Spellings and Miller on NCLB (Washington Politics)

This week’s relatively spare political news includes slightly more in-depth assessments of Margaret Spellings, the nominee for Secretary Education, but no major revelations: For Education, an insider wins out (US News and World Report), Spellings Would Bring Acumen, Pragmatism to Secretary’s Position (Education Week), and Education's new boss (Washington Times).

Looking at the new Congress, Eduwonk points out in Miller On NCLB that it doesn’t look like Congressional Democratic education leaders are running away from NCLB just yet. In a PBS interview, Miller is quoted saying: “I think more and more members of Congress are starting to understand that this legislation is in fact starting to get some very positive results, and it's starting to close the gap between majority and minority students, between rich and poor students.” Read the full text here: The Future of No Child Left Behind (PBS NewsHour via Eduwonk)

Simmering on the back burner are Democratic lawmakers’ requests for an investigation into grants given to education groups associated with Republican interests: Request for probe of grants honored (Contra Costs Times).

Perry Preschool, State Efforts, and Early Intevention (Universal Preschool)

With all those cute kids enjoying "Fly, Fly, Witch" on the classroom rug and all that fancy brain research behind it, universal preschool often looks like it's a slam-dunk issue -- until you start to look at the datails:

First, the good news: a followup to the Ypsilanti Michicagan Perry Preschool Project found that the participants, now middle aged, continue to do better than their counterparts who didn't get two years of high-quality preschool: 40 Years Later, Mich. Preschool Makes a Documented Difference (USA Today), Preschool is likely good in long run (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Life Way After Head Start (New York Times Magazine), Tracing the benefit of preschool, 36 years later (Christian Science Monitor), Research Updates Lives of Perry Preschoolers, Chart: Preschool Follow-Up (Education Week).

While likely to give prospects for more early childhood education funding a bump, the Perry study can't erase the fact that many programs since then --including some state- and federal-funding versions -- haven't seemed to have done such a good job. And, as Joanne Jacobs boils it down in Pre-school for life, the Perry Preschool Project impact, while notable, was not miraculous: “It's not that Perry participants excelled in later years. They just beat the control group.”

More immediately, a new state by state report on current state-funded preschool programs came out, showing the there are wide variations in how much -- and how good - preschool programs are: For the full report, go to the site of the National Institute on Early Education Research. For all the much-needed attention it gave, the NIEER report also highlighted some nagging problems in the early childhood world -- most notably the dangers of overselling its wares and being perhaps too friendly with the agencies that sit across the table.

For example, even as the NIEER report was praising Illinois for its efforts to increase preschool funding in tight times -- State ranks near top in quality of preschool efforts for at-risk ... (Chicago Sun Times) -- it comes to light that few of the 6,000 additional preschool slots that were funded over the past two years for Chicago have been created or filled: Playing tricks on preschoolers (Chicago Tribune). This revelation not only raises questions about the usefulness of the data in the NIEER report, it also makes you wonder about abilities and effectiveness of the early childhood advocacy community in Chicago, which is much-admired nationally.

Lying just below the surface of the preschool debate is the contentious issue of assessment and early literacy intervention. No one's going to pay for universal coverage without some sense of the impact of these programs, and yet many in the preschool establishment argue that preschool is too young to focus on literacy or assess young children. The November issue of the American Educator takes a surprisingly pro-assessment look at early intervention and assessment programs: Preventing Early Reading Failure—and Its Devastating Downward Spiral (American Educator), and Preventive Medicine. On the other side is Richard Rothstein in his article Too Young to Test (American Prospect), which describes the struggles and problems that have come from early efforts to measure the impact of Head Start programs.

Rounding out the slew of reports, the folks at the Education Writers Association also released an excellent report on preschool education, this one focused on teacher quality: Early Childhood Education--Teacher Quality. This is the second report from EWA. The first was Early Childhood Education, States Moving Toward Universal Coverage.

