reprimanded for discouraging expensive tutoring (San Jose Mercury News)
Florida: Getting it all together? (The Education Gadfly)
A test in Florida (Washington Post)
Schools Graded a Success by State, a Flop by Feds (St. Petersburg Times)
Forty percent can switch from failing Dade schools (Miami Herald)
Failing schools may face takeover (Miami Herald)
Academic Watchlist Skyrockets (Chicago Sun-Times)
400 Schools Taken From Failure List (Chicago Tribune)
Title I Funding: Who's Gaining, Who's Losing & Why (CEP) PDF
State Will Perform Transfer Inquiry (Lakeland Ledger)
Kerry wants federal afterschool program (New York Times)
Wisconsin Bucks No Child Left Behind (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Education politics (Eduwonk.com)

Teachers' Job Satisfaction Rises to Highest Level in 20 Years (Harris Poll)
More Children Are Passing Md. Reading and Math Tests (Washington Post)
High schools nationwide paring down (Education Week)
Colleges get flak for teacher training (Stateline.org)
Supreme Court keeps 'under God' in Pledge
The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times
Fraud Charges Cloud Plan For 'Wired' Classrooms (CSM)
In Pilot Project, A New Role For Teachers (NYT)
Some School Districts Balk at Making Cyberschool Payments (USAT)
Tennessee considers online testing for all students by 2010 (The Tennessean)
Wasted time fighting charter schools (Seattle Times)
Figures Show No Drop In National Obesity Numbers (Houston Chronicle)
Sodas removed from school machines (St. Petersburg Times)

Stewart confirmed as new Chicago Teachers Union head (Tribune)
Teachers Union Challenger's Win Confirmed (Tribune)
Lawsuit Seeks To Force Schools To Graduate Eighth-Grade Girl (Sun-Times)
State has a strange way with words (Tribune)

The Killer Gown Is Essential, but the Prom Date? Not So Much (NYT)


June 4 2004 Edition


Articles of Interest: There are actually some really interesting pieces out there this week, including the Times' article on mixing single-sex and coed education, the Sun's piece on the recent trend towards K-8 configurations of schools, and Todd Oppenheimer's rant against the E-Rate in The Nation. Kids Count 2004 is a useful report, as usual. The Post's editorial against Democratic officials and the NEA is vicious and funny.

A questionable plan to wire schools has turned into a business (The Nation)
Whatever happened to teen romance? Life inside the under-age (Times Magazine)
Middle School Goes the Way of Junior High (Baltimore Sun)
Most States' Child Well-being Up (Arizona Republic)
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count 2004 Report
Taking Candy From Pupils? School Vending Bill Says Yes (New York Times)
Dividing the Sexes for the Tough Years (New York Times)
Democrats and the NEA: The Leash Frays (New York Post)
If it works in Chicago . . .

This Week in NCLB: As usual, the Christian Science Monitor comes up with the most thoughtful look into the inner workings of NCLB and manages to give everyone a fair shake. The only thing I'd add is that parents can only respond to information they're actually given, and perhaps its a conflict of interest to ask school districts to be in charge of communicating openly with parents. Linda Pearlstein's piece about the impact of NCLB at one school is equally insightful, though I'm not sure I'm as troubled from the outside by the focus on literacy as I would be if I were in a classroom and wanted to do all sorts of other things. In contrast, Debbie Meier's piece in The Nation is...well...what you'd expect from The Nation, but less than expected from Meier. News from Nevada that rosters are being rejiggered to comply with NCLB is sad but not a surprise.

