Friday, September 30, 2005

Some Immigrants Suffer Doubly After Hurricane Katrina

This piece demonstrates that this country only wants to deal superficially and in a self-serving manner with immigration. Rather than paying the prevailing wage in the rebuilding of New Orleans, they hire immigrant labor. Georgia was similarly rebuilt after Hurricane Andrew and also, later, the olympic park in Atlanta during the international olympics. Now, they have half a million Mexican residents there. And yes, they’re a prolific community and they’re setting up their own institutions (churches, businesses, restaurants). Though ambivalence toward this community prevails, all of this is still viewed as somewhat of a novelty in Georgia.

I quote from the piece below, “Ironically, even as they risk being put into deportation proceedings if they access aid, immigrants are apparently being courted as a major part of government-driven rebuilding New Orleans.” If history is any guide, perhaps the future New Orleans will be a gentrified city with a “new” underclass that includes unprecedented numbers of nationals from Mexico and Latin America—and yes, with their own institutions as part of an overall survival strategy.

Georgia is now looking for solutions to the massive under-education of its Mexican residents. Congress will be soon taking up immigration policy. There are several proposals that will be addressed, including the Dream Act and the Kennedy-McCain bills.

I plan to post such news items as they critically affect the future of our country and as the article below suggests, the well-being of the immigrants themselves. -Angela

by Kari Lydersen
Sep 28, 2005

Undocumented workers and families in the areas devastated by one of the worst storms in US history – including Central American survivors of Hurricane Mitch – face perhaps the steepest route to recovery.

Many Hondurans came to the New Orleans area after Hurricane Mitch tore through their homeland in 1998, devastating the already poverty-stricken country. Few funds were available for aid and rebuilding, and corrupt officials siphoned off much of the foreign financial help. Many parts of the capitol Tegucigalpa still stand in ruins seven years later.

Hurricane Katrina was an all-too-familiar experience for those who were already refugees. About 150,000 Hondurans were among an estimated 300,000 immigrants living in the areas hit by the storm. And in a country far wealthier than their homeland, many found their access to aid and support was not much different. Those from Honduras and other countries who are undocumented and living illegally in the US, usually working low-wage jobs, have had an even harder time than other impoverished residents in surviving and relocating after the hurricane, since they are afraid to ask for aid.

And for good reason. After initial governmental reassurances that immigrants should seek aid, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined to promise that immigrants would not be placed in deportation proceedings if federal authorities find them through relief efforts. At least five evacuees have been placed in deportation proceedings, three in El Paso and two in West Virginia.

"While that seems like a small number, it sends a message to the community," said Jennifer Ng’anbu, health policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, an organization that advocates on behalf of Hispanics in the US. "It doesn’t take much for them to become fearful. Immigrants are isolated; they feel there are real consequences of disclosing themselves."

In his national address on September 15, President Bush noted that undocumented immigrants cannot get temporary homes, subsidies, Social Security checks or mail delivery promised to legal residents displaced by Katrina. Some groups like Catholic Charities and Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge are helping undocumented immigrants with shelter and cash, but the intense climate of fear and language barriers make even these services hard to access.

Days after the hurricane struck, Mexican president Vicente Fox delivered televised addresses urging the 40,000 Mexican nationals in the area to seek aid and announcing an agreement with the US not to deport undocumented Mexicans, though the US government has not confirmed this promise.

"We’ve had no formal or informal promises" to suspend immigration enforcement, noted Ng’Anbu.

This is a departure from US policy after the September 11 attacks and the string of hurricanes that struck the Southeast last year, when the federal government explicitly suspended enforcement of immigration laws.

Since most immigrants from Latin America send money back to their families in home countries, the hurricane will have ripple economic effects across the hemisphere.

The National Council of La Raza was joined by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in calling on Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to suspend deportation proceedings against all immigrants seeking help in the wake of Katrina.

"Whether folks are undocumented or not, the message that FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security is sending is really mixed, first telling them to report for relief services and then reporting them [to authorities]," said Ng’anbu. "They’re frightened, they’re not seeking the help they need to get back on their feet."

Hondurans and other Central American immigrants made up the bulk of the service sector working in casinos and restaurants in the New Orleans area, while Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants also constituted a large agricultural workforce in the surrounding region. The immigrant population in areas affected by Katrina included the 150,000 Hondurans and 40,000 Mexicans along with about 9,600 Salvadorans, 10,000 Brazilians, and immigrants from Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica, according to numbers provided to the press by consulates.

Natalia Fernandez, a Honduran immigrant in the Bronx whose niece and her three children were displaced by Katrina, was close to tears as she described what her family has been through.

"There’s so much sadness, so many problems," she said in Spanish, describing how her niece and young children were living on the fifth floor of a hotel with no amenities and no elevator and had to walk miles through the heat. They eventually made it to New York to stay with family.

"She’s so tired, it was so hot, no social workers visited them, no therapy, the kids have been out of school, they had nowhere to go," said Fernandez. "It’s a trauma, not only for them but for the whole family. The relatives suffer, too. This is what happens to them for being undocumented."

She blamed President Bush for her family’s misery.

"He’s bad; he’s a criminal," she said. "People are getting sick emotionally and physically, and he doesn’t have a heart. We never had a good government [in Honduras] and we thought it would be different here, but it’s the same."

Mirtha Colon, with the group Hondurans Against AIDS in New York, noted that since most immigrants from Latin America send money back to their families in home countries, the hurricane will have ripple economic effects across the hemisphere.

The fear of detection makes it difficult for consulates and family members to find out what has happened to immigrants. Many do not know if their relatives are safe and where they are. Consulates have generally reported locating only a few hundred of the thousands of their nationals in the region, according to numerous media reports.

LULAC has organized the distribution of long-distance phone cards to immigrants in refugee shelters as part of relief efforts that also include sending out roving medical teams and collecting funds for families who have taken in displaced immigrants.

LULAC director of policy and legislation Gabriela Lemus noted that several thousand migrant farm workers in particular have been ignored leading up to and throughout the disaster.

"They didn’t find out about it until it was too late to evacuate, so they didn’t have a chance to get out," she said. "They had to batten down the hatches and wait. The farm owners were more concerned about their crops than [about] the workers."

Groups including the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and Familias Unidas have urged lawmakers to hasten passing liberal immigration reform bills like the McCain-Kennedy Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act to help undocumented immigrants caught in Katrina avoid deportation and start new lives in the US.

Ironically, even as they risk being put into deportation proceedings if they access aid, immigrants are apparently being courted as a major part of government-driven rebuilding New Orleans. In a September 8 Executive Order, President Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act requiring construction workers on federal contracts be paid the average wage in a region, and the Department of Homeland Security promised employers it will suspend checking documentation of workers.

As advocates see it, this is a microcosm of how immigrant laborers have been treated in the US in general – welcomed and used for their labor, but largely denied job stability, permanent residence and social services.

© 2005 The NewStandard.

Lessons Texas can learn after Katrina and Rita

John Young always writes in such a lucid manner. Here's a concise commentary that questions the alleged virtues of privatization. I include it in this blog because the concerns translate directly into moves to privatize schooling. It asks the question "Who really profits from this privatization?" And just as importantly, "What governance structures are in place to offer protections when things go awry?" -Angela

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The joke wasn't so funny a few days ago, but it's starting to assume resonance: Why couldn't the people of Louisiana get support when they needed it? Because the lines to New Delhi were down.

It's still not funny to those in despair. But it says a lot about a corporate-driven culture and the government it has spawned.

Now that the leave-it-to-Fox-News crowd has regained its footing after Washington's inexcusable federal response to Katrina, we hear such shiny stars as Tony Snow calling for complete privatization of FEMA to make it more efficient.

Snow should know that the fruits of privatization were already on display with the "new, improved and repackaged FEMA; now with Homeland Security!"

For instance, FEMA had hired a Jacksonville, Fla., firm, Landstar System, Inc., to coordinate logistics for evacuating after hurricanes. It subcontracted and subcontracted. You know the drill. When Katrina hit, nothing but free-market bureaucracy stood in the way.

"The bureaucratic chain of command (under Landstar) made it tough to get the word out to bus operators," a spokesman from the American Bus Association told the Louisville (Ky.) Business Journal. The association had an armada of buses ready to stream to the Gulf, but: "You had a company hired to do a job that I don't think really even knew where to find enough buses to do the job."

Katrina and FEMA aside, the encouraging news is that rather than caving further to the forces of privatizing and outsourcing, even Republican-controlled Washington is looking anew at the issue.

Last week, the Senate passed an appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture with language that prohibits states from using federal money if they privatize more than 10 percent of their food stamp program operations. The amendment was authored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

The companion bill in the House has no such language, so it will be debated in conference committee. If it were to become law, it would crimp Texas' pedal-to-the-metal effort to privatize human services. Pursuant to a massive restructuring bill in 2003, the state plans to lay off 2,500 people in a move to private call centers for food stamps under a contract with Accenture. The move has yet to be approved by the USDA.

