Monday, October 31, 2005

New tests in high schools? They have enough already.

I disagree with the title in this USA Today piece. Other forms of accountability do--or can be made to exist at earlier levels. So the same rationale for minimizing test in the higher grades applies to the lower ones as well. -Angela

Page 10A
New tests in high schools? They have enough already.
Unlike in lower grades, other measures of accountability exist.

Wednesday's big education news was a promising uptick in fourth- and eighth-grade math scores, but mixed results in reading scores.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says those “encouraging” trends prove that accountability through testing works. Now, she adds, it's time to apply more testing requirements to high schools.

Time out. Ask students, parents and administrators what's wrong with America's high schools, and “not enough tests” isn't likely to top anyone's list.

Spellings has good reason to retain faith in the federal “No Child Left Behind” law's annual testing requirement for grades 3-8, with results broken out by race and income.

For too many years, poor and minority children, particularly, were allowed to drift along uneducated. They dropped out quietly or graduated with worthless diplomas. With its stiff accountability, the federal law has done an impressive job of exposing schools that educated only the easy-to-educate students.

So why not expand the federally required high school testing from one year to three years, as Spellings proposes?

The answer is that unlike younger students, high schoolers already suffer from testing overkill. While a certain amount of testing is needed to help measure progress and identify failing schools, too much of a good thing will undercut public support for reform.

Consider the students at Fairport High School outside Rochester, N.Y. They take the five state Regents tests: math, science, English and two in social studies. Nearly all take the SAT college placement test. Half of those take the ACT admissions test. By their senior year, most students will also have taken two Advanced Placement exams.

Wait. There's more. The 50 students in the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) program take all the above-mentioned tests plus demanding end-of-course IB exams.

“We're well beyond being awash in tests,” says Fairport Superintendent William Cala. “We're over our heads in tests.”

In Georgia, students take “End of Course” tests in English, math, science and social studies in every high school grade. Plus the 11th-grade state writing test. Many also take the SAT, the PSAT warm-up to the SAT and those AP exams.

There are better uses for the $250 million a year the U.S. Department of Education wants to spend on more high school testing.

Tracking what a student took in high school, and matching it to testing and college records, would give principals a way to assess which course loads are most effective. Or, the department could help states follow the California example of combining a state assessment with college placement exams. That way, students get an early read on whether they qualify for college coursework.

Improvements like those would add value — not another burden.

© Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Education Reformation of NCLB and the Crusade to Kill Public Schools

This piece is by Jim Horn, PhD is a very worthwhile read. He writes a concise, powerful history on education reform in our nation in order to demonstrate how the educaction system is the scapegoat for our economic and social policy failures. I like his use of the term, "corporate socialism." It effectively responds to the ostensible free market, pro-voucher supporters who say that public education is "socialist" or an "education monopoly." Read on and also visit Dr. Horn's blog, "Schools Matter," a new link that I've added as well.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Parks showed us the power of one

This is an interesting tribute to Rosa Parks. It refers to the internalized racism that frican Americans suffer and suggests that this is more a determinant of life chances than racism itself. I know that internalized racism has a powerful impact on us. However, since it cannot exist without racism proper, it should still be seen as a very dynamic byproduct of racism (prejudice and discrimination) that exists outside of communities of color.

On the subject of Rosa Parks, what should also be understood is that she herself was an activist and how she received training in non-violent resistance through the NAACP and Highlander in Tennessee. Her life and actions therefore suggests strongly the impact of activism and social, as well as personal, change.

I posted MLK's powerful Letter from the Birmingham Jail on my blog this weekend. Scroll down the right-hand side-bar to link to it. It's incredible the amount and kind of discipline that these early activists had to engage in with respect to non-violent social protest. They literally had to be willing to lay down their lives and not fight back. It's a real treat to read MLK's letter as it remains pertinent to these times.


Parks showed us the power of one
Leonard Pitts, MIAMI HERALD
Saturday, October 29, 2005
'Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as cooperation with good" — Martin Luther King Jr.

Her feet were not tired. At least, no more so than usual.

She always hated that legend, so let us, in this, the week of her death at age 92, set the record straight. And while we're at it, let's correct another misconception: It's not precisely true that she refused to give up her seat to a white man. The seats next to her and across the aisle were empty, vacated by black people who had already heeded the bus driver's command to get up. So there were places for the white man to sit.

But under the segregation statutes of Montgomery, Ala., no white man was expected to suffer the indignity of sitting next to a black woman or even across from her. So driver J.F. Blake asked again. And Rosa Parks, this soft-spoken 42-year-old department store seamstress just trying to get home from work, gave him her answer again. She told him no.

Her feet were not tired. Her soul was exhausted.

On Dec. 1, it will be 50 years since that drama played out in Court Square in the capital of the Old Confederacy. Fifty years since police took her away. Fifty years since black Montgomery protested by boycotting the buses. Fifty years since community leaders tapped as their leader the boyish-looking new preacher at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.

That moment in Court Square was the birthplace of the 13-year epoch called the Civil Rights Movement. You could make a compelling argument that it was also a birthplace of the modern world.

None of which Rosa Parks could have foreseen that December evening half a century ago. All she knew was that she was tired, sick of acquiescing, accommodating, accepting foolish white laws and white people who said she wasn't good enough to occupy a bus seat. Something had gotten into her that wouldn't let her go along any more, something that turned a lifetime of yes into an electric moment of no.

In the world born from that moment, it is not uncommon for white men to sit next to black women. Or to work for them; be married to them; even get arrested by them. Indeed, any list of the most powerful women in America is likely to have two black women — Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice — at the top.

Racism that was once brazen enough to demand a black woman's bus seat is covert now, a throw-the-rock-and-hide-your-hand charade, its effects as visible as ever, its workings mostly hidden. But for all that, it is now only the second most worrisome threat to African American life.

African Americans are the first. Because many of us have internalized the lies of inferiority so deeply as to make racism superfluous. We don't need white people to destroy us; we happily destroy ourselves. Destroy our families by exiling fathers from them, destroy our futures by declaring education something only white people do, destroy our spirits with a culture that celebrates all that is seamy, soulless and material.

This is the threat that troubles most, simply because while racism strangles aspiration, nihilism renders it stillborn.

And in the face of this threat, too many of us do what Rosa Parks got sick of doing: acquiesce, accommodate, accept.

Indeed, let a white man call our children fatherless, ill-educated thugs and we will, justifiably, rip him an orifice God never intended. Let our children say the same thing of themselves and many of us call it music and look the other way.

The lesson of Rosa Parks' life is that you don't have to look the other way. That night on the bus, she wasn't a movement, wasn't an icon. She was just a woman; one woman who'd had enough, who refused to comply any longer with a system that dehumanized her.

Her death reminds us that there is no number more powerful than one, no word more potent than no.

And no force more compelling than a soul grown exhausted enough for change.

Pitts can be contacted at

Texas leads nation in rate of households at risk for hunger

This is a tragic state of our state. -Angela

Texas leads nation in rate of households at risk for hunger

Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN — A higher percentage of Texas households were at risk of going hungry over the past three years than in any other state, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Between 2002 and 2004, more than 16 percent of Texas households were food insecure, meaning that at some point they had trouble providing enough food for all their family members, the USDA report said.

In nearly 5 percent of Texas households, at least one family member went hungry at least one time during that period because they couldn't afford enough food. That's the fourth-highest rate in the country.

Nationwide, 11.4 percent of households were at risk of going hungry during that period, and 3.6 percent of U.S. households had at least one member go hungry, the USDA said.

While Texas has consistently ranked among the top five states, this is the first year it leads the nation, said Celia Hagert, a senior policy analyst at the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates more state spending on education and social programs.

The news didn't surprise Mildred Wauson, director of the St. Thomas Center in Angleton, about 40 miles south of Houston. Her nine-church ecumenical program runs a food pantry, helps people pay their rent and utility bills and provides other emergency services.

Wauson said she's seen a significant increase in the number of families seeking help from their food pantry and twice as many senior citizens.

"You hear all the time about how the United States is getting so much better off and I'm thinking, 'Wait a minute, how about us down here?'" she said.

Texas was one of just nine states to see statistically significant increases in food insecurity and hunger rates when the USDA compared three-year average rates for 1999-2001 and 2002-2004.

An average of nearly 14 percent of Texas households were at risk for hunger between 1999 and 2001, and an average of 3.6 percent of Texas households experienced hunger.

Nationally, an average of 10.4 percent of households were at risk for hunger between 1999 and 2001, and an average of 3.1 percent of households experienced hunger.

J. Larry Brown, the director of the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University, pointed out that the increases came at a time when the economy actually was improving. While more people are working, they're getting paid less, he said.

"People are constantly having to make decisions when they get their small paychecks about whether they pay their rent or medical care or put groceries on the table," Brown said.

Because people often can't control their rent, utility and medical bills, their food budget often takes the first hit, he said. The worst off go hungry, he said, while others buy food that's cheap and filling but nutritionally empty.

Another problem is low rates of participation in federally-funded food stamp programs.

About 2.4 million Texans received food stamps in August, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Jennifer Harris said. (That number spiked after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as the commission temporarily relaxed standards for families affected by the storms.)

An estimated 2 million more Texans are eligible for food stamps but don't get the help they need, Hagert said.

Some people don't know they're eligible, Hagert said, while others have gotten turned off by the complicated enrollment process or fear the stigma of applying for help.

"An unacceptable number of Texans and Texas families are suffering from hunger ... and there's no reason why with all this federal money out there to support the food stamp program," Hagert said.

Wauson said churches and schools in the Angleton area are doing everything they can to help the center's food pantry, but she's concerned the support could wane as time goes on and energy bills go up this winter.