Complaints Vs. Improvements (NCLB News)

This week's NCLB news comes in two basic categories:

Category I: Complaints and Concerns: Federal No Child Left Behind law poses challenges for Oregon ... (The Register-Guard), Analysts Worry NCLB Won’t Solve Teacher Issues, State school czar says feds unfairly apply standards, Push forward schools, leave behind skeptics (Newsday, NY), NJEA laments 4 more years of No Child Left Behind Act (phillyburbs.com), Schools continue to appeal the ratings that they receive: Numerous schools plan to appeal unsatisfactory No Child Left Behind ratings (Waco Tribune-Herald), Oregon wants flexibility in federal education law (Seattle Post Intelligencer), School Performance (Washington Post).

Category II: Schools Doing Better, For One Reason Or Another: No Child Left Behind Seen as a Step Forward (Los Angeles Times), A Shortening List of Failing Schools (CSM), Iowa City scores well on state tests (Iowa City Press Citizen), Ohio's urban districts show academic gains during past five years (The Plain Dealer), Preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress Results (WTH), Four schools achieve AYP for third year (Walker County Messenger), Balto. Co. schools honored for state test results (Baltimore Sun), and RI schools show marked progress in test scores (Providence Journal). Chelsea schools near Boston also appear to be doing well: Boston University-Chelsea Match Endures. Ohio's State takes advantage of leeway in federal education act (Sioux City Journal), New rule excludes students' test scores from school totals (Lexington Herald-Leader),

New Ren-10 School Proposals (Chicago IL)

11/26 updated links below

Looking at the 57 proposed new Chicago schools for next fall is an interesting inventory of where the energy and interest in new schools creation really stands -- and a telling indication of how much the dispute over Renaissance 2010 has dragged down the process.

Certainly, 57 formal proposals is a respectable number, given the contentiouness surrounding Ren-10 and the fact that there are only 8 school sites that need schools for next fall, a couple of which -- Suder and Donoghue -- are already all but spoken for.

The district received just under 60 letters of intent and concept papers earlier in the year, and most followed through with final proposals that will now be reviewed by the transitional advisory committees and the Board for a fall 2005 opening.

But the list of proposed schools is not as stellar as it might have been, and is as notable for who's not on it as for who is. For example, few if any of the proposals come from well-known educational or cultural organizations that you might have expected. Only a handful (4) come from established charter school organizations looking to replicate or expand their existing efforts- even though CPS upped the reimbursement rate to take care of funding concerns among the charter school community. They are Ramirez (ASPIRA), Perspectives, CICS, and Octavio Paz (UNO).

There's no Chicago Symphony Orchestra school proposal, or Parker or Latin or Northwestern or UIC proposal, or a Cristo Rey or DeLaSalle, or even something from one of the law firms in town. Eden Martin did not proposal to start a school. But then again neither did APTP or Redmoon Theater (or Ross Schwimmer or Joanie Cusack or Billy Corgan or Michael Jordan). The folks at St. Margaret Mary decided against proposing to convert into a charter school. And most of the education reform and advocacy groups are steering clear, which is understandable for them but unfortunate for the kids.

Instead, the majority of proposals come from previously unknown and unaffiliated “mom and pop” groups of teachers, administrators, and community people who want to start performing arts schools, journalism schools, and the like. About a third have some affiliation with the school system. The remainder is made up of roughly 10 proposals come from national education management companies. There are also a couple of proposals for cyber schools combining the Internet and bricks and mortar buildings.

These could be great proposals, or they could be amateurish, but they're not a who's who of school-focused organizations in Chicago. Maybe that's a good thing?

In terms of who proposed what and where, there was a pretty even spread. While the big new Tarkington building got the most proposals - nine - the average number of proposals per building is 5 or 6. Only one school, Suder, received fewer than three proposals. Suder is already in line to get a Montessori proposal, which limits its attractiveness to new school creators. Donaghue has been promised to the folks at NKO for an elementary school, I'm told.