Organizations that advocate for services for the poor are urging a go-slow approach on privatizing, and they have good reason. Often the "benefits" of privatizing go not to the people who need them but to corporate chieftains and the consultants who snag the contracts.

Two years ago, the Lone Star State, which had dropped hundreds of thousands of children off the Children's Health Insurance Program — CHIP — was red-faced when auditors found it had overpaid a vendor $20 million for administering it, including millions for individual consultants.

Of course, the traditional form of administering government programs has waste and incompetents. But at least government is governed. At least it's ours. Privatizing makes it someone else's.

Privatizing does more than lend itself to profiteering at the expense of the taxpayers. It also cuts them out of the loop when they seek information about the companies operating with public funds. Such information is called proprietary, meaning, "It's your tax dollars, but it's our business."

Post-Katrina, post-Rita, every citizen should be thinking afresh about the function of government and understanding the stakes when we parcel its functions out to the lowest bidder.

It's a good time to discuss curious comments like this from President Bush's first budget director Mitch Daniels: "The business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided."

That's all the people of Louisiana were asking of FEMA, new, improved and already knee-deep in privatization.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

When an exit exam becomes an exit ramp for too many Texans

This editorial by the Statesman is very encouraging. It appropriately critiques high-stakes testing for reasons that scholars and advocates have known all along. It goes beyond this, however, and supports State Representative Dora Olivo’s House Bills 1612 and 1613 that call for the use of multiple measures in assessment. For teachers and reformers, this equates to authentically assessing youth’s work in a more comprehensive manner. Besides being a more just and valid measure of students’ work, amplifying the criteria upon which youth are assessed logically translates into an expanding, rather narrowing, of curricula. The Statesman accurately notes that the Olivo bills additionally respond to teachers’ concerns over the excessive amount of time devoted to teaching tests and not children, fostering their critical capacities. So that she can continue spearheading this and other proposals that promise to benefit all Texas children, the representative needs our support:

Dora Olivo Campaign
P. O. Box 517
Richmond, Texas 77406-0517


When an exit exam becomes an exit ramp for too many Texans
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 / Austin Am-Statesman

For several years, state Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Missouri City, has been fighting to de-emphasize the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in promoting and graduating Texas students. Her bills to do that have met with fierce resistance from lawmakers who swear by high-stakes testing as a means of improving student performance. De-emphasizing the test, they argue, would weaken standards.

But a new study shows high-stakes testing programs in Texas and elsewhere might do as much harm as good. It might finally dispel those mistaken notions and give the bills the momentum they need.

When the Legislature meets in 2007, it should pass Olivo's measures, House Bills 1612 and 1613. The legislation would leave intact the best of Texas' testing system and fix what isn't working. The measures would permit schools to use multiple criteria, including grades, teacher evaluations and TAKS scores, to determine promotion and graduation. As it stands, seniors are denied diplomas if they don't pass the exit TAKS, regardless of their grades.

It's worth repeating that state skills exams are a good way to measure what students are learning and diagnose academic weaknesses. But Texas has used the test inappropriately to determine student promotion, retention and graduation. Because schools place so much emphasis on the TAKS, teachers long have complained that they are devoting too much time to teaching the test and not enough time helping students learn how to think critically.

The study, released earlier this month by the Education Policy Studies Laboratory, examined the effect of high-stakes testing in Texas and 24 other states. It found "no convincing evidence" that punitive measures aimed at pressuring schools and students to improve scores produced better student achievement than would otherwise have been expected. But it did find that high-stakes testing was having a negative effect on many minority students. The study found that states with greater numbers of minority students are using testing systems that exert greater pressure. Researchers think that increased testing pressure is related to larger numbers of students being held back or dropping out of school.

We've seen that happen in Texas public schools. This year, there were 21,198 seniors who did not pass the exit TAKS, so they didn't graduate. Those students completed other graduation requirements, but couldn't pass the skills exam.

Failure rates were highest among African Americans (15 percent didn't pass the exit TAKS) and Hispanics (14 percent). Five percent of white students flunked the exam.

For several years, we've been concerned about Texas' high-stakes testing program. This school year again, the exam will be used to determine whether third- and fifth-graders should be promoted and whether seniors should get their diplomas.

It is true that Texas' testing program has illuminated the gap in performance between white and minority students and between students from middle- and upper income families and those from low-income homes. That is good because it allows schools to focus their resources on the students who need it most. It also helps schools design more challenging curricula for higher performers who might otherwise be ignored.

It would be fine if the testing program stopped there. But Texas takes it a few steps too far. De-emphasizing the test would improve public schools.

Find this article at:

Markets and Accountability: transforming education and undermining democracy in the United States and England"

Check out this publication by Professor DAVID HURSH. It is titled, "Neo-liberalism, Markets and Accountability: transforming education and undermining democracy in the United States and England," pages 3-15 -Angela

A Look at Immigrant Youth: Prospects and Promising Practices

New Report: "A Look at Immigrant Youth: Prospects and Promising Practices"
By Ann Morse
National Conference of State Legislatures: Children's Policy Institute
March 2005

This paper, produced for the National Conference of State Legislatures Children's Policy Initiative, outlines the demographics of LEP and immigrant youth and some of the challenges facing them and institutions that serve them, including new requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act for assessments, staffing, and parental involvement. The report also identifies some creative programmatic responses to serve LEP and immigrant children and their parents through newcomer schools, parent outreach and training, and after school programs.

(...Read the complete report  in pdf form.)


Also see Texas Civil Rights Review for a synopsis/presentation or report highlights.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Federal Hurricane Aid for Schools Debated

September 28, 2005

Some worry that a plan for vouchers might delay overall relief package.
By Michelle R. Davis

As schools torn apart by Hurricane Katrina look to rebuild, and districts welcoming displaced students wonder how to pay for their education, federal officials last week were still mulling options for providing aid to schools.

Congress is weighing several large education aid packages that would provide differing levels and methods of funding.

But progress on passing relief for school districts could be snagged by a growing insistence from some Republicans for cuts elsewhere in the federal budget to offset massive spending for hurricane relief, and by controversy over President Bush’s proposal to provide private school vouchers for students displaced by the storm.

Assistant Secretary of Education Henry L. Johnson, left, listens as Sen. Trent Loft, R-Miss., addresses a Senate subcommittee last week on hurricane aid to schools.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said last week that the budgetary concerns may mean that some Department of Education programs put on the budget chopping block by President Bush earlier this year, but saved by congressional appropriators, may again be at risk.

“Obviously, there are things in the Department of Education budget and in the federal budget in general that the president has called for either trimming or eliminating,” she said in a Sept. 21 speech at the National Press Club here. “We have some programs in our own budget that are not as effective as they could be. … Those things will be on the table as we negotiate.”

Meanwhile, education leaders in Louisiana and Mississippi, the states most directly affected by Katrina, say they need money immediately. They are looking to Washington for relief, even as their own legislators weigh state-level responses. ("Louisiana, Mississippi Lawmakers to Weigh Revenue Needs," this issue.)

Hank M. Bounds, the Mississippi state superintendent of education, said in an interview on Capitol Hill last week that the federal government must help his state fill in the gaps in lost tax revenue in order for it to begin rebuilding.

“The revenues school districts receive obviously will not look like what they budgeted,” said Mr. Bounds, who met with Secretary Spellings last week and requested $1.8 billion in aid on top of the $1.2 billion he expects from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “There is nothing Mississippi can do to help those districts survive.”

At a Sept. 22 hearing before the Senate education committee’s Subcommittee on Education and Childhood Development, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., pressed her fellow lawmakers to speed the process.

“This is going to take quick action,” she said. “The situation is quite dire.”

Competing Programs
The competing ideas on the table in Washington include a bipartisan bill introduced by Senate education committee leaders on Sept. 15 and President Bush’s own hurricane-relief package for schools, the details of which were made public the following day. On Sept. 22, Sen. Landrieu unveiled her own wide-ranging relief bill that included a school component.

Sen. Landrieu’s legislation and the committee bill would authorize Congress to spend money on hurricane-related aid, but wouldn’t actually appropriate it.

The Landrieu plan includes $2 billion to help areas rebuild or repair school buildings; $1 billion for the Louisiana Department of Education to continue school district funding regardless of enrollment; $750 million in teacher-incentive funds to help affected districts retain their staffs; and $4,000 per student to districts enrolling evacuated students.

The bill introduced by Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the committee’s ranking Democrat, would authorize aid to hard-hit school districts seeking to rebuild.

“Children can’t lose a year of school,” Sen. Kennedy said in a statement. “In the weeks and months ahead, we must also focus on rebuilding and reconstructing the schools devastated by the tragedy so that, as soon as possible, children can return to schools fully stocked with the resources they need.”