"We have put such a plea out to everyone for so long now ... that I keep wondering are we going to overtax them and they're going to say I can't do anymore," she said. "That's a great concern."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Colleges Protest Call to Upgrade Online Systems

This is pretty big news for colleges and universities. According to this NYTimes piece, b Sam Dillon and Stephen Labaton, "The federal government, vastly extending the reach of an 11-year-old law, is requiring hundreds of universities, online communications companies and cities to overhaul their Internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications." Forunately, Universities themselves have opposed this, citing the huge cost and rapid timetable for this to occur. Civil liberties, however, should concern the rest of us. You may read this article here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

We're failing: Texas is losing teachers and students with its high-stakes tests

Texas gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell offers a critical statement on high-stakes testing. -Angela

by Chris Bell

Friday, October 21, 2005 /Dallas Morning News

The Texas Supreme Court is expected anytime now to hand down its ruling in the all-important school finance lawsuit, and, as a parent of two public-school students, I hope and pray that opinion prods our governor and state lawmakers into finding a way to put more money into public education.

But even if we fund our public schools at much higher levels, we will fail to get the results we seek because of a broken accountability system that looks at one test score as the sole measure of a student's and a school's success.

Dr. Linda McNeil, a Rice University professor, calls this "Enron-style accountability" because it clearly shows how a well-intentioned effort to raise education standards for all schoolchildren has instead corrupted the curriculum, created a school-to-prison pipeline, left fraud unchecked and driven teachers out of the classroom. She likens the corruption of accountability to the singular emphasis that Ken Lay placed upon the stock price of Enron to the exclusion of other factors, such as debt and whether the production matched the propaganda.

George W. Bush was at his best when he spoke out against the "soft bigotry of low expectations," but the promise of the Texas Miracle has gone unfulfilled under Rick Perry. Texas students continue to lose ground to their peers on the SAT; students who do graduate are faring worse and worse each year on the state's college readiness test.

Mr. Perry thinks he can use tests to make our kids smarter. A test won't make you smarter, just like a ruler won't make you taller. Tests aren't the answer; they're the best way to ask the question.

I want our state to answer Bill Gates' call for a fundamental redesign of the high school curriculum to adequately prepare children for the 21st century economy. Education is the best economic development program ever created, which is why we should commit to making Texas public schools the best in the country within 10 years.

Education trumps the economic development benefit of a toll road or a tax break for yet another big-box superstore.

But Mr. Perry continues to back an Enron-style accountability system that holds kids back to keep them out of the test pool. This "ninth-grade bulge," which education researchers say is a result of high-stakes testing, has pushed the state's effective dropout rate to nearly 40 percent, tops in the country.

The sad fact is that most residents of our prison system lack high school degrees. The perverse incentive to encourage kids to drop out of school has created a school-to-prison pipeline that is a silent moral crisis in Texas. Incredibly, Mr. Perry was one of only three governors not to sign a national agreement by the National Governors Association to accurately track dropouts. We can't keep using the prison system to hide our failures like Enron used offshore dummy corporations to hide its debt.

Another unfortunate, if avoidable, byproduct of Enron-style accountability is the silent crisis of teacher dropouts. We have a shortage of qualified, certified teachers because 60 percent of all teachers quit within their first five years.

Texas pays its teachers $6,100 less than the national average, but it costs more than $13,000 to replace each teacher. This is perhaps the best example of Enron-style accounting. Consequently, we have more certified teachers not teaching in Texas than are working in the classrooms. We need to bring their salaries up to the national average and then empower them to teach our kids something more important than how to take yet another standardized test.

A broad consensus of Texans is agitating for well-funded public schools. Standardized testing is an important tool for making sure this money is well spent, but it can't be the only tool. We need to make sure this investment is better placed than the retirement accounts of so many Enron employees.

Attorney Chris Bell, a Democratic candidate for governor, is a former at-large City Council member and congressman from Houston. Readers may contact him through his Web site at

Online at:

Fed up, pro-education candidates step up


Fed up, pro-education candidates step up
Believing lawmakers won't give schools a fair shake, some educators will try to take their jobs instead.

(enlarge photo)
Education activists with the Texas Parent PAC hope to raise $125,000 to support candidates in the March primaries, said Chairwoman Carolyn Boyle, right, here with Treasurer Staley Gray. 'Our hope is that a typical contribution will be $5,000 to $10,000 per candidate,' Boyle says.

By Jason Embry, Robert Elder
Sunday, October 23, 2005
WAXAHACHIE — At a recent Rotary Club meeting in nearby Midlothian, Q.D. "Duke" Burge had planned to deliver an energetic speech for his campaign for the Texas House. The day before, he was told that the club doesn't allow political speeches. Undeterred, Burge sat down at the club's piano and knocked out a five-song set that featured indirect jabs at the Legislature.

"Whatever it takes," Burge said over lunch at the Applebee's near his computer services business.

Burge is in his sixth year on the Midlothian school board, so he's no political novice. But he's punching in a new weight class, challenging 13-year incumbent Jim Pitts, the well-funded chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in the Republican primary in March.

An impossible dream? In most years, yes, and probably in 2006 as well.

But Burge hopes to tap a well of frustration over lawmakers' repeated failure to improve public schools while also lowering property taxes.

Burge, in fact, is just one of about 15 candidates with education ties, either as school board members, administrators or teachers, who are planning to run for House seats next year. That's an unusually high number, and more candidates are likely to emerge in the next couple of months. Many are counting on unprecedented turnout and financial support from education-minded voters.

Beyond the Legislature's lack of policy solutions, some educators are infuriated by what they see as lawmakers' disregard for their opinions and contempt for how they do their jobs. In August, for instance, House Speaker Tom Craddick characterized the school system as a "bottomless pit" in need of reform as much as new funds.

"The difficult thing for all of us is not to take this personally," says Mary Ann Whiteker, superintendent of the Hudson Independent School District and president of the Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools. "You just walk through the Capitol thinking, 'Why do they hate me so much?' "

"Of course," she adds, "I think there were times where legislators thought we hated them."

All this is more than name-calling. Control of the education agenda in the Legislature affects how much money schools have — and who is going to pay more taxes as a result. The state ranks near the bottom nationally in high-school graduation rates and Scholastic Assessment Test scores, and it's in the bottom 50 percent in teacher pay and per-student spending. School districts are plagued by reports of cheating on standardized tests and concealing dropout rates, among other governance issues.

Long term, the health of the state economy rides on the quality of public education. The friction between legislators and educators raises questions about the chances for reaching consensus on the way forward.

School lobbying groups of every stripe prided themselves on maintaining a solid front this year at the Capitol. They fought off proposals for private tuition vouchers, a plan to let voters veto tax increases by school districts and a funding proposal they deemed inadequate.

But a political campaign is a more individual pursuit, and the emergence of the new House candidates has been far less organized. Education groups seem unlikely to unify behind them, considering that these candidates stress varying issues — to the extent they've laid out agendas at all.

View from the top

State District Judge John Dietz last year declared the Texas system of paying for schools unconstitutional. His ruling that schools do not have the money to meet state and federal mandates emboldened school leaders, who have borne the weight of legislative funding cuts and tougher state tests.

Legislative leaders entered 2005 trying to comply with the part of Dietz's ruling that told the school finance system to rely less on property taxes.

But they largely ignored his calls for huge increases in state funding, instead offering a smaller funding boost — the House wanted $3 billion more over two years, about a 4.5 percent increase in total funding — paired with education reforms that made school leaders nervous, such as incentive pay for teachers and requiring school districts to hold elections in November instead of May. School officials regularly lined up at meetings of the House and Senate education committees to assail the school finance plans, pleading for more money with fewer strings attached.

Rep. Bill Keffer, a Dallas Republican on the House committee, says he tuned out education lobbyists who said they would rather have no funding increase than what the House was offering. "After I heard about the 10th person say that, it almost became pointless for those folks to come testify before the committee, as far as I was concerned personally, because I didn't feel like they were participating in the process in good faith," he says. The Senate fought off some of the most controversial elements of the House proposal, such as moving school board elections to November and capping the amount of money that districts with extremely high property values must share with the rest of the state.

In part because of educators' objections, the two chambers didn't complete a plan during their 140-day regular session or two 30-day special sessions. That made a total of five fruitless sessions since 2003.

Keffer likens education groups to the Luddites, English workers who destroyed manufacturing equipment to slow the Industrial Revolution.

"I imagine someone sitting around, hoisting a mug of ale after busting the printing press thinking, 'Well, we took care of that, didn't we?' " he says. "Well, that lasted for however long it lasted, but it didn't stop progress."

House Public Education Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, says not all educators opposed the plan. House members behind the plan included former teachers Dianne Delisi and Glenda Dawson, former principal Martha Wong and Rob Eissler, a former school board member.

At least one of the educators now seeking a House seat says he, too, found the leadership plan "acceptable."

Republican Kelly Hancock has been on the Birdville school board near Fort Worth for 13 years; he also owns a chemical distribution company.

"I'm a businessman, strong conservative, that happened to be involved in education for 13 years," says Hancock, who is running for a seat being vacated by Bob Griggs, R-North Richland Hills.

The parent PAC

Carolyn Boyle is a former PTA president at Doss Elementary School in Austin. For eight years she coordinated the Coalition for Public Schools, a leading voice against vouchers, which would use public money to send students to private schools.

Vouchers failed again this year. Even with that victory, Boyle says she became fed up with what she saw as a Legislature that did not listen to educators or parents. She and a handful of like-minded parents formed the Texas Parent Political Action Committee to dole out campaign contributions to candidates whom they consider pro-education.

The PAC has received donations from 150 people. Boyle declines to give a total raised so far but has set a goal of $125,000 for the March primaries.

