Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To Keep Kids Out of Gangs, Give Them Identity

This is one of the very few news pieces that I've read that gets to the heart of not only the gang problem, but also with so much of where public education misses the boat with respect to minority children. Not only do they not address issues of identity in a thoughtful manner, they go in the opposite direction of attempting to subtract students' identities much to the detriment of the presumed achievement goals that school officials possess. I wrote a book about this. -Angela

Commentary by David Madrid, Jun 21, 2005 / Pacific News Service

Editor's Note: San Jose's escalating gang problem is about more than colors and clothing, the writer says.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--This year, there have already been six gang-related deaths here in San Jose, and our juvenile hall is reporting more violence than it has seen in decades. In response, the city is rushing to support existing anti-gang programs and start new ones. They need to re-think their strategy.

With $4 million in new resources, the city is educating youths on the negative aspects of gang life, reducing the availability of gang clothing and investing in mobile street outreach units.

While I applaud any action to stop gang violence, the city's approach is based on a superficial analysis. The escalating gang problem is about more than just colors and clothing. It reflects deep conflicts between U.S.-born Chicanos and newly immigrated Mexicans. Since immigration is only increasing, policies aimed at reducing gang violence must address this root tension.

The city has cracked down on merchants selling "gang garb" -- clothing that can be bought at just about any liquor store in East San Jose. But gang colors -- displayed on jerseys, hats and bandanas -- are not the cause of conflicts. Rather, they are flags signifying with whom people identify. The real problem is much deeper.

The mayor's Gang Task Force has declared that its mission is to "reclaim [youths] from anti-social forces that have disconnected them from their families, schools, communities, and their futures." But gangs are not "anti-social." If anything, they are strong social movements. From the prisons to the streets, they are organized and have structured ideologies. In many cases, gangs affiliation is what binds families and even neighborhoods together.

Gangs provide social cohesion and cultural identity. Any alternative that will make a real difference must do the same.

Gang allegiances provide cohesion, but also lead to lethal conflicts. Tensions have escalated as those who identify as Chicano or immigrant band together to protect their people and identity. On the streets, the conflict is understood as being between the "North" (Chicanos wearing red) and "South" (immigrants wearing blue).

Chicanos see themselves as fighting to protect their neighborhoods from an invading immigrant force. In my neighborhood, I hear angry Norteños claiming, "Our city is being infested." They feel compelled to "exterminate."

Immigrant Latinos who claim blue identify with the Mexican struggle against discrimination in the United States, even discrimination on the part of Chicanos. When I asked a young Sureña-identified girl at the high school where I tutor why she hates Norteños, she said, "'Cause they think they're better than us. They don't know what being Mexican is about."

This focus on differences and sense of superiority has spread through generations -- no different than the Klan or other American hate groups. Some Latino children are taught this hate at an early age by hearing their parents' bias. Others learn from life on the street.

Of course, not all Latinos perpetuate the North-South rivalry, but there is an undeniable, unspoken segregation between Chicanos and Mexican immigrants.

The North vs. South belief system affects everyone who lives in gang-dominated neighborhoods. Youths get labeled whether or not they are affiliated. Whether or not a kid is "hardcore," many are already deeply exposed to gang ideology by the time they hit high school.

Recently I was involved with an "alternative to gangs" program at a middle school in East San Jose. We ran a writing workshop that focused on the negative aspects of gangs. I sat with one student who seemed to be having trouble writing. Finally he wrote, "Gangs are bad because they are bad for the community."

As he twiddled his pencil and looked at the floor, I asked him, "Is that really what you think?"

"No," he answered with a scared look on his face. I asked him to write what he really felt. He gave me a page and a half describing how unified he felt with others like him in San Jose and throughout California; how powerful it felt being part of something bigger than himself. His gang identity gave him a name and a title that he could stand for and represent.

Gangs are not just a group of homies hanging on the corner. They represent a way of life, and for those who identify with that way of life, challenging the gang mentality means challenging who they are. "Just say no" tactics are useless, even counterproductive.

Some of the best anti-gang programs are the ones that don't talk about gangs at all. Youths don't need to be lectured about the dangers of the streets -- they already know all that -- but they do need places they can come to and just be kids. I'm not talking about a foosball table and video games -- they need something to be part of, to take ownership of.

Organic cultural activities that already exist in our communities, such as hip hop and low-riding, can give young people enough personal pride and group identity to replace the gang mentality. Common ground can be found in these cultural spaces, where young people can earn respect for what they have accomplished rather than where they are from.

I've heard so many times from youths I work with who used to bang, "I'm not a gangsta, I'm an MC. I'm about my music." For gang prevention and intervention to be effective, young people need the tools to construct a new identity, not just dismantle an old one.

David Madrid, 27, is a writer and youth organizer for Silicon Valley De-Bug, the voice of young workers, writers and artists in Silicon Valley and a PNS project. He has participated in after-school programs for at-risk youths throughout the South Bay.

House OKs Plan for School Spending


Proposal creates teacher incentive-pay system, delays start of school year.
By Jason Embry
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The House approved a $2.5 billion education proposal Tuesday night that lowers property taxes and boosts teacher salaries but has been widely criticized by educators.

House leaders, meanwhile, tried to quietly revise a separate plan to swap billions in higher state taxes for lower school property taxes.

The education measure creates an expansive incentive-pay program for teachers, toughens oversight of the state's charter-school system and requires schools to start after Labor Day beginning in 2006. The Senate is expected to debate a similar proposal as soon as today.

The tax swap must pass in order for the education plan to take effect, and the tax plan that House leaders are pushing is competing for lawmakers' attention with a proposal pushed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Perry's plan does not rework the corporate franchise tax but does make more companies pay it. House leaders have wanted to extend it even further but give businesses the option of paying a payroll tax instead.

Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he still wants to include the payroll tax option but said he's weighing changes to his tax plan so that it wins passage in his committee.

The House education plan won approval on a 77-69 vote in a body that has 25 more Republicans than Democrats. Every Central Texas Republican in the House voted for the plan, and every local Democrat opposed it.

Earlier in the day, the House defeated by one vote a Democrat-backed plan that would have spent more money on schools and given smaller overall cuts in property taxes.

The Republican-backed proposal would reduce the cap on property taxes for school maintenance and operations by 26 percent within two years, saving $340 a year for the owner of a home appraised at $100,000. Districts with high property values per student still would have to share money with districts that have less property wealth as part of the school finance system, but fewer property-wealthy districts would have to do so.

The plan, authored by Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, calls for each school district to see at least a 3 percent increase in state and local dollars.

Education groups have said inflation and new mandates will quickly eat up that money and not leave enough to help all students meet the state's growing academic demands.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said a group of school superintendents told him Monday that they'd rather see the Legislature keep the current system in place than pass Grusendorf's plan.

"I am hard-pressed to ignore the opinions of people we have chosen to preside over our local school districts," he said.

The Democrats' plan would have spent more money on bilingual education and programs for students at risk of failing or dropping out. Rep. Scott Hochberg, a Houston Democrat who sponsored his party's plan, said three out of four school districts would have received more money per student under the Democratic proposal than under the GOP measure.

But critics said the Democrats' proposal would have required a tax increase.

"It will trap you into voting for a tax in the next few years that you will not be very proud of," said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa.

While Republicans want to raise state taxes to replace the reduced property taxes dollar-for-dollar, the Democratic plan called for some of the money raised from higher state taxes to go to schools. Still, they said their plan, because it would triple the amount of a home's value that is exempt from school taxes, would give a larger tax cut to the owner of an average-value home in 144 of 150 House districts.

The Republican plan "gives more of its tax relief to people in the most expensive homes and delivers far more money per student to districts that already start out with an advantage," Hochberg said.

On Inflated Test Scores and Other Problems

June 27, 2005

Renown scholar, teacher, and author, Deborah Meier, is encouraged by recent NAEP statistics showing that public schools outperform private schools but remains concerned that this may reflect a focus on testing in public schools more than private schools. Read her essay on the subject at the Forum for Education and Democracy website. -Angela

Monday, June 27, 2005

Educating Girls

This story is about how it pays to educate girls. -Angela

June 25, 2005

Educating Girls / New York Times

The wish list of the world's poorest families is long. They need to grow more crops and start more businesses. They need to have smaller families, healthier and better educated children and safer pregnancies and births. They need to fight AIDS and protect women and children from domestic violence. There is one program that will help achieve these goals and more: educating girls. When officials of the richest countries meet next month at the Group of 8 summit, they should strongly consider a large investment in schooling for girls.

Worldwide, 58 million school-age girls are deprived of education. In rural Africa, about 70 percent of girls do not finish primary school. In some countries, a girl is 20 percent less likely to start school than her brother is.

Girls benefit tremendously from education, and so do the societies around them. But, especially in rural or traditional societies, parents need daughters to help in the house. They are often afraid to send girls on unsafe walks to faraway schools.

Perhaps most important, in many places girls become part of their husband's family when they marry, so parents of an educated girl do not reap the benefits of her higher income and skills. These cultures have a saying: educating your daughter is like watering your neighbor's garden. Since parents in many places must pay for school fees, books and uniforms, they often send only their boys.

