EPLC Education Notebook

Friday, November 3, 2006

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7. Polls are open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    Election 2006

  • The Pennsylvania General Assembly is on hiatus for the upcoming General Election. The House is scheduled to return to voting session on November 13; the Senate will return on November 20. For information about what's on tap when the legislature returns, visit the General Assembly's homepage at www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm.

  • Where do the gubernatorial candidates stand on education issues? IssuesPA recently surveyed gubernatorial nominees Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann about a variety of issues, including education. See what the candidates have to say about opportunities for lifelong learning, K-12 education funding, No Child Left Behind, goals for math, science and engineering, early childhood education, and what they consider their number one education priority. Visit the IssuesPA web site at: www.issuespa.org/articles/17902/. For more information about the candidates, see the campaign web sites of Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann at www.rendellforgovernor.com and www.swannforgovernor.com.

  • Federal Education Policy Activity

  • New Title IX regulations give public schools more flexibility in offering single-sex classes, extracurricular activities and schools. Prior to the release of these new U.S. Department of Education regulations, Title IX prohibited single-sex educational options except in very limited circumstances. The new regulations require that for each single-sex program offered, schools must offer substantially equal single-sex options for the opposite sex or substantially equal coeducational classes, activities or schools. The regulations also demand that objectives be implemented in an even-handed manner for both female and male students. The new regulations will take effect on November 24, 2006. A copy of the regulations is available at www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/finrule/2006-4/102506a.html.

  • Research and Reports

    No Child Left Behind

  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has issued recommendations for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind), which is scheduled for reauthorization by Congress in 2007. The organization wants to advance what it sees as the next step in standards-based reform, moving from "no child left behind" to "every child a graduate", focused on preparing all students for postsecondary education or the work force. In its statement, CCSSO makes three broad policy recommendations. First, CCSSO says the reauthorization of NCLB must continue to support state and local implementation with continued and increased funding for standards, assessments, teacher development and data systems. The paper reiterates that states must be granted more flexibility to improve upon implementation of these basic principals and develop varying strategies to determine the best options for improvement of teaching and learning. Second, the reauthorization must support states in the leverage of standards-based reform for actual improvement by increasing support or intervention in consistently under-performing schools. The organization suggests that one important means of accomplishing this is an open and honest discussion about federal education funding and the real costs of achieving our education goals. Finally, CCSSO recommends that the reauthorization invest more in innovation, research, technical assistance, and collaboration to inform the implementation of education reforms. Access the CCSSO policy statement at www.ccsso.org/content/PDFs/ESEA_Policy_Stmnt.pdf.

  • "The Accuracy and Effectiveness of Adequate Yearly Progress, NCLB's School Evaluation System", a research project conducted by William J. Mathis and published by the Education Policy Research Unit of Arizona State University, recommends that "[Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)] sanctions be suspended until the premises underlying them can be either confirmed or refuted by solid, scientific research and unintended, negative consequences can be avoided". The recommendation is based on the position that using AYP standards as the prime indicator of academic progress is an inaccurate measure, the goals of the AYP provisions are unrealistic and the program is significantly underfunded. The report explains each of these points in detail and also argues that the narrowing of the curriculum to test preparation is detrimental to other educational arenas, such as social studies and science. View the report at www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/documents/EPSL-0609-212-EPRU.pdf.

  • "Does School Choice Work? Effect on Student Integration and Achievement", a report from the Public Policy Institute of California, examines the effects of school choice programs on integration students' reading and math achievement. The research examines the San Diego Unified School District's choice programs, the results of which can be applied nationally to inform policies related to the interventions required by No Child Left Behind. San Diego is the eighth largest and one of the most diverse districts in the country with about 28 percent of its students participating in school choice programs. The district offers four choice options: a busing program, magnet schools, open enrollment and charter schools.

    The first goal of the study was to determine why students and parents chose to participate in school choice programs. The study found that, contrary to popular concern, school choice programs are not disproportionately utilized by high-achieving students. It also found that most applicants were non-white, particularly African-American students, and English-language learners. Additionally, the study identifies the reasons students choose particular schools. The findings establish that academic concerns only moderately affect the choices of students. Other factors include the school's distance from the students' home, the availability of transportation, class size, teacher profile and demographic considerations.

    The second objective of the study was to determine the impact of school choice programs on student performance and achievement as well as racial and socioeconomic integration. The study reports that while the choice programs integrate schools according to race and parental education, they tend to segregate them in terms of academic achievement scores and English Language students versus non-English Language students. The report also finds that, among applicants for choice programs, being accepted into a choice program neither helps nor hurts academic achievement in the three years after admission, with the exception of those attending magnet schools. The students who were accepted into San Diego's choice programs did not tend to score significantly higher than those not accepted.

    The implications of this study are significant. First, it rejects the notion that school choice is a means of "skimming off" high-achieving, white, affluent students; the programs allow minority and less wealthy students to integrate into other schools. However, the report recognizes important improvements can be made to increase the degree to which this integration is possible. Second, the report cautions against dismissing the importance of school choice based on the lack of reading and math proficiency improvements. It suggests that parents consider factors beyond academic achievement levels when selecting a school for their child and that the impact of other non-academic factors should be taken into account during consideration of such programs. Read the full report, including a discussion of policy considerations, at www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_806JBR.pdf.