According to the CPS press release, “the proposals run the gamut from schools that focus on environmental issues to performing arts, journalism, world languages, as well as virtual schools conducted through the internet and alternative school serving dropouts.” Of the 55 proposals, 23 are for charter schools, 19 are for contract schools and 13 are for performance schools. (No word on the two Montessori proposals for Suder.)

In any case, the grand total of approvals may number no more than 12, and will likely be a mix of charters, contracts, and CPS small schools. Not every building will have multiple schools - some aren't that big, and the high schools are not up for proposals yet.

Keeping things in context, it is extremely important to note that an additional 19 proposals came in earlier this fall for charter schools, which will be reviewed on a separate track. Many of these are from more well-established groups. Three to five of those will be approved for next year, according to CPS.

Another set of new schools is already in the pipeline for next fall, including three new schools at DuSable, the new schools opening at Little Village, and the new school at Lindblom. Let's not talk about the Naval Academy at Senn.

Last but not least, 16 of the proposals that came in today were not linked to the 8 available school sites in the RFP, and could be approved as well above and beyond the approvals that go through the TAC process. These folks have found other places to start a school.

All in all, it's not a bad showing. Not stellar, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. Kudos to the brave folks who still want to start new schools, who are willing to engage in a highly imperfect but generally laudable attempt to make good use of children's time in the Chicago school system. You gotta give them credit for being in the game. New schools are by no means a sure thing, but then again nothing is.

Bid to create schools generates 55 responses Chicago Tribune
Nine proposals submitted to run TarkingtonDaily Southtown
Call them negative impact fees Chicago Sun Times
52 applicants seek to create public schools Chicago Sun Times
Preview of Ren-10 Proposals WBEZ's 848 (realplayer)
Previous posts: "Medieval 1020," Ren-10's evil twin

Experimental school gets more experimental Chicago Tribune
State ranks near top in quality of preschool efforts for at-risk ... Chicago Sun Times
Illinois gets praise for early education Peoria Journal Star
Number of female district leaders in Illinois slowly grows The State Journal-Register

Mixed Reviews for IDEA (Special Education)

No one seems to know exactly how the new IDEA is going to play out -- perhaps because it's not that much of a change from the status quo, or perhaps because attention is focused elsewhere.

This week's reviews and rehashes mostly run straight down the middle of the road: Changes to special ed law give states more leeway (Stateline.org), Parts of Special-Ed Bill Would Shift More Power to States (New York Times), Congress revises special education act (Miami Herald ), and Special-Ed Gets Its Due (Christian Science Monitor).

But there are some rumblings that the new law may cause some headaches: Revised special education rules get mixed reviews (NJ Star Ledger ), and Local educators hopeful but hesitant about special education ...(Blaine Spring Lake Park Life). For a really detailed look at the title by title changes, see: IDEA 2004: Changes in Key Statutes (WrightsLaw.com).


Mathews, Traub, and Lesser Mortals (New & Notable)

Mathews: Better to have taken AP and failed The Washington Post
Opinion: A Chart Exposes High School Malpractice
Giving Poor Children a Chance to Study Hard, Long and Late NYT
The Moral Imperative From Education Next (James Traub)
High School Head Game EducationNews.org
For 157 Students, It's 3rd Grade for the 3rd Time New York Times
Students Free to Thank Anybody, Except God Fox News
Literacy Coaches: An Evolving Role From Carnegie Reporter
Internet aid to schools flowing again Seattle Post Intelligencer
Do special programs engage bright kids or stigmatize the untracked?
New York Times
Students turn to drugs to ace tests Detroit News
The Antidepressant Dilemma New York Times Magazine
Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young Village Voice
A Growing Gender Gap Tests College Admissions Los Angeles Times
How to Save a Troubled Kid? From Time Magazine
Trying New Ways to Tame Bullying in the Schoolyard LA Times
Video game industry ratings system assailed Star-Tribune

Goose Families, Nalgene Bottles, and High-Tech Facebooks (School Life)


