Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Current info/commentary on Dropouts in Texas

Click here to get a New CPPP Study that Examines Texas' Dropout Challenge


This report examines Texas' dropout issue. Among the report's findings:
If every 9th grader in Fall 2000 graduated from the Texas public school
system in Spring 2004, it would have cost Texas an additional $1.7 billion
over four years, just for the Class of 2004. At the same time, if every 16-19 year
old who is not in school and does not have a high school diploma simply graduated,
the state's combined earnings would increase by about $3 billion over four years. In
order to help you assess these economic consequences on your community, we
have compiled a supplemental county-by-county data spreadsheet.



Dropping Opportunities (below) just appeared in the Texas Observer.

As you may have heard, there's a special session going
on, and the elected types up at the Capitol continue
to fight about how to cut property taxes and pay for
public schools. We?ve heard a lot of talk the past few
weeks about tax rates, teacher pay raises, local
enrichment, school-funding equity, and the importance
of educating our future work force. Yet one of the
gloomiest and most widely misunderstood problems
facing our education system the number of kids
dropping out isn't getting much play.

Part of the problem is a lack of agreement on how many
kids are actually dropping out. According to official
state figures, we don't have much of a dropout
problem. The Texas Education Agency reports that only
0.9 percent of students in seventh through 12th grades
drop out of public school. No, that's not a misprint.
The high school dropout rate, the TEA maintains, is
3.9 percent. (Very few middle school students drop
out, which partly accounts for the watered-down 0.9
figure.)

Back on planet Earth, any teacher or principal and
most public interest groups will tell you that the
dropout rate is much higher. Even TEA officials admit
some of their numbers can be misleading. Other groups
say the statewide dropout rate is between 20 and 40
percent. Texas ranked 43rd nationally in 2001 in the
percentage of teens dropping out of high school?a rate
one-third higher than the national average, according
to a report by the Austin nonprofit Center for Public
Policy Priorities.

TEA officials contend, in their defense, that they
have to report dropouts as defined by law. Instead of
harping on the high dropout rates, TEA officials often
point to the cheerier four-year graduation rate,
which, the agency says, was 84.6 percent in 2004. (To
arrive at this figure, officials don?t count students
getting high school equivalency certificates, students
who claim to transfer to another school, or students
who spend extra years in high school.) But even the
graduation rate is inaccurate, according to some
reports. The conservative Manhattan Institute recently
reported that only about 70 percent of Texas high
school students are graduating. Another recent report,
by the more progressive Economic Policy Institute, put
the graduation rate at about 80 percent. Minorities
are much less likely to graduate than white
students?the Manhattan Institute says about 50 percent
of blacks and Latinos graduate. Not surprisingly, the
TEA offers a rosier view on this one, too, contending
that the minority graduation rate is about 80 percent.

Don't expect much action on these issues out of the
special session. The lone proposal dealing with
dropouts was buried in the text of a bill recently
passed by the Senate. If it survives the legislative
process, the provision would allow schools to
establish stronger anti-dropout programs. The effort,
though relatively weak, has been the Legislature's
only real attempt in recent years to stem the number
of kids leaving school without a diploma.

In the Lege's defense, it's hard to enact a policy
solution when you don't really know how extensive the
problem is or what the causes are. As with most
problems, understanding is the first step. That won?t
happen until lawmakers focus on the issue and direct
the TEA to use an agreed-upon method that accurately
counts the number of students who drop out.

Nothing will improve unless we're straight with
ourselves about how many students are really dropping
out. No matter how much money we put into schools, we
can?t help kids who aren't there.

Where Do Southern Baptist Leaders Go to School?

This is an interesting piece. I wonder how much race/ethnicity and segregation (beyond ethics, belief, and creed--as well as public school characteristics) contribute to this pattern of religious school attendance and homeschooling. -Angela

EDITORIAL
Where Do Southern Baptist Leaders Go to School?

Robert Parham
05-26-06
If you want to know what Southern Baptist Convention leaders really think about public education, follow them to school.


The most visible nominee for the presidency of the SBC is Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark. His church has its own school, Shiloh Christian School. On his blog, Floyd lists the school as one of his three favorite Web sites.