But countries have begun to notice that educating women provides amazing social benefits, from better health to a better economy. They have begun programs to encourage girls to start and stay in school. The most direct way is to make education cheaper - nations that have eliminated school fees have had their schools flooded with girls. In Uganda, attendance soared from 2.5 million to 6.5 million children, most of them girls, after fees were abolished in 1997. Other nations give cash payments or bags of wheat to families for attending school. In other places, building schools in each community so students can travel less is the solution.

The Save the Children charity recently ranked Bolivia as the country that has made the most improvement in girls' education. In 1995, Bolivia instituted sweeping reforms, with special attention to rural girls. Families received cash incentives. Schools got more teachers who speak indigenous languages, and revamped schedules to provide vacations during harvests. Bolivia has since closed the gender gap and the number of students completing primary school rose to 78 percent from 10 percent.

Three years ago, rich countries and organizations promised countries with similarly thoughtful and transparent plans that money would be no obstacle. Nearly 40 countries have such plans, but sadly, the money hasn't materialized. Since attracting girls means hiring more teachers, poor governments are unwilling to get started until they know they can rely on the money to pay salaries.

Next month's meeting of the G-8 can fix this. Some $5 billion in new money a year is needed to help meet the goal of universal education. So far, the Bush administration has been resisting calls to commit more money to Africa. But Laura Bush is a passionate advocate of girls' education. She should convince her husband that there are few better bargains.


Wanted to share this testimony given by one of our preeminent Mexican American scholars, Professor Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, before the State Board Adoption Hearings in Austin, Texas, September 11, 2002. -Angela


Professor Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

Professor Emeritus, Retired Tenured Faculty, Texas State University System
Currently, Visiting Scholar and Lecturer in English, Texas A&M University–Kingsville

The philosopher Santayana posited that those who cannot learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. This is surely an admonition for our times, particularly as a caution for white Americans whose children read only about the history of whites in the United States in white textbooks that tacitly promulgate white supremacy. For if that is all they read, then they risk repeating the history that has been occulted in the history and literature textbooks of our public schools, the history of the others whose histories have been excluded from the historical record.

For too long, unfortunately, history has been anthropomorphized as an entity that writes itself, sui generis. Concentrating on the velleities, little thought is given to the realities that produce history–someone writes the record. It is not an invisible hand that documents events and activities. Public history as studied in our public schools is shaped by historians with intellectual and ideological proclivities, not to mention agendas which are often hidden. The upshot is that what appears in the historical record is often regarded as gospel and ergo indisputable.

I am appalled by the historical record in the American history textbooks which I have reviewed for this presentation and which are being considered for state adoption and use in Texas public schools, for nowhere in these texts is the story of American Hispanics, particularly Mexican Americans, fully told. Instead their story is alluded to at best in a foreword here or a footnote there. Most often the story of American Hispanics is little more than an apostrophe. And the story as told in the history textbooks is proffered as gospel and indisputable.

But history alone is not guilty of sins of omission. American literature is equally guilty of excluding the contributions of American Hispanics to the American experience. Part of the problem, I think, stems from lack of respect. White America does not respect American Hispanics, particularly Mexican Americans. We are regarded as poachers in our own land where we have become strangers. Appeals to include our story in the textbooks studied by our children are sloughed off with derision and with taunts to go back to Mexico if we want to read our history, failing to come to grips with the fact that our history is of the United States not Mexico, and that Mexican Americans, like Palestinians, are in a land that was once part of their patrimony.

In a landmark essay on race, "Stranger in the Village," James Baldwin foresaw the unequivocal disparity of racial perceptions. He wrote, the problem between blacks and whites is that the black man knows who the white man is but the white man does not know who the black man is. Today Mexican Americans know who the Anglo is but Anglos don’t know who the Mexican Americans are. That’s why textbooks need our story.

In 1906, W. E. B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP and author of The Souls of Black Folk, prophesied that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line. And it was. Equally prophetic, unless we do something now to halt the vicious cycle, the problem of the 21st century will be the story line–what constitutes American history? American history requires a paradigm that squares with the nation’s millennial expectations. Adopting these textbooks as they are does not contribute to those expectations. In fact, adopting these history textbooks as they are now will only allay the inevitable and foment needless confrontation in the future. The specters of demographic imperatives beseech us to act now rather than later. Help us to tell our story in the annals of American history. Some first steps would be to place more Mexican Americans on the editorial boards responsible for those textbooks. The next step is to walk the walk.

At 76, Dr. Ortego is retired professor emeritus, Texas State University System. Dr. Ortego was a founding member in 1968 of the National Council of Teachers of English Task Force on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English and was editor of Searching for America (NCTE, 1973).

Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of English Language and Literature
Texas State Univeristy System--Sul Ross
[English, Linguistics, Journalism, Information Studies, Bilingual Education, Chicano Studies]

Dean Emeritus, Hispanic Leadership Institute, Arizona State University
Chair Emeritus, The Hispanic Foundation, Washington, DC

Visiting Scholar and Lecturer in English and Bilingual Studies
Texas A&M University--Kingsville
Phone: 361-522-8256 E-mail:

Home: 1317 E. FM 1717, Kingsville, Texas 78363
Home Phone: 361-592-2030 Home E-mail:

House Bill 2 Remains Alive

Great commentary below of who the true beneficiaries of HB2/HB3 are. -Angela

Conservative groups demand more accountability in school spending


AUSTIN — Several conservative leaders on Friday urged the Legislature to keep schools accountable for money they spend as they consider education reforms.

Careful not to comment on Gov. Rick Perry’s tax proposal he announced earlier this week, representatives from two business groups and a conservative policy group said they support another Republican proposal, House Bill 2.

House Bill 2, if passed in conjunction with the tax-changing House Bill 3, would add about $3 billion to education spending. The House and Senate passed the bills during the regular legislative session but have not been able to reconcile their varying versions.

The additional money is needed for schools, but not unless the reforms for district accountability in spending and performance in House Bill 2 are preserved, said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business.

"It is absolutely essential that reforms be enacted," Hammond said. "It is not acceptable that $3 billion (or another figure) be put into schools without reforms."

Hammond, along with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Texas Businesses for Educational Excellence, demanded complete transparency in district spending, a campus-based system for rewarding successful teachers and a "swift and sure" way to allow the state to take over the schools when they fail.

The group refused to comment on whether House Bill 2 and House Bill 3 should be unlinked to allow education reforms to move forward in the event that an agreement on the tax bill stalls.

"That’s something the leadership will have to deal with, but our preference would be that both will pass," Hammond said.

House Bill 3 is stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee without enough votes to move it forward following criticism by committee member Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, that the business tax would leave out many businesses.

The bill would decrease property taxes, expand the business tax and raise sales tax.

Parents and taxpayers should be able to easily peruse a breakdown of expenditures for each campus, they said.

"This is one of the finest pieces of education legislation being considered in any state in America," said Sandy Kress, an Austin attorney and former adviser to President George W. Bush on his No Child Left Behind legislation.

But a spokesman for former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, who is considering running for governor on the Democratic ticket next year, was at the announcement and said the reforms are designed to line the pockets of companies that sell testing materials.

Spokesman Jason Stanford agreed with transparency in spending, but not with measuring students at the expense of their success, he said.

"(Transparency) is a good idea," Stanford said. "But it’s all so companies can make more money on testing materials."

Bill Summers, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, said businesses in the Valley agree that any more money to schools should be accompanied by more accountability.

"I bet you we wouldn’t even have to be talking about taxes if (schools) would go back and streamline their budgets and use only the money that is needed to educate the children," Summers said.

Philadelphia Mandates Black History for Graduation

This is a story that I've been following. Isn't this long overdue? My first acquaintance to minority scholarship was African American and Jewish American literature. It was eye-opening and thusly, transformative. Then Mexican American history came along a little later and it made a huge difference in my life to finally learn about my history. Would have been nice to have learned about it sooner than in graduate school. It's also such a rich and powerful history. -Angela

June 25, 2005


PHILADELPHIA, June 22 - Angry that public schools here have always taught American history through a Eurocentric prism, parents of black children began pleading with local school officials to offer a course in African-American history.

That was nearly 40 years ago.

This year, their pleas were finally - and emphatically - answered. Starting in September, students entering city high schools as ninth graders will be required to take a course in African-American history, making Philadelphia the first major city to require such a course for high school graduation.

School officials here say the course carries huge benefits for all students and offers a perspective on American history that has been largely absent from most contemporary teaching guides.

"You cannot understand American history without understanding the African-American experience; I don't care what anybody says," said Paul G. Vallas, the school system's chief executive, who is white. "It benefits African-American children who need a more comprehensive understanding of their own culture, and it also benefits non-African-Americans to understand the full totality of the American experience."

Critics of the policy shift say it will further polarize the city by focusing attention on just one race and not dealing with other racial and ethnic groups like Mexicans, Chinese or Poles.

According to a course outline developed by district officials, the course will focus on how Africans became Americans through the colonial period, efforts of slaves to achieve freedom, the Civil War and its aftermath, economic development for blacks through the last century, the civil rights movement and the growth of modern black nationalist movements in the United States and Africa.