Spellings Bee (School Politics)

It hardly seems worth tea-leafing the nomination of Margaret Spellings as Secretary of Education: President Taps Spellings (Education Week). Besides the apparently not-to-be-missed opportunity for stupid headlines ("Mis-Spellings," etc.), it's not clearly that big a deal. However, those who anticipate Spellings will have a moderating effect on the Bush administration's education policy could well be mistaken. The conservative wing of the Republican party is certainly feeling its oats -- Evolution Foes See Opening To Press Fight in Schools (Boston Globe) -- and, over the USDE, Spellings will be one step further removed from the OEOB and one step further into the bureaucratic bog. Educating George Bush (Boston Globe via the Center on American Progress), compares Spellings to former EPA head Christine Whitman. The real question may be who replaces Spellings as head of the Domestic Policy Council.

In the meantime, let us not forget the four years of service provided by Rod Paige, sumarized in the
Paige Resignation Letter (Rod Paige) and Three cheers for Rod Paige (Gadfly). And, while we're talking about departures, Gregg Leaving Chairmanship of Senate Education Panel (Education Week). Hello, Chairman Enzi.

And, while we're on the subject of Washington personalities, you've gotta love the mess that PA Senator Rick Santorum has gotten himself into. First, it gets reported that his home district in PA has spent $100k online educating Snatorum's kids, who live in DC. Now, Santorum says he will home-school children (philly.com)

Last but not least, two more stories with national implications:

Post-Election Outlook for State Aid to Schools Uncertain (Education Week)
New Rules Cause Head Start Enrollment To Drop (Akron Beacon Journal)

Special Ed Special

After all these years, I still know precious little about special education besides the fact that, looking back, I should probably have had an IEP. But it's an incredibly important venture, and one that's more and more closely linked to the rest of education reform now that NCLB has made it clear among other things that special education students must be included in school assessment/report card systems.

How the new IDEA and the three year-old NCLB are going to interact is a mystery to me, but is by all accounts touched on in most of the following articles: House, Senate negotiators agree to changes in special-education law (The Washington Post/Associated Press), Congress ready to update special ed law (Boston Globe), Lame-Duck Session of Congress to Address IDEA, Budget (Education Week), Conferees Pass Compromise for 6.5 Million Special Education Pupils (New York Times), Negotiators in Congress OK revisions for special ed (Houston Chronicle), Education Bill Is Backed (Washington Post), Congress to approve special education law (Washington Times).

Opting Out of NCLB? Why Bother? (NCLB News)

This week's assortment of NCLB pro- and con- seems particularly pungent, thanks in part to the combination of Education Next's exploration of why states haven't seceeded from NCLB (Where Have All the Dollars Gone?) and Utah's second flirtation with doing just that: Battling Washington, Legislator plans to challenge feds' No Child Left Behind rules (Salt Lake Tribune).

Elsewhere, pretty much everyone seems to have caught onto the game-playing over the last two years on AYP calculations that affect school ratings: Rule changes help schools stay ahead (Wall Street Journal), Defining failure down (Gadfly), as well as friendly modifications in definitiongs of highly qualified teachers: Pa. Outlines Teacher-Test Alternatives (Education Week), Teacher purge misses uncertified substitutes (Chicago Tribune).

Meanwhile, over in sky-is-falling-ville: NCLB Imperils Minority Hiring, Group Asserts (Education Week), Curtain Call (NEA Today ), Tests of Youngest English Learners Spark Protest (Education Week), and Schools pass, but law fails districts (Chicago Tribune).

Teachers, Testing, and Free Lunch (New and Notable)

A ton of interesting-looking pieces this week, including a few things about teachers, teaching, and teacher-based accountability: Why Do High-Poverty Schools Have Difficulty Staffing (Center For American Progress), All Teachers Are Not the Same (Education Next), and Researchers Debate Merits of ‘Value Added’ Measures (EW ).

There are a couple of good articles about testing: Too Young to Test (The American Prospect), and Study calls national math test a no-brainer (The Detroit News).