"Our hope is that a typical contribution will be $5,000 to $10,000 per candidate, plus a group of parent volunteers recruited by Texas Parent PAC," she says. Though Boyle's anti-voucher work had made her a thorn in the side of many Republicans, she expects GOP candidates to receive much of that support. That's different from the approach taken for the 2004 primaries by the state's four major teacher groups, whose political committees stuck to incumbents or gave most of their money to Democrats.

In heavily Republican districts, though, the GOP primary is the only race that matters.

The groups that focused their money on Democrats say that could change if they find the right candidates. "As Republican party politics mature, we probably will become increasingly involved in Republican primary races," says Richard Kouri, public affairs director for the Texas State Teachers Association. The other group is the Texas Federation of Teachers.

"Let's just come up with some new talent," Boyle says. "Clearly, the talent that's there couldn't get the job done."

Grass roots

If Boyle is a familiar insider at the Capitol, Frank "Bo" Camp is a field soldier. On a Tuesday night early this month, Camp, clad in sweat pants and a T-shirt, perspires mightily as he sets up tables and chairs inside the sweltering Former Students' Association Building in the small East Texas town of Gladewater. Camp's wife, Carmen Camp, is a special education teacher in the nearby Longview Independent School District.

Both are also brand-new political activists. They are two of the founders of a group called No Texas Teacher Left Behind, which is holding the fifth in a series of rally-the-troops meetings, mostly in East Texas.

Sitting on a folding chair, Bo Camp thumbs through thousands of pages of e-mails the group has received since June through its Web site. "We can't even answer them all," he says.

"We're degraded; we're laughed at by legislators," says Bo Camp, a former trustee of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. "It just blows my mind that those people feel the way they do about public education."

Two middle-school teachers in Gladewater, Jan Doerr and Martha Wright, established the group as the regular legislative session endedin the spring.

"We're full-time educators who decided that just whining is not our style," Wright tells the group of about 70 people.

No Texas Teacher's agenda calls for a $4,000 teacher pay raise, a cost-of-living raise for retirees, who haven't had one since 2001, and more state money for the underfunded Teacher Retirement System.

Showing a PowerPoint slide on the generous pensions for veteran lawmakers — a lawmaker with just 12 years of service can draw a $34,000 annual pension — Wright peers over her glasses and says, "Let's help these legislators reach their retirement goals" by throwing them out of office.

The group is trying to marshal the votes and financial strength of the state's 1.1 million active and retired educators — roughly one of every 20 Texans.

Mesquite Fire Department Lt. Chuck Tull is there with his wife, Susan, a fourth-grade teacher. He is challenging two-term House member Dan Flynn of Van in the GOP primary.

Voters know "we've not really accomplished anything" on education at the Capitol, Tull says as his wife grades papers nearby. "I think we're going to have a few fresh faces" in the next Legislature.

Fighting history

In 2004, all 12 Republican House members who had primary challengers walloped them, each getting more than 60 percent of the vote.

Republican political consultant Craig Murphy predicts that no GOP candidate would win in 2006 running against the party's education position. "I don't know what the major issue is going to be in March, but it's not going to necessarily be the same one that was a major issue in July," Murphy says.

Retired Lewisville school Superintendent Clayton Downing ran for the House in 2002, saying he would use his experience to improve the school finance system. Incumbent Mary Denny beat him by 19 points in the Republican primary.

Downing figured he had a strong support base because the suburban Dallas district included part of the school district where he was superintendent for 18 years. He said longtime friends who were active in GOP politics told him they had to publicly support Denny because she had the support of the party establishment.

"I worked my tail off and could not get people to vote," said Downing, who today heads the Texas School Coalition, a group of districts with high property values. "It was just really hard to focus in and get people to really give it the attention that I thought it deserved."

Downing said a challenger running in the primary "doesn't have a prayer" without unifying all of the education groups, such as those representing teachers, parents and administrators, in their districts.

But pulling all of those forces together for a House campaign is unheard of, he said. "I think it could happen, but I sure haven't seen it happen," he said.

Groups that present a united front to all of the legislators in the Capitol see their influence diluted when it is spread among 254 counties and 150 House districts, and the burden falls to local officials and teachers who often do not have an interest in politics, he said.

Challengers are bound to be underfunded, as well. If the Texas Parent PAC, for example, were to contribute $10,000 to Burge, that would be small beer compared to Pitts' fundraising muscle. In 2004, against a 21-year-old Democratic opponent, Pitts raised about $300,000 and won 72 percent of the vote.

But former Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff said the school community could be a force.

"That is the great unanswered question, whether this sleeping giant of PTAs, school boards and teachers will ever organize enough to make their presence known" at the polls, says Ratliff, who advises the Texas Association of School Boards. "I do think it's a sleeping giant, though."

What the Legislature liked, educators didn't

Proposals that leading lawmakers supported, and many educators opposed, during this year's legislative sessions. Included in broader school finance legislation, they ultimately died when the Legislature failed to reach a consensus on the finance issue.

Voter-approved tax increases

Legislature: Wanted school boards to seek voter approval before boosting tax rates beyond the state cap, arguing that it would give taxpayers more control.

Educators: Said the elections would hurt children in areas that regularly defeat tax increases; said other political bodies, such as the Legislature, do not need voter approval to increase taxes.

Incentive pay for teachers

Legislature: Said principals should be able to reward teachers with higher salaries if they take challenging assignments or if their students show marked improvement.

Educators: Teacher groups say incentive-pay programs concentrate raises in the hands of a few teachers.

November school board elections

Legislature: House leaders said November elections would produce higher turnout in school board elections, giving more taxpayers a say in choosing their boards. Turnout is always higher in November, when there are more high-profile races than in May. Senate leaders showed much less enthusiasm than their House counterparts for November board elections.

Educators: Said school board candidates, now elected in May in most districts, would be lost among the many partisan races held in November and would be asked by voters' groups to answer questions on topics unrelated to education, such as gun control and abortion.

Instructional spending

Legislature: Said schools should spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on instruction, up from 63.8 percent.

Educators: Argued that the mandate, without a significant increase in overall funding, would tie school boards' hands and trigger cuts in areas such as counseling, transportation and food services.

(Note: After this failed to clear the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry ordered the Texas Education Agency to write and implement a 65 percent rule.)

New to the game

Groups formed in the past 13 months to promote education issues.

Texas Parent PAC

Headquarters: Austin

Mission: political action committee for "pro-public-education" candidates

Goal: Raise $125,000 for 2006 primaries

Leader: Carolyn Boyle, former lobbyist for Coalition for Public Schools

Size: 150 donors to date

No Texas Teacher Left Behind

Headquarters: Gladewater

Mission: "Restore respect" from lawmakers and the governor for public educators

Goal: Generate widespread activism and voting among educators

Leaders: Martha Wright and Jan Doerr, middle-school teachers in Gladewater

Size: Undetermined; group is processing membership applications and sorting through 4,000-plus e-mails

Friends of Texas Public Schools

Headquarters: Rockwall

Mission: "Strengthen the public's faith in public schools"

Goal: Apolitical public relations campaign and polling to boost public support for school system

Leader: Scott Milder, vice president of an architectural firm that designs school facilities

Size: 500 individuals ($25 minimum contribution) and about 35 business ($500 minimum) have donated money

From schools to the campaign trail

Candidates with ties to education are emerging at a faster-than-usual pace to run for the Texas House. Many are frustrated by the political stalemate over school finance. But they're not a slate of candidates in the traditional sense, and they hold varying views on education and tax issues. Other candidates are likely to emerge before the end of the candidate filing period in January.

District Name Party Education tie Incumbent
2 Graham Sweeney Democrat Boles superintendent Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van
2 Chuck Tull Republican Edgewood school board Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van
10 Duke Burge Republican Midlothian school board Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie
48 Donna Howard Democrat Formerly on Eanes school board Rep. Todd Baxter, R-Austin*
48 Kathy Rider Democrat Formerly on Austin school board Rep. Todd Baxter, R-Austin*
52 Kelly Felthauser Democrat Substitute teacher Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County
54 Jimmie Don Aycock Republican Formerly on Killeen school board Rep. Suzanna Hupp, R-Lampasas*
63 Anne Lakusta Republican Formerly on Lewisville school board Rep. Mary Denny, R-Aubrey
72 Drew Darby Republican school site management committee Rep. Scott Campbell, R-San Angelo
72 Kevin Housley Republican Christoval school board Rep. Scott Campbell, R-San Angelo
91 Kelly Hancock Republican Birdville school board Rep. Bob Griggs, R-North Richland Hills*
98 Bill Skinner Republican Retired teacher, administrator Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller
129 Sherrie Matula Democrat Teacher Rep. John Davis, R-Houston
133 Barbara Larson Republican Formerly Spring Branch school board Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston*
* Incumbent is not seeking re-election

Find this article at:

Texas schools should be proud of progress

The question remains. Why can't we have an accountability system that doesn't place the burden of so much of the change on the children themselves when the playing field is an unlevel one?

Sandy Kress: Texas schools should be proud of progress

05:19 PM CDT on Sunday, October 23, 2005

The news concerning Texas students is very positive, according to statistics released this week by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which charts performance by fourth- and eighth-grade students nationwide in reading and math.

Texas is one of only three states that made significant gains in fourth-grade math, fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. White, black and Hispanic students in our state are performing better than their peers nationally in each subject and in each grade.

As an active participant in Texas school reform since 1990, I'd point to three reasons for this strong showing:

•The leadership at the state education agency and Board of Education, with the support of the governor, raised the bar steadily over the past four years regarding expectations for students on the annual state assessments. Legislative leaders endorsed this increased rigor, both in terms of consistent policy and targeted resources.