The school has some 650 students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. Shiloh Christian School estimates that half of its students belong to First Baptist and its mission, the Church at Pinnacle Hills. Only 3 percent of its students are children of color, compared to the Arkansas classroom average of 10 percent.

The once-rumored presidential candidate, Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, has one son at Oklahoma Bible Academy and another one at Emmanuel Christian School in Enid, Okla.

A number of SBC presidents serve or served at churches with Christian academies.

The 2002-2004 president, Jack Graham, is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, which has a ministry named Prestonwood Christian Academy. The school has over 1,400 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade with 7 percent students of color, compared to 30 percent average in Texas schools.

Another SBC president (1994-1996), Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., started The First Academy as a church ministry in 1987.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and SBC president 1998-2000, joined the staff of First Baptist Church in Dallas shortly after it started First Baptist Academy in 1972.

During Pattersons presidency at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he bragged that over 100 faculty, staff and students were homeschooling their children.

The chief officer of the SBC's publishing house, Thom Rainer, sent his children to Christian Academy of Louisville, when he was on faculty of Southern Seminary. The organization he now leads, LifeWay Christian Resources, produces homeschool curriculum, a new product line begun by Jimmy Draper, who was the 1982-1984 SBC president.

At least two of the 10 members of the 2006 SBC resolutions committee have Christian academies connected to their churches.

Forrest Pollock, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., has the Bell Shoals Baptist Academy as a church ministry for students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The academy’s mission statement says that “The Bible is the basic textbook.”

Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., has the First Baptist Christian School that runs from preschool through the 8th grade. Orman is a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Seminary.

Started in 1978, Grove Avenue Christian School is a ministry of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., where many International Mission Board employees attend. Mark Becton, the church's pastor, is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and on the 2006 SBC committee on committees.

Emmanuel Christian School is a ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas, Va., another member of the SBCV. The church’s pastor, Rodney Autry, has been nominated to serve on the powerful SBC Executive Committee.

Stephen Rummage, associate pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., is also a 2006 nominee to the SBC Executive Committee. His church houses the Hickory Grove Baptist Christian School.

Calvary Baptist Church started Calvary Baptist Day School with a first grade class in 1971, under the leadership of pastor and SBC leader Mark Corts.

More names could be added to the above list.

Layer after layer discloses that the SBC leadership puts its backing behind Christian academies and homeschools, the de-facto exit-system for fundamentalists from public schools.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

School finance mandate dissolved

May 26, 2006, 1:38AM
School finance mandate dissolved
Chance of funds being lost as of June 1 now gone

By JANET ELLIOTT
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - A state district judge Thursday dissolved an injunction in a five-year-old school finance case, removing the threat that schools could lose funding June 1.

Judge John Dietz of Travis County signed the order in response to a motion filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The motion said the Legislature fixed constitutional deficiencies in the school finance system during the special session that ended this month.

"This is the end of the road for the injunction," said Mark Trachtenberg, who represents 47 districts that sued the state over its funding system.

The districts did not oppose the motion to halt the injunction. But they warned that their position "should not be construed as a wholehearted endorsement of the legislation or an admission that the school finance system is on firm constitutional footing going forward."

The Legislature finished work earlier this month on a package of bills that will replace one-third of local school property taxes with money from a new business tax, higher cigarette taxes and budget surplus.

The case is known as West Orange-Cove after a property-rich consolidated school district in East Texas. The lawsuit was launched in 2001 by West Orange-Cove and three other school districts that had reached the state-mandated property tax cap of $1.50 for maintenance and operations.

More than 300 districts ultimately joined the lawsuit.

Dietz ruled in 2004 that the system amounts to a state property tax prohibited by the Texas Constitution and also that the overall funding was inadequate. He initially set a deadline of Oct. 1, 2005. The Texas Supreme Court upheld Dietz's ruling on the property tax issue only and set a new deadline.

The June 1 deadline was key to lawmakers reaching agreement on new taxes this year, after four previous failed attempts over the past two years.