The measure, if funded, would award up to $900 million in immediate grants to districts directly harmed by Hurricane Katrina to reopen schools. That money would supplement money from FEMA. Districts could use the money under the Enzi-Kennedy bill to recover data, replace instructional materials and equipment, and establish temporary buildings and classrooms. But the money could not be used for construction or renovation of schools.

Money for reconstruction costs will come from private insurance and FEMA, said Melissa Janssen, a spokeswoman for the federal agency. Federal construction money is being funneled to states through two hurricane-aid measures that have already been enacted, she said.

FEMA money typically flows to states to repair infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and schools. For projects costing over $55,000, following estimates for rebuilding, FEMA sends the money to the state, which then doles it out to school districts, Ms. Janssen said.

Meanwhile, under the Enzi-Kennedy plan, districts enrolling displaced students would be able to tap in to $2.5 billion to serve them. The money would be distributed based on a formula that ultimately would pay the entire cost for displaced students, based on the state’s average per-pupil expenditure on education, said Craig Orfield, a spokesman for Republicans on the Senate education committee.

“We felt it was a great start,” Mary Kusler, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, said of the Enzi-Kennedy bill.

Aside from funding, the two senators’ bill would also provide the secretary of education with waiver authority for provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, including reporting requirements, assessment, and school improvement action. And it would permit temporary reciprocity across state lines for “highly qualified” teachers and paraprofessionals to help states comply with the federal law.

President Bush’s $1.9 billion plan for aiding K-12 schools requires approval from Congress.

“Just as appropriators do with the president’s budget or anything else he sends up, it doesn’t mean they’re going to do exactly what he wants,” said Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the 2.7 million-member National Education Association.

Giving and Taking Away
The Bush administration’s proposal differs from the Enzi-Kennedy package significantly in how it would provide hurricane-related aid for schools. Under the administration plan, the federal government would pick up 90 percent of the costs of educating displaced students, up to $7,500 per student, in addition to covering costs such as new-teacher salaries, extra busing, and new materials. ("Bush Proposes Evacuee Aid for Districts, School Vouchers," Sept. 21, 2005.)

For Louisiana and Mississippi, money would flow to the state, rather than directly to districts, to enroll students in open schools and kick-start rebuilding efforts.

And the president proposed $488 million in aid to give any evacuated family up to $7,500 a student for tuition at a private or religious school. ("Relief Palcs Spurring Debate Over Vouchers," this issue.)

President Bush’s plan would force both school districts devastated by Hurricane Katrina and those only enrolling displaced students to vie for the same pot of money, said Jeff Simering, the legislative director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based group that represents 65 large urban districts.

“New Orleans would be competing with Baton Rouge and Shreveport, who are receiving thousands of kids, for the same pot of money,” Mr. Simering said of the effect in Louisiana. “We don’t think that is a viable or a wise strategy.”

The president’s plan would also give the secretary of education authority to waive most aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act on a case-by-case basis. However, at the Senate education subcommittee hearing Sept. 22, Henry L. Johnson, the department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, who until recently was Mississippi’s state schools chief, said there would not be a long list of waivers issued.

“The secretary has been very clear that she has no intention of doing blanket waivers,” he said.

Secretary Spellings said she understood the urgency of providing aid to districts that need to rebuild or expand classrooms for displaced students.

“Expediency is of the essence,” she said. “These schools do need resources.”

President Bush’s voucher proposal tops the list of provisions that could slow the passage of a relief package for education, said Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

“I think they’re going to have some real difficulty building support for the package, including in the Republican Party,” he said of the Bush administration.

Staff Writer Alan Richard and Assistant Editor Erik W. Robelen contributed to this report.

Vol. 25, Issue 05, Pages 24,26

© 2005 Editorial Projects in Education

States Address Academic Concerns [about Hurricane Katrina]

September 28, 2005 / EDUCATION WEEK

States Address Academic Concerns
Students get some answers about exams, graduation; NCLB waivers remain uncertain.
By David J. Hoff

State and local officials are slowly untangling complicated webs of accountability, testing, and graduation policies, hoping to give thousands of students displaced by Hurricane Katrina a better handle on their academic standing.

But while officials in Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama offered some guidance to such students last week, school leaders in storm-ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi continued to wait for responses to their requests for flexibility in meeting some federal requirements.

Mississippi state schools chief Hank M. Bounds pressed his case in Washington with members of Congress and officials at the U.S. Department of Education. His state has asked that districts battered by Katrina and those enrolling large numbers of displaced students be exempted this school year from the No Child Left Behind Act’s rules on adequate yearly progress.

Mississippi state schools chief Hank M. Bounds and top aide Susan Rucker pause in the Cannon House Office Building on Sept. 21. They were in Washington to seek financial help and policy waivers for districts coping with hurricane-related needs.

—Christopher Powers/Education Week
“The sentiment right now [in the Education Department] is not to grant the waiver on AYP,” the centerpiece of the federal law’s accountability provisions for schools, Superintendent Bounds said in an interview after those meetings last week. “There may some sentiment [to do so] in the future.”

Cecil J. Picard, the state superintendent in Louisiana, has made a similar request. He had hoped to get answers from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings during a Sept. 22 meeting in Baton Rouge. That meeting was canceled as federal officials geared up for another potentially devastating storm, Hurricane Rita, which was headed for the coast of Texas and southwestern Louisiana late last week.

Overall, though, the transition from crisis-management mode to one of long-term planning is well under way in state education agencies dealing with the academic implications for students uprooted by Katrina.

“Our top priority has been getting students into schools,” said Kim Karesh, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education, which reported that 3,281 displaced students had enrolled in the state’s schools. “Now we’re coming back and saying what does this mean.”

Testing in Texas
While federal officials deliberate over how they will handle federal rules, state officials are addressing questions about how to assimilate large numbers of students who have been held to different standards and coursework requirements in their home states.

Hank M. Bounds, Mississippi's state schools chief, listens to questions during an interview with Education Week in Washington on Sept. 21. Mr. Bounds has lobbied federal officials on his state's request for waivers of some provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

Their decisions have the potential to change whether a student earns a diploma next spring or advances to the next grade in the 2006-07 school year.

Last week, Mr. Picard met with Texas Commissioner of Education Shirley Neeley to discuss ways to ensure that seniors from Louisiana who have ended up in Texas can earn diplomas on time.

The two state chiefs sought ways for Texas schools to accept credits earned in Louisiana, share transcripts of students returning home, and even administer Louisiana’s high school exit exam to students who want to earn diplomas from their home schools, according to a news release from the Louisiana Department of Education. According to the most recent count, Texas has enrolled 45,129 Katrina evacuees, most of whom came from Louisiana.

Louisiana students also have the option of taking online high school courses that satisfy their state’s graduation requirements through Louisiana State University’s Web site, the state education department said.

While many of such issues remained unanswered last week, other decisions have been made.

For example, if a Louisiana student wants to earn a Texas diploma, he or she will need to abide by the Lone Star State’s rules, according to Ms. Neeley. She announced that displaced students must pass the state’s graduation test to earn a Texas diploma and urged them to sit for the Texas test when it’s given next month. “If it seems likely that a student will remain in Texas and work toward a Texas high school diploma, the student and his or her parents should choose for the student to test this October,” Ms. Neeley said in a Sept. 15 memo to school administrators.

In the lower grades, Texas requires students to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, before being promoted to the 4th, 6th, and 9th grades. The same will be true of evacuees. State law does not give the state commissioner the power to waive the testing requirements, said Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

But Texas school officials are concerned that students from Louisiana and Mississippi may not be prepared to pass the TAKS, which is aligned to a different curriculum from those that the children have studied.

Texas officials point out that students who fail the tests in the spring will have two chances to pass before the 2006-07 school year begins.

“If they fail, they immediately get tutoring and all kinds of intervention,” Ms. Ratcliffe said. “They won’t be left floundering.”

In Louisiana, where most of the nearly 70,000 students from the New Orleans and St. Bernard districts are unlikely to return to their home schools this school year, the state board of education was scheduled to meet this week to discuss whether to go forward with testing required under the No Child Left Behind law.

In Alabama, students who have been displaced from other states will need to pass the Alabama high school exam to earn a diploma there, school officials said.

But officials in Tennessee and Mississippi said they would compare their own state exit exams against those already given to displaced students in other states. If the exams are comparable, they said, the states will waive their own tests and award diplomas to students who have passed the tests in their home states.

Accountability Questions

Mississippi officials don’t know to what extent their schools will need to comply with the NCLB law’s accountability requirements. Still, they plan to assess all students—including those displaced by the hurricane—in reading and mathematics this year in grades 3-8 and once in high school, as required by the federal law

In the wake of the storm, Mr. Bounds, the Mississippi schools chief, said that the worst-hit districts wouldn’t need to test students this year. ("Mississippi Begins Clearing Wreckage, Planning for Classes," Sept. 14, 2005.)