Supporters say the course will place a new emphasis on historical African-American figures like Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells and Dr. Charles Drew, whose contributions to American life and culture seldom get more than a brief mention, if that, in the current textbooks that many schools use.

The Philadelphia School District includes 185,000 students, two-thirds of whom are African-American, and only two in seven are white or Hispanic. The School Reform Commission, a panel that sets policy and is now composed of three whites and two blacks, voted 5 to 0 in February to make the course mandatory in all 53 high schools after some in recent years had offered African-American history as an elective.

The vote garnered little notice at the time, but in recent weeks as the school board began mailing out letters to parents informing them of next year's curriculum, pockets of local resistance began emerging.

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, John M. Perzel, an otherwise strong supporter of the city's schools for recent improvements in test scores, asked the commission to reconsider making the course mandatory.

Mr. Perzel, a Republican who represents a district in northeast Philadelphia that is largely white, said in a letter to the commission chairman, James E. Nevels, that he was concerned that the mandate "will divide, rather than unite" the city "and thereby erode the positive learning environment."

Mr. Nevels, calling himself "respectful of the points" Mr. Perzel raised, said he was certain that district officials would not reverse their decision. "There's no question about the commitment to African-American history by the Philadelphia School District," he said.

An aide to Mr. Perzel said the letter was prompted, in part, by complaints from constituents. Mr. Perzel declined a request for an interview, but his sentiments appear to reflect discomfort among some whites elsewhere in the city.

Standing outside a recreation center in Fishtown, a largely white working-class neighborhood, Mike Budnick, 16, called the requirement "a bad idea" and said he was not especially interested in learning about black culture or heritage.

"I'm more interested in our history," he said.

A friend of Mr. Budnick, Arbi Ferko, also 16, said, "It's not our history to learn," and pointed out, as other critics have, that the school had not sought to create courses on the history of other groups.

Supporters of the course are dismayed by such views, insisting that in large measure, African-Americans, like no other ethnic group, have been cheated by contemporary textbooks and social studies curriculums that introduce students to blacks in this country as slaves from Africa with no prior language, culture or heritage.

"Too often, African-Americans are marginalized in American society," said Sandra Dungee Glenn, a commission member who was the driving force behind making the course mandatory. "People's views and understanding of who we are focus on us as descendents of slaves. It begins and ends there, giving us inferior status."

The course is designed to alter those perceptions by reviewing the origins of civilization in Africa and early developments in African history before tracking the movement of Africans to North America as slaves.

From that point, the course follows the progress and travails of blacks throughout American history with a special emphasis on their contributions.

As a pilot program, African history was offered in the spring semester this year in four high schools.

Patricia Thomas Whyatt taught the course at Strawberry Mansion, a nearly all-black school of 900 students, and found that even her own students had misconceptions of their race.

"The first day I asked students to make a list of everything they knew about Africa, then we went through each item," Ms. Whyatt said. "They thought Africa was all jungle, that people ran around with spears and lived in huts. A lot of crazy things like that."

By the end of school this month, she said, not only had perceptions changed but self-esteem had improved as well.

One of her students, Christopher Davis, 18, said: "In American society, we're known as gangsters, drug dealers and killers. People don't know all about our heritage, what we stood for, our accomplishments as a culture. I feel better now because I know a little bit more about how we lived before we got here."

Can Cash Buy Good Schools?

Sunday, June 26, 2005 by Joshua Benton /Dallas Morning News
This study should prove to be a helpful antidote to the pro-charter/pro-voucher movement. -Angela

It may cost $20,000 a year or more. But is private-school tuition really worth the big bucks?
An interesting new study by two University of Illinois researchers seems to indicate it often isn't. And it gives further evidence that many folks can't spot a "good" school when they see one.

"More often than not when people try to judge the quality of schools, they look at who is walking in the doors of that school, not what the school is doing with them once they're there," said Chris Lubienski, co-author of the study with his wife and fellow professor, Sarah.

Their study looks at math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is the big federal test whose results researchers love to slice and dice, since it includes scores and demographic data for tens of thousands of students.

When NAEP scores are reported, they always show private-school students outperforming their peers in public school. It's been a consistent finding for decades.

But the Lubienskis were curious. Is that because private schools are really better? Or is it just because they generally enroll wealthier, better-prepared students?

So they built a way to try to remove social class as a factor. They gathered up data on the students taking the test. Were they poor enough to qualify for free school lunch? Did they have a computer at home? Did their parents graduate from college, or did they drop out of high school? They then compared how public and private schools fared when these socioeconomic factors were stripped away.

They found that, at all class levels, public schools had a small but consistent edge over privates. Their suspicions were supported by the numbers: The reason private schools look better on paper is because they serve more middle- and upper-class kids.
Or, to be even plainer: Poor kids in public schools did better than poor kids in private schools. Middle-class kids in public schools did better than middle-class kids in private schools. And rich kids in public schools did better than rich kids in private schools.
I've got no grudge here. I attended both public and private schools. And there may be plenty of reasons to send a child to private school that aren't about test scores – religion, for instance.

More affluent students

But the Lubienskis' findings make sense. Private schools generally pay their teachers less than public schools and often have fewer resources. The one edge they generally do have is a better-off student body.
Why does this matter? A few reasons.
First, it's a reminder of how important poverty and home life are to a child's academic success.

"All kids can learn" is a nice idea, and "no child left behind" is a nice slogan. But kids who come from poor, literacy-starved homes start school so far behind better-off suburbanites that the gap isn't closable on any large scale. Dallas ISD could corner the market on the world's best teachers and its test scores still wouldn't beat Highland Park's.
I once heard a researcher say that if you want to eliminate the achievement gap in American schools, the answer was simple: Just end poverty. Good luck with that.
Second, it shows we have a problem with how we evaluate schools.

Easy kids to teach

Real estate agents in the northern suburbs love to talk up how great the local schools are. Their scores have been among North Texas' highest for years. But were they "great" because they employed great teachers and brilliant principals? Or were they coasting on the fact they were handed a group of upper-middle-class kids with involved parents – the kind of kid that's easiest to teach?

Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine Plano West High's student body were suddenly switched with South Oak Cliff's.

Plano's test scores would collapse; South Oak Cliff's would skyrocket. But would that mean the teachers at Plano West have suddenly forgotten how to teach? Would it mean the maligned schools of Dallas' southern sector suddenly became world beaters? Nope on both counts.

The governance issue

Finally, the Lubienski study suggests that changing how a school is governed isn't an easy way to "fix" education.

In the 1990s, some education reformers argued that schools were being held back by the systems that run them. If you could just find a way to get rid of the school boards and the public-education bureaucracies, they argued, schools would flourish.
It's one of the core arguments for vouchers and charter schools. Change the governance structure – or let private schools get public dollars – and kids' performance will improve.
The Illinois study is just one study, and it's certainly an area that needs more research. But it's a sign that the old public-school model may not be as troubled as some argue.
"I'm a parent, and I like to have choices," Dr. Lubienski said. "But people were very excited about governance as a magic bullet 10 years ago. They're not as excited anymore."

ETS Poll Finds Support for Changes to High Schools

June 22, 2005

By Karla Scoon Reid

Most Americans believe that high school students aren’t being significantly challenged by their studies, a national poll scheduled for release this week concludes.

For More Info
More information on "Ready for the Real World? Americans Speak on High School Reform" is posted by the Educational Testing Service.

The survey by the Educational Testing Service found that only 9 percent of the general public believes that high schools set high academic expectations for students. Almost a third said students aren’t challenged at all, while more than half believe that students are “somewhat” challenged.

The study, “Ready for the Real World? Americans Speak on High School Reform,” polled 2,250 adults, including 371 parents of high school students and a total of 666 parents of K-12 students. In addition, the ETS separately surveyed 300 high school administrators and 300 high school teachers.

The survey, set for release June 22, found that 5 percent of the general public and 9 percent of the high school teachers surveyed believe high schools are working “very” or “pretty” well, while 30 percent of the general public polled believe that major changes are needed. A majority of those polled support a variety of measures to improve high schools, including making sure teachers are experts in the subjects they teach, requiring exit exams, and increasing taxes to raise teachers’ salaries

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart and Republican pollster David Winston conducted the telephone survey for the ETS in April. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points among the general public; 3.8 for parents of K-12 students; 5.1 for parents of high school students; and 5.66 for high school teachers.

The survey is the fifth annual poll of Americans’ attitudes toward public education sponsored by the ETS, the nonprofit educational testing and research organization in Princeton, N.J., that produces the SAT and other admissions and professional exams.

Allan Rivlin, a lead researcher for the survey, said the findings show that many Americans believe high school students should face high expectations regardless of whether they plan to attend college. Americans want high schools to make sure that students are prepared for “whatever life throws at them,” he said.
High Expectations

The survey comes as a number of states are placing new academic demands on high school students. ("States Raise Bar for High School Diploma," this issue.)

The poll also found that the public’s awareness of the federal No Child Left Behind Act has almost doubled, from 31 percent saying they had heard either a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about the law in 2001 to 61 percent this year. And although a growing percentage of Americans have a favorable view of the 3-year-old law, an overwhelming majority of high school teachers polled hold unfavorable opinions about it.