The school districts in their motion warned that restrictions lawmakers put on their tax rates could harm the financial "breathing room" they will have in the coming school year. They also expressed concern that the new tax revenue was dedicated to property tax relief.

"The primary focus of the legislation was property tax relief, not putting the school finance system on firm financial footing," the districts said.

janet.elliott@chron.com

http://chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/3898638.html

Data analysis helping teachers tailor lessons

A good use of computerized systems would be digital portfolios that would follow children from grade to grade, enabling truly holistic and authentic systems. -Angela

Data analysis helping teachers tailor lessons
High-tech systems comb test results to try to boost students' skills

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
By ANDREW D. SMITH / The Dallas Morning News

Stacy Kimbriel has been teaching kids to read for more than a decade. But only this year – with the help of a computer – could she quickly discern which skills were eluding which students at Meadows Elementary School in Plano.

And after receiving the year's first round of TAKS results, she reported a success not only for most of the 27 students pulled aside for extra help but also for the new data-management system that combed through test results to single them out for tutoring.

Such systems, according to the U.S. Department of Education, have the potential to help improve education across the nation.

"Schools can analyze student performance today in ways they couldn't have dreamed of a couple of years ago," said Tim Magner, the department's director of education technology. "More importantly, these systems often allow them to analyze data in real time, so they can solve problems as soon as they arise."

School districts across the country are working to roll out new technology. Locally, new systems are being discussed in Coppell, installed in Mesquite and used in Frisco, Highland Park, Irving, Plano and Richardson. Allen, McKinney and Dallas are expanding their systems.

"None of what we do now would have been possible just five years ago," said Jim Hirsch, Plano's assistant superintendent for technology.

"No one was selling the sort of data storage and data analysis systems that schools need to spot trends or to provide customized instruction for each student."

In addition to keeping long-recorded information such as attendance and grades in a single, accessible place, some new systems note each standardized-test question, the skill it measures and each student's answer. By matching student errors with skills tested, the systems show who knows what. Systems can also spot classwide weaknesses, so teachers know when they are underteaching, or misteaching, particular topics.

Individualized teaching

Kathy Hargrove, associate dean of the school of education at Southern Methodist University, said that ideally, improved test scores would be a byproduct, rather than the goal, of more individualized teaching.

And though there is the potential for data misuse, such as teaching to the test, she said she would have relished such a program during her 15 years as a classroom teacher.

"It would make things much more efficient than having whole-class instruction," she said. "You can group and regroup" students according to what they have mastered.

Joan Herman, co-director of the national Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA, said data systems are as good as the tests they analyze.

"Does that slicing and dicing give you a reliable result?" she said. "The first question should always be the caliber of the test."

For example, an awkwardly worded question might trip up students who know the material, she said. But if such traps are avoided, she said, data analysis systems can be an invaluable tool.

System vendors make no claim that data analysis systems can replace good teaching or hard work by students.

"Data systems are not a magic bullet," said Jonathan Harber, CEO of the system vendor SchoolNet. "Our systems are tools. They help teachers and schools measure what kids need and what strategies work. But measuring ... is only the first step down a long road toward improvement."

Computer programs designed to handle high-level math and statistics first became commercially available in the early 1990s. Then it took nearly a decade before companies started selling products tailored for schools. Widespread use of the products is newer still; several vendors sold more systems last year than in all previous years combined.

The systems still are not able to do anything that people cannot do for themselves. Teachers and administrators can track achievement skill by skill, student by student and school by school. They can also give benchmark tests – and many Texas districts long have – to figure out which kids are ready for tests such as TAKS.

Without computers, however, the process is slow. Ms. Kimbriel, the literacy specialist from Plano, used to spend several weekends a year holed up with calculator and graph paper, analyzing test scores. It took her weeks to compile fairly basic information.

The Dallas school district decided two decades ago to compile data and use computers to analyze each school's effectiveness, but only now is it parsing all its data at the individual student level.

"We're working now to bring our system into individual classrooms, so that teachers can view all the data for the kids in their classes," said Bob Mendro, assistant superintendent for research and evaluation.