The best of the rest:
Opinion: Small High Schools (NYT)
'America's Choice' Taps Profit Motive (Education Week)
Richard Rothstein and No Excuses (Teach and Learn)
Court Overturns Montana Funding System (Education Week)
More Poor Kids Eating Breakfast at School (CNN.com)
Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004 (The Sloan Consortium)
Private Colleges Peddle Their Public Mission (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Close 'Em, Transfers, and Social Promotion (Urban Education)

Medieval 1020, Skewed Schools, Retaining Retention (Chicago IL)

What a week for articles about Chicago.

First, CPS finally admits that Renaissance 2010 in large part a school closing plan, which in the spirit of spiffy names I hereby name "Medieval 1020 (the evil twin)": Officials want ideas on closing schools; foes not about to help (Chicago Tribune), Which Chicago public schools need 'rebirth'? (Chicago Sun-Times), Chicagoans rally against Daley school plan (People's Weekly World). On a related note: Senn High families, teachers try to sink Navy academy plan (Chicago Sun-Times).

Then, the Sun-Times does an excellent piece on the skewed distribution of quality schools in the city, when all is said and done: Tough to get into school that meets standards. Equally as good is last week's Tribune piece about how districts -- not just schools -- can fail to meet the requirements of NCLB: Schools pass, but law fails districts.

There are also a couple of good articles in the new issue of Education Next about Chicago's student retention program, which despite what you may have heard remains largely in place three years after Vallas left, and is looked upon favorably by teachers and students who have to live with it: Retaining Retention, Teachers and Students Speak.
Best of the rest:
School test results will be late, but accurate Chicago Sun-Times
Education Board shaving $2.7 million from its budget Chicago Tribune
School projects in limbo as state money dries up Tribune
College draws top students from Chicago Public Schools The Chronicle
'Momma Hawk' may need her wings clipped Chicago Sun Times
Parents see remnants of racism at school Chicago Sun-Times
Up to 40 Catholic schools may close Chicago Tribune
Schools beef up emphasis on teaching kids to speak Chinese Chicago Sun Times
School buses get anti-fume devices Chicago Tribune

Free-Range Children, Tough Love, Bar Codes for Kids (School Life)


More Tests, More Choice, or More Dollars? (Election 2004)

While Democrats and NCLB opponents worry mightily about what damage a Bush second administration could do to public education -- Bush’s School Agenda Will Get a 2nd Term (EW), Congress’ Shift to Right May Be Felt in Schools (EW), and Legislative Shifts Alter Prospects for Funding and School Vouchers (EW) -- the Fordham Foundation's Checker Finn worries that Bush may already be on the wrong track, focusing on more high school testing rather than creating "universal school choice" (choice between districts, and between public and private schools): The G.O.P. education opportunity (The Gadfly).

Meanwhile, Paige plans still in the air (Houston Chronicle), and Turnover in Governors To Influence Schools (EW). Almost nobody is talking about a big increase in funding.


Va. Backs Off, Michigan Restructures Schools, and Too Few of the Wrong Kids Transfer (NCLB in the News)

Once again, a state legislature fails to move decisively against NCLB: Bill Imperiling U.S. School Aid Killed by Va. Panel (Washington Post), Virginia Still a Part of NCLB (WHSV).

Looking just a little down the line everyone's soon going to be traveling, the Center on Education Policy looks at MI's experience "restructuring" low-performing schools: School Restructuring in Michigan (PDF). Keep an eye out for an upcoming report from the Piton Foundation in Denver about other cities' experiences with closing and reopening schools.