•Texas educators, local officials, parents and students met the challenge by working harder and smarter, thus lifting student performance. Some naysayers resisted accountability, saying it wouldn't work. Others pleaded to move more slowly. Happily, most Texans paid them no heed, and, as a result, we are all the beneficiaries of this good news.

•The Texas Reading Initiative, promoted by former Gov. George W. Bush with bipartisan support from the Legislature, is working. Texas was one of only eight states to see real progress in fourth-grade reading results.

Yet even with this good news of improvement, we must face the sober reality that we are still far from our goal of fully preparing all students and leaving "no child behind." For example, 31 percent of our eighth-graders are below basic standards in math, and 28 percent of our eighth-graders are below basic in reading. These youngsters are prone to drop out of school or to do so poorly in high school that they face a bleak future.

We must do more, and we must do better. First, we must vigorously implement the Student Success Initiative to assure that all students complete the eighth-grade ready for a rigorous high school education. By succeeding here and taking other key steps, we can drastically reduce dropouts. And then, by adding higher-level work and expectations in high school, we can better assure that high school graduates are prepared for quality jobs or higher education.

Further, we must no longer allow schools to fail year after year without fundamental restructuring or takeover. Schools – and teachers – that bring about substantial growth in achievement for their students, particularly the disadvantaged, must be rewarded. Taxpayers, educators and the public must have a better and keener sense of how public dollars are spent in education so that what works gets more funding and what doesn't work gets less or no funding.

We must devote more resources to improving teachers' skills and knowledge and utilizing intervention strategies that are proven by research and experience to be effective at boosting students' performance.

The climb is not over. There's a long way to the top, and we must think and work hard to get there. But today, let's take a moment to celebrate how and why we've come this far. The lessons that we have learned and the satisfaction that has been earned from productive work are the best resources we have to finish the climb.

Sandy Kress, former education adviser to President Bush, headed the committee that proposed Texas' educational accountability system in 1993. His e-mail address is

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Some Allege Bias In Voucher Program

This is an unfortunate, if predictable, effect of the voucher program in D.C. It reveals how a parent with a voucher doesn't pick a school. It's the school that picks the student (with a voucher). -Angela

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 21, 2005; B01

Parents of students in the D.C. school voucher program generally believe that they are benefiting academically from the private-school grants, but some think their children have been stigmatized by teachers and classmates, according to a new study.

The study by the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, released yesterday, was based on focus group meetings with 45 parents and 23 students in fall 2004 and spring 2005, only a small fraction of the 1,027 children who participated in the voucher program in its initial year. Now in its second year and with an enrollment of about 1,700 students, the program provides federally funded scholarships of up to $7,500 for low-income District children to attend private or parochial schools.

Although the report is not a scientifically valid survey, it offers insights about issues that parents think should be addressed in the remaining years of the five-year federal experiment, said Patrick J. Wolf, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown and one of the study's authors.

"The study sends a signal to the broader education community what low-income D.C. parents are looking for in their education environment," he said.

Wolf also is involved in a separate study that will analyze test score results to determine whether voucher students are outperforming their counterparts in public schools. That report, which is federally mandated, will not be completed until 2007.

The authors of yesterday's report, called "Parent and Student Voices on the First Year of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program," interviewed parents of students in grades 3 through 12. Although most parents thought their children were performing better academically than they had at their old public school, some thought the students were being treated unfairly, the study said.

The federal voucher law and the policies of the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit organization that runs the program, require that the identities of voucher students not be revealed to anyone at their school other than the principal and admissions staff. But some parents said they believed their children's status had been divulged to others, according to the study, which did not name any of the families or schools involved.

"When she first got there . . . she was having a little bit of adjustment problems and the teacher told her in front of the classroom, 'If you don't stop acting like this, remember, you are here on a scholarship and we could put you out,' " one parent was quoted as saying.

Another parent told the study's interviewers, "There is elitism in the parent organization 'cause I went to a meeting and I was pointing out some issues and a parent just said, 'Why don't you leave?' "

Wolf said such comments came from a small minority of the parents interviewed.

Shirell Simmons, a voucher parent who did not participate in the Georgetown study but spoke to a reporter yesterday about her child's experiences, agreed that stigmatization is a problem. Her 9-year-old daughter attends Rock Creek International School in Northwest Washington.

She said that other children shun her daughter and that last year another student told her child: "Why do you dress like that? You dress like a thug. . . . You look like one of those hoodlum rappers."

Simmons said that the school has been unresponsive to her concerns. "I feel the administration isn't supportive of voucher students," she said. "They're treated as second-class citizens."

Josh Schmidt, director of admissions and advancement at Rock Creek, denied Simmons's allegations. "Voucher students are no different from any other student," he said. "We are race-blind, income-blind and religion-blind. We support every student in every way possible."

Sally Sachar, president and chief executive of the Washington Scholarship Fund, declined to comment on Simmons's case. But she said the organization takes confidentiality breaches and conflicts between parents and the schools seriously.

Sachar said the organization added language this year to its contract with private schools that specifically calls for them to follow the confidentiality policy. She said the scholarship fund also has established a citywide "parent empowerment group" to help voucher parents resolve problems at schools.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Friday, October 21, 2005

Kennedy's La. School Funding Plan Is Criticized

by Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 21, 2005; A07

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), long a champion of liberal causes, has infuriated longtime allies by introducing what advocacy groups are deriding as a voucher measure to assist Catholic schools in Louisiana.

The bill, which was introduced in the Senate yesterday, calls for both public and private schools hosting students displaced by Hurricane Katrina to receive $6,000 in aid per student. Most of the private schools in Louisiana are Roman Catholic.

Although the money would be distributed by the school districts, liberal advocacy groups say the bill sets a bad precedent, and does not offer enough anti-discrimination safeguards required of public institutions that receive federal money.

"This is a voucher -- it walks likes a voucher and quacks like a voucher. There's just no way to get around it," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "The money ends up in the treasury of religious schools. And religious schools are religious all the time. It's not only bad policy. It violates the Constitution."

Various advocacy groups are pressuring Democratic senators to put the brakes on the measure, which is part of larger emergency recovery bill. Kennedy, the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee, introduced the bill with Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.).

The senators had hoped to have the bill passed by unanimous consent no later than next week, but a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid said yesterday that Reid will take time to review the bill and "talk to his colleagues about whether and how to proceed."

Republicans and Democrats have long been at odds over school vouchers, which essentially provide public money for students to attend private schools. Kennedy has historically taken a strong stand against vouchers.

The Massachusetts senator's staff insisted yesterday that the measure is not a voucher but a "pragmatic" way to get much-needed funds to private schools that have taken in many victims of Katrina.

"This bill puts the interests of the children victimized by Katrina ahead of politics and ideological battles," Kennedy said in statement. "It puts in place an efficient and temporary system to get the necessary aid to the schools without further delay."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cuts Weighed to Pay for Hurricane Relief

I knew this was coming. -Angela

October 19, 2005

GOP plan would end 14 education programs, but savings would be small.
By Michelle R. Davis

Congressional Republicans have proposed cutting some education programs to free up federal money for hurricane relief for schools. But Congress didn’t get any closer last week to approving a federal aid plan, so school districts continue to wait for such aid to flow to their schools.

Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, this month proposed eliminating 14 Department of Education programs—not just declining to fund them, but repealing them outright. The $250 million in funding for the same programs was eliminated in the fiscal 2006 appropriations bill for the Education Department that the House passed in June. A press release from Republicans on the House education panel called the programs, which range from literacy instruction for prisoners to arts in education, inefficient and duplicative.

“We have a responsibility to help those in need in the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, but we also have a responsibility to cut unnecessary federal spending elsewhere to pay for it,” Rep. Boehner said in a statement. Though Mr. Boehner’s cuts would be significant, they would barely make a dent in the billions of dollars being proposed for hurricane-related school aid.

Congress has passed $62 billion in general federal hurricane relief, but none of that money has been allocated specifically for schools. Though several lawmakers have proposed bills that would provide direct school aid, those bills hadn’t made much progress as of last week.

Bush Plan Introduced
Last week Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the former chairman of the Senate education committee, and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the committee’s ranking minority member, proposed creating a new federal agency to oversee hurricane rebuilding, including education efforts.

And in the House on Oct. 7, Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, introduced a bill modeled on an education relief package President Bush announced last month. The Hurricane Education Assistance Act includes nearly $1.9 billion for school districts taking in more than 10 students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill proposes to provide public schools with as much as 90 percent of their states’ per-pupil expenditures, to a maximum of $7,500 per student. The bill also calls for $488 million that could be used by parents who want to send their children to secular or religious private schools, with the same $7,500 limit.

The same day, Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, introduced a bill that would provide up to $8.2 billion for one year to public schools damaged by the hurricanes, including charter schools. Some of the money would be for direct aid to schools so they could rebuild facilities and pay teachers and other staff members. It would also provide $8,314 per student to districts taking in students displaced by the hurricanes and provide money for after-school programs serving those children.

As Republicans looked for education cuts, Democrats in Congress pressed hard for immediate aid to schools affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, particularly for those in the storm-damaged states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. Districts were closed, schools were damaged or destroyed, and thousands of students were displaced by the August and September storms on the Gulf Coast.

In a late-night floor speech on Oct. 6, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., urged lawmakers to pass direct aid for hurricane-ravaged states before leaving for a weeklong recess. She requested that $15 billion of the money already approved be used for schools.

“Please don’t abandon the people of Louisiana again, the people of Mississippi again, and the people of Alabama again by leaving before we do something to help them in a direct and concrete manner,” she said.

But Congress left town for a Columbus Day recess that lasted all last week without taking final action on any aid plan for schools.

