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)


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