  • "Keeping Watch on Reading First", issued by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), attempts to help inform the debate on Reading First programs and identify particular areas of concern. CEP examined three key questions: "1) whether Reading First will positively revamp or negatively restrict the teaching of reading, 2) whether Reading First will be coordinated with other initiatives or be isolated, and 3) whether state and district officials will find the evaluation of Reading First informative or punitive". The report discusses these questions developed through state and district surveys, NCLB case studies, and state and national testing data.

    The CEP study finds that Reading First is changing reading curriculum, instruction, professional development, and assessment in Reading First schools as well as in non-Reading First schools. While the highly-structured reforms provide consistency across diverse circumstances, they do not allow much room for individual adaptation that may make reforms more effective. The report also finds that most states and districts are coordinating Title I programs with Reading First, rather than using Reading First in isolation. Finally, the CEP finds that, in general, officials remain unsure of the importance of Reading First assessments, but thus far evaluations have served important informational purposes. To read the full report, visit www.cep-dc.org/pubs/readingfirst/CEP-ReadingFirst.pdf.

  • In another report issued by CEP, "Building on State Reform: Maryland School Restructuring", the organization examines the process of restructuring the public schools in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George's County, Maryland. School restructuring is the final step in the school improvement prescribed by NCLB. The restructuring experience in Maryland is more advanced than that of other states as Maryland had accountability provisions that required interventions in low-performing schools prior to NCLB. Additionally, Maryland's state accountability system applies to all public schools, not just the Title I schools regulated by the federal statue.

    The report discusses Maryland's experience with the use of decentralized decision-making in school restructuring. While the state provides guidance and resources, decision related to restructuring programs and strategies are left to the individual districts and schools. CEP determined, however, that many of the programs implemented are very similar across districts. The most commonly selected of the eight options for restructuring school governance outlined by the state is the use of a turnaround specialist to have limited control over curriculum changes, professional development and the decision-making process. Seventy-three percent of schools in restructuring employed this strategy, the least invasive of the alternative governance options.

    The report finds that many of the other strategies employed do not differ greatly from general school improvement programs, including focusing on marginal students and test preparation. Interviews with faculty indicate that restructuring school governance is only a small part of improving school performance. Other programs related to instruction, data analyses, test practice, and supplemental tutoring which are supported by the state's school improvement grants are essential for improvement. Finally, the report highlights a catch-22 that could affect the sustainability of gains made under the reform program. As identified low-performing schools begin to improve and make adequate yearly progress, they lose access to many school improvement resources, which "potentially turns restructuring into a revolving door of sorts". For a copy of the report, go to www.cep-dc.org/pubs/mdschoolSep2006/CEP-MdSchlRestruct.pdf.

  • For more information about No Child Left Behind, including links to information resources and additional research and reports, see EPLC's Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at www.eplc.org/clearinghouse_nclb.html.


  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has launched a new resource called ED Hub that will bring together a broad array of resources and collaborative tools for Pennsylvania's education community. The portal is designed to link the preK-12, higher education, workforce development and lifelong learning communities with PDE and with each other. It will allow the state's more than 700 local education agencies to "share resources and information, improve communications, access best practices, and leverage their collective purchasing power". The site currently includes information about the state's Classrooms for the Future, Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership, and Keystones projects, as well as Learning Nexus, a search tool that provides curriculum-centered content aligned to the state's academic standards and assessment anchors. It also provides academic performance information for each school in the Commonwealth. PDE is in the process of developing additional features for the site, including Podcasts, a multi-media library, and a system that will allow users to personalize their ED Hub experience. Access this new resource at www.edportal.ed.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?.

  • Lehigh University's College of Education has received a $2.25 million gift to establish a Center for Urban Leadership. The gift was donated by Lehigh alum Peter Bennett, president and CEO of Liberty Partners, a Manhattan-based investment company. Dean of the College of Education, Sally White, hopes the Center will serve as a mechanism for innovation, allowing future urban education leaders to develop, test and use new ideas and strategies. The Center will develop research and professional programs to educate the upcoming generation of urban leaders. It will focus on three aspects of education: research, development and practice. The goal is to enable faculty and students to apply their research and leadership skills to help improve the learning and working environments in urban areas. The first move in the development of the new Center will take place next fall in the recruitment of an executive director with real-world experience as an urban educational leader. The University is committed to raising an additional $2.75 million over the next few years to ensure that the center is self-sustaining.

  • Datebook

  • Next Week...Election Day is Tuesday. The National School Boards Association holds its annual education technology conference November 8-10 in Dallas, TX. The National Association for the Education of Young Children holds its annual conference November 8-11 in Atlanta, GA. EPLC hosts two Pennsylvania Education Policy Forums in Western Pennsylvania on Thursday and in Southeastern Pennsylvania on Friday. The Harvard Graduate School of Education hosts an institute on closing the achievement gap November 9-11 in Cambridge, MA. The American Association of School Administrators holds its women and emerging leaders conference November 9-12 in Arlington, VA. For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.

  • Register Now...EPLC will host the 2006 Pennsylvania Education Finance Symposium on Thursday and Friday, November 16-17, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harrisburg. The Symposium will feature sessions on education finance reform across the nation, the status of Pennsylvania's costing-out study, the condition of the Public School Employees' Retirement System, and Maryland's experience with a statewide education finance reform commission, as well panels of Pennsylvania policymakers and advocates. Registration information and a preliminary agenda are available at www.eplc.org/financesymposium.html.

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