Rep. Boehner’s proposed elimination of 14 programs includes the $42 million Parental Information and Resource Centers, which help educate parents about their rights under the No Child Left Behind Act; the $35.6 million Arts in Education program; and $21.8 million in state grants for incarcerated youths.

To groups like the Council of Chief State School Officers, the proposed cuts would go too deep.

“We understand the budget issues that are facing Congress, but we’re alarmed that the ongoing debate is about cutting education funding,” said Scott S. Montgomery, the Washington-based group’s chief of staff.

The Budget Resolution
Most of the programs proposed for elimination by Mr. Boehner are funded in the fiscal 2006 appropriations bill for education awaiting a vote by the full Senate, said Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the 2.7 million-member National Education Association. The likelihood that the programs will actually be eliminated is slim, he said.

“A lot of the programs that could potentially be cut are related to those [programs] that need increases to help victims of the hurricane,” he said. “It seems counterproductive to say let’s provide more aid to education, and then cut it.”

House Republican leaders, including the Budget Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, have also proposed reopening the fiscal 2006 budget resolution passed earlier this year, which provides an outline for funding mandatory programs, and making severe cuts there.

“That’s a huge concern for us,” said Tom Kiley, a spokesman for the House education committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. George Miller of California. “We would strongly oppose” reopening the budget resolution and making significant cuts there, he said.

Minorities closing gaps, but nation's progress small in math and reading

The NAEP scores are out. To say the least, they're underwhelming—as you can see from Feller's summary below. The results do reveal the results of failed reform. I bet our states could manage these results at least as well without the mind-numbing high-stakes tests that children are forced to take. We need bold leadership to recognize the failures of current policy and to suggest, at minimum, more holistic forms of assessment. We also need to re-visit culturally and linguistically relevant pedagogies and approaches, late-exit bilingual education and dual language education included. -Angela

By Ben Feller, AP Education Writer | October 19, 2005

WASHINGTON --Black and Hispanic students are narrowing the achievement gap with whites in reading and math, but overall the nation's progress is small or slipping.

The 2005 scores for grades four and eight come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the most respected measure of how students perform nationwide. The results are noted in both academic and political circles because they cover math and reading -- the two building-block subjects that schools are scrambling to improve.

Across the country, math scores were up in grades four and eight. In reading, fourth-graders virtually held steady and eighth-graders declined.

The strongest results came in math, where black and Hispanic students in both grades posted their highest scores since the test began in the early 1990s. In reading and math, blacks and Hispanics either shrank their test-score gap with whites or lost no ground.

That's significant because schools face unprecedented pressure to improve achievement by minorities under President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. Black and Hispanic students lag behind whites in access to quality teaching, college degrees and other measures of success.

"This is an encouraging report," Bush declared from the Oval Office on Wednesday. "It shows there's an achievement gap in America that is closing."

In perspective, minorities still fall behind by sizable margins. Based on their average score in math, for example, many black fourth-graders don't have the skills to classify numbers as even or add, or to determine the next number in a given pattern.

"The absence of really bad news isn't the same as good news," said Ross Wiener, policy director for The Education Trust, which advocates for poor and minority students. "If you're concerned about education and closing achievement gaps, there's simply not enough good news."

The goal of the test is for students to show they can handle challenging subject matter and apply it to real-life situations, a skill level known as proficient. Less than four in 10 students in both grades have reached at least that level in either math or reading.

In reading, almost no state improved its performance significantly in either grade, and some states saw declines. In math, several states got better, especially at fourth grade.

"Congratulations to the states that showed progress," said John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, an association of corporate executives that is campaigning to improve math and science education. "But don't break out the champagne yet."

A total of 36 percent of fourth-graders were at least proficient in math, up 32 percent from 2003. Among eighth-graders, 30 percent were proficient or better, up from 29 percent.

In reading, the news was less promising, if not deflating.

The fourth-graders essentially held steady, as 31 percent scored at or above proficient, the same as last time. Their average test score did increase by one point.

Meanwhile, eighth-graders got a little worse in reading -- 31 percent showed mastery over challenging work, a one-point drop from 2003.

Much higher numbers of students in both subjects showed at least basic skills.

The results in reading mirror a long-term trend in which 9-year-olds posted their best scores ever in 2004 but 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds showed no improvement.

Schools must do more to teach older students sophisticated skills, such as taking ideas from different places and drawing a conclusion, said Cathy Roller, director of research and policy for the International Reading Association. "We need to put as much emphasis on that as we are basic comprehension skills," she said.

As usual, the numbers left much room for interpretation. Education analysts said the country's focus on early math and reading was paying dividends. But "there's no dancing around the flat eighth-grade performance in reading," said Darvin Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, the bipartisan panel that oversees the test.

Scores for minorities rose. Among blacks, 13 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in math, up from 10 percent in 2003, when the test was last given. A total of 9 percent of black eighth-graders successfully handled challenging math, up from 7 percent.

Hispanic children showed a similar trend, with 19 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders reaching a proficient level or better in math, up from 16 percent; and 13 percent of Hispanic students in grade eight showing solid math skills, up from 12 percent last time.

Schools reported whether students were white, black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian. Students who identified with more than one group were listed as "Other."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the core principles of federal education law, including annual testing and reporting of scores for all groups of students, were working.

In math, students tackled measurement, geometry, data analysis and probability and algebra. The reading test measured whether students could form a general understanding, develop an interpretation, make connections to the text and examine content and structure.

On The Net:

Nation's Report Card:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Analysis Finds Gains in Edison Schools, But Model Is No Quick Fix

October 19, 2005
Analysis Finds Gains in Edison Schools, But Model Is No Quick Fix
By Karla Scoon Reid
Edison Schools Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit manager of public schools, is posting achievement gains that are on par with, and sometimes exceed, the gains made by students attending comparable district-run schools, a study released last week concludes.

But the study, conducted for Edison by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corp., found that it took Edison schools at least four years to match or exceed those average achievement gains in reading and mathematics.

For More Info
"Inspiration, Perspiration, and Time: Operations and Achievement in Edison Schools" is posted by RAND Corp.
And for “conversion schools”—previously run by a district and turned over to the company to manage—student achievement dropped during the inaugural year. It took five years, RAND found, for conversion Edison schools to post test-score gains that at least matched those of comparable schools.

Founded in 1992 by the entrepreneur Christopher Whittle, Edison runs both charter schools and what it calls “partnership” public schools under contracts with districts seeking to turn around low-performing schools. Its whole-school improvement design emphasizes research- based curricula, collaborative leadership, and the use of data to track student performance and hold teachers accountable.

The company managed 103 schools in the 2004-05 school year, enrolling roughly 65,000 students. About 60 percent of those schools were regular public schools converted to Edison schools; most of the others were charter schools, while a few were managed under contracts with states.

“Inspiration, Perspiration, and Time: Operations and Achievement in Edison Schools” is the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the New York City-based education management organization’s school improvement model. RAND, an independent think tank, began the $1.4 million review in 2000. Its researchers evaluated state test scores in reading and math in nearly all schools the company has operated and visited 23 elementary schools to see how the model was working.

John Chubb, Edison’s chief education officer, said that the report shows that under the right conditions—clear lines of responsibility for the company and the school district and a supportive partnership—Edison can improve student achievement.

“A district needs to understand that it could be very successful or very unsuccessful, depending on how they do the contract,” he said.

Fidelity a Plus
The study, released Oct. 11, looked at data on reading and math for nearly all Edison schools and a sample of schools identified by the researchers as comparison schools.

It found that achievement gains in some schools managed by the company were ahead of those in comparison schools. The study relied on school-level data, rather than data on individual students, because student-level information wasn’t available for most of the districts included in the analysis.

From 2002 to 2004, the study found, the average proficiency rates in Edison schools increased by 11 percentage points in reading and 17 percentage points in math, while a matched set of comparison schools serving similar student populations saw gains of 9 percentage points in reading and 13 percent in math. The Edison schools’ advantage was statistically significant only in math, the report says.

The researchers say that the challenges faced by schools under the first year of Edison’s management appeared, in some instances, to be partly attributable to local opposition to Edison.

According to the authors, the schools that were more faithful to the Edison model, with a broad curriculum that included fine arts and foreign languages, tended to get better results. Edison schools also were more successful if they operated free of constraints such as teachers’ union contracts, the report says.

“Given sufficient time, achievement trends in Edison schools generally move upwards, particularly when the approach is faithfully followed,” said Laura S. Hamilton, a co-author of the report.

Yet the report concludes: “We cannot make strong predictions for prospective clients about whether they will achieve better long-term results with Edison or with an alternative approach. Nevertheless, Edison’s improving trends are encouraging, and some schools have clearly done well under Edison management, making it clear that Edison is capable of producing favorable results.”

Nancy Van Meter, the director of the American Federation of Teachers’ Center on Privatization, said the study shows that Edison schools have produced unimpressive results.

Edison has billed itself as “the complete product” to boost achievement in struggling schools, she said, but the report shows that its model is inconsistently implemented and falls victim to common problems in education—the difficulty of hiring dynamic leaders and creating a positive culture for learning.

The RAND report’s findings put another “nail in the coffin” of the education-management-organization improvement model, said Marc Dean Millot, the editor of School Improvement Industry Weekly, a Web-based trade publication that favors the introduction of market forces in education.

Vol. 25, Issue 08, Page 6

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Task force working on classroom spending is e-mailed a link to pro-voucher organization

This is interesting. My sense is that this stuff is purposefully contrived. -Angela

Task force working on classroom spending is e-mailed a link to pro-voucher organization
Agency says e-mail doesn't indicate support for political group

By Jason Embry


Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The state education commissioner's office suggested last week that educators crafting a controversial new rule for classroom spending consult the Web site of a political group that quietly promotes private-school vouchers and creating chasms between teachers and administrators.