Meanwhile, NC and MI policymakers face tough decisions about whether to make tests harder or easier: North Carolina School Board Won't Adjust Sixth-grade Test Scores, Senate votes to toss high school MEAP (Detroit Free Press)/MEAP leaves some behind (Flint Journal); PA makes it easier to be highly qualified: Pa. Releases Regulations for Teacher-test Alternative (Philadelphia Inquirer); and WA ponders keeping things as they are: Washington state group maintains WASL standards (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Some of this week's articles focus on low numbers of transfers: Few parents opt to transfer from failing schools (Los Angeles Times), Sharp decline in transfers to new schools (New York Times). Others focus on who might be leaving and the impact on those left behind: High Achievers Leaving Schools Behind (Washington Post), and the general effect of disrupting kids: Midyear moves affect academic life (CNN). Up in Boston, Supt. Payzant thinks BPS should be able to keep tutoring: Boston's Superintendent Cautions about NCLB's Mandated Tutoring.

Editorial: Utah needs a better alternative to NCLB The Salt Lake Tribune
Schools left behind Boston Globe
No Child Left in the Cold Los Angeles Times
NCLB Could Alter Science Teaching Education Week
NCLB: The Test (Rethinking Schools via PEN's Newsblast)

Diverse Teachers, Revamped High Schools, Charter School Retrospectives, and Rick Santorum's Big Bill (New and Notable)

(Urban Education)

Lynching Bersin San Diego Union-Tribune
Former principals win case against district San Diego Union-Tribune
Boston to issue kindergarten report cards The Boston Globe
Company-Run Schools In Pa. Show Progress Washington Post
Online Ed Puts Schools in a Bind Denver Post
Surge in Hispanic immigrants challenges Baltimore schools The Sun
Words, Words, Words Are Preschool Priority Hartford Courant
Stakeholders grade Nashville superintendent online The Tennessean
Detroit schools suffer worst single-year loss Detroit Free Press
Some New York City Schools Grow
HISD reports new dropout rate of less than 1%
San Francisco superintendent finds "Dream Schools" a hard sell
San Francisco Chronicle
Teaching often out of reach for minority aides Seattle Times
Parents target disabilities law Oakland Press

Ren-10 ReFi; Science Program Under the Microscope; Altgeld Gardens (Chicago Illinois)

The big news this week is that the folks at CPS finally figured out a way not to botch Ren10 with funding levels that no one in their right mind would agree to: Charter schools get more funds (Chicago Tribune), Renaissance 2010 small schools get extra cash (Chicago Sun-Times).

Still, there's another protest against R10 planned for Friday 11/12, organized by CTU. And not everyone is happy about one possible new school option: Parents, Students Upset By Plan To Make Catholic School Public NBC5.com

Meanwhile, Catalyst's cover package for November features science: CPS Pushes New Science Curriculum, to which CPS science director Mike Lach summarizes and critiques here. Lach calls the Catalyst coverage "generally positive, even by Catalyst's standards." Hmm.

There's also a great Neighborhoods piece hidden in the back of the issue, this one featuring Altgeld Gardens: No Transformation. I love learning more about Chicago's neighborhoods, even when the news is not all good. But I sorely miss the great neighborhood maps that Catalyst usually includes. Bring back the maps!

Military-Academy Plan Draws Fire in Chicago Education Week
School diversity case back in court Chicago Tribune


Abstinence, Prayer, Creationism (Red State Special)

It's gotta be a coincidence, but this week's education news seemed to be full of red state "values" issues that we may be seeing a lot more of.

In WA and TX, it's all about sex ed: Washington state drafts sex-education guidelines (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), In Texas, a Stand To Teach 'Abstinence Only' in Sex Ed (CSM), Marriage Will Be Spelled Out in Texas Textbooks (USAT).

In GA and WI, it's all about evolution: Textbook argument nears end, Evolution trial turns to religion (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Stickers Put in Evolution Text Are the Subject of a Federal Trial (NYT), Georgia Evolution Lawsuit Is a Fact (Los Angeles Times), and Wisconsin town's school board allows teaching of creationism (Chicago Sun Times).

