National Center on Educational Outcomes

Written by Sandra Thompson and Director Martha L. Thurlow of the National Center on Educational Outcomes, which says it's dedicated to developing policies that include disabled students in accountability systems, this report provides a snapshot of where the 50 states stand with respect to special education and the standards movement. Based on an annual survey of state directors of special ed, it includes sections on: participation and performance; accommodations; alternate assessments; reporting; and emerging issues. Within the context of the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act, the report concludes that "the benefits of inclusive assessment and accountability systems are beginning to outweigh the challenges." A few results are particularly salient: 1) despite standards foes' glum predictions, more states listed positive consequences from inclusive accountability systems than negative; 2) disabled children's test participation rates are up in more than half of the states; and 3) two-thirds of the states reported stable or increased performance on state tests by disabled students. NCEO's research should be fodder for the upcoming congressional debate over IDEA reauthorization, and will also be of interest to anyone roaming the special ed maze. Copies of the report, which includes detailed appendices...

National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment Governing Board

As everyone surely knows, the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment Governing Board have just released the NAEP math results for spring 2000. (By NAEP standards, it's regarded as speedy to get results out just 15 months after the testing is concluded!) There is a huge trove of data here and, like the blind men's elephant, you can perceive it in many ways. If you'd like to show good news, note that 4th and 8th grade scores are rising and that several states are narrowing the black-white gap. If you'd like to show bad news, point out that 12th grade scores are down and that, for the nation as a whole, the majority-minority gaps are wider, even as black and Hispanic youngsters make gains. Many states can find something to celebrate-40 of them took part this time-but few can find unadulterated good news in these data and some (such as California) have to spin hard to find any. Private schools continue to outscore public but non-Catholic private schools showed a downturn in grades 4 and 12, while improving in 8th grade. (If you dig into...

National Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics has helped to fill a sizable information void with this twenty-page report on home schooling. Based on a household survey conducted in 1999, it supplies better data than we've ever had on how many homeschoolers there are and who they are. As of spring 1999, we learn, some 850,000 youngsters-about 1.7 percent of all U.S. schoolchildren-were being home schooled. Three quarters were white. Their family incomes were not appreciably different from the general population but parental education was higher. (Almost half the homeschoolers had a parent who was at least a college graduate, compared with about one third of non-homeschoolers.) They were somewhat more apt to have two parents at home-but less likely to have both parents working. (That probably explains why their family incomes are no higher even though the parents' education level is.) Homeschooling families are also larger: 62 percent have at least three children compared with 44 percent of non-homeschoolers. A particularly interesting finding is that almost one fifth of homeschooled children also attend a regular public or private school on a part-time basis. In other words, their schooling is a blend. The study also...

James Madison Institute

The indefatigable Myron Lieberman is lead author of this 58-page report from the James Madison Institute. It turns out that Florida "is the only state in which collective bargaining has been recognized as a constitutional, not just a statutory, right of public employees." The study goes on to identify a number of problems and abuses in current teacher collective bargaining in the Sunshine State, such as PAC contributions via payroll deductions, school system subsidies of union operations, teachers' lack of choice among unions to represent them, excessive time devoted to collective bargaining, contracts that ignore problems of teacher scarcity, the exclusion of parents, and weak legislative oversight of all this. Numerous examples are supplied. If you'd like a copy, contact the James Madison Institute at 2017 Delta Blvd., Suite 102, P.O. Box 37460, Tallahassee, FL 32315. Phone (850) 386-3131, fax (850) 386-1807, e-mail [email protected], or surf to www.jamesmadison.org.