Commissioner Shirley Neeley's executive assistant told the educators to check the site of a group called First Class Education before meeting to discuss Gov. Rick Perry's recent mandate that schools spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on instruction.

Neeley asked superintendents and representatives of education groups to help her hammer out the specifics of the new rule after some school officials grumbled that Perry's August order could cause spending cuts in non-classroom areas, such as transportation and counseling.

The school officials' first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

"So that you might have resource materials prior to the meeting, the commissioner asked that I provide you with the following websites," Patti Foster, Neeley's assistant, wrote in a Friday e-mail to a few dozen officials from school districts and education groups.

Foster included in the e-mail links to the Web sites of First Class Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

First Class Education is a political organization pushing states to adopt a 65 percent law. Its Web site includes spending data for each state and footage from television commercials calling for the law in Minnesota and Arizona.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said that the message from Neeley's office was not an endorsement of First Class Education; she was trying to provide any background information that she could.

"It wasn't any indication she supports or advocates their political movement," Marchman said. "It's my understanding that the list of Web sites was not advocating any particular direction for the committee to go in, it was just for-your-information."

In August, the Austin American-Statesman obtained a political memo from the group that shows it touts the 65 percent rule as a conduit to other, more controversial changes. That information is not included on the group's Web site.

The memo touts the political benefits of putting the 65 percent rule up for consideration on public ballots. Chief among those benefits, it says, is the "splitting of the education union." Proponents of school vouchers and other education proposals championed by conservatives are often at odds with unions and other groups representing educators.

"The First Class Education proposal naturally pits administrators and teachers at odds with one another with monies flowing from the former to the latter with its passage," the memo says. It says that will hurt education unions because most have teachers and administrators as members.

The memo also says the adoption of the proposal can help make charter schools and private-school vouchers more palatable to voters since it could increase Republicans' credibility on education issues. Public school officials largely oppose vouchers, saying public money should not go to private schools.

The group's Arizona-based political consultant, Tim Mooney, has declined to elaborate on the memo's contents or describe its audience. "I'm sure the opposition has political memos as well," he said Monday.

Richard Kouri of the Texas State Teachers Association called the e-mail from Neeley's office "strange."

"I'm not sure how anything on that Web site helps the conversation about how the rule gets defined," Kouri said.

Doug Rogers, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said: "I don't think (the e-mail) was bad judgment. There are other information sources that probably could have been included, and hopefully we're going to hear some of those on Wednesday." Rogers and the heads of other professional groups are part of the task force working on the rule.

Mooney has said he talked to Perry's office before the governor announced the 65 percent proposal, but he said it was Perry's idea.

Perry named Neeley, a former superintendent in the Galena Park district in the Houston area, to the commissioner's post last year.

Mooney said Monday that it makes sense for the educators working on the rule to read up on his group. "The plan originated because of the work that we've been doing, so it's natural that you would link to our Web site," Mooney said. "I didn't know that it was linked to our Web site, but I'm pleased that it is."

Texas schools spend 60.4 percent of their budgets on instruction, according to the federal center's definition. That definition will be the starting point for officials writing the rule in Texas.

Find this article at:

Monday, October 17, 2005

School Segregation Is Back With 'Vengeance,' Author Says

Check out his Harper's piece as well. The book should be great, too. -Angela
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 17, 2005; B06

In a Connecticut Avenue bookstore, a bespectacled white man sounded an alarm yesterday evening about the public schools that serve black children in Washington and elsewhere. Segregation, he said, is alive and well a half-century after Brown v. Board of Education , depriving many urban black children of opportunities routinely afforded white students.

This divide, he said, compelled him to write "The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America."

Jonathan Kozol, a former Boston schoolteacher, has written 11 books over four decades in a crusade to help inner-city children that government policymakers gently label "disadvantaged." His critiques of their policies are anything but gentle, as one of his better-known titles, "Savage Inequalities," suggests.

His latest has a new target. In "Shame," Kozol, 69, denounces the No Child Left Behind education law that President Bush pushed through Congress in 2001 with help from such Democrats as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). The law prescribes too much testing, he writes, and not enough learning.

Plenty of Democrats and Republicans still support No Child Left Behind, which requires annual reading and math testing of public school students in grades 3 through 8. But the parties split on whether Bush has given schools enough money to fix problems that the test results spotlight.

Kozol's message, apparently, has a following. At Politics & Prose, he drew a crowd of hundreds last month for a promotional event just before the book's publication. He made an unusual encore visit yesterday at the store's invitation, drawing another standing-room audience. C-SPAN cameras were on hand to transmit the talk on cable television.

"Sorry to be so grim tonight," Kozol said as he launched into a plea for "elemental racial justice." He added: "In the inner-city schools I visit, I never see white children. Segregation has returned with a vengeance."

In the Washington area, many public schools serve populations that are mostly white or mostly black, a split typical of what Kozol describes in his book through observations of 60 schools in 11 states. In Prince George's County, for example, 77 percent of students are black, 12 percent are Latino and 7 percent are non-Hispanic white. In many of the county's schools, the racial and ethnic gaps are far wider. That is also true in the District's public schools.

Kozol notes that some of the most segregated schools in the country are named for civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, 51 years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown that separate educational facilities are "inherently unequal."

Few educators would dispute Kozol's central contention: that many mostly black schools are in worse shape, physically and academically, than their counterparts in mostly white neighborhoods.

"The main reason I wrote this book," Kozol said in an interview yesterday, "is to inspire Americans to look very hard at the virtually complete apartheid in increasing numbers of our school districts -- including in Prince George's County -- and to address it courageously. They should ask themselves honestly: Is this the kind of country they want to live in?"

To those who point out that segregation today is not imposed by law, Kozol replied: "Whether the causes of school segregation are residential, social factors, economic factors, whatever they may be, segregated schooling is the oldest failed experiment in American social history. It didn't work in the past century. It's not going to work in the century ahead."

Kozol's solution -- not likely, he conceded, to be enacted soon -- is to repeal No Child Left Behind, establish universal public preschool for needy children, drastically reduce class sizes in schools that serve the poorest children (to 18 or fewer students per teacher) and give white suburban schools financial incentives for a new racial integration initiative with massive, but voluntary, systems of crosstown transportation.

Kozol said he wanted to spark an urban-school uprising. "We need a movement by people who actually get chalk dust on their hands every day because they spend their lives with children," he said.

One woman at the bookstore last night said she was already enlisted. Mary Findley, a music teacher active in programs for D.C. youths, clutched a copy of "Savage Inequalities" as she waited for Kozol's talk. "He changed my life with this book," she said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Class-ifying the Hurricane

This is a good, short piece for contemplating the role of race vs. class in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The author is Univ. of Pennsylvania Professor Adolph Reed Jr. He is a New Orleans expatriate, as well as a member of the interim national council of the Labor Party. He maintains that a race-based critique is limited and suggests that we direct our attention instead to the shared, corporate political orientations across both major parties. -Angela

Class-ifying the Hurricane
by ADOLPH REED JR. / October 3, 2005— The NATION

I was in New Orleans visiting my mother and other relatives less than a week before Katrina hit. Even though we already had an eye on the approaching hurricane, I had no thought, when I boarded the plane to leave, that the city I've known all my life would never be the same again.

I don't have space or words to catalogue the horrors and outrages associated with the plight of New Orleans and its people. In any event, the basic story is now well-known, and we're entering the stage at which further details mainly feed the voyeuristic sentimentalism that will help the momentarily startled corporate news media retreat gracefully to their more familiar role as court heralds. The bigger picture will disappear in the minutiae of timelines and discrete actions.

What will be lost is the central point that the destruction was not an "act of God." Nor was it simply the product of incompetence, lack of empathy or cronyism. Those exist in abundance, to be sure, but they are symptoms, not ultimate causes. What happened in New Orleans is the culmination of twenty-five years of disparagement of any idea of public responsibility; of a concerted effort--led by the right but as part of a bipartisan consensus--to reduce government's functions to enhancing plunder by corporations and the wealthy and punishing everyone else, undermining any notion of social solidarity.

I know that some progressives believe this incident will mark a turning point in American politics. Perhaps, especially if gas prices continue to rise. I suspect, however, that this belief is only another version of the cargo cult that has pervaded the American left in different ways for a century: the wish for some magical intervention or technical fix that will substitute for organizing a broad popular base around a clearly articulated, alternative vision that responds to most people's pressing concerns. The greater likelihood is that within a month Democratic liberals will have smothered the political moment just as they've smothered every other opportunity we've had since Ronald Reagan's election. True, Nancy Pelosi and others finally began to bark at the Bush Administration's persisting homicidal negligence. But my hunch is that, as with Iran/contra, the theft of the 2000 election and the torrent of obvious lies that justified the war on Iraq, liberals' fear of seeming irresponsibly combative and their commitment to the primacy of corporate and investor-class interests will lead them to aid and abet the short-circuiting of whatever transformative potential this moment has.

This will also obscure the deeper reality that lies beneath the manifest racial disparities in vulnerability, treatment and outcome. The abstract, moralizing patter about how and whether "race matters" or "the role of race" is appealing partly because it doesn't confront the roots of the bipartisan neoliberal policy regime. It's certainly true that George W. Bush and his minions are indifferent to, or contemptuous of, black Americans in general. They're contemptuous of anyone who is not part of the ruling class. Although Bush and his pals are no doubt small-minded bigots in many ways, the racial dimension stands out so strikingly in part because race is now the most familiar--and apparently for many progressives the most powerful--language of social justice. For roughly a generation it seemed reasonable to expect that defining inequalities in racial terms would provoke some remedial response from the federal government. But for quite some time race's force in national politics has been as a vehicle for reassuring whites that "public" equals some combination of "black," "poor" and "loser"; that cutting public spending is aimed at weaning a lazy black underclass off the dole or--in the supposedly benign, liberal Democratic version--teaching blacks "personal responsibility."