He now says that most of the state’s testing will occur as planned, which includes the reading and mathematics tests needed to calculate adequate progress under the federal law, and will be administered statewide.

But Mr. Bounds hopes to scale back the potential sanctions for districts in the Gulf Coast and for districts that have accepted large numbers of displaced students—both under state and federal accountability rules.

“When you have the right curriculum and funding in place, you should be held accountable,” Mr. Bounds said. But it’s not fair, he added, to hold schools to standard accountability rules after they have missed more than 30 days of instruction—as many schools in the Gulf Coast will have missed—or taken in up to 500 students, as districts in Jackson and near Memphis have done.

Mr. Bounds favors letting districts carry over last year’s state accountability ratings if their scores drop because of the storm’s impact. He also remains hopeful that the federal Education Department will grant waivers on AYP to schools and districts temporarily closed because of Katrina or enrolling its displaced students. Federal officials told him they would consider those waivers on a case-by-case basis.

“I’m all for accountability,” Mr. Bounds said. “I am much more concerned today about the mental health of children and adults.”

Accountability is expected to come under discussion in a special Mississippi legislative session that was slated to begin Sept. 27, when school officials plan to ask legislators to allow storm-hit districts to request flexibility under the state’s school accountability and finance laws, said Steve Williams, an executive assistant to the state education superintendent. ("Lousiana, Mississippi Lawmakers to Weigh Revenue Needs," this issue.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income

In light of the stellar pieces written by David Berliner and another by Jonathon Kozol on poverty, this is an encouraging read. Hopefully, the nation is listening....

We've always known that test scores correlate to income. As critics of NCLB have always said, if you want to raise achievement, you have to address root causes in achievement and not the symptoms. Ralieigh's attempts to address such inequalities are paying off. I'm curious though of the long-term meaning of these effects. Will they translate into higher college-going rates—or even parity with middle-class families—for the poor? This is the REAL test.... -Angela

September 25, 2005


RALEIGH, N.C. - Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent.

The effort is the most ambitious in the country to create economically diverse public schools, and it is the most successful, according to several independent experts. La Crosse, Wis.; St. Lucie County, Fla.; San Francisco; Cambridge, Mass.; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., have adopted economic integration plans.

In Wake County, only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago. Last spring, 80 percent did. Hispanic students have made similar strides. Overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago.

School officials here have tried many tactics to improve student performance. Teachers get bonuses when their schools make significant progress in standardized tests, and the district uses sophisticated data gathering to identify, and respond to, students' weaknesses.

Some of the strategies used in Wake County could be replicated across the country, the experts said, but they also cautioned that unusual circumstances have helped make the politically delicate task of economic integration possible here.

The school district is countywide, which makes it far easier to combine students from the city and suburbs. The county has a 30-year history of busing students for racial integration, and many parents and students are accustomed to long bus rides to distant schools. The local economy is robust, and the district is growing rapidly. And corporate leaders and newspaper editorial pages here have firmly supported economic diversity in the schools.

Some experts said the academic results in Wake County were particularly significant because they bolstered research that showed low-income students did best when they attended middle-class schools.

"Low-income students who have an opportunity to go to middle-class schools are surrounded by peers who have bigger dreams and who are more academically engaged," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has written about economic integration in schools. "They are surrounded by parents who are more likely to be active in the school. And they are taught by teachers who more likely are highly qualified than the teachers in low-income schools."

To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children in every school, the Wake County school district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are drawn to magnet schools in the city. Low-income children from the city are bused to middle-class schools in the suburbs.

Some parents chafe at the length of their children's bus rides or at what they see as social engineering. But the test results are hard to dispute, proponents of economic integration say, as is the broad appeal of the school district, which has been growing by 5,000 students a year.

"What I say to parents is, 'Here is what you should hold me accountable for: at the end of that bus ride, are we providing a quality education for your child?' " Bill McNeal, the school superintendent, said.

Asked how parents respond, Mr. McNeal said, "They are coming back, and they are bringing their friends."

Not everyone supports the strategy. Some parents deeply oppose mandatory assignments to schools. Every winter, the district, using a complicated formula, develops a list of students who will be reassigned to new schools for the following academic year, and nearly every year some parents object vehemently.

"Kids are bused all over creation, and they say it's for economic diversity, but really it's a proxy for race," said Cynthia Matson, who is white and middle class. She is the president and a founder of Assignment By Choice, an advocacy group promoting parental choice.

The organization wants parents to be responsible for selecting schools, and it objects to restrictions that, in certain circumstances, make it difficult for some middle-class children to get into magnet schools.

"If a parent wants their kid bused, then let them make the choice," Mrs. Matson said. "But don't force parents to have their kids bused across town to go to a school that they don't want to go to."

Supporters of economic integration contend that the county offers parents many choices but that the school district needs the discretion to assign some children to schools to avoid large concentrations of poor children. "I believe in choice as much as anyone," Mr. McNeal said. "However, I can't let choice erode our ability to provide quality programs and quality teaching."

The board of education had two motives when it decided to make economic integration a main element in the district's strategy: board members feared that the county's three-decade effort to integrate public schools racially would be found unconstitutional if challenged in the federal courts, and they took note of numerous studies that showed the academic benefits of economically diversifying schools.

"There is a lot of evidence that it's just sound educational policy, sound public policy, to try to avoid concentrations of low-achieving students," said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. "They do much better and advantaged students are not hurt by it if you follow policies that avoid concentrating low-achievement students."

One sign of the success of the Wake County plan, Mr. Gilbert said, is that residential property values in Raleigh have remained high, as have those in the suburbs. "The economy is really saying something about the effort in the city," he said.

About 27 percent of the county's students are low-income, a proportion that has increased slightly in recent years. While many are black and Hispanic, about 15 percent are white. Moreover, more than 40 percent of the district's black students are working- and middle-class, and not poor.

Wake County has used many strategies to limit the proportion of low-income students in schools to 40 percent. For example, magnet schools lure many suburban parents to the city.

Betty Trevino lives in Fuquay-Varina, a town in southern Wake County. Ms. Trevino drives her son, Eric, 5, to and from the Joyner Elementary School, where he goes to kindergarten. Students are taught in English and Spanish, and global themes are emphasized at the school, which is north of downtown Raleigh, more than 20 miles from the Trevinos' home. With traffic, the trip takes 45 minutes each way.

"I think it works," she said of her drive halfway across the county, "because it's such a good school."

Many low-income children are bused to suburban schools. While some of their parents are unhappy with the length of the rides, some also said they were happy with their child's school.

"I think it's ridiculous," LaToya Mangum said of the 55 minutes that her son Gabriel, 7, spends riding a bus to the northern reaches of Wake County, where he is in second grade. On the other hand, she said, "So far, I do like the school."

The neighborhood school has been redefined, with complex logistics and attendance maps that can resemble madly gerrymandered Congressional districts.

The Swift Creek Elementary School, in southwest Raleigh near the city line, draws most of its students from within two miles of the school, in both the city and suburbs. But students also come to Swift Creek from four widely scattered areas in low-income sections of south and southeastern Raleigh; some live 6 to 8 miles from the school, while others are as far as 12 miles away.

Ela Browder lives in Cary, an affluent, sprawling suburb, but each morning she puts her 6-year-old son, Michael, on a bus for a short ride across the city line to Swift Creek.

"We're very happy with the school," Ms. Browder said. "The children are very enriched by it. I think it's the best of both worlds."

Of the county's 139 elementary, middle and high schools, all but 22 are within the 40 percent guideline, according to the district's data. Some are only a few percentage points above the guideline, while others are significantly higher.

The overwhelming majority of the 120,000 children in the district go either to a local school or a school of their choice, officials said. Slightly more than 85 percent of students attend a school within five miles of home and another 12 percent or so voluntarily attend magnet or year-round schools.

Although the figures can be calculated many ways, Mr. McNeal says about 2.5 percent - or about 3,000 children - are assigned to schools for economic balance or to accommodate the district's growth by filling new schools or easing overcrowding in existing ones. Most of those bused for economic diversity tend to be low-income, he said.

A school board election will take place in October. While the board has continued to endorse economic integration, some supporters worry that that could change one day.

"It's not easy and it can be very contentious in the community," said Walter C. Sherlin, who retired two years ago as an associate superintendent. "Is it worth doing? Look at 91 percent at or above grade level. Look at 139 schools, all of them successful. I think the answer is obvious."

LATimes: Some Lessons in Frustration

In light of similar designs here locally with the Austin ISD, this is a timely piece. -Angela

Some Lessons in Frustration
L.A.'s high schools struggle to divide crowded campuses into small learning centers. Critics cite a lack of district support.

By Joel Rubin
Times Staff Writer

September 25, 2005

It was meant to be the blueprint of the future in a city pockmarked with failing, old-style high schools.