After testing this spring, the system should go districtwide in the fall, he said: "Teachers should have immediate access to benchmark tests. As time goes by ... and we transfer more data from our old Microsoft storage programs to our new Oracle system, the teachers will be able to see more and more."

With achievement-tracking technology still in its infancy, few districts have used it long enough to gauge its impact.

The largest and longest case study comes from Philadelphia. In 2002-03, just 22 of the district's schools met federal standards for making adequate yearly progress. Last year, after two years of using data analysis to guide teachers' efforts, 132 schools met the mark.

"We have obviously made a lot of reforms recently, but I think our data management is easily the most important," said Gregory Thornton, Philadelphia's chief academic officer.


$17.88 per pupil

To finance its system, which soon will let parents monitor their children's progress, Philadelphia spends $17.88 per pupil. "I think we spend more money on bathroom supplies," said district CEO Paul Vallas.

Basic models can cost less than $2 per student per year, and the most elaborate 10 times as much. But at that price, when new test scores come out, the vendor types them in.

Plano just switched from a system that costs $340,000 a year – about $6 a student – to one that costs $260,000 upfront and $87,000 a year going forward.

Mesquite will pay $342,000 this year to set up its system and $150,000, or just under $5 per student, going forward. Coppell expects to go with a larger system that would cost $15 to $18 a year per student.

Despite the systems' potential, some see peril as well.

"With so many vendors and such rapidly evolving products, school districts are naturally quite nervous about committing to what turns out to be the wrong system," said James Rusk, a former science teacher who oversees Mesquite's installation.

Still, even skeptics are optimistic about computerized student evaluation.

"Things will go wrong," said Todd Oppenheimer, author of The Flickering Mind: Saving Education From the False Promise of Technology. "Some districts will waste millions on lousy systems. Others will use these systems as an excuse to focus even more narrowly on skills that can be measured by standardized testing.

"But these systems are fundamentally different from most of what has preceded them. They don't promise to change the learning process and make life easy for the student. They promise to make life easy for the teachers, to show teachers where students need help and give teachers more time to provide that help. It's hard to argue with those goals."

E-mail asmith@dallasnews.com


THE CANS AND CANNOTS OF DATA ANALYSIS

Given sufficient data, analysis systems can:


Quickly determine which skills individual students have and haven't mastered.

Spot classwide trends such as a consistent problem with certain skills.

Enable administrators to see the strengths and weaknesses of various teachers.

Evaluate the efficacy of textbooks and teacher training programs.

Allow parents to track their kids and measure them against their peers.

Data analysis systems cannot:

Grade essays or short-answer questions.

Devise questions to measure student ability.

Determine why students are struggling or how to help them.

Guarantee success on the TAKS or the SAT or any other test.

Do anything that a person could not do, given time, with the same data.


DATA MANAGEMENT IN LOCAL SCHOOLS

Districts using data management systems:

Frisco

Highland Park

Irving

Plano

Richardson

Expanding their systems:

Allen

Dallas

McKinney

Installing a new system:

Mesquite

Discussing a new system:

Coppell

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-schooldata_30met.ART.North.Edition1.1354bd38.html

Mexican classes offered in S. Texas

This is a novel approach. Binational cooperation for mutually shared concerns and goals like this should be pursued more frequently. -Angela

May 29, 2006, 10:52PM

Mexican classes offered in S. Texas

Online science and math courses in Spanish may aid immigrants

By JANET ELLIOTT
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - Some South Texas students soon will be taking online courses from Mexican high schools and could even receive Mexican diplomas under a groundbreaking program designed to help immigrant students succeed.

ADVERTISEMENT

The program beginning this fall in two Hidalgo County school districts is the result of collaboration between the University of Texas and Mexican federal education agencies.

It is designed to reduce dropouts by allowing Spanish-speaking students to use computers to study math and science courses in Spanish, while they learn English and social studies in their Texas schools.

"Generally they drop out because they can't pass courses and get frustrated not knowing the language and sitting in classrooms. This is an incentive for them to at least see something they're passing," said Felipe Alanis, a former Texas education commissioner who helped UT design the program.

