[ECP] ED Review (04/20/07)

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  • Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 04:00:00 -0400


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April 20, 2007

...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities
relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other


On April 12, the President and Secretary met with a group of
education, business, and civil rights leaders at the White House to
discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.  The
attendees recommended some changes but were unified on the need to
renew the law.  "I believe the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be
reauthorized because it's working," the President noted.  "It's a
piece of legislation which believes in setting high standards and
using accountability to make sure that every single child receives a
good education."

Then, a day later, the President and Secretary met with parochial
school leaders and parents.  "We want every school, public or
parochial, to meet expectations and to give our children the skill
sets necessary to realize the great promise of the country," the
President said, praising the Catholic school system for often
educating the neediest students and supplying a school choice.
"Parental choice is a very important part of educational excellence."

This week, the Secretary returned to the Gulf Coast to launch the 2007
Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative.  The initiative, a
public-private partnership between the Department, First Book, and
Scholastic, will provide new books to replenish schools, libraries,
community organizations, and homes.


Approaching the end of the school year, thoughts turn to testing.
Here is some key news from that front.
Nine states (AR, IN, KY, MD, MA, NJ, OH, PA, and RI) have agreed to
share an Algebra II end-of-course assessment from Pearson Educational
Management.  The test should be ready for implementation next spring,
although not every state will use it immediately.  The only other such
test-sharing agreement is among four New England states (ME, NH, RI,
and VT), spanning third- through eighth-grade.

ACT's latest national curriculum survey highlights the persistent gap
between what high schools are teaching and what colleges want incoming
students to know.  Specifically, high schools tend to offer less
in-depth instruction of a broader range of skills and topics, while
colleges often seek students with a more in-depth understanding of a
selected number of fundamental skills.  Why the disconnect?  According
to ACT, the primary problem is state academic content standards, which
teachers are required to follow.  Therefore, many states are creating
P-16/20 councils to coordinate goals and expectations across all the
levels of education.

"Beating the Odds," the Council of the Great City School's annual
analysis of state-mandated tests in 67 big city school districts in 37
states, reveals urban systems are continuing to improve in reading and
math.  Indeed, 55% of students scored proficient or above in
fourth-grade reading in 2006 (a gain of 12 percentage points from
2002), and 42% were proficient or above in eighth-grade reading (a
gain of eight percentage points from 2002).  In math, 59% of students
scored proficient or above in fourth-grade during 2006 (a gain of 15
percentage points from 2002), while 46% were proficient or above in
eighth-grade (a gain of 11 percentage points from 2002).  Several
urban districts (five in reading and seven in math) had both fourth-
and eighth-grade scores equal to or greater than their own states, and
the proficiency gap between urban systems and their respective states
generally declined.  Moreover, within districts, racial proficiency
gaps are narrowing.

Also, on April 19, the Department released state-by-state data on the
Reading First program.  Students in Reading First schools largely
recorded impressive gains on standardized tests in reading fluency and
comprehension from 2004 to 2006.

John Higgins, the Education Department's inspector general, refused to
specify for reporters what he has asked government prosecutors to look
at, but investigators have been highly critical of the department's
management of the Reading First program.

This summer, the agency is sponsoring 19 Teacher-to-Teacher regional
workshops for teachers to learn from fellow educators who have had
success in raising student achievement.  Each workshop focuses on a
specific subject or subjects (math and science, history, art, etc.)
Registration is free, and meals/refreshments will be supplied during
scheduled activities, but participants are responsible for
transportation and lodging.


From April 30 to May 4, charter advocates, students, teachers, and
parents will celebrate the important role high-performing charter
schools play in the American public education system.  This year's
theme is "Closing the Gap."  The week is also an excellent opportunity
to spread the word about the more than 4,000 charter schools serving
over a million children in 40 states and the District of Columbia.  To
help, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has developed a
detailed toolkit.

Note: In the week preceding National Charter Schools Week, Secretary
Spellings will keynote the seventh-annual National Charter Schools
Conference in Albuquerque.  http://www.nationalcharterconference.org/.


The Safe and Drug-Free Schools' Mentoring Program promotes mentoring
activities for at-risk children that (1) assist such children in
receiving support and guidance from a mentor; (2) improve academic
performance; (3) improve interpersonal relationships with peers,
teachers, family members, and other adults; (4) reduce the dropout
rate; and (5) reduce juvenile delinquency and involvement in gangs.
To be eligible for funding, projects must be school-based and serve
students in one or more grades (4-8) living in high-crime areas,
troubled-home environments, or rural areas or who attend campuses with
violence problems.


On April 11 and 12, First Lady Laura Bush hosted a regional conference
on Helping America's Youth at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
 The first day of the event was dedicated to hands-on training on the
Community Guide to Helping America's Youth, a web-based tool to assist
communities in coordinating resources and tracking effective programs.
 On the second day, the First Lady addressed attendees and joined
local, regional, and state leaders for panels on challenges facing
youth and successful methods for positive development.


The Department's next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, on
teacher quality, is scheduled for May 15.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic
Americans' American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) conference in El
Paso (April 23-25), the Literacy Station Project in Santa Fe (April
29), and the Asian-Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit
here in Washington, D.C. (May 3). If you are attending any of these
events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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