The gleaming new South Los Angeles campus would be divided into five small schools within the school. Students would choose one based on their interests and would receive personal attention from teachers. Test scores would improve.

Things, however, have not gone according to plan.

Since the campus opened in July on the old Santee Dairy site, its teachers and administrators have received little or no training in how to run the so-called small learning communities. Staffing shortages have caused students and teachers to bounce among the groups, blurring their supposedly separate identities. Fights and other discipline problems have been common.

"Ideally, everyone should already know what it means to be in a small learning community," said Principal Brenda Morton. "But the district wanted us to jump right into this. I just wish we had more time to get ready."

The Los Angeles Unified School District, under pressure to reverse years of low graduation rates and student achievement, has turned to a long-term reform effort aimed at dividing its crowded high schools into smaller, semi-autonomous groups.

But after years of focus on elementary school reform and a massive building program, the district is left scrambling to catch up with other urban districts.

An uneven pace of change in Los Angeles, critics say, is being followed by a poorly defined strategy tightly controlled by a reluctant district leadership. The result, they say, is teachers and principals without the autonomy, resources and support needed to carry out the move toward the smaller learning clusters.

Supt. Roy Romer is unapologetic about the tight grip he has maintained on the reform plan. Caution, he believes, is needed because there are dangers to granting wide-ranging freedom to school leaders in such a large, troubled district.

"I know we've got to make this work. But it's kind of like designing the train as it's going down the track," Romer said. "That concerns me very much, because we're going to make mistakes…. I'm not going to kid anyone that we're on a bumpy ride, but it's the only ride we can take."

In recent decades, major demographic shifts in Los Angeles and other cities have pushed the limits of the traditional high school model. Enrollment at most Los Angeles campuses has swelled to between 2,500 and 5,000 students, many of whom are learning English as a second language.

Teachers, who typically see 175 to 200 faces each day, struggle to remember names, let alone provide personal attention.

"It's the factory model to a T," said Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor who has extensively studied the concept of smaller learning centers. "The students come into class in a large group, teachers stamp them with a lesson, and then they move on."

The strain has taken its toll on learning. At 27 of the district's 49 comprehensive, or traditional, high schools, fewer than a quarter of the students showed proficiency on state English exams.

State and federal laws are increasing the pressure to improve high schools. The district is required to restructure 19 high schools that have consistently failed to meet performance targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law. And, this year, students are required to pass a mandatory high school exit exam to graduate.

The district is banking on its latest reform. Small learning communities are typically theme- or career-based programs aimed at making school more relevant to teenagers. Classes are clustered along hallways or in separate buildings to keep the students together. The cadre of teachers is expected to meet regularly to link lesson plans across departments and intervene with struggling students. Administrators and teachers have more say than they do in traditional schools over how money is spent.

Although learning communities are not very different from charter schools — which are independently run, publicly funded smaller campuses — the idea is a departure for the nation's second-largest school district, which serves about 156,000 high school students.

But with little coordination or oversight from the district's central administration, school principals in recent years have been largely left to experiment on their own. The reform program has developed sporadically into a haphazard patchwork in which most of the district's high schools have only partly converted — some in name only — and 18 haven't started yet.

"There is no time for us to be pointing fingers at why we're not getting the job done," said Marlene Canter, school board president. "There is no reason for our children to wait, and they have been waiting."

The district's slow pace has left Los Angeles without the large-scale support offered to other urban districts, including New York and Chicago, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has given about $700 million to other school districts to aid in the push toward smaller schools.

In 2003, the Gates Foundation awarded Los Angeles Unified a $900,000 grant to kick-start its planning, but since then it has been waiting for the district to present a comprehensive strategy, according to district and foundation officials.

Romer ordered that high schools built as part of the district's massive construction project be designed for the new smaller arrangements. But 15 of the 35 planned high schools had already been designed in the traditional mold, including Principal Morton's South L.A. Area New High School No. 1. As a result, these campuses will be imperfect and need to be modified.

That flaw, along with the rush to open the new school, has left several students who transferred from traditional high schools wondering how it's different.

"It's just like I'm floating around. It's the same as before," said James Mendoza, a junior who attended neighboring Jefferson High last year.

In a common encounter, Morton confronted a tardy student in the cafeteria one day last month. "What is your SLC?" she asked, referring to his small learning community.

The teenager didn't know. "I think it's on the third floor."

Morton consulted a roster and sighed heavily. The student belonged in the fashion and design group on the second floor.

Overhauling the district's existing schools has also proved challenging. Despite a school board policy calling for all middle and high schools to convert to the mini-schools by 2009, officials have struggled to put together and carry out a cohesive districtwide plan. Romer said he was reluctant to move aggressively until he was confident the district could assess whether the more creative teaching was working.

High schools still "have an obligation to get students to a certain level in algebra, for example…. If they want to combine algebra and music theory, that's fine…. But we're still going to require evidence that their students are learning math at a rigorous level.

"Obviously," he said, "I've got to combine autonomy and accountability, and that's what we've got to work out."

Romer only recently bolstered a meager staff, allowing his executive officer, Liliam Castillo, the authority to hire 14 people who will help guide principals as they redesign their campuses. Late last month, he held his first meeting with senior staff to discuss district-level changes necessary to give campuses the flexibility they need.

Most pressing, officials and several teachers said, is the need to shift how schools receive money from the district so that each group on campus can control much of its own budget. Currently, most of a school's funding is determined at the district level, leaving administrators with little freedom to hire additional teachers or staff.

Maricela Ramirez, a lead teacher in Roosevelt High School's technology-themed community, expressed a common frustration: "We're stuck building a new program within an old bureaucracy," she said. "It's not matching."

Despite the lack of support, Roosevelt, among the district's lowest-performing and most overcrowded schools, has had some success. Today, three-quarters of its 5,200 students are assigned to one of 12 clusters.

Roosevelt junior Luis Bautista said he had been a "screw-up," slipping by with mediocre grades, before joining the social awareness and leadership group last year. "I always felt neglected," he said. "I knew I wasn't doing great, but I felt like no one cared."

Social studies teacher Gustavo Reynoso said he and other teachers discussed Bautista in their weekly meetings. He was a smart kid, they agreed, who wasn't applying himself.

One after the other, they cornered him after classes, hammering him with the same message.

"When they talked to me, it was motivating," said Luis, who says he now makes A's and Bs. "Mr. Reynoso told me he knew I was smart. I asked him how he knew and he told me, 'We've been watching you. We know you.' "

Teachers at Roosevelt and elsewhere are apprehensive about whether such small victories will be replicated throughout the district.

"It makes me nervous because this could really be a great thing," said Ramirez, the technology teacher. "But only if the district changes. If they don't, then what? Was all this just a noble experiment?",1,4186391.story?coll=la-news-learning

Craddick airs views on school finance and reform

Craddick airs views on school finance and reform
Bob Campbell
Midland Reporter Telegram

Editor's note: This is the second story in a two-part series about the Texas Legislature's year-long effort to finance public schools and reform their operations.

By Bob Campbell

Staff Writer

Fresh from three legislative sessions that failed to finance public schools, House Speaker Tom Craddick is as dead set as ever to tie appropriations to reform.

With the state Supreme Court poised to rule on the "Robin Hood" system, Craddick will brook nothing but a complete overhaul -- lower property taxes, more accountability and transparency, course-ending exams, an emphasis away from books to technology and post-Labor Day school starts.

The Midland republican also wants a "65 percent rule" to mandate spending that much of districts' budgets in classrooms and to move school board elections from May to November.

"We're going to change the system one way or another," he told Midland Young Republicans at the Petroleum Club Thursday. "We may be there for two or three years, but we're going to get it done. It'll be a system fix.

"We don't need school board elections in gyms on an odd Saturday in the spring."

He said schools spend far too much on administration, vouchers should offer private school alternatives and districts need revenue caps along with lower taxes to avoid property value inflation. "We're not going to pour more money into this bottomless pit without reform," he said.

"As long as I'm speaker, we're not going to do it."

Craddick said starting school in August costs $840 million a year and the tab to educate Hurricane Katrina evacuees, including opening three mothballed Houston schools, will be as high as $1.5 billion.

"I'm for closing the bad schools," he said. "As you know, a lot of schools are cheating on TAKS. I support making the responsible school officials criminally liable. But the Texas Association of School Administrators says, 'No.'"

Contrary to some perceptions, he said, the Austin Legislature did have significant accomplishments during the regular session last spring, balancing the budget and adding asbestos provisions to 2003 tort reform.

He said criticism for upping total state expenditures from $118 billion to $139 billion for the next biennium was misinformed because $9 billion of that was in federally-funded Medicare and highway spending, leaving an actual increase of only 3 percent.

Craddick said the Supreme Court in Austin will not close the schools and athletic and band programs aren't in jeopardy. "Five of the judges are up for re-election, so if you believe that I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you," he joked.

Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, one of 12 Republicans who often sided with democrats this year, said Friday education wasn't reformed or financed because Texans didn't hear any ideas they liked. "People are saying the Legislature failed," said Jones.

"I think we succeeded because our job is to vote what the public wants and, statewide, the man on the street and general public never found any plan satisfactory as proposed. I didn't find any evidence of Craddick trying to break any arms. He let that thing flow smoothly and fairly.

"The court could shut the schools down, but I don't think that's likely. Even if they sustain the lower court that the system is unconstitutional, they could say to leave the present plan in place until the Legislature has a chance to correct it at the next regular session in 2007."

Jones said lobbyists representing education, oil and gas and other interests were not very noticeable during the regular session last spring but became active during the two special summertime sessions.

Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, told the Reporter-Telegram the tax battle came down to where the burden should be heaviest -- on corporations like Dell and SBC or the more "capital intensive" businesses like oil production and refining.

Disputing the speaker's contention his TASA-backed amendment would have revved up education spending from $34 billion to a prohibitive $37.5 billion, Hochberg said, "No, we repeatedly revised it to meet whatever budget bill the leadership had.

"We couldn't do otherwise because the leadership passed a rule every time that a bill on the floor couldn't add money to the cost. We would've lowered the property tax less but would have tripled the $1,500 homestead exemption."

Hochberg's June amendment to replace the House leadership's tax bill drew a 74-74 tie with Craddick voting to table it. Hochberg revived it in the second special session, but it was rejected on a procedural point.

He sought a $3,200 annual raise for teachers as opposed to House Bill 2's $1,500 and wanted to cut school property taxes from $1.50 to $1.30 per $100 in valuation. HB 2, while reducing taxes to $1.15, didn't propose a homestead exemption hike.

"The oil and gas lobbyists were not really involved in the education battle," said Hochberg. "Ultimately the tax bill as laid out had nothing to do with the education budget. There were zero dollars from new taxes to fund public schools. The ground rule Mr. Craddick laid out was that any new money for schools was going to come from the existing budget separate and apart from any new taxes.

"All new taxes were going to go to property tax reduction. The oil and gas industry wanted tax relief and I think rightfully so. But no one was ready to give heavy industry a lower tax burden."

"Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform" by D. Berliner

Partly as a result of Hurricane Katrina, more attention is being accorded to the connections between race/ethnicity, education & poverty. Check out as well my other post today, a piece titled, "As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income."

Below is a pdf link to Arizona State University Professor David Berliner’s widely circulated piece on educational reform. These are all good companion pieces to the previously posted Jonathan Kozol piece on poverty.

Austin didn’t get any rain from Hurricane Rita, by the way, though we experienced strong, cooling breezes. And the 2.5 or more million evacuees from the Houston area are returning home already. East Texas and southeastern Louisiana didn’t fare well at all. Fortunately, at least for now, the death toll appears minimal.



The Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) would like to call your
attention to: "Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform" by David C.
Berliner published August 2, 2005, by Teachers College Record.

Contact: David C. Berliner (480) 727-7413 (email) or
Alex Molnar (480) 965-1886 (email)

This analysis is about the role of poverty in school reform. Data from a
number of sources are used to make five points. First, that poverty in the
US is greater and of longer duration than in other rich nations. Second,
that poverty, particularly among urban minorities, is associated with
academic performance that is well below international means on a number of
different international assessments. Scores of poor students are also
considerably below the scores achieved by white middle class American
students. Third, that poverty restricts the expression of genetic talent at
the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Among the lowest social classes
environmental factors, particularly family and neighborhood influences, not
genetics, is strongly associated with academic performance. Among middle
class students it is genetic factors, not family and neighborhood factors,
that most influences academic performance. Fourth, compared to middle-class
children, severe medical problems affect impoverished youth. This limits
their school achievement as well as their life chances. Data on the negative
effect of impoverished neighborhoods on the youth who reside there are also
presented. Fifth, and of greatest interest, is that small reductions in
family poverty lead to increases in positive school behavior and better
academic performance. It is argued that poverty places severe limits on what
can be accomplished through school reform efforts, particularly those
associated with the federal No Child Left Behind law. The data presented in
this study suggest that the most powerful policy for improving our nations'
school achievement is a reduction in family and youth poverty.

Find this document on the web at:

David C. Berliner
Regents' Professor
(480) 965-3921

Alex Molnar, Professor and Director
Education Policy Studies Laboratory
(480) 965-1886

Friday, September 23, 2005

Choices already clear for funding schools

Editorial: Choices already clear for funding schools
Web Posted: 09/23/2005 12:00 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News

When in doubt, appoint a committee.

And given the failure of the Legislature to deal with the school finance issue, we can't offer a much better suggestion.

The twist to this committee is that Gov. Rick Perry has appointed John Sharp, his rival for lieutenant governor in a hotly contested 1998 race, to lead the effort.

In appointing Sharp, Perry called for "a new approach that puts partisanship aside to do what's best for Texas."

While we applaud that strategy, the statement shouldn't be necessary. That's the way business should be conducted. Voters are sickened by the petty partisanship that overshadows the work of the Legislature, as well as Congress.

Nasty partisanship is relatively new to Texas politics. One of George W. Bush's strengths as governor was his ability to work with Democrats.

If Perry's pronouncement signals a return to a more collegial approach, we welcome it.

At the same time, we question whether a new committee will come up with any innovative ways of raising revenues while lowering property taxes. Perry and Sharp already have taken a state income tax off the table.

The hope, presumably, is that the committee will help build a constituency for some particular solution.

Sharp has been one of the more creative, innovative and competent state officeholders during recent times, so his return to the public scene is welcome.

Sharp's committee colleagues have yet to be named. Let us hope that when they are, this committee will move deliberately and swiftly to recommend changes.

The system is broken, whatever the Texas Supreme Court may decide this fall. The Legislature, not the courts, should fix the problem — even if another committee is required to help legislators do that.

Online at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Out-of-line preschoolers increasingly face expulsion

This is a sign of the times, pre-schooler expulsions at all-time highs. Incredible. -Angela
Page 1A
Out-of-line preschoolers increasingly face expulsion
Failure to adapt can turn child, parents upside down
September 21, 2005

By Marco R. della Cava

SAN FRANCISCO — When Stephanie Crowe put her son, Davis, now 4, into an acclaimed Montessori preschool last fall, she hoped it would prove a bright spot in her suddenly fraying life.

The single mother of two was pulling dawn-to-3-p.m. workdays at an investment management firm to spend more time with her children, who were coping with a recent move as well as their parents' tense separation.

“I had high hopes for Davis,” says Crowe, 39, whose daughter, Madeleine, 6, immediately took to the public school in Ross, a suburban enclave.

Then the calls rolled in. Davis wasn't sharing. Davis seemed angry. Davis pushed a child. Meetings were arranged and warnings were issued.

This was strange: Davis had not been disruptive at his previous Montessori school. Nevertheless, Crowe hired a child-development expert to evaluate her son, who told her that though Davis needed help expressing his frustration in words, he otherwise was a typically rowdy little boy.

The misbehavior continued. Finally, in February, Crowe faced the school's director and three teachers, hopeful for an innovative solution. Instead, Crowe was handed her son's things. Out.

Expelled at age 3 seems a harsh way to start an academic career. But researchers say it's an increasingly common occurrence. Each year, about 5,000 children are asked to leave state-financed preschools, which include some private institutions, a rate three times higher than public school students in kindergarten through grade 12, according to a report by the Yale University Child Study Center.

Nearly seven preschoolers in every 1,000 are expelled, and some for-profit schools eject children at nearly twice the rate of public preschools, says Walter Gilliam, the report's author. The results were even more alarming in the study's pilot project, which broadly encompassed licensed child care centers in Massachusetts and found that 27 in every 1,000 children were expelled.

“This is an issue that cuts across (demographic) settings,” Gilliam says. “We're talking about the educational equivalent of capital punishment being handed down to the very young.”

The nation's toddlers haven't become gum-snapping thugs. And preschool teachers say they aren't evicting instead of instructing. In fact, their jobs may be tougher than ever as the number of students enrolled in special-education programs has risen 30% over the past 10 years, the National Education Association says.

But some experts are concerned that preschools are stretched too thin, which can result in children with relatively minor developmental problems being dismissed as unmanageable.

“Often there are not enough adult bodies in a classroom, which boosts the stress level for everyone,” says Claire Lerner, director of parent education at the non-profit group Zero to Three. “So all of a sudden if a couple of kids are needy, they risk being expelled.”

The toll can be great on parents and kids alike, Lerner says. “When you're essentially told you have a demon child, you feel like you've failed yourself and your kid.”