Proponents say the program will help not only immigrants, but students whose families are migrant workers or who move back and forth across the border as well, as American students from Spanish-speaking homes.

The students will be able to use the Spanish-language curriculum to supplement courses they are taking in English or even to complete a course, although they must take the final exam in English to receive Texas credit.

Some students could even receive their diplomas from Mexico, which would allow them to attend a community college in Texas.

Alanis said this option likely will only be used by students who are 17 or 18 when they enter a Texas school and have substantial credits in Mexico.

Signed compact

Ofelia Gaona, bilingual director for Donna Independent School District, said the language barrier is particularly difficult for older students entering Texas schools for the first time.
"So what happens is they end up dropping out of school and end up with jobs that pay minimum wage or below," she said. "A lot are very, very intelligent, they are very hardworking and they want to go to college."

William Powers Jr., president of UT-Austin, signed the educational compact earlier this month with Jorge Gonzalez Teyssier, director general of the Colegio de Bachilleres, a high school program offering online courses; and C.P. Ciro Adolfo Suarez Martinez, director general of the National Institute for Adult Education.

Witnessing the ceremony was Tony Garza, the United States ambassador to Mexico.

"This is the culmination of about nine months of intensive talks," said Alanis, associate dean of UT's Division of Continuing Education.

The talks included painstaking work to align Texas and Mexican curriculum in math and science. The alignment was necessary so students will be able to work with online resources from Mexico, as well as Mexican teachers who will help the students in computer labs.

Another key feature of the agreement will help Texas educators place older students in the proper grade by considering their transcripts from Mexico. Alanis said high school-age immigrant students are routinely placed in the ninth grade even though they may have enough academic credits to enter a higher grade.

The districts piloting the program this fall are Donna, where one-third of the 13,000 students are migrants, and neighboring Edcouch-Elsa, with 5,600 students. Each received a $500,000 federal grant to buy computers, pay for the online programs and train teachers.

The Donna district purchased laptop computers so students can study at home or while they are traveling with their families doing farm work. Edcouch-Elsa concentrated its funds on 40 desktop computers that will be placed in labs at several schools and hiring four Mexican teachers to help students with the online course work.

Different learning styles

Minerva Guerra-Gonzalez, special populations director for Edcouch-Elsa, said she believes students will be drawn by the technology.
"We have a lot of children that have very different learning styles," she said. "This program will give them access to the translation of the language. The barrier of the language is what keeps them behind sometimes."

Officials at UT's Center for Hispanic Achievement Program hope that the program will eventually expand to larger districts, such as Houston ISD, with its large population of English-language learners.

Alanis said it is coincidental that the program is launching at a time of great national debate about immigrants. Helping students who are in Texas schools complete their educations will boost the state's economy, he said.

"This is not to encourage immigration," Alanis said. "These kids are in our schools now and schools are needing help with this population."

janet.elliott@chron.com

This article is: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/3913768.html

Monday, May 29, 2006

n the U.S. and Europe, Tensions Between a National and Minority Languages

Check out Professors Jim Crawford's and Stephen Krashen's response (below) to Rothstein submitted to the Times. -Angela

May 29, 2006
Connections
In the U.S. and Europe, Tensions Between a National and Minority Languages
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
After the Senate's recent vote to make English the "national language" of the United States, an avalanche of accusations accumulated, suggesting much illiberal villainy. The Senate's enshrinement of English in the immigration bill it approved last week was cautious: the proposed law says the government must " preserve and enhance the role of English," but it leaves intact federal laws requiring multilingual materials and services. Yet some critics immediately attacked it as xenophobic, even racist.

But perhaps, to put things in a broader perspective, it may help to step outside the United States' debates about English and look at a situation that is its precise opposite. A few months ago officials from the European Union scrutinized Germany's compliance with the 1992 European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, a counterweight to the very idea of official languages. It stresses what it calls "the value of interculturalism and multilingualism." It demands that treaty participants "promote regional or minority languages," encourage their use, create political links among their speakers, guarantee access to them in criminal and civil proceedings, and encourage their presence in television and radio. Procedures were established for monitoring compliance with this project.