To paraphrase historian Barbara Fields, race is a language through which American capitalism's class contradictions are commonly expressed. Class will almost certainly turn out to be a better predictor than race of who was able to evacuate, who drowned, who was left to fester in the Superdome or on overpasses, who is stuck in shelters in Houston or Baton Rouge, or who is randomly dispersed to the four winds. I'm certain that class is also a better predictor than race of whose emotional attachments to place will be factored into plans for reconstructing the city.

Of course, in a case of devastation so vast as this, class position provides imperfect insulation. All my very well connected, petit-bourgeois family in New Orleans are now spread across Mississippi and south Louisiana with no hint of when they will return home or what they'll have to return to. Some may have lost their homes and all their belongings. But most of them evacuated before the storm. No one died or was in grave danger of dying; no one was left on an overpass, in the Superdome or at the convention center. They were fortunate but hardly unique among the city's black population, and class had everything to do with the terms of their survival.

Natural disasters can magnify existing patterns of inequality. The people who were swept aside or simply overlooked in this catastrophe were the same ones who were already swept aside in a model of urban revitalization that, in New Orleans as everywhere else, is predicated on their removal. Their presence is treated as an eyesore, a retardant of property values, proof by definition that the spaces they occupy are underutilized. And it's not simply because they're black. They embody another, more specific category, the equivalent of what used to be known, in the heyday of racial taxonomy, as a "sub-race." They are a population against which others--blacks as well as whites--measure their own civic worth. Those who were the greatest victims of the disaster were invisible in preparation and response, just as they were the largely invisible, low-wage props supporting the tourism industry's mythos of New Orleans as the city of constant carnival. They enter public discussion only as a problem to be rectified or contained, never as subjects of political action with their own voices and needs. White elites fret about how best to move them out of the way; black elites ventriloquize them and smooth their removal.

Race is too blunt an analytical tool even when inequality is expressed in glaring racial disparities. Its meanings are too vague. We can see already that the charges of racial insensitivity and neglect threaten to divert the focus of the Katrina outrage to a secondary debate about how Bush feels about blacks and whether the sources of the travesty visited upon poor New Orleanians were "color blind" or racist. Beyond that, a racial critique can lead nowhere except to demands for black participation in decision-making around reconstruction. But which black people? What plans? Reconstruction on what terms? I've seen too many black- and Latino-led municipal governments and housing authorities fuel real estate speculation with tax giveaways and zoning variances, rationalizing massive displacement of poor and other working-class people with sleight-of-hand about mixed-income occupancy and appeals to the sanctity of market forces.

The only hope we have for turning back the tide of this thuggish Administration's commitment to destroy every bit of social protection that's been won in the past century lies in finding ways to build a broad movement of the vast majority of us who are not part of the investor class. We have to be clear that what happened in New Orleans is an extreme and criminally tragic coming home to roost of the con that cutting public spending makes for a better society. It is a shocking foretaste of a future that many more of us will experience less dramatically, often quietly as individuals, as we lose pensions, union protection, access to healthcare and public education, Social Security, bankruptcy and tort protection, and as we are called upon to feed an endless war machine.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fear of 'acting white' is 'not the issue'

A helpful distinction that I make in my own work that I think would help here is distinguishing between students’ rejection of, and antipathy toward, schooling and not education or achievement. By this, I refer to how children, esp. children of color and the poor, are objectified, treated like objects. Why should they bear the burden of change for their institutionally imposed isolation in pre-AP classes or in classes that otherwise accentuate their minority status? -Angela

Published: Oct 12, 2005
By PATRICK WINN, Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Fears of being mocked for "acting white" don't cause many black students to avoid good grades or advanced classes, according to a new study.
But too often, the study says, educators use the "acting white" excuse as a cop out, an explanation for why black students don't score as well on average as whites.

Straight-A students of all races are equally susceptible to the "geek" or "stuck-up" label, according to the report, published in August in the American Sociological Review.

"This is a society that puts social pressure on high achievers to put their halo under a rock," said William Darity, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor who helped conduct the study. "That's not unique to black kids."

With UNC-CH professor Karolyn Tyson and Duke University researcher Domini Castellino, Darity studied interviews with 120 students of different races from eight North Carolina schools.

They chose schools from urban, suburban and rural settings. Some were mostly black, some mostly white, and others roughly equal.

The labels sometimes varied. High-achievers might be called "preps" in one town and "high and mighty" in another.

But the researchers found only two black students -- both in the same school -- who feared that academic success would get them accused of "acting white."

"What kids talk about is not wanting to be called 'brainiacs,' " Darity said. "It's not as much about race ... but whether kids are seen as thinking they're better than everyone else."

Advanced classes

Though most black students interviewed were not afraid of the "acting white" insult, for some, advanced classes still brought on fear.

Fear of being overwhelmed by tough material. Fear of being the only black student in class.

Last year, Chapel Hill High School senior Al Mask was the sole black face in an Advanced Placement U.S. history course. Roughly 13 percent of the high school's students are African-American.

"Basically, black students feel alienated by that traditionally white environment," Mask said. "It's an issue of comfort. That's just human."

The "acting white" explanation, he said, is society's way of pointing fingers back at students instead of school leaders.

At Durham's Hillside High School, which is roughly 90 percent black, Principal Eunice Sanders said accusations of acting white "aren't an issue" for students.

Belonging to the school's rigorous International Baccalaureate program -- which puts students on a college-prep track -- is a source of pride, not shame, she said.

"We have kids who really jockey to be the top one in the class," Sanders said. "And there's nothing better than being known as both a good student and a good athlete."

1986 study

The "acting white" hypothesis was widely accepted by educators after a 1986 study called "Black Students' School Success: Coping with the 'Burden of Acting White,' " Darity said.

But the scientists who conducted that study, published in The Urban Review, didn't adequately back it up, Darity said, nor has anyone else.

"Our position is not that it never occurs," Darity said. "It's just that the context in which it occurs has never been looked at."

The study outlines three types of resistance to high achievement.

* A general fear of being called "dork" or "nerd" that crosses race and class boundaries.

* A race-driven "acting white" version of that fear, in which successful black students are afraid of being seen as traitors.

* A class-driven version, in which successful students fear lower-income peers will see them as "snobby."

The second version, according to the study, has "captured the sociological imagination." But it's far less common than most educators think, Darity said.

Mask, who is college-bound, agreed.

"We're not afraid of someone saying, 'He's acting white,' " Mask said. "That's not the issue. It's just a way for everyone to ignore the bigger problem."

Staff writer Patrick Winn can be reached at 932-8742 or
© Copyright 2005, The News & Observer Publishing Company,
a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company

Morphing Outrage Into Ideas

This is one of those rare instances in which a community in Alhambra, California, actually has an in-depth discussion on the racial/ethnic test gap in their own school. The Steinberg study that is mentioned, by the way, was based on statistical survey data that included schools that I was researching in California way back when.... By design, it was limited in its capacity to address deep institutional issues surrounding race and class as implied in this account—not the least of which involves access to pre-AP classes for minority youth. -Angela

Search for solutions is born out of anger over a student newspaper piece about the Latino-Asian academic gap at Alhambra High School

By Jia-Rui Chong
Times Staff Writer

October 12, 2005

It was presented as good news.

In front of a group of student leaders at Alhambra High School, Assistant Principal Grace Love spoke in February about the school's recent gains on state tests.

Alhambra, she said, had narrowed the gap in test scores between Asian and Latino students. Overall, Latino test takers had improved their composite scores on state tests faster than any other group over the last four years.

Robin Zhou, an 18-year-old columnist for the Moor, the school newspaper, listened skeptically. He had trouble seeing any reason to celebrate.

To him, the real news in Love's statistics wasn't the small gains she was pointing out, but rather the wide gulf that still existed between Asians and Latinos.

The composite scores for Asians at Alhambra High were still far above those of Latinos. According to Love's presentation, 57% of Asian ninth-graders passed the state's English Language Arts standards test, but only 28% of Latino ninth-graders passed. It was even worse in algebra, with only 12% of Latinos passing the test as compared to 49% of Asians.

To Zhou, the data raised a question: "Why was the gap there in the first place?"

With the next round of state tests looming, Zhou decided to examine the subject in his newspaper column. He said he did so out of a desire to get people to focus on solutions. That's not what happened — at least not at first.

That there are gaps in test scores among racial and ethnic groups is an uncomfortable truth in modern day education.

The achievement gap, as racial disparities in test scores are known in education circles, exists at schools throughout the nation. It also exists across class lines.

Examining the issue requires traversing a political and cultural minefield. Every possible explanation is likely to offend, which may be why the subject rarely provokes the kind of discussion that might eventually lead to change.

Using test scores as a measure, Latino students are "not pulling their weight," the article said.

Zhou then went on to try to explain the gap. The first reason, he wrote, was largely cultural, in that Asian parents were more likely to "push their children to move toward academic success, while many Hispanic parents are well-meaning but less active."

The editors and reporters in the room crowded around co-editor-in-chief Lena Chen to read the draft. They understood that Zhou's article touched on dangerous ground; they agreed that he needed to tone down his language, even though many of them thought he had made some valid points and had thoroughly researched the subject.

"My first reaction? Robin's gonna get beat up," recalled Sara Martinez, a 16-year-old Latina, who was the only non-Asian student to read the article that day.

The paper's advisor, Mark Padilla, agreed that the story could use some qualifying. But he reminded the editors that this was a column, and therefore offered more leeway. It was important, he reminded them, for journalists not to shy away from sensitive but important subjects.