Clearly, parents and educators are grappling with often unprecedented hurdles in their mutual quest to socialize the nation's newest crop of toddlers. Interviews as well as hundreds of comments e-mailed to, which conducted a website survey for USA TODAY, reveal that:

•The prevalence of dual-income families means children spend long days in often pricey preschools. In Crowe's case, she paid nearly $10,000 a year for a half-day program — almost the same as room, board and tuition at a state college. Such fees can lead parents to expect a level of attention that most schools can't provide.

•Schools adopt zero-tolerance policies to reassure parents who don't want their children exposed to disruptive behavior, but that leaves little leeway to work with kids who need extra attention.

•Parents and teachers agree it's crucial to distinguish between typical toddler behavior (the occasional bite or push) and extraordinary displays of anger, a distinction made with greatest precision at schools with mental-health experts waiting to help. “The reciprocal blame between parents and child care providers helps no one, least of all the children,” says Kadija Johnston, a pioneering force in getting preschools to not give up on students who act out. “Being expelled at 4 just leaves you with a rejected sense of self.”

As director of the University of California-San Francisco's Infant-Parent Program, Johnston has spent two decades sending mental-health experts to about 40 Bay Area schools with the goal of keeping problem kids in class. She says the Yale study “just confirmed what we know, and we hope the masses are now duly concerned.”

Some parents indeed are seeking out preschools that can offer their children that second chance to get things right. Kangaroo's Korner in Watertown, Conn., is just such a place. Founded by pediatric occupational therapist Catherine Risigo-Wickline, the school initially focused on toddlers with Down syndrome but was soon swarmed by a new type of parent.

“These people had kids who had been thrown out of four and even five centers. It was amazing. I thought, ‘Could the kids really be that bad?' ” Risigo-Wickline says. “What I found was that their misbehavior often resulted from being asked to do things that weren't developmentally appropriate.”

Kyle DeNigris, 5, had exhibited some aggressive tendencies before arriving at Kangaroo's Korner a few years back. Mom Raquel says that at his previous center, Kyle was placed with younger children because he wasn't yet potty-trained.

As a result, “he was bored, and so he acted out,” she says. “When another family complained, it was presented as ‘it's either you or them,' but it was clear it was us. Even though we were paying lots of money, I didn't feel like we were a team working for my son. We left.”

At Kangaroo's Korner, a staff child-development expert noticed Kyle wasn't focused while eating and recommended he be further evaluated. Kyle was diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction, “which meant he had trouble filtering out distractions,” DeNigris says.

Back at his new preschool, teachers helped Kyle with his focus; he is now in kindergarten “and is doing much better,” DeNigris says.

But opting out of a preschool isn't always an easy choice, especially in large cities where preschools often have waiting lists.

That's why Carolyn Miller of Hyattsville, Md., sweated out the seemingly unending phone calls “to the point where I was petrified to answer when I was at work, thinking it was them.”

“Them” were the directors of the two Montessori preschools she tried for twins Linda and Stephen, now 5. She says the first school asked both kids to leave and urged her to have her son evaluated.

After both children were expelled twice, Miller sent the pair to a small school run by Italian nuns. The school's mellow atmosphere — lots of whispering and lights kept low — worked wonders. “All of a sudden we're told, ‘You have such beautiful children,' ” Miller says.

The two are doing fine in local public schools after being evaluated through Child Find, a federally funded early-intervention program. Linda fell within the normal range, while Stephen had some minor problems with gross motor skills, for which he is receiving help.

Miller says the preschools were too quick to dismiss her children.

“We felt no one wanted to help us or our kids, even though the complaints were things like throwing mulch and running ahead of the group,” says Miller, who works full time, as does her husband. “Were those things really beyond what the school could handle?”

Some preschools do see behavior that pushes staff limits and jeopardizes the classroom's ability to carry on as a group.

In San Diego, Betsy Jones asked three children to leave her day care/preschool center last year — the first expulsions in 11 years.

“It isn't done easily and without a lot of talk, but, to give you an example, one child slapped a teacher so hard that it made her cry,” says Jones, executive director of the Escondido Community Child Development Center. “I know that the parents' need for child care is so great that without us they'd really be in trouble. But we're also seeing kids now from fractured families with no ability to bond.

“I don't like to expel, but sometimes you don't have an alternative.”

When Michelle Artibee of East Lansing, Mich., felt pressured to pull Katelyn, now 5, out of preschool, she was frustrated that the center “only seemed to be able to deal with the traditional child.” She didn't blame the school; she knew that her daughter's violent behavior was holding back the class.

At the second preschool, Katelyn's anger flashed again. But this time Artibee was referred to KEEP (Keeping Early Education Positive), part of the Michigan Childhood Expulsion Prevention Program.

The program sent a specialist to observe Katelyn at school. Soon she was diagnosed with an auditory dyslexia that makes it difficult for her to follow directions in sequence. Now on a regimen of drugs, Katelyn successfully is navigating first grade.

“I understand that everyone has their issues, including schools,” Artibee says. “But my lesson was that parents must be the advocates for their kids, because you can't expect the care providers to be.”

But some school administrators say parents shouldn't be left to shoulder all the responsibility when it comes to helping preschoolers find their scholastic legs.

Kentucky and Hawaii both ban expulsion from state-financed preschools. In the former, laws are being put in place (new teachers must have a B.A. in child care) and mental-health experts are being dispatched (15 tend to 200 children who are at a “crisis point”) to keep 37,000 preschoolers on track.

“Sure, kids at this age will sometimes bite, kick and refuse to share, but too often we immediately label them developmentally challenged,” says Kim Townley, early-childhood expert at the Kentucky Department of Education. “You need to have realistic expectations and work within that framework.”

That's certainly the hope of Bay Area mom Crowe, whose son Davis now attends preschool at “a sweet little place that looks like it's run by someone's grandmother.”

But she's still upset that her son was asked to leave before the academic year ended (“He wondered why his sister still got to go” to school) and that she didn't get to implement the plan she was asked to draw up (“The child therapist was set to observe Davis in class, but the school wasn't interested”).

The longtime director of San Anselmo Montessori who expelled Davis has retired. New director Michele King says the school can't comment on the case but adds: “It's the first time we've expelled someone in the nine years I've been here, and it clearly is something we would do only in the best interest of the child. Obviously, our school was not the best place for him.”

Crowe is unmoved, expressing emotions that are sure to flare up across the country this academic year as parents and schools struggle to do right by their charges.

“Isn't preschool the very first place where we're taught about conflict resolution?” she says. “I just feel it's a shame those very skills couldn't have been used by adults to maybe help this kid.”

Find this article at:

Evacuee students may face TAKS

By Dan Genz Tribune-Herald staff writer

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Most children from New Orleans and other storm-ravaged communities who have settled into Waco-area public schools will have to take the state's high-stakes exams this school year if they stay through May.

The Texas Education Agency told schools last week that students from the Gulf Coast must take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, ending speculation that those students might receive waivers and skip the controversial, increasingly difficult tests.

The decision means students from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are quickly entering the same tutoring programs as local classmates who need extra attention in reading, math and science to prepare for the exams in February and April.

“We're going to go to great lengths to prepare them as best as possible,” said Jack Henderson, director of student management for the Waco Independent School District, where 60 evacuee students have enrolled.

Hillsboro ISD Superintendent Jerry Maze said most children among storm evacuees across the state will need extra help to prepare for the exams, even though Louisiana has an established state testing program.

“No matter what they're used to, it's going to be different and it's going to be difficult,” said Maze, whose Hill County district is now home to seven students uprooted by Hurricane Katrina.

The decision could also impact schools' state and federal ratings. All three Waco ISD high schools must post higher passing rates on the test this school year to avoid No Child Left Behind sanctions next fall. Each has taken in at least two students.

Waco High School principal Donald Garrett said “it's fair” for the TEA to require new arrivals to demonstrate the same achievement expected of local students, though under the circumstances it could prove challenging.

“The advanced kids may not have any trouble at all, but I suspect it could be tough for some of the students” if their families stay in Waco long, he said.

“Many of the children I've talked to have said, ‘We're going to get back to Louisiana and graduate there,'” Garrett said.

The TEA is still working out some details for the testing, especially as it relates to graduation requirements, TEA spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said.

Evacuees who want a Texas diploma this school year will have to pass the exit exams students typically take in 11th grade. Students who want a Louisiana diploma will have to have passed that state's exit exams, given in 10th grade, Marchman said.

Craig Thompson Jr., 17, from New Orleans passed the Louisiana test on his first try back at Abramson Senior High School. He said more tests are about the last thing he wants to tackle after Hurricane Katrina.

“We spent a whole year preparing for (the exit test) and I don't want to have to go through that again,” he said.

“I just want to support my family,” said Thompson, who is living with his aunt in Waco, attending Waco High School and searching for an after-school job to help support his mother and sisters in Atlanta.