Meanwhile: Phila. Schools Reach Out to Faith Groups Education Week
And a timely reminder that faith is not just a red state issue:
Public schools have allies in the faith community (Public Education Fund)

(School Life)

This Is Convenience Banking: A.T.M.'s in Schools NYT
No Title Left Behind Education Week
Five unforgettable teachers The New York Times
A crowded world of SAT prep materials The New York Times
New SAT aims to combat decline of writing The New York Times
How prevalent is cheating? Read this issue of ResearchBrief
Kerry taunts tied to school fight Pioneer Press (via School News Monitor)
George W. Bush Swears He Loves No Child's Left Behind
Unconfirmed Sources
Schools try e-mail parent-teacher meetings Detroit Free Press
West Phila. high school's name is up for sale Philadelphia Inquirer

Trends and Numbers from the NEA (NCLB)

In and among the predictable rhetoric, there are some interesting new numbers and trends highlighted in a recent memo prepared by NEA guru Joel Packer.

The Packer memo (not yet available online) confirms that the number of schools not making AYP has dropped -- from roughly 23,000 schools in 2003 to roughly 18,000 in 2004. Of the 41 states that provided data, 32 had decreases. Federal rule changes, state accountability plan changes, and the use of the same minimum threshold score for the past two years are some of the contributing factors, according to Packer.

Hopefully there's some academic improvement in there as well, but in any case that's not that big a number -- roughly 1 school not making AYP last year for every school district in the country. The Center on Education Policy analysis of 35 state plan changes from two weeks ago generally confirmed impact of the changes on AYP numbers.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the memo also finds that the number of schools "in need of improvement" (in their second or third year of not making AYP) is up sharply, from about 6,000 schools in 2003 to 10,000 schools in 2004. Forty of the 47 states with data reported increased numbers of schools in need of improvement, according to Packer. And among states with data on districts as well as schools, Packer finds that the percentage of districts in need of improvement ins greater than the percentage of schools.

Again, these numbers are incomplete and unverified, but if even somewhat accurate these numbers are probably lower than you might think, based on most press coverage. Obviously the percentages are much higher in urban areas. But it's a good reality check.

Last but not least, Packer reminds us all that the numbers are likely to go back up this spring, regardless of actual academic progress, because most states have higher minimum AYP thresholds for 2005 than for the previous two years.


Worse Things to Worry About (Election 2004)

Everyone who woke up Wednesday morning thinking that, alas, there would be no Kerry administration to ‘undo’ NCLB only grasped a small part of the election and its implications.

First off, Kerry couldn’t have won the election by tearing into NCLB and would have been unlikely to have paid that much attention to education or to have done that much about it. One article that talks about this is this one: Regardless of Tuesday's winner, NCLB won't likely change much (Stewart News).

Second, NCLB is now not just here to stay, it might get fully implemented and even expand to high school: Bush Education Agenda Headed for Renewal. (Education Week). Alternately, states and the USDE might simply fall apart implementing the law, which is just as likely come to think of it. For more on this, see Two approaches to school accountability (Christian Science Monitor).

Last but certainly not least, Senate Republicans with their 55 votes only need a few willing or easily cowed Democrats to push through all sorts of other things they have long wanted to do (school prayer, abstinence only sex ed, evolution/creationism, and more vouchers). For some hints of this possibility, see The Great Relearning (National Review via Eduwonk).

A surprise to many, one of those willing Dems on vouchers might be Illinois superstar Barak Obama, who seemed mighty open minded on the topic of vouchers in a 2003 cable TV interview. For more on this, see the posting from earlier this week: Strong on Charters, Open-Minded on Vouchers


State and Local News (Election 2004)

Lawsuits? Who Tutors? AYP Changes (NCLB in the News)

Once again, we have a wave of highly speculative and thinly reported stories about lawsuits against NCLB, including this one from AP: Flood of lawsuits expected against No Child Left Behind Act (San Jose Mercury News). Unlike the Gadfly, I'm not sure the lawsuits are any more likely to go beyond consideration now than they were over the last two years.