In March a European Union "committee of experts," as they are officially called, issued a 168-page report (available at www.coe.int/t/e/legal_affairs) after examining Germany's compliance. The gist of it is that in Germany "more determined measures are needed to encourage the use of regional or minority languages in economic and social life." Germany is, for example, asked to "remedy the existing shortage of Lower Sorbian-speaking teachers," to "develop and implement the educational model for North Frisian proposed by the North Frisian speakers" and "reverse the decline in study and research opportunities for Low German, Sater Frisian and Lower Sorbian." Germany's response in a 50-page appendix did little to mitigate the righteous sentiments of the final verdict.

This is a bizarre situation: treating languages as possessing inalienable rights and entitlements, meriting artificial life-support seemingly in inverse proportion to their importance. The charter justifies this explicit promotion of these languages as a means of preserving cultural legacy but also intends it to be a form of recompense, asserting that these minority languages are victims of "unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference" once intended to "discourage or endanger" them.

On a larger scale, this view was elaborated upon in 1996 in a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, in which the International PEN club and other organizations, supported by Unesco, affirmed principles like "Everyone has the right to carry out all activities in the public sphere in his/her language."

There are, to be sure, reasons for the accusatory tone of these reports. Minority languages suffered grievous indignities as nation-states came into being. In France, for example, where French has been the official state language since 1539, there were periods when even other native languages, like Breton, were barred from the classroom and treated as obstacles to the nation's unity.

The French language is so central to the idea of France that its status is affirmed in its constitution, which is one reason France signed the European Union minority-language charter but never ratified it. Other nations did the same, selecting remedies they could comfortably endorse. (Twenty nations have ratified the charter; 12 others have signed without ratification.) They know what is at stake. So does the European Union: it seeks to weaken the idea of the nation-state.

But many of these debates are only incidentally about immigration. Low German is not being championed to support immigrant rights; even the challenges posed by Europe's radical Islamic immigrants have little to do with language. Instead, as the European Union language charter shows, linguistic issues grow out of a perception of some social and historical wrong and skepticism about the power of the nation-state.

To a certain extent the issues are very different here, where claims have been made not in the name of linguistic rights but identity rights. The group speaking the minority language feels subject to "unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference." Here too, though, this sense of a wronged past has helped spur linguistic change, including bilingual education (which has proved to be far from the promised panacea). There has also been pressure to expand language education here, not to right historical wrongs, but because the United States isn't considered multilingual enough.

The challenge to the state has also been different here. In the United States national identity has only accidentally been tied to the dominance of English. Slavery and the American Indian past aside, this is a nation of immigrants. While immigration did spur waves of resentment and opposition, the United States offers a profound example of successful integration of immigrant populations, aided by the traditional immigrant desire to adopt the dominant language rather than to insist on alternatives. It is only in the last 30 years, with the onset of identity politics, that there were efforts to promote an opposing view.

But it is ideology, not immigration, that is the deciding issue. In March a poll by Zogby International of 1,007 Americans found that the establishment of English as the "official language" has widespread support among diverse groups, including 71 percent of Hispanics and 82 percent of Democrats. Another Zogby poll, in 2005, found more than 80 percent of first- and second-generation Americans supporting the idea.

So the effort is not a matter of xenophobia. It is an attempt to take a position in the vexing debate over the future of the nation-state: What are the forces that hold it together, and what are the forces that threaten to split it apart? What sacrifices are asked for the sake of unity? And what sacrifices should not be asked for that purpose? These are the same issues that are causing citizenship tests to be scrutinized throughout the Western world. The coherence of the state can no longer be taken for granted when divisions within it are so enthusiastically endorsed; the European Union language charter reflects a problem, not a solution.

But establishment of a national language doesn't provide the solution either. A shared language doesn't promise unity any more than multiple languages promise disunity. France, with perhaps the longest and most established national language, is facing some of the most serious multicultural schisms. The United States has had one of the world's most successful experiences with immigration without having had a national language. Many states have more than one official language without suffering ill effects; others boast multiple languages that reflect persistent schisms, as in Cyprus (between Turkish and Greek), and Sri Lanka (between Tamil and Sinhala).