School pushes reading, writing, reform
(Washington Post)
No Politician Left Behind (The Nation)
We Are the Parents. Is Anyone Listening? (Christian Science Monitor)
Superintendent Debate: Do We Need Big Tests? (Washington Post)
New group attacks education reform law (Palm Beach Post)
Parents Can Move Kids From Failing Schools (NBC 17)
Two Wake schools miss mark (Raleigh News)
Nev. Teacher Claims Rosters Altered to Meet â??No Childâ?? Law (Education Week)
Government Offers Guidance On Standards and Testing (Education Week)
Shaping Up the No Child Act (Education Week)
Standardized Test Times Vary at Area School (Education Week)
Education Law Deemed No Mandate (Washington Times)
What's Proficient? (AFT) PDF


School Closings: Never one to miss the occasional chance to step on its own good news, the Board of Education follows up this week's news of generally positive test score results (below) with its annual, inevitably contentious, and nearly always last-minute school closing announcement. Why do they do that?(And why don't they make the school closing process more transparent?)

Chicago plans to close up to 10 elementary schools
10 city schools targeted to close(Chicago Tribune)

Test Scores: While upward progress is a good and miraculous thing, given what a disrupted and conflicted year its been with the teachers contract and the near-strike and all, and there are many signs of further improvement in the works, it's worth keeping in mind that the state ISAT scores are not yet out yet and will likely not be so rosy, that nearly half of all CPS schools could be on probation or listed by NCLB as in need of improvement next year, the results may be good enough for Arne Duncan to keep his job another year; the Mayor showed up at the press conference (after ducking out the last one) and somehow managed to sound enthusiastic about the incremental progress of the schools under his watch.

Reading, math scores level off
Chicago reading scores increase slightly (WLS)
Mixed results for kids' school test scores (Tribune)
Student reading scores rebound (Chicago Sun Times)

Daley Says 'Enemy Is Complacency' (NBC 5)

CTU Runoff: Things looked pretty dire last week and it's been a tough year for Debbie Lynch and her team, but now that the test scores look good at many of the Partnership schools and two former rivals have joined her against Marilyn Stewart, it seems like Lynch's prospects are again looking up. Whether that's a good thing for the teachers or the school system is less clear.

Ex-rivals now back teachers union president

Downstate: What a mess. First the Governor decides to make nice with Madigan and Jones about his state board takeover proposal last week, then just this week he manages to offend the Speaker and stall things out yet again. At this rate, perhaps the Dems will mess things up so badly that Obama actually loses to Ryan and the state comes back into play for the Republicans.

Education reform bill passes Illinois House
- Quincy Herald Whig
Illinois Governor's Reform Plan In Jeopardy (Education Week)
Gov's Education Plan in Limbo (Rockford Register)


Opinion: Helping Public Schools Be Less Dysfunctional (Tribune)

Reading: the one building block no education can go without (Town Hall)


June 4: Yours truly debuts on WTTW's "Week In Review" to discuss test scores, layoffs, and the CTU runoff. Perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion centers around whether Chicago's business and school reform communities, as well as City Hall and the mainstream media, have become complacent about the slow pace of reform. I may be wrong, but it doesn't seem like there's anyone really holding CPS's feet to the fire anymore, except on LSC-related issues.

June 5: Emerging Leaders Serving Chicago's Youth is hosting a Leadership Forum on the topic of Preventing Obesity in Chicago's Youth! From 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM followed by a networking lunch from noon to 1 p.m. At: Jenner and Block conference room L, One IBM Plaza, 330 North Wabash, Chicago, 40th floor. RSVP required to Elizabeth Devaney at <elizabeth_devaney@yahoo.com>. A $10 registration (includes lunch) to be paid at the door. http://www.emergingleaderschicago.org/.

June 11: CTU Runoff: Lynch vs. Stewart

June 11: Teach For America a new study from Mathematica will be presented and discussed in Washington at the Capitol Hill Hyatt on New Jersey Avenue from 9-11 AM. To RSVP email education@dlcppi.org.

June 12: Last Day of School: Summer school begins on Monday, June 28. (They may have softened the retention policy, but it's not gone.) Students return for the 2004-2005 year Tuesday, September 7.

June 23: Board of Education Meeting: Public participation begins at 10:30 a.m. Public participation sign-up: 8 to 9:30 a.m. (This is where they're going to approve the budget cuts.)