Mike Antonucci's Education Intelligence Agency is not only the nation's invaluable source of otherwise inaccessible information about teacher unions; it is also, increasingly, a useful producer of interesting education data. This short (30 page) report on school spending, staffing and teacher salaries, presented mostly in state-by-state tables, includes some fascinating relationships (and the absence thereof). We see, for example, that the number of classroom teachers per district-level administrator ranges from 205 (Utah) down to 17 (North Dakota); that the difference-Antonucci calls it the "climb"-between starting teacher salaries and average teacher salaries varies from 23 percent (Alabama, Oklahoma) to 75 percent (Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island); and that teachers as a fraction of the total public school work force range from less than 45% (Michigan, Kentucky) to almost 69% (Arkansas). And so forth. We found it interesting and often provocative, including the author's brief closing essay on the interaction of teacher quality and salaries. For a copy, surf to http://hometown.aol.com/educintel/eia/Tributex.html, contact Education Intelligence Agency, P.O. Box 2047, Carmichael, CA 95609; phone (916) 422-4373; fax (916) 392-1482; or e-mail EducIntel@aol.com.

The indefatigable John Marks has been one of the closest and most critical observers of British education. This report from the London-based Centre for Policy Studies is an informed critique of British education standards and performance. It includes an interesting comparison between the "selective" system of Northern Ireland and the "comprehensive" system of England. (Guess which does better?) It suggests that academic standards have actually been lowered over time. And it recommends a variety of reforms. Ninety pages long, it can be obtained (for a fee) from the Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P3QL. You can phone 020-7222-4488. You can e-mail mail@cps.org.uk. Or you can surf to www.cps.org.uk.

Education Week's annual assessment of technology and education holds few surprises, but it does highlight an interesting shift in the terms of the education technology debate, from an emphasis on how many computers can be found in each classroom to how well (and for what) they are being used. No longer does the issue of access separate the technology haves and have-nots; today, poor classrooms are nearly as likely to be wired as wealthier classrooms. Today's inequities are more apt to arise from the way in which technology is incorporated into the curriculum. The report's analysts found that many students--especially the poor, girls, low achievers, the disabled, children in rural areas, children learning English, and minorities--are not benefiting much from their classroom computers. The machines are only as good as the programs, technical support, and training that accompany them, and too often, these children are being taught by teachers who have not mastered the technology themselves, using outdated or broken equipment and basic skills-based software instead of the more sophisticated computers and programs used elsewhere. A student survey found that computers are often used in ways that add little value to lesson plans, something policymakers would be wise to note before adding tons more resources to this endeavor. The good news is that many states are beginning to rethink and improve their handling of technology in the classroom, instituting incentives for teachers and administrators to incorporate it more adroitly into their curricula. That's great as long as learning doesn't take...

National Academy of Sciences

It exaggerates only slightly to say that, whenever the august National Academy of Sciences turns to testing (which is often, as sundry federal agencies keep commissioning studies in this area) it finds that no existing test is good enough to be used for any real-world purposes in this lifetime. The Academy's approach to testing resembles the search for the Holy Grail or for intelligent life in outer space: a continuous quest toward a worthy end that is never actually attained. This solemn, bulky (300-page) new report from the Academy's "Committee on the Foundations of Assessment" will probably be read only by psychometricians and cognitive scientists. But you might want to have a look. Though the authors do indeed take a dim view of most current testing, they set forth a coherent theory of testing, a reasonably intelligible model of testing, and a useful explanation of trade-offs that get made due to the multiple uses we make of tests. Also helpful is some of the discussion about technology-based opportunities for improved testing. The central message, however, recalls a gazillion earlier Academy reports on testing and assessment. It contends that today's testing doesn't incorporate modern advances in cognitive and measurement science. It is notably more interested in classroom uses of testing by teachers than in the evaluation-and-accountability functions of interest to education policymakers. And it is dismissive toward tests that measure students' acquisition of basic skills and specific knowledge, no matter how much such things matter in...

Learning First Alliance

The Learning First Alliance has produced this 39-page guide as a follow-up to its 1998 publication, Every Child Reading: An Action Plan, which set as a goal that virtually every healthy child born in the 21st century should read well by age 9. Containing consensus recommendations from the dozen education groups that comprise the Alliance, this guide is meant to assist planners of professional development for reading and language arts educators to set goals, select viable programs, and allocate resources wisely. Most useful are charts detailing concepts (teacher knowledge), practices (teacher skills), and possible professional development experiences that yield success in eight components of effective, research-supported reading instruction for the primary grades. The guide (and other Alliance publications) can be found at www.learningfirst.org/publications/html. Hard copies may be purchased for $3 plus shipping and handling from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development by calling 1-800-933-ASCD ext. 2.