The outrage over the Senate vote is out of proportion. Meanwhile important discussions about the nation-state, and how it might evolve in the midst of diversity, are barely heard in the din, almost drowned out by the shouting between the nation-state and Babel's growing tower.

Connections, a critic's perspective on arts and ideas, appears every other Monday.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
__________________________________________________________
Sent to the New York Times, May 29, 2006

To the Editor:

For Edward Rothstein and others worried about 'Babel's
growing tower' in the U.S., we have two words of advice: study
history. German Americans, from Colonial times until the early
20th century, were far more aggressive, and more
successful, in maintaining their language and culture
than any ethnic group today. Pursuit of Deutschtum
(German "identity politics") was combined with loyalty
to an American nation-state based on democratic
values.

Linguistic diversity is now on the increase, thanks to
increasing numbers of immigrants. But immigrants today
are learning English--and sadly, losing their native
languages--more rapidly than ever before.

The 1890 census reported that 4.6 percent of New York
State residents did not speak English. The comparable figure in 2004
was 1.8 percent, according to the Census Bureau's American Community
Survey. These numbers are about average for the nation as a whole.
Babel's tower is crumbling in America, now more than
ever.

James Crawford
Institute for Language and Education Policy

Stephen Krashen
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California

Note: We are both directors of the Institute for
Language and Education Policy, a newly formed
nonprofit organization.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/29/arts/29conn.html

Moses busy in private sector

It's no secret. There IS money to be made in education. Read on.... Angela

Moses busy in private sector
Ex-DISD leader works on education ventures, sits on corporate boards


Monday, May 29, 2006
By JOSHUA BENTON / The Dallas Morning News


For Mike Moses, the business world is not foreign territory. He worked for several private companies during his later years in top public education jobs.

But now the former Dallas superintendent and state education commissioner has made a full-time leap into the world of for-profit education, both as an employee and as an investor.

"Is every problem in education going to be solved within the system?" Dr. Moses asked recently. "When I was superintendent, I thought it was my job to try. But I knew there were people on the outside who can help us."

Also Online
Entrepreneur pursues dream of educational empire


Dr. Moses is chairman of the board of the American College of Education, the new for-profit teacher-training effort founded by Dallas businessman Randy Best. He's also an investor in the company and chairs the operating committee that runs its day-to-day activities. He also sits on the boards of two publicly traded companies.

"I'm doing the same work I've been doing, working with teachers and educators," Dr. Moses said of his new position with ACE. "The perspective has changed maybe a little bit. But I'm still working on things I like to work on."


In demand

When Mr. Best hired Dr. Moses to run ACE, it wasn't the first time he had sought his services. Mr. Best said he had tried to lure Dr. Moses to Voyager Expanded Learning, his previous education company, when Dr. Moses resigned as state education commissioner in 1999. In the end, Dr. Moses decided not to move to Voyager, instead becoming deputy chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

Dr. Moses' relationships with private companies date back to his days in public education. Since the growth of the for-profit education industry in the 1990s, public superintendents doing side work with for-profits have become increasingly common. Many districts ask that superintendents disclose potential conflicts of interest, and Dr. Moses said he always did so.

Although he did not become a full-time Voyager employee, Dr. Moses did work as a consultant for the company while at Texas Tech. He said his role included helping Voyager develop its strategy for reading instruction. "I was paid a nominal consulting fee for that," he said of the Voyager work. "It was on a very limited basis. It was fully disclosed."

But it was a point of contention in December 2002, when some Dallas Independent School District trustees raised questions about a new district contract with Voyager. At that point, DISD's associate superintendent for curriculum was Carmyn Neely, who had spent five years at Voyager.

Dr. Moses responded tersely to the concerns in a memo to trustees. He said both he and Dr. Neely had recused themselves from making any recommendation on the Voyager contract.

"Frankly, if trustees do not want us to avail ourselves of these kinds of materials, I can live with that," he wrote. "However, any inference that we have not acted properly, legally and ethically in this regard is inaccurate."