Almost half of the general public, or 42 percent, support applying the law’s strategies to raise standards and increase accountability at the high school level. A majority of the high school teachers polled oppose such a move.

Mr. Rivlin, who also is a senior vice president for Hart Research in Washington, noted that the public is still divided about the No Child Left Behind Act. Although more Americans appear to be in favor of the law, he said, significant opposition remains, and many people continue to be unaware of what the legislation means.
Society Faulted

Indeed, 64 percent of the members of the general public and 88 percent of the teachers surveyed believe that “the broader society” is the chief cause of problems facing high schools. The public also points to the scarcity of resources, lack of student preparedness, and low academic standards.

Most parents polled said that a high school education should prepare students to continue their educations in college, technical, or a trade school.

Parents, teachers, and administrators favor a comprehensive and rigorous academic foundation that all students should complete in high school. Ninety-five percent of the members of the general public surveyed support at least one year of computer science, 85 percent favor four years of English, and 81 percent three years of history and civics. Seventy-three percent back four years of mathematics, and 69 percent support three years of science.

Yet, 64 percent of the general public, and 70 percent of teachers, support placing a greater emphasis on “real-world learning” by encouraging student participation in work-study programs, community service, and vocational courses to improve high schools.

In addition, 57 percent of the general public and 64 percent of the teachers surveyed believe that seniors should be allowed to spend less time in class if they qualify to take part in work-study and job-training programs, or if they enroll in college classes.

Naomi G. Housman, the director of the National High School Alliance at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, said the poll’s findings indicate that Americans would like to see high schools be more flexible in how they educate students.

“We’re looking at helping every student reach their maximum potential in a way that is going to work for [each] student,” she said, adding that she sees a growing awareness that all students need rigorous coursework and hands-on learning experiences to be successful in college and at work.

Vol. 24, Issue 41, Pages 3,17

Hispanics and the 2004 Election

ADVISORY Worth checking out.... -Angela
Dear friends, The Pew Hispanic Center has released a new analysis of census and exit poll data: Hispanics and the 2004 Election: Population, Electorate and Voters. The report finds that Hispanics accounted for half of the population growth in the United States between the elections of 2000 and 2004 but only one-tenth of the increase in the total votes cast. It shows that this gap between the very substantial growth of the Hispanic population and much more modest growth in Hispanic electoral clout has been developing for a generation but has widened considerably in recent years. In addition, the report assesses levels of Hispanic support for President George W. Bush in the light of new census data on Latino voters. The report is available on the Center's website,

Best regards, Roberto Suro
Pew Hispanic Center

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Stars, Dignitaries Expected At LULAC Convention

For those of you in Little Rock, Arkansas this next week... -Angela

Stars, Dignitaries Expected At LULAC Convention

POSTED: 5:21 pm CDT June 24, 2005 / Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Hispanic celebrities and political leaders will gather in Little Rock on Monday for a conference of the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization.

The League of United Latin American Citizens is expecting about ten thousand members for the conference with the theme "Emerging Latino Communities: Strengthening America." Among the well-known figures on the schedule is former President Bill Clinton, who is to speak.

Democratic chairman Howard Dean and Republican chairman Ken Mehlman are expected along with Gov. Mike Huckabee and the chairman of Tyson Foods, John Tyson. Singer Gloria Estefan will headline a women's luncheon with U.S. Treasurer Anna Cabral.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson will attend a unity luncheon with Alphonso Jackson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jesse Jackson will also lead a rally for youth conference attendees at Little Rock Central High School.

Estefan to Attend Hispanic Convention

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 21, 2005; 8:13 AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Former President Clinton, Gloria Estefan and members of President Bush's cabinet are among those confirmed for events during the national convention of the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization.

The League of United Latin American Citizens is expecting about 10,000 members to descend on Little Rock from June 27 to July 2, said Brent Wilkes, LULAC's national executive director. Clinton will headline a presidential banquet at the Statehouse Convention Center on July 1, said Skip Rutherford, head of the Little Rock-based Clinton Presidential Foundation.

"They told us to expect 10,000," Rutherford said Saturday after taking Wilkes, LULAC President Hector Flores and others on a tour of the Clinton Presidential Library. "To have LULAC in Arkansas is huge for us."

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral will speak at some of the week's events. Estefan and Cabral are slated to speak at a women's luncheon July 1.

Gloria Estefan attends the People in Espanol's 50 Most Beautiful, May 18, 2005 in a New York file photo. Former President Clinton, Estefan and members of President Bush's cabinet are among those confirmed for events during the national convention of the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization. (AP Photo/Jennifer Graylock, File)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and his Republican counterpart, Ken Mehlman, are also confirmed participants.

A large gala dinner in the Clinton Library's Great Hall is scheduled for June 29, following a debate among the three declared candidates for Arkansas governor in 2006: Republicans Asa Hutchinson and Win Rockefeller, and Democrat Mike Beebe.

Wilkes said Saturday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and comedian George Lopez had been invited to speak, but declined.

Arkansas' Hispanic population is still relatively small, with just over 100,000, or about 3 percent of the total population, recorded in official census counts. But that represents a 437-percent increase since 1990, second only to North Carolina over that span, and in response, the Mexican government has announced plans to establish a consular office in Little Rock.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

School Finance Update (Spec. Legislative Session)

Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2005 21:12:28 -0500
From: Joe Castillo
Subject: Legislative Update

From Joe Castillo of LULAC. Good and concise. Thanks, Joe. -Angela

Friday, June 24, 2005

Education finance bills voted out of House and Senate Committees
The Texas House and Senate education committees both passed their versions of education reform bills on Thursday.

The Texas House Public Education Committee passed House Bill 2 (HB 2) by Grusendorf on a 6-2-1 vote. In a vote split down party lines Representatives Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) and Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) voted against the bill, while Representative Harold Dutton (D-Houston) was present but not voting. Although the House Public Education Committee took public comments, HB 2 was passed out of committee with no amendments.

Some House members complained that there had not been enough time for everyone to thoroughly review all of the provisions in HB 2 before voting. Vice-chairman of the House Public Education Committee, Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) said, "I think it's a disaster to do that with a bill that's 410 pages, that only a handful of us have seen. There are a lot of things in here that didn't get properly aired, that didn't have sufficient public testimony, I don't care if it's a special session or not, we need to do that."

The Senate Education Committee passed Committee Substitute Senate Bill 2 on a 6-2 vote, with Senators Steve Ogden (R-College Station) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) voting against the bill. Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) was not present for the vote.

Both education finance bills would:

a.. Provide $3 billion in new funding over the biennium with all districts guaranteed a minimum funding increase of 3 percent starting this fall.
b.. Establish a mandate the Tuesday after Labor Day start date for school classes beginning in the fall of 2006.
c.. Require standardized testing, such as the TAKS, to be done online.
There are, however, some differences in the House and Senate plans. The Senate's version would give teachers an average $2,500 pay raise, while the House education bill would give them a $1,500 pay raise. Both versions adjust "equity standards" to give more money to low and middle wealth districts. However, the Senate version includes a larger adjustment than the House version.

Additionally, the House bill would set a cap of 35 percent of the money property rich school districts would share with the state and tie that amount to per student spending.

The bills are expected go to their respective legislative chambers early next week for debate and votes. The bills, if approved, will then be referred to a House/Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Yesterday's Senate Education Committee meeting was recorded and is available for video streaming via the internet from the Senate Real Media Live Archives as part 1 and part 2 .

Yesterday's House Public Education Committee meeting was recorded and is available for video streaming via the internet from House Video Archives .

School finance tax plan still in committee
House Bill 3 , the tax plan which would fund school finance reform is off to a running stop. Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from the Legislative Budget Board and the State Comptrollers office and then failed to pass HB 3 out of committee.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) said, "We have polled the committee and there are not the votes on the committee to go forward with."

Yesterday's House Ways and Means Committee meeting was recorded and is available for video streaming via the internet from House Video Archives .

Texas Senate
The Texas Senate is in recess and will reconvene on Monday, June, 27 at 1:30 p.m.

This Senate session will be broadcast live via the internet. Please check the Senate Real Media Live Broadcast Calendar for the appropriate channel to access.

Texas House of Representatives
The Texas House of Representatives is in recess and is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, June 27, 2005 at noon.

This House session will be broadcast live via the internet, check the House Broadcast Schedule for the appropriate channel to access.

Senate Committee on Education
The Senate Committee on Education meeting originally scheduled for Friday, June 24, 2005 has been cancelled.

House Ways & Means Committee
Friday, June 25, 2005
10:30 a.m., E2.010

This committee will meet to consider the following bill:

HB 4 -Isett / et al.
Relating to certain limitations on the ad valorem tax rates of certain taxing units.

HB-23 --Keffer, Jim
Relating to state and certain local fiscal matters; providing civil and criminal penalties.

This House committee meeting may be broadcast live via the internet, check the House Broadcast Schedule for the appropriate channel to access.