Education Commission of the States, April 2001

How different are state charter school programs? Very. The Education Commission of the States has issued an informative guide to state charter school policies. In chart format, it features sections on school basics, finance, autonomy, teachers, and accountability. Among the questions covered are which states allow existing schools to convert to charter status, whether the state has a cap on the number of charter schools, and who can approve charter schools. If you have a question about state charter policies, you're likely to find the answer in this handy reference tool. View it online at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/24/11/2411.htm or contact ECS at 707 17th St, Suite 2700, Denver, CO 80202-3427; phone 303-299-3600; fax 303-296-8332.

Committee for Economic Development

The Committee for Economic Development (CED) is a business group with a respectable past, particularly when it comes to issuing solemn pronouncements, but in recent years it hasn't been much of a player in K-12 education. Now CED has weighed in with a 44-page "policy guide" intended, says president Charles Kolb, to serve "as a guide for making assessment an effective tool to improve student learning and achievement". There isn't a lot here that will be new to veterans of standards-based reform but the document could be a worthy primer for newcomers, particularly in understanding the place of testing within a reform framework-and not becoming paralyzed by anxiety that the tests aren't yet perfect. Chapter 4 (on using tests to hold students and educators accountable) is especially welcome, as it explains how several states currently handle test-based accountability. Contact the Committee for Economic Development at 477 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022. Phone (212) 688-2063; fax (212) 758-9068; or surf to www.ced.org.

Center on Education Policy

The Center on Education Policy is the small outfit led by veteran Democratic House education staffer Jack Jennings. Last month, it published a 40-page report (prepared by staff member Nancy Kober) on achievement gaps between black and Hispanic students on the one hand, whites and Asians on the other. The topic is important and timely, especially considering that current White House and Congressional ESEA action centers on ways of narrowing these gaps. The C.E.P. report offers plainly stated data, much of it drawn from such oft-trod sources as NAEP and SAT scores. (Less familiar is evidence of an achievement gap at the time of entry into school.) This report offers no grand insights as to what causes these gaps-it summons the usual mix of school, home and societal factors-nor does it break new ground in advancing gap-closing strategies. The central thrust is that "testing and accountability" aren't sufficient. Instead, the report argues, policymakers need to "be bold in providing the full range of strategies, supports, and resources required to raise achievement among Black and Hispanic children....". But of course the report does not begin to offer a "full range" of strategies. Everything it recommends is centralized, top-down and system-driven. There's not a glimmer of market-style or parent-driven reform, of monopoly busting. It's another of those reports-we seem to be awash in them-that does a good job of framing the problem and then delivers the "same old" advice about solving it. If you'd like to see...

Achieve Policy Brief

Achieve, Inc., the organization formed by governors and CEO's to track and promote standards-based reform in American K-12 education, recently published a short "policy brief" dealing with the vexing issue of how high to set the bar for high-school graduation. In particular, this 7-pager grapples with whether a state should "set the bar high and risk a backlash when large numbers of students fail to reach it" or "set it relatively low and risk allowing students to continue to graduate without attaining the necessary knowledge and skills." The brief, unfortunately, does a better job of framing the problem than offering solutions. But it gives a few examples of how states have tackled the issue; urges higher education and employers to become more intimately involved with bar-setting (by creating, for example, a "unified system" of high school exit and college entrance); and sketches some "promising practices". Contact Achieve, Inc. at 400 North Capitol Street NW, Suite 351, Washington DC 20001; phone (202) 624-1460; fax (202) 624-1468; or surf to www.achieve.org.

The American Federation of Teacher's magazine, American Educator, offers several gems in its most recent issue. Kay Hymowitz asks what it means for kids when parents have foresworn their traditional role and turned themselves into advocates, friends, and providers of entertainment for their children. Walter McDougall explains why an understanding of geography is fundamental to true education. There is a collection of tributes to pathbreaking reading expert Jeanne Chall, gathered from colleagues, students and friends. Dennis Denenberg laments the replacement of real-life heroes by cartoon heroes and suggests ways of bringing real heroes to life for kids. Finally E.B. White biographer Scott Elledge tells the story behind Charlotte's Web and explains what makes the book great. If you'd like a copy of one article or the whole magazine, send a fax to the American Educator (attn: Yomica) at 202-879-4534.