No one could accuse Zhou of that.


On March 22, the paper was distributed.

Anastasia Landeros, 18, was in her first period English class when a friend turned to her and asked, "Did you hear about the article about how Latinos are not pulling their weight?"

She hadn't. She got a copy and started reading.

Zhou's article seemed to suggest to her that Latinos were slackers whose parents didn't care about their children's education.

Who was this guy, she wondered. If Zhou thought Latino parents didn't push their children, he ought to come to her house and listen to her mother nag her about homework.

And how could he say Latinos weren't achieving? She was getting A's in music and drama, and B's and C's in her other classes.

For days students talked about the article, often angrily.

Some teachers tried to use it as a tool for teaching cultural sensitivity. Other teachers were simply incensed. One math teacher scrawled "racist" across the article and posted it on the blackboard.

Heading home on the day the article came out, Landeros wondered what her mother, a 45-year-old nurse and certified diabetes educator, would think.

Rosa Linda Landeros had always told her three children to be proud of their Mexican heritage and prove that stereotypes about lazy Latinos were wrong.

As soon as Linda Landeros walked through the door that evening, Anastasia handed her the school newspaper.

"Mom, you gotta read this article," she said.

'Hecho en Mexico'

In the days that followed, Zhou's friends told him that Latino students he didn't even know were talking about beating him up or pelting him with paintballs at graduation.

The dean and the principal called him in to discuss his reasons for writing the article. They reassured him that they would look out for any hint of trouble.

On March 30, those who disagreed with Zhou made a show of solidarity. Almost all the Latino students and a few white and black students wore shirts that were brown or made statements of Latino pride, including "Hecho en Mexico." Landeros wore a T-shirt with the words "Stay Brown Chicanas"

Zhou walked onto the stage that week at an assembly for an academic award. He heard boos.

"I did some soul searching as the controversy continued — whether it was right to have confronted the issue head-on like that," he said.

Different Expectations

Researchers who study the issue of racial disparities in academic performance say that even they have to be careful how they present data.

Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, and his colleagues wanted to look at factors, including race, that affected student achievement several years ago. "We were nervous about how people would react, that we'd be accused of being prejudiced," he said. "There's nothing nice you can say about this that's going to make people feel good."

Steinberg and his colleagues found that even after economics were controlled for, Asian and Asian American students performed better on tests than any other racial group. Latinos and African Americans performed the least well.

Steinberg's research further suggested that an "attitudinal profile" influenced academic success, and that Asians tended to have the most students that fit the profile.

The first variable wasn't parental involvement, as Zhou concluded, but something more subtle: parental expectation. Steinberg asked students what was the worst grade they could get without their parents getting angry. For Asian children, it was a B-plus; for Latino and African American children, it was a C.

Another factor was that Asian children in the study were more likely to associate with peers who valued high marks in school, whereas Latino and African American students were more likely to have friends who put less stock in good grades.

Steinberg found two other differences that seemed linked to success. Asian children were much more likely to attribute their grades to hard work rather than aptitude. They also were more likely to believe that doing poorly in school would harm their chances for success in life.

"If you have these four things, it doesn't matter what ethnic group you're from, you'll do well in school," Steinberg said. "It's just more common among Asian kids and less common among black and Latino kids."

Pedro Noguera, a sociologist at the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University, believes class plays more of a role than Steinberg does. He points to a mostly Asian high school in San Francisco with a high dropout rate. "They're not dropping out because they're not sufficiently Chinese, but mainly because their parents put an emphasis on work."

Noguera also suggested that Latino parents may be less adept at navigating the American school system and advocating on their children's behalf.

"It's not that they don't value education," Noguera said. "They're putting too much trust in the schools. That's a big mistake."

Noguera wasn't surprised to hear that Zhou's article created a stir. "If Asian and Latino students are not communicating with each other, or if there were already strained relations," he said, "then there was no context for a thoughtful discussion, and the article merely served as a catalyst for more conflict."

'Another Attack'

As Landeros' mother read through Zhou's column, she thought: "Here's another attack on my people. Here's another person stepping on our neck."

She knew that average test scores for Latino students at Alhambra High School were lower than average test scores for Asian students. But she hated how Latino students were hit with a constant stream of news reports about how badly they performed in school. That wasn't making things better, just lowering expectations.

Linda Landeros was proud of the letter her daughter sent to the school newspaper. It was published April 12.

"As if it weren't enough to worry about academics, the entire Latino student body apparently also has to worry about racial profiling by our school newspaper," Anastasia Landeros wrote.

"My issue is not with the 'facts' that are present, but with the facts that are missing regarding a community and a culture he apparently has no knowledge of," she wrote. The article was "inflammatory" in singling out one ethnic group based on a stereotype.

"It would be wrong to write, 'Because of Asian drivers, insurance rates in Alhambra are high,' " Anastasia wrote. "Wouldn't the article be seen as a one-sided, non-researched piece?"

Food for Thought

It was obvious that Zhou's article polarized students and parents. But it also got them thinking and talking about race, culture and achievement at Alhambra High.

Several Latino students said they were nervous when they walked into Advanced Placement classes and saw a sea of Asians. But this turned to disappointment when some teachers seemed to expect less from them.

"When we answer a question wrong, they say, 'It's OK. You're really trying hard,' " said Perla Trejo, 17. "It's like, OK, but what's the answer?" Trejo said teachers don't treat Asian students the same way in her class.

Saul Pineda, 16, said he almost quit one of his AP classes last summer because it was difficult and he felt uncomfortable. But now that the article has come out, he said, "I want to try harder."

"Mostly just to prove them wrong," Trejo added.

Russell Lee-Sung, 41, who was principal of the school at the time, says he felt torn about the turmoil Zhou's article sparked.

Lee-Sung had not only thought about the issues raised in Zhou's column, he had lived them. Lee-Sung's father, who is half Mexican, grew up poor in Texas. His mother was born in China and grew up wealthy.

In his own home, he had seen cultural differences in attitudes toward education. His father, he said, "was very encouraging about what [grades] I got. If I tried my best, that would be fine.

"My mom, on the other hand, said, 'You need to get good grades. You need to go to a good school.' If I came home with all A's and a B, she'd question me. 'What's the problem?' "

But it would be a mistake to say his father cared less about his schoolwork, Lee-Sung said. "They both valued education," he said. "They just communicated in different ways."

Lee-Sung knows the subject is difficult to discuss. "This is one of those issues in education that is so taboo to talk about," he said.

But talking about it was what he had to do in the weeks after Zhou's column. He said more than 30 parents contacted him. Some commended Zhou for bringing up a point that needed to be addressed. But most were critical of the student, the newspaper advisor and even the principal.

Lee-Sung tried to use the controversy as a teaching tool. He held several discussions with the school staff. He created an "Action Planning Committee" of parents, students, teachers and administrators.

Lee-Sung also invited students who were upset by the article to the first of several "student committee" meetings so they could meet Zhou and other newspaper staffers.

At the meeting, students had a lot of questions for Zhou: Why had he used such offensive language? Why was he stereotyping people? What business did he have talking about the Latino community when he was not Latino?

Zhou told them he was trying to be straightforward with his words. He explained that he grew up in Echo Park, with mostly Latino friends and that his baby-sitter was Latina.

Some students weren't satisfied, and one Latina student said the conversation didn't make her feel any better about the article.

But near the end of the first meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half, the students started coming up with ways to close the gap, Lee-Sung said. Their questions were trying to clarify, not accuse.

Suggestions included holding periodic student-moderated dialogues on topics including students' relationships with teachers and administrators, and cultural assemblies to discuss historical differences, not just food and dancing.

At the second meeting a few weeks later, more solutions were proposed.

The school should expand a program, which has benefited mostly Latino students, that prepares students to attend a four-year university and take some AP and honors classes. Latino students should be encouraged to join more after-school clubs and to take more AP and honors classes.

In the May 10 issue of the school newspaper, Zhou wrote a letter about what he had learned from the experience. "I realize that pointing out a disparity between two of the major student groups on campus has the potential to divide us, to turn students against classmates and neighbors against each other," he wrote.

He went on to offer "my deepest regrets to those who have been hurt," saying that "it was not my intent to make anyone feel they are inferior or unable to succeed, but rather to address an issue in desperate need of attention."

He didn't apologize for the points he made in his article.

A Lasting Change?

It remains to be seen whether the controversy will result in lasting change.

Most of the key students have graduated. Zhou left for Stanford University. Landeros is studying at East Los Angeles College. Lee-Sung accepted a job as principal of Walnut High School.

But Lee-Sung still has hope.

By the end of the school year, more Latino students had applied for AP classes, though he couldn't say how many. Students founded a chapter of the Mexican American student group MEChA. And Latino parents formed an organization to support their children.

When the state released scores from the spring 2005 standardized testing, the percentages of Latino students passing the English Language Arts exam and all but one of the math tests had improved from last year. Lee-Sung thinks the awareness spurred by Zhou's article played a role.

"I think some students who may have had the thought that nobody cares and nobody looks at these scores realized that people do look at them," he said.

"I would imagine for some students, there was a sense of pride. 'Know what? I don't want people to think this way about me, and I'll work harder on the test than in the past.' "

Linda Landeros says she and her daughter are still angry about the article. But she acknowledges that it may have spurred her daughter on as well. Near the end of the school year, Anastasia Landeros wasn't doing well in her high-school math class.

Her mother brought up Zhou's column, saying, "See, he's right in this article."

The daughter blew up, but her mother's taunt made her pull up her grade.

Zhou is philosophical about what happened. "You can't expect to write something like this without taking a few lumps," he said. But, he added, "If nothing happened, I'd be feeling even worse."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times,0,7449669,full.story