Yesterday, Thursday, June 23, 2005
Senate Committee on Finance
The Committee heard invited testimony on available General Revenue and considered the following bill:

Senate Bill 4 -Williams

Relating to the calculation and imposition of an ad valorem tax by a taxing unit.

The committee adjourned without taking a vote on SB 4.

Yesterday's Senate Education Committee meeting was recorded and is available for video streaming via the internet from the Senate Real Media Live Archives .

Monday, June 24, 2005
House Committee on Higher Education
Monday, June 27, 2005
9 a.m., Monday, JHR 120

HB 6 --Morrison
Relating to authorizing the issuance of revenue bonds or other obligations to fund capital projects at public institutions of higher education.

This House committee meeting may be broadcast live via the internet, check the House Broadcast Schedule for the appropriate channel to access.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Zero-tolerance gets another look

June 24, 2005, 6:39AM

Granted options, some districts may move to relax their discipline policies
Chronicle Correspondent

Some Texas schools are taking steps to relax their stances on zero-tolerance discipline to comply with a new law that allows for a range of options in punishing students who mistakenly bring prohibited weapons to school.

Terry Abbott, Houston Independent School District spokesman, said school officials would ask the school board at the next meeting to amend the Code of Student Conduct to reflect the recent change in state law.

Katy ISD, the subject of several high-profile disciplinary cases, has decided to integrate the statute into its discipline code for board adoption in 2005-06.

In the Katy district, Christina Lough, an eighth-grader at Garland McMeans Junior High, was suspended for seven days for bringing to school a Korean pencil sharpener with a 2-inch folding blade.

In another case, Gabrielle Hoggett, also an eighth-grader at Garland McMeans Junior High, was suspended and sent to an alternative education school for bringing a butter knife to school.

Under House Bill 603, co-authored by Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, school boards are required to stipulate in its code of conduct whether consideration is given to the student's intent or lack of intent, disciplinary history or disabilities that might affect the student's capacity to understand the offense before deciding to remove, suspend or expel a student.

Currently, students most often face strict uniform punishment, such as expulsion and placement in alternative education programs, for bringing any illegal items to school.

"I am relieved House Bill 603 passed because it could possibly prevent other people from having their lives turned upside down like ours was," said Eddie Evans, whose son was arrested, expelled and sent to a juvenile detention center for inadvertently bringing a pocketknife to school in the Conroe Independent School District.

Evans said his son was traumatized by the 45 days he spent in a boot camp.

Eissler received a letter from Evans, also a Woodlands resident, telling him of the ordeal.

"After hearing his story, I knew I had to do something about it," Eissler said.

In December 2002, Evans said his son, then 12, went to school wearing a jacket while unaware a three-inch pocketknife had been left in a pocket.

When the boy discovered the knife later that morning, he told a friend about the knife, who in turn informed school officials.

Because student discipline records are confidential, Conroe ISD officials said they could not comment on specific students without parental consent.

"The greatest benefit of the law is that, if implemented by a school district, it will allow administrators to do what they are supposed to do best and that is weigh the best interest of the child as it relates to specific circumstances," said Fred Hink, president of Katy Zero Tolerance, a group dedicated to protecting parental rights in the discipline process.

Carrie Galatas, legal counsel for Conroe ISD, said the district is reviewing all of the changes from this legislative session and has not made any final recommendations regarding the new law for the coming school year.

Gov. Perry's plan touts $7 billion in property tax relief, but...

"...he cuts $3 billion from the property tax rate the first year and $1 billion through additional homestead exemptions the second year. He gets to $7 billion by counting the initial tax cut again in the second year, arguing that once it's cut, property owners save that much each successive year," according to Hoppe. Do check out Hoppe's commentary/critique of the Perry proposal at the bottom in the "Fact Check" section. His claims appear a bit over the top.

Perry kicks off race with radio ad blitz

School finance proposal is focus of message; critics say it's old news

10:07 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 22, 2005

By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry kicked off the political season Wednesday by airing a statewide radio commercial touting his education funding plan.

The 60-second ad asks people to call their lawmakers and urge them to support the Perry Plan, which he unveiled Tuesday to a less than enthusiastic reception from legislators who are busy honing their own proposals.

House Speaker Tom Craddick said the governor was trotting out a list of ideas already discussed by lawmakers, but Mr. Perry described his plan as a middle ground between the House and Senate. Lawmakers ended the regular session last month in a stalemate over which chamber's version of education finance should be passed.

"We'll spend some resources out of the campaign to do this," said Perry campaign spokesman Luis Saenz. "He believes action is necessary."

A weeklong ad buy such as Mr. Perry's generally costs about $200,000 a week.

Mr. Perry also intends to launch a three-day tour of the state today to promote his education package, starting this morning in Irving. He spent much of the day Wednesday meeting and speaking with about 60 lawmakers to discuss his plan, said spokesman Robert Black.

"He'll sell it all over the state," Mr. Black said. "He'll be very visible and very loud."

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is running against Mr. Perry in the Republican primary, says the governor is failing to tell Texans about the billions in new taxes he intends to raise to pay for his plan.

"It sounds like Perry is afraid that legislators are going to say 'Adios' to his tax-increasing, phony proposal, and if they do, he knows voters will be saying 'Adios' to him in March," said Mark Sanders, a spokesman for Mrs. Strayhorn.

Mr. Sanders' use of "Adios" was a reference to what the governor acknowledged was an inappropriate remark caught on camera at the end of an interview Monday. Mr. Perry said "Adios" and signed off with a vulgarity.

Mr. Sanders said the radio ad was "the first taste of Perry's new math."

The Strayhorn aide said that the figures don't add up, that Mr. Perry makes promises that aren't part of his plan, and that he claims ideas that are part of what lawmakers have already proposed.

Mrs. Strayhorn has not offered a school finance plan of her own.

Mr. Sanders said her first proposal, if elected, would be that the Legislature restore the Texas Performance Reviews – efficiency proposals and audits that have historically saved millions – to the comptroller's office. He said Mrs. Strayhorn could then find extra money for schools without raising taxes.

The performance reviews were stripped from Mrs. Strayhorn two years ago by lawmakers and made the responsibility of the Legislature's budget office.



In his new radio ad, Gov. Rick Perry makes several claims about his school-finance plan that educators and lawmakers have taken issue with:

The plan would put $5 billion into schools. That's spread over two years, though, and almost $2 billion is eaten up by projected increases in enrollment and is not available for new programs.

The plan would give teachers a $1,500 pay raise. House and Senate plans give twice that amount, and even with a $3,000 annual raise, Texas teachers still would earn less than the national average.

His plan touts $7 billion in property tax relief. Actually, he cuts $3 billion from the property tax rate the first year and $1 billion through additional homestead exemptions the second year. He gets to $7 billion by counting the initial tax cut again in the second year, arguing that once it's cut, property owners save that much each successive year.

Christy Hoppe
Online at:

Education Plans Moving to House, Senate floors

The bills are out of committee and will be on the House and Senate floors by Tuesday of next week. No consensus. It's clear though that according to the House plan, poorer Texans will get the least property tax relief according to current iterations. -Angela

06/24/2005 12:00 AM CDT
Gary Scharrer
Express-News Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — The fight over public school funding will move to the House and Senate chambers next week after legislative committees Thursday approved different versions of a bill that lawmakers will try to reconcile in coming weeks.

Education groups still vehemently oppose both proposals, although the Senate Education Committee sweetened the deal with a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers. The House version would give teachers up to a $2,000 pay raise.

Legislators face court pressures to change the way Texas pays for public education.

Most Republican lawmakers favor the reform ideas, although House and Senate GOP leaders disagree on the details. Education groups and most Democrats blast the proposal for falling short of what they believe is needed to educate 4.4 million Texas children adequately.

The bill is scheduled for debate Tuesday in both chambers.

House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, called the House plan "a significant improvement for education. ... All of the changes are designed to put more resources into the classroom and provide greater efficiency."

But Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, vice chairman of the public education committee, said he hopes the House and Senate will deadlock again — as they did in the regular session — "if the (final) bill comes out as bad as this one."

The House plan does not provide funding for school construction, which the courts have already warned lawmakers to do.

Oliveira also complained that the House bill would create a larger gap between rich and poor school districts than currently exists and that it does not adequately help those schools with large populations of low-income and English-deficient students. Those children are considered more costly to educate.

Only Republican House members voted to move the bill out of committee. In the Senate education panel, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, voted against the bill. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, missed the vote.

A separate House bill is designed to raise the state sales tax and other taxes to pay for a school property tax cut that would amount to less than $20 a month for half of Bexar County homeowners.

Zaffirini said the combination of spending plan and tax changes could have a negative impact on public education.

"While homeowners will be happy to have a few more dollars in their pocket, the quality of education their children receive will be hurt as a result of that small rebate," she said.

The proposed tax shift would end up with low-income Texans paying more, and only the richest 1.7 million households — those with annual incomes of more than $100,000 — paying less, according to a study by the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board.

Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said she doubts school reform can pass without tax reform.

"I don't believe my colleagues in the Senate will do that. They have always said they are inextricably linked," Shapiro said.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Review Panel Turns Up Little Evidence to Back Teacher Ed. Practices

Published: June 22, 2005
Review Panel Turns Up Little Evidence to Back Teacher Ed. Practices
By Debra Viadero

After spending four years sifting through hundreds of studies on teacher education, a national panel has concluded that there’s little empirical evidence to show that many of the most common practices in the field produce effective teachers.