In the meantime, Edwonk points to a NSBA piece AYP around the states about how AYP is being defined differently in each state, which has made comparing this year to last year all but impossible and lowered the percentages of schools not making AYP this past year in many places: Fewer Iowa schools in danger of not making AYP The Des Moines Register (Iowa)
More Utah Schools Meeting Federal Law (Desert News).

Not that everyone's having an easy time of it. For example, see: More Mich. High Schools Fail (Detroit News), State's Goals Elude Many Schools (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Tennessee misses Nov. 1 deadline for state report cards (The Tennessean (Nashville), Report Card on Schools Gets F for Timeliness (Tennessean), Schools Struggle with Mandate (Rocky Mountain News), NCLB Presents Middle School Complications (Education Week), Measures to reform education get mixed reviews (Indianapolis Star), Law Leaving Arkansas Teachers Behind (Arkansas Democrat Gazette), Left Behind' Schools Cited (Hartford Courant), and California may test in Spanish to cope with NCLB (San Jose Mercury News). Last but not least, the Gadfly opines about the need for more choice in New York City and elsewhere: Yearning for choice.

In the near term, several districts including Chicago are trying stay in the tutoring business despite being labeled in need of improvement: Districts Spar With Ed. Dept. Over Tutoring (Education Week). This is a story that I may have helped break in my September Catalyst article: Chicago corners tutoring market.

(Chicago Illinois)


Charters, New Principals, and Advanced Placement (Urban Education)

Charter School Measure Slips Into District Law - The Washington Post
The Miami Herald Dade schools feel pinch of competitors
Panelists Call for More Data to Evaluate Charter Schools Education Week
New York City's principals academy bogs down in making placements New York Times
Maryland to expand online offerings The Sun (Baltimore)
Study: City parents prefer private schools over public
How Smart Is AP? Time

Small Schools, Teacher Cert, and IDEA (New and Notable)

Salad Bars and College Streaking (School Life)


Barak Obama: Strong on Charters, Open-Minded on Vouchers (Politics 2004)

Who knew that putative U.S. Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) was such a strong supporter of charter schools, and "open-minded" on vouchers, even as both types of proposal are under increasing fire from most Democrats and many educators? And does it really matter?

Some of the basics of Obama's positions on education are in an early October newspaper article -- Keyes, Obama discuss charter school benefits Quad City Times (via Eduwonk). This collection of Obama's education accomplishments is also helpful: Obama on Education (Ontheissues.org). Another site, called Obama Truth Squad, questions the value and substance of many of Obama's claims on education.

In the recent debates, Obama appeared to oppose vouchers even as he takes heat from Keyes for sending his kids to a private school run by the University of Chicago. Said Keyes: "I do not see the day when every American family is going to be employed by the University of Chicago so they, too, can have a choice. I think we had better get there a little sooner than that." Obama gets defensive in Illinois debate (CNN.com)

But Obama appears to go much farther in a 2003 cable TV interview with Jeff Berkowitz that is posted on Eric Zorn's website. First, he states his fundamental support for charters, saying, "I think that we do have to innovate and experiment to encourage competition in the school systems." As noted by Eduwonk, this is likely a surprise to many.

Then, he discusses his willingness to discuss vouchers if they will help kids: "I am not close minded on this issue so I think everybody should go into this with the basic attitude that the bottom line is--how are we providing the most effective education for students at every grade level and every economic strata, and if we are doing that, then we shouldn't be didactic or ideological about how to best deliver that."

While it will come as a surprise to many of his Democratic supporters, Obama's position on vouchers is pragmatic. There are already at least three publicly funded voucher programs around the nation, along with scores of scholarship programs. The federal housing and higher education systems are in essence voucher programs. And for several years the U.S. Senate has come closer and closer to approving a federally funded pilot program to test out vouchers on a small scale at the elementary and secondary level.

If such a thing happens, it sounds like Obama will support it. (So too might Kerry.) And if he does, the world will not end. Public education will not wither and die. Nor will voucher schools do dramatically better than public schools serving the same population of kids.