Institute for Educational Leadership

In the early 1930's, philanthropist Charles Mott and educator Frank Manley envisioned "a lighted schoolhouse" where parents, students, schools and community organizations could work collaboratively. Three years ago, the U.S. Department of Education began funding 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) in hopes of providing safe, cost-effective havens for children, youth and their families after school and on weekends. These centers vary, but typically they host a range of activities including tutoring, drug intervention programs, field trips, and literacy and computer classes for adults. The Institute for Educational Leadership examined the effectiveness, obstacles and next steps for 21st CCLCs and found that the hardest part is establishing true collaborative governance among communities, learning centers, and schools. Because these federal grants are distributed solely to public schools, school system administrators often have the final say in decisions. The report recommends continued funding for the learning centers with priority given to those that create sustained partnerships between communities and schools. You can order a copy of this report by writing, faxing or emailing: The Institute for Educational Leadership, 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 310, Washington, DC 20036, phone: (202) 822-8405, fax: (202) 872-4050, [email protected]. Copies...

Ethan Allen Institute

A new report by John McClaughry of Vermont's Ethan Allen Institute takes aim at Act 60, the controversial 1997 state education finance law passed after the Vermont Supreme Court ordered equalization of school spending. McLaughry contends that Act 60 is unsustainable and urges Vermonters to embrace an altogether different remedy: granting families the right to pick their children's schools. He notes that the Green Mountain State has a long history of parental choice. Since 1869, towns that do not have their own public high school have been able to use state money to send children to private schools. McClaughry suggests that Vermont respond to the Court's mandate-and the troubles that have followed from Act 60-by providing "tuition certificates" with which parents could choose from a range of public schools. Meanwhile, aid for home schooling would also be made available and Student Tuition Organizations, financed through a 90% tax credit, would provide scholarships to private schools for interested parents. Changing the education system in these ways, the author says, would not require higher property taxes. The report can be ordered from the Ethan Allen Institute by phoning (802) 695-1448. It can also be viewed by surfing to...

Disability Rights Advocates

An outfit named Disability Rights Advocates has issued this report on how to handle learning-disabled youngsters in high-stakes testing programs. Mostly it's an anti-testing screed that tells states what they must do under federal law to "accommodate" such youngsters and how not to penalize or disadvantage them. Oregon is cited as a case study-and gets much praise. Indeed, the report of a "blue ribbon panel" that examined Oregon's testing program from the perspective of L.D. children occupies more than half of this 46-page report. You may not want to bother. If you do, contact Disability Rights Advocates, 449 15th Street, Suite 303, Oakland, CA 94612. You can phone (510) 451-8644, fax (510) 451-8716, e-mail [email protected] or surf to www.dralegal.org.


Accountability: Turning Around Low-Performing Schools is published by Achieve, the group launched by governors and CEO's to promote standards-based education reform. This short policy brief offers recommendations for improving really bad schools. It explains how to identify those schools and how to go about assisting and/or reconstituting them. Another short new report, Standards and Accountability: Strategies for Sustaining Momentum, summarizes the proceedings of a two-day forum that Achieve organized to take stock of the standards movement and develop strategies for moving forward. Both papers can most easily be obtained by surfing to http://www.achieve.org/achieve/achievestart.nsf#policy_briefs or phoning Achieve at 202-624-1460.

Last week, New Leaders for New Schools introduced its first corps of urban principals, highly-qualified individuals without standard principal credentials who have been given special training and served apprenticeships under master principals before taking the reins of their own schools. Solving the principal shortage will require districts to embrace innovative strategies like this. To learn more about this program-a "Teach for America" for principals-see "How to Fix the Coming Principal Shortage," by Andrew Goldstein, Time.com, July 30, 2001 at http://www.time.com/time/education/article/0,8599,168379,00.html .

Senator Edward M. Kennedy shocked and disappointed many fellow Democrats with his willingness to compromise with the Bush administration on ESEA. Refusing to take a back seat to "new" Democrats in negotiations with the administration, Kennedy eventually accepted a version of the "Straight A's" program which would allow some states a measure of flexibility in how they spend their federal dollars. Some say this move was pure politics, some say pride, some say an attempt to salvage moderation in the education bill. Decide for yourself after reading "Teddy Bear," by Michael Crowley, The New Republic, August 13, 2001 at http://www.thenewrepublic.com/081301/crowley081301.html .