That conclusion comes from a 766-page study that was slated for release June 20. The massive volume was produced by a panel of experts from the American Educational Research Association, a Washington-based group that represents 22,000 scholars.

The report comes at a time when policymakers and researchers are increasingly recognizing the critical role that teachers play in student learning. That awareness is embedded in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which calls for schools to ensure that classrooms are staffed with “highly qualified” teachers.

Yet policymakers and researchers are bitterly divided over what “highly qualified” means and how best to produce teachers who meet that standard. Experts said the AERA panel’s report, coming in the thick of those debates, is notable both for the “evenhanded and critical” research analysis it attempts to undertake and the fact that it was finished at all.

For More Info
Order "Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education" from the American Educational Research Association.

Leading researchers in the venture said they originally envisioned the project would take two years to complete.

“I think we were all disappointed in the quality of the research base,” said Susan H. Fuhrman, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education in Philadelphia and a member of the panel. “This is very important because it says we, as a field, are taking a hard look at ourselves, and we’re saying there’s a lot left to be learned.”
Lack of Evidence

The group found, for instance, that even though 42 states require some form of teacher test, evidence showing that teachers who score high on such tests are more successful in the classroom than their low-scoring colleagues is scarce. The panel found no studies at all on the effect of teacher-accreditation programs and very few that link teachers’ coursework in specific subject areas, such as social studies or language arts, to results in K-12 classrooms.

Likewise, the panel concluded, the research base on the effectiveness of alternative-certification programs, which most states use to provide quicker routes into the classroom than traditional teacher education programs do, is too mixed to resolve whether that strategy is effective.

The report’s characterization of the research differs from a report produced weeks earlier by another panel of education scholars. The document by the National Academy of Education, an invitation-only group made up of the field’s most distinguished academics, suggested that experts know enough now about teacher education to undertake bold steps to improve the practice, such as devising national teacher tests. ("Panel Urges New Testing for Teachers," May 25, 2005.)

But architects behind both undertakings said their reports differed because the panels were seeking to answer different questions.

“The NAE panel focuses on research for teacher education,” noted Linda Darling-Hammond, a co-chairwoman of that effort. Toward that end, the group drew from a broad swath of research, such as studies in cognitive science and child development, to draft its recommendations.

An Agenda For Research

The American Educational Research Association’s Panel on Research and Teacher Education makes 11 recommendations for improving the knowledge base for preparing effective teachers. Its report calls for more studies that:

• Use common definitions of terms such as "alternative education."
• Fully describe how researchers collected their data and the contexts in which the research was conducted.
• Are based on theory.
• Focus on how teacher education affects teachers' learning and their educational practices.
• Connect teacher education to students' learning in K-12 classrooms.
• Use a range of methods and expertise from different disciplines.
• Employ better, more consistent measures of teacher knowledge and performance.
• Look at teacher preparation in academic subjects besides mathematics and science.
• Use experimental approaches to systematically analyze clearly identifiable, alternative approaches to teacher education.
• Utilize large-scale case studies that give an in-depth view of teacher education programs at different colleges and universities.
SOURCE: American Educational Research Association

The 23-member AERA panel, in comparison, set its sights on studies specifically looking at teacher education. The group narrowed the pool even further by sifting out only those studies that gauged the impact of teacher education programs, whether the outcomes were measured in terms of K-12 students’ test scores, better teacher- retention rates, measurements of children’s social and emotional learning, or administrators’ perceptions of the jobs teacher education graduates were doing in their schools.

“There’s actually a lot of research on teacher education,” said Marilyn Cochran-Smith, a co-chairwoman of the AERA panel and an education professor at Boston College. “What there has not been as much of in research on teacher education is research that has really tried to get at the impact. This is sort of a new era in accountability when people are saying, ‘How do you know that how you’re preparing teachers really makes a difference in classrooms?’ ”

The panel also reviewed only peer-reviewed studies. Unlike some other analyses in the field, the group did not limit its focus to particular research designs, such as comparison studies or randomized experiments. The latter, favored by the Bush administration, refers to studies in which participants are randomly assigned to either a status quo or an experimental group.

The group debated at one point, for example, whether to include self-studies, a form of research that educators use to reflect on their own practice. In the end, the group decided to include them if they were of high quality.

“It would be a mistake not to include it, because in certain areas, this is the dominant mode of research,” said Kenneth M. Zeichner, the group’s other co-chairman.

Mr. Zeichner, a professor of teacher education and the associate dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he was surprised by the lack of definitive proof to support alternate routes to certification, given its prominence in policy debates. Besides offering mixed conclusions, though, that body of work was flawed because disparate studies defined “alternative certification” differently.
Inside the Black Box

Few studies looked inside either alternative or traditional programs to get a handle on the degree to which the coursework or field experiences actually differed for candidates.

“They make the point that you’ve got to look inside the black box of what’s going on in these programs,” said Daniel Humphrey, a researcher for SRI International, a think tank based in Menlo Park, Calif., who reviewed a chapter of the report. “This is a great service, because they’re able to point out the weaknesses of the research. They’re not just saying it’s not a rigorous enough design, but they’re also raising questions about some of the research questions themselves.”

To craft a stronger knowledge base for the field, the panel outlined a detailed research agenda.

The group calls for more studies that attempt to measure program impacts and that do so in a variety of ways—not just with standardized tests of K-12 pupils. Members advocate in-depth case studies of teacher education programs in different colleges, universities, and school districts, as well as studies that incorporate the expertise and research methods of researchers from a variety of disciplines.

The report also calls for setting up national databases on teacher education students, teacher-educators, curriculum, and instruction, and for partnerships that can foster more coherent programs of study that allow researchers to build on one another’s knowledge over a period of years.

Accomplishing those goals, however, would require private foundations, education schools, and the federal government to target many more dollars toward research in the field than they do now, panel members said.
Vol. 24, Issue 41, Pages 1,20

Too Much Homework = Lower Test Scores

Hmmm. Do we need less homework? -Angela
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
posted: 02 June 2005
10:56 am ET

A comprehensive review of academic performance around the world gives bad marks to excessive homework.

Teachers in Japan, the Czech Republic and Denmark assign relatively little homework, yet students there score well, researchers said this week.

"At the other end of the spectrum, countries with very low average scores -- Thailand, Greece, Iran -- have teachers who assign a great deal of homework," says Penn State researcher David Baker.

"American students appear to do as much homework as their peers overseas -- if not more -- but still only score around the international average," said co-researcher Gerald LeTendre.

Baker and LeTendre examined the Third International Study of Mathematics and Sciences (TIMSS), which in 1994 collected data from schools in 41 nations on performance in grades 4, 8 and 12. Additional similar data from 1999 was factored in.

The homework burden is especially problematic in poorer households, where parents may not have the time or inclination to provide an environment conducive to good study habits, the researchers conclude. In particular, drills designed to improve memorization may not be suited to many homes.

"An unintended consequence may be that those children who need extra work and drill the most are the ones least likely to get it," Baker said. "Increasing homework loads is likely to aggravate tensions within the family, thereby generating more inequality and eroding the quality of overall education."

The findings are detailed in a new book, "National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling" (Stanford University Press).

In the early 1980s, U.S. teachers began assigning more homework, the researchers say. The shift was in response to mediocre performance in comparison to Japanese students. At the same time, the trend was going the other way in Japanese schools. The new study found U.S. math teachers assigned more than two hours of homework a week in 1994-95, while in Japan the figure was about one hour per week.

"Undue focus on homework as a national quick-fix, rather than a focus on issues of instructional quality and equity of access to opportunity to learn, may lead a country into wasted expenditures of time and energy," LeTendre says.

The homework burden might also affect performance among children of higher-income parents.

"Parents are extremely busy with work and household chores, not to mention chauffeuring young people to various extracurricular activities, athletic and otherwise," LeTendre said. "Parents might sometimes see exercises in drill and memorization as intrusions into family time."

States Raise Bar for High School Diploma

Published: June 22, 2005

By Lynn Olson

Gov. Brad Henry of Oklahoma prepares to sign legislation that strengthens high school course requirements, during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on June 7.
—Courtesy of Oklahoma governor's office.

It has been less than six months since the nation’s governors gathered for a summit on high schools, and already at least half a dozen states have enacted policies that require students to complete tougher academic programs to earn a diploma.

Although Arizona lawmakers voted to give high school seniors added flexibility in passing the state’s exit exam, states typically are sending a stricter message by telling students they must take more courses in mathematics, science, and other core academic areas.

The flurry of activity is evidence that demands for making high school more rigorous, which state and business leaders echoed at the Feb. 26-27 conference, have gained traction in the states.

“The number of states that have moved, just in this legislative session, to increase graduation requirements is clearly based on the momentum coming out of the summit,” said Matthew Gandal, the executive vice president of Achieve Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit group that co-sponsored the Washington event along with the National Governors Association. “I see that continuing to build.”