Unlike seniors, students in grades third through 11th will be required to take TAKS, Marchman said. Promotion requirements, such as that mandating that third-graders pass the reading test, will be in effect for children who plan to stay in Texas for more than a year.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Teachers Stir Science, History Into Core Classes

This article looks at teachers' concerns about the impact of too much focus on testing. The narrowing of curriculum is the central concern. -Angela
by Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; A16

Two years ago, W.H. Keister Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Va., began to take the No Child Left Behind law very seriously. Intensive 120-minute reading classes were installed, along with more math. Physical education went from 150 to 90 minutes a week. Music time was cut in half.

This was part of a national movement to make sure all children, particularly those from low-income families -- as were 50 percent of Keister students -- mastered reading and math skills essential to their lives and the rest of their educations. But such parents as Todd Hedinger, whose son, Gabe, attended the school, reacted negatively, saying there was too much emphasis on a few core subjects.

"The emphasis on instructional time pushes everything else out of the way," Hedinger said.

Such concerns have been part of the continuing debate over No Child Left Behind. The time devoted to reading and math has increased. And in many places, the increase has brought results. Between 2002 and 2004, Keister Elementary's passing rate went from 81 to 92 percent on the state English test and from 86 to 90 percent on the math test.

But critics of the federal law say children need a more complete education.

The Washington-based Center on Education Policy reported this year that 27 percent of school systems say they are spending less time on social studies, and nearly 25 percent say they are spending less time on science, art and music. "This tendency results in impoverishing the education of all students, but particularly the education of students who perform less well on the tests," said Robert G. Smith, Arlington County school superintendent, who said his schools have resisted the trend.

Many educators defend the focus on reading and math, as long as it is done properly. Lucretia Jackson, principal of Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, said that basic skills are very important and that many children need extra time to acquire them. Her school made significant test-score gains this year by scheduling after-school classes and enrichment activities three days each week.

"They need to develop the quality of skills that will enable them to meet the needs of the future society," Jackson said.

Rob Weil, deputy director of the educational issues department at the Washington-based American Federation of Teachers, said reducing time for nonacademic subjects has been going on much longer than people realize and until now has had little to do with federal achievement targets. "Districts started cutting art, music and physical education over 15 years ago, in an effort to save money, not in an effort to increase performance," he said.

Andrew Rotherham, co-director of the nonprofit group Education Sector and a member of the Virginia state school board, said: "When faced with disappointing achievement in math and reading, the first reaction of too many schools is to just teach those subjects more and consequently squeeze out other subjects. This 'solution,' however, ignores one common culprit for low achievement -- teaching. Instead of using data to determine if teachers are teaching the material, are able to teach it and what exactly students are struggling with, too often schools decide to just extend the time on these subjects. The problem is, if your instruction is weak for 60 minutes a day, it's going to be for 90 minutes, too."

Mary Alice Barksdale, associate professor of teaching and learning at Virginia Tech, agreed: "There is lots of evidence that the one thing that really makes a difference in the classroom is the teacher and what she knows and does."

Several elementary school programs have shown good results by inserting science, social studies, art and music into reading lessons, rather than removing them from the curriculum. The Core Knowledge program, based in Charlottesville, has first-graders reading about ancient Egypt and second-graders learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. New York University educational historian Diane Ravitch called it "the best national program available."

Project Bright IDEA, which has produced good test results in lower elementary grades in North Carolina, uses advanced materials such as nonfiction books and techniques used previously with just gifted students. "We believe in teaching all children from kindergarten through high school a highly academic program," said Margaret Gayle, the project's manager and co-designer.

Nancy Scott, who teaches English to children from non-English-speaking families in Fairfax County, said she applauds the integration of science and social studies with reading and writing classes but said it might be dependent in some cases on which subjects are on the state test. In her fourth-grade classes, she said, she puts more emphasis on history and lets science take a back seat because that is the year of the Virginia social studies test.

Barksdale said that among the activities teachers have told her they dropped because of test pressure were silent reading, book talks, science experiments, picnics, field trips, classroom skits and creative writing.

"The logic of the fundamental importance of reading and mathematics is universally accepted," said David P. Driscoll, Massachusetts state education commissioner. "However, the testing of those subjects leads people to spend more time out of fear. While some extra focus particularly around test-taking skills and the most common standards is appropriate, this pushing other subjects aside to concentrate on reading and math is not. A full, robust program whereby kids are actively engaged in their learning produces the best results."

At Keister Elementary, test scores are up not only in reading and math but in science and social studies, despite fears of a negative result. Hedinger congratulated the "dedicated, loving, smart and creative people" who teach at the school but said he still does not like the long reading classes and athletic and music cuts because they reduced his son's love of learning.

"Is the meaning of education cramming as much knowledge in, to pass a standardized test, or is it meant to include something else -- creativity, reflection, synthesis, hypothesizing, daydreaming?" Hedinger asked. "What happens to all of that in the process?"
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Education Dept. funds need monitoring

This report came out in late September. It tells the story of an organization, Hispanic CREO, that is ineffect part of the pro-voucher propaganda machine out of the Department of Education. I don't have a link for this Toppo article. -Angela

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

One Sunday last October, readers of The Dallas Morning News opened their newspapers to an angry op-ed penned by Marcela Garcini, a self-described "ninja parent" who took the Dallas school system to task for dragging its heels on No Child Left Behind, saying it was "limiting the future and opportunities for our children."

"I am tired of hearing excuses about the lack of funding for schools, particularly under No Child Left Behind," she said.
Garcini wanted readers to know that, thanks to NCLB, students in "failing" schools now had the right to transfer to better-performing schools. "It's time to say 'basta!' (stop!). Our children don't want, nor does any child deserve, to be left behind."
Appearing 23 days before the Nov. 2 election, her piece read like an ad for President Bush's 2002 education reform law, a cornerstone of his domestic policy. But what readers never knew was that, for all practical purposes, it was an ad ˜ paid for, in part, by taxpayers, through a grant from the Bush administration.

In 2003 and 2004, Garcini's nonprofit group, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options (CREO), received two unsolicited grants, totaling $900,000, from the U.S. Education Department, to promote school choice and tutoring options for Hispanic children. But in two op-eds in the Morning News and a third that appeared in two Spanish-language publications earlier in 2004, Garcini never disclosed, as was required by law, that CREO had received the government grants.

Federal investigators probing the department's public relations contracts this week say the department has given nearly $4.7 million to groups including Garcini's to promote administration education priorities since 2002, but that in 10 of 11 cases examined, the groups didn't disclose ˜ in print, on radio or in other media, such as brochures or handbooks ˜ that taxpayer funds were used.

John Higgins, the department's Inspector General, found no "covert propaganda" at work, but told administration officials that they should consider asking for some of their money back.

"The Department of Education is trying to define itself out of trouble by setting the bar very high for what constitutes covert propaganda," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who requested the investigation.

"But this report shows that, in case after case after case, grantees ˜ without disclosing who was paying them ˜ took taxpayers' money and used it to promote controversial policies. Department officials allowed this practice to continue with such frequency and such consistency that they cannot now claim that they were ignorant that it was happening. Either the Department is grossly incompetent when it comes to awarding grants and contracts, or it is misleading investigators and engaging in a cover up of the misuse of taxpayer dollars."

According to the report, released late Thursday night on the Education Department's Web site, investigators also said the department needs to do a better job of monitoring how millions of dollars are spent. They found that more than $1.7 million went to outside PR contracts for which officials couldn't produce all of the materials, including one $1.6 million contract to ZGS Communications that Higgins still wants to review.

Among other disputed contracts were:
One for $631,775, awarded last October to the Cuban American National Council, which the report says had yet to produce anything.

One for $2,650, awarded to North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS), which produced what amounted to a 284-word infomercial for the National Center of Education Statistics Web site.

Overall, Higgins found that just over $7.7 million in grants and contracts were either properly notated with government disclaimers or produced products, such as reports, that weren't disseminated to the public.
He didn't directly fault Education Department personnel, finding that in several instances they had told groups that the disclaimers were required. But he noted a pattern of such deals, including one in which the department gave $1.3 million over three years to the Black Alliance for Educational Options for a "multi-layered media campaign." None of the materials had the required disclaimer, Higgins said.

In a response filed with the report, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings agreed with most of the findings, but disagreed with characterizations about Garcini's pieces. Spellings also said the department would review its recordkeeping practices and search both its records and ZGS's for materials related to the $1.6 million contract.

The findings come nearly five months after Higgins criticized the Education Department for its $240,000 contract with prominent black commentator Armstrong Williams. That contract called for him to promote No Child Left Behind in op-ed columns and on his syndicated television show and to encourage others to do the same.
Since USA TODAY in January first reported on the Williams deal, several other agencies have admitted that freelance commentators wrote op-ed columns that promoted Bush administration policies on marriage and the environment without noting that they'd received government funds either to write the pieces or to support their interest groups.