See Also
See the related story, “State Tests Can Influence High School Learning, Report Finds.”

On June 7, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, signed the Achieving Classroom Excellence measure, which requires all high school students to take a college-bound curriculum, starting in 2006-07, unless their parents sign an opt-out consent form.

The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, also increases current graduation requirements to include three years of high school mathematics at or above the level of Algebra 1. Starting with entering 9th graders in 2008, students must pass four out of six end-of-instruction tests in core academic subjects to receive a diploma. To encourage high school seniors to take college courses, the plan requires the state to pay tuition for up to six hours of college instruction per semester.

Gov. Henry said his initiative, which had strong backing from the business community, “pushes students to take a tougher academic workload to better prepare them for life after high school.”

Indiana also enacted legislation that requires students to complete a college-preparatory curriculum—known as the “Core 40”—to earn a diploma, beginning with the class of 2011. As in Oklahoma, parents would have to request that their children be exempted from the requirement. Students with disabilities would follow the recommendations in their individualized education plan.

Starting with the class of 2011, with some exceptions, students would have to complete the Core 40 curriculum for admission to Indiana’s four-year public colleges.

Indiana is one of 13 states that joined the American Diploma Project Network at the summit. States in the Achieve-managed project commit to preparing all students for work and college, in part by raising graduation standards. This month, Achieve announced five new members— Alabama, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma—bringing the total to 18.
Rigor and Relevance

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat, also made strengthening graduation standards one of his top legislative priorities.

Under his High Standards, Better Schools plan, which passed the Senate by 56-0 and the House by 104-10, students will have to take a third year of math (including algebra and geometry), two years of science, four years of English, and two years of “writing intensive” courses to earn a diploma.

Oregon lawmakers similarly are considering boosting the number of math and English courses needed to graduate.

In Mississippi, the state board of education in April passed a plan that increases graduation requirements for all students, beginning with 9th graders in the fall of 2008. Under the plan, students will have to complete four years each of English, math, science, and social studies to earn a diploma, including two years of math beyond Algebra 1, at least one laboratory-based science course, and economics.

The state has been revising the actual content of its high school curriculum since 2004, when an independent study by the Washington-based Council for Basic Education concluded that the curriculum lacked rigor.

South Carolina, in contrast, has not increased the credits needed to graduate. Instead, the Education and Economic Development Act of 2005, signed by Republican Gov. Mark Sanford in May, will reorganize the curriculum around “career clusters of study,” such as health science, information technology, and finance.

State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum said: “This is about helping students see the importance of the skills they’re learning. If they can apply those skills to real-life situations, then it’s more likely that they will buy into what our schools are trying to accomplish.”

The law also requires the state to provide more guidance counselors to work with students and their parents to explore career interests and plan for the future. It calls for an average of 300 students per counselor by the 2006-07 school year, instead of the current average of 500 students.
Model Core Curricula

Other states are working on model high school curricula that provide students with better preparation for work and college.

Legislation signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa this month requires the state board of education to devise a model core curriculum. The bill also sets a goal that 80 percent of Iowa graduates, excluding special education students, successfully complete a core curriculum by July 1, 2009.

The law requires districts to report publicly on the percent of graduates who complete a core curriculum. Beginning in July 2006, every district must develop a plan with each 8th grader for completing a core curriculum in high school and report to the student and his or her parents each year on progress.

“There was some concern that we just, literally, didn’t know with certain kids what kinds of classes they were taking,” said Jeff Berger, a legislative liaison in the state department of education.

The Delaware education department also is working on a model curriculum that would better prepare students for college or technical careers. The state plans to assist interested districts in doing a “gap analysis” to see how well their requirements align with the state’s model curriculum, and it will provide professional development for teachers.

Delaware lawmakers also scrapped a three-tiered diploma system, which was never implemented, after many parents voiced concern that the lowest-level diploma, intended for students who did not pass state tests, would have little value in the marketplace.

Instead, Delaware will offer two types of diplomas for the classes of 2006 and 2007: a “standard” diploma and a “distinguished” diploma. In addition to meeting course requirements, the latter will be based on a combination of state test scores and other academic indicators, which are still being determined. Beginning with the class of 2008, the state will offer only one type of diploma for all students.
Reprieve in Arizona

In contrast to the ratcheting up that is going on in many states, Arizona has temporarily lowered its graduation requirements.

In March, the state board of education reduced the passing scores for the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, tests that students must pass to graduate, beginning with the class of 2006.

Then in May, lawmakers voted to permit students scheduled to graduate in 2006 and 2007 to apply grades of A, B, or C in some high school courses toward their scores on the tests in reading, writing, and math. The extra points can count for up to 25 percent of a student’s AIMS scores.

Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for the state education department, said this month that the specifics were still being worked out by the state school board.

Tom Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of schools, opposed any lowering of the requirements and has requested a state attorney general’s opinion on which coursework might apply. The state board was tentatively scheduled to discuss the plan last week.

In California, bills to delay the high-stakes exit exam for students in low-performing schools and to permit districts to give alternative assessments have been diluted since their introduction.

Assembly Bill 1531 now would not authorize the use of any alternatives objected to by the superintendent of public instruction. Senate Bill 517 would require the state to certify that students in low-performing high schools had access to the minimal resources needed to pass the tests, such as certified teachers, counselors, adequate textbooks, and supplementary instruction. It also would require the state to study alternatives to the exit test.
Vol. 24, Issue 41, Pages 1,28

Valenzuela's Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Education

Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Education on the
End-of-Course Testing Provisions of SB2


Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.
Education Committee Chair
Texas League of United Latin American Citizens
June 23, 2005

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today. I am here representing Texas LULAC. I also testify before you as an expert in the area of student assessment. I've edited a recently published volume, a book on assessment and accountability in Texas centered around a very explicit concern that I and many others across the state and nation have. And this concern is about the use of high-stakes tests-of which end-of-course exams are about. If you read the research in my edited volume titled Leaving Children Behind conducted by scholars like Linda McNeil, Richard Valencia, Kris Sloan, Elaine Hampton and others, it becomes clear that many of the problems that we are having in our schools here in Texas are generated by the testing system itself-specifically, the high-stakes testing component.

Before getting into specifics, I want to address the underlying assumptions that typically remain unspoken in order to question the logic of this system. Two primary assumptions are that this is a good business model and secondly, that it embodies a civil rights approach. These assumptions hold with respect to both the current TAKS system of testing and the end-of-course one that is being proposed.

As a business model and using the market as a metaphor, it is illogical to make either students or teachers responsible for the quality of their product when they do not control the resources or flow of finances to which the outcomes are tied. With respect to children and their parents, when in business do we make the consumer responsible for the quality of the product? We are moving forward with the implausible premise that a level playing field in the quality of personnel and instruction exists or will exist across all courses offered in every school and in every classroom in our state in order to justify a standardized examination process.

Regarding Civil Rights, the case of de-segregation is instructive. This history reminds us that when the statutory engines of change commanded restraint, they targeted not the victims of Jim Crow, but rather the perpetrators of discriminatory practices. Just as it would have been unreasonable-indeed, nonsensical-for either the lowest-level workers or business clientele to have assumed the primary burden of change to integrate lunch counters, hotels, and other public establishments, so too is it unreasonable for both children and their teachers to bear the primary burden of change under the banner of accountability.

Now to specifics, the problem isn't with standardized tests; when used appropriately, these are legitimate forms of assessment and no author disputes the need for accountability. The issue is with the way that the tests are used. Specifically, they are used to accomplish various goals simultaneously, compromising its validity. First, they are used to measure achievement (albeit in a narrow way and also in a way that is insensitive to the needs of language minority and disabled children-the latter by the Commissioner Nealey's own admission); second, as primary determinants of children's progression within the system (which even the test makers themselves say it should never do); and third, to monitor or control the behavior of the adults-mainly teachers but also principals-in the system.

Here is the rub. The problem here is that the testing system doubles as both a testing and monitoring system-two functions in one. One cannot parcel out from a single indicator the extent to which that number was achieved through excessive coaching or other forms of system gaming. And so when we tie course credit to end-of-course examinations, perverse incentives to narrow the curriculum by teaching to the test will logically occur. All of this, of course, corrupts the assessment so that the score you get never reflects real achievement.

As Education Committee Chair for Texas LULAC, my studied recommendation is that the Senate Committee on Education remove the end-of-course provisions from your bill. Not only has there been no public discussion of this significant direction that you want to take us in, I see no scholarly justification for additional high-stakes exams. In fact, I see the very opposite: There is an ample research base, coupled with myriad newspaper reports from, and on, our own state that clearly indicate the wrong-headedness of this approach.

I could mention, for instance, the recent cheating scandal discovered by the Dallas Morning News, affecting approximately 400 schools across our state. Although that actual number as been adjusted to a lower figure, to not infer dysfunction is to willfully ignore this evidentiary base.

More positively, I'll point to the most comprehensive study to date conducted by Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, titled, “Multiple Measures Approaches to High School Graduation.” She conducts an analysis of 27 states that differ from single-test approaches like Texas in that they consider a variety of student work, including student academic records, research papers, portfolios, essays, oral exams, and capstone projects. In general, she finds that multiple measures approaches have both raised achievement and lowered dropout rates. In Texas, there is evidence of increasing test scores, but every other indicator that we care about (ACT, SAT, high school completion) is running in the opposite direction.

Other good news is that under NCLB this is actually one area-student assessment-over which we can exercise our own independent judgment as a state. We cannot do anything about the high stakes at the school and district level-but, as the Darling Hammond study indicates-we do have latitude with respect to high-stakes decisions involving individual children. When so much is at stake-particularly for the children themselves, I urge this committee to proceed with utmost caution and to reconsider the addition of more high-stakes testing. Thank you very much.

"Which governor is that?"

This is a pretty devastating comment by Jim Keffer to the status of Gov. Perry's school funding proposal. I heard a rumor today that Perry is likely to call 3 special sessions if that's what it'll take in order to get something passed. Who knows what'll happen...?

I testified today in the Senate Committee on Education on the end-of-course exams that are currently being proposed within the current school finance plan (see today's other post). Click here to get a draft of SB2 and here for HB2. The versions are really similar to each other. Unfortunately, these exams and many other are going to slip into the final legislation without any real public debate over these. Legislators seem pretty demoralized at the moment.


June 23, 2005, 7:08AM
House committee puts aside Perry's tax plan for its own
Panel may vote today on overhaul of school finance

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - As Gov. Rick Perry prepared to hit the airwaves and the road to promote his plan to lower school property taxes, the House Ways and Means Committee set it aside, at least for now, in favor of its own, more-extensive tax overhaul.

"Which governor is that?" Chairman Jim Keffer retorted when a reporter asked the status of the governor's proposal.

Keffer, R-Eastland, signaled irritation at being called back into special session by Perry only three weeks after House and Senate leaders had failed to reach a school finance agreement during the regular session.

"Absence does make the heart grow fonder. I just wish there had been a little more absence," he said.

Keffer said the Ways and Means Committee, which must initiate action on a tax overhaul, will vote today or Friday on a package of higher consumer and business taxes that would enable local school property taxes to be cut by 40 cents per $100 valuation during the next two years.

It is similar to a bill approved by the House in March but rejected by the Senate, and Keffer noted there still is "no agreement whatsoever" between leaders of the chambers.

Committee approval would send the measure, House Bill 3, to the full House for a possible vote next week.

Under the state constitution, the House must take the first action on a tax bill, but the final version of a tax overhaul — if there is one — will be negotiated later by a House-Senate conference committee.

The legislation would increase the state sales tax by 1 cent per dollar, expand the sales tax to include bottled water, auto repairs and some computer goods and services, and add $1 per pack to the cigarette tax. It also would expand the franchise tax to cover some partnerships, which now are untaxed, as well as corporations.

General partnerships, passive investment partnerships and sole proprietorships would be excluded. All other forms of businesses would have the option of paying the existing franchise tax or a new tax based on 1.15 percent of a company's payroll. Each company, however, would have to pay a tax equivalent to at least half of the greater option.

The measure would provide slightly more property-tax relief overall than the governor's proposal, which, among other things, would impose a lower increase in the sales tax — seven-tenths of 1 cent per dollar — and close loopholes in the franchise tax rather than expand it.

But according to the Legislative Budget Board, only families with annual incomes of more than $100,500 would realize any net tax savings under the House committee's proposed tax swap.

The bill approved by the full House in March had similar inequities, mainly because lower-income people pay a larger portion of their incomes on sales and other consumption taxes than wealthier people do.

The governor's proposal hasn't been analyzed by the Legislative Budget Board, but it also is heavily dependent on higher sales and cigarette taxes.

Perry's re-election campaign, meanwhile, unveiled a radio ad promoting the governor's school finance proposal. The 60-second commercial, which debuts today, encourages Texans to ask legislators to support the "Perry Plan."

"I believe so strongly in this plan that I am willing to put substantial campaign resources on the line to earn a victory for our schoolchildren and property taxpayers," Perry said.

The governor also will visit Houston, San Antonio and Irving today to promote the proposal, which, he said, would lower local school taxes by $7 billion in the next two years and give teachers an average $1,500 pay raise.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is challenging Perry in next year's Republican primary, said the governor appears worried about the reception his plan is getting in the Legislature.

Perry had lunch Wednesday with several House and Senate members who will play crucial roles in the school finance effort, and spokesman Robert Black said the meeting "went very well."

Though no key legislators have yet pledged support for the governor's plan, they haven't told him they won't back it either, Black said.

Chronicle reporter Polly Ross Hughes contributed to this report.

Truth Is, We Do Underfund Our Schools

San Francisco Chronicle
by Goodwin Liu
Thursday, June 23, 2005

In "What We Really Spend on Education" (June 10), political commentator Jill Stewart says "ignorant voters" should stop insisting that California spend more money on public schools. Citing fresh data from the National Center for Education Statistics, she reports that California spent $7, 552 per student in 2002-03, placing 26th among all states and just $22 shy of the national median. "We do not 'underfund' our schools," Stewart asserted. "Why doesn't everyone know this?"

The answer is simple: Because it isn't true.

With a ballot measure this fall proposing to amend the state constitution to reduce the minimum funding guarantee for public schools, voters deserve to know how our education spending stacks up against other states. But Stewart's use of the data does not offer a fair comparison.

To begin with, education costs more to provide in California than elsewhere. This should come as no surprise, given our high cost of living. Teachers are the most important determinant of school quality; on average, it costs more to hire good teachers in California, because it costs more for teachers to live here.

To equalize the purchasing power of education dollars from state to state, the NCES has developed an index that estimates geographic differences in education costs. If you were to adjust raw spending data with this cost index (as I did), the result shows that California's per-pupil spending in 2002-03 ranked 42nd in the nation, not 26th.

But even this is an imperfect comparison. True to its heritage as a land of opportunity, California has a higher percentage of poor children and English-language learners than other states. These children often lack the educational advantages of children from middle-class, English-speaking families. On average, this means that an education dollar will buy higher achievement in other states than in California, because the same dollar must be stretched further in California to meet the special needs of our diverse student body.

Let us assume (very conservatively) that each poor child or English learner needs 20 percent more resources than the average child in order to reach the same level of achievement. When this additional factor is taken into account, California's education spending ranked 45th in the nation in 2002-03, just above Mississippi's.

To put this grim reality in further perspective, the NCES has published 2000-01 data on the per-pupil expenditure of school districts at the 10th, 50th and 90th percentile of spending in each state. When adjusted for regional cost differences and student demographics, these data show that 90 percent of districts in 37 states spent more than the median district in California. Moreover, low spending in California is not confined to a few highly populous districts: 90 percent of California districts spent less than the median district in 14 other states, and nearly 90 percent of districts in New Jersey, New York and Wyoming outspent all but the top 10 percent of districts in California.

Although researchers continue to debate the relationship between money and outcomes, it hardly seems coincidental that California's student achievement, like its real per-pupil spending, trails almost every other state. A recent report by the nonpartisan think tank RAND found that the average math and reading performance of California students from 1990 to 2003 on the widely respected National Assessment of Educational Progress ranked 48th in the nation, just below New Mexico and Alabama and just above Louisiana and Mississippi -- all low-spending states. Meanwhile, high-spending states such as Wisconsin and Massachusetts dominated the top ranks -- where California used to be 30 years ago.

Our state's changing demographics do not fully explain its weak performance. California students of every major racial group, including whites, perform worse than their counterparts in the rest of the nation. Furthermore, RAND found that "Black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white students in California are among the lowest-scoring students in the nation when compared to students in other states who have similar family characteristics." These facts support what common sense suggests: In education, as in life, you get what you pay for.

The irony is that California has long been a leader in setting high academic standards to guide curriculum and instruction. In two studies released this year, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington ranked California's standards among the very best in the nation. Our English-language arts standards, it said, are "balanced and comprehensive," and our math standards "come as close to perfection as any set of mathematics standards in the country." No other state exhibits such an enormous gap between its expectations and its performance in K-12 education.

In order to bridge this gap, we need a host of reforms to make schools more accountable, more efficient and more competitive. But we also need to follow a simple principle in funding our schools: Our education budget must be based on what it actually costs to enable all children to learn to high standards, not on annual political conflict and compromise. In such states as Kansas, Kentucky and New York, where lawsuits have successfully challenged inadequate school funding, courts have ordered legislatures to put this basic principle into practice, and a valuable research base is emerging on how to estimate the real cost of a high-quality education.

In April, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a step toward elevating public schools above politics by convening an Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, led by respected educator and former Occidental College President Ted Mitchell. In setting its priorities, the governor asked the committee to study the adequacy of education funding in order "to make California's schools the best in the nation once again." But the governor has sent a mixed signal by supporting a measure in this fall's special election that seeks to limit the minimum-funding guarantee for public schools. It would be remarkable if his advisory committee did not confirm what many voters already know: California cannot have the best schools in the nation so long as our education funding is among the worst.

Goodwin Liu is an assistant professor of law at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. With Boalt's dean, Christopher Edley, he is co-director of a new civil-rights initiative called "Rethinking Rodriguez: Education as a Fundamental Right."