He included with that letter to trustees a memo from district lawyers defending the Voyager purchase. Dallas officials refused to release a copy of that memo, citing attorney-client privilege.

Along with Voyager, Dr. Moses disclosed to trustees four other companies he had worked for while at Texas Tech: the textbook publisher Harcourt, the Internet company Academic Planet, the Texas Association of School Administrators and the financial firm William R. Hough & Co.

"When I left being commissioner of education, I was fortunate that there were a number of people who asked me to serve in different capacities," he said in a recent interview.


Lucrative work

That outside work gave Dr. Moses a substantial income. Hough, for instance, paid him more than $70,000 over 15 months, according to public filings, to assist "in developing business relationships throughout the State of Texas." Later, during Dr. Moses' time as superintendent, DISD hired Hough to sell a portion of about $30 million in tax notes for the district.

His employment contract as superintendent allotted him 10 days a year to work for outside companies. Among his clients was the Houston law firm Bracewell & Patterson, which along with its legal work helps Texas districts find new superintendents.

Bracewell & Patterson had done about $7,500 worth of legal work for DISD in the late 1990s. Days after taking office in January 2001, Dr. Moses recommended that trustees give more work to the firm because of its expertise in special-education law and school finance. Over the next three-plus years, DISD paid the law firm about $718,000.

At the time, Dr. Moses denied any conflict of interest regarding either Bracewell or Hough. He ceased his work with Bracewell once The Dallas Morning News wrote about it.

Dallas trustee Hollis Brashear said that Dr. Moses did not hide his business relationships from the board. "Dr. Moses had a pretty illustrious career, and it would make sense for him to be sought out as a consultant," he said. "That would not raise a flag for us."

Dr. Moses declined to say what he was being paid in his new role as chairman of the ACE board.

As a private citizen, his compensation is his own business, so it is difficult to know how it compares with the $341,000 he earned as one of the highest paid superintendents in the country.

Along with his work at ACE, Dr. Moses now sits on the boards of two publicly traded companies.

Dr. Moses joined the board of Trammell Crow, a commercial real estate company, four weeks after leaving the superintendency. Dr. Moses is paid about $80,000 in cash and stock for his work each year, according to public filings. A Dallas spokesman said the district has no business relationships with Trammell Crow.

Dr. Moses also gets paid at least $17,000 for sitting on the board of SWS Group, which, primarily under the name Southwest Securities, helps school districts, including DISD, sell construction bonds.

Southwest Securities began doing work for DISD well before Dr. Moses joined the district in 2000, and that work has continued.

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/052906dnmetmosesside.d93a04a.html

High School Exit Exam Reinstated

High School Exit Exam Reinstated
By Jesus Sanchez, Staff Writer / Los Angeles Times
May 24, 2006

Tens of thousands of California high school seniors who have failed the state exit exam will not receive their diplomas after the state Supreme Court today reinstated the test as schools statewide prepare for graduation ceremonies.

The state high court granted a request by the state education department to lift a nearly two-week old injunction that had blocked the use of the tests to determine whether students could graduate. An estimated 47,000 students have failed the exam.

The case was sent to the state appellate court for further action.

"School districts can continue their graduation exercises as planned before this litigation began," said State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell during a press conference this afternoon.

"We will not give up on the students who are still struggling to pass. They will continue to be given every option to master those skills they will need in order to succeed beyond high school," he said.

The Supreme Court justices stayed a May 12 decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Freedman, who issued a preliminary injunction against the mandatory testing requirement, ruling that it places an unfair burden on poor and minority students who attend low-performing schools.

The challenge to the exit exam was filed by attorney Arturo Gonzalez on behalf of a group of students and their parents.

Gonzalez today said his clients would continue to fight the test in court.

"The Supreme Court did not say that Judge Freedman was wrong," Gonzalez said in a statement. "Four justices simply questioned whether allowing our clients to graduate was the appropriate remedy. We intend to demonstrate that the relief was proper. If the constitutional rights of our children are violated, we cannot punish them further by depriving them of a diploma that they have rightfully earned by passing all required courses."

The legal battle has loomed over many of the 46,700 seniors statewide -- roughly 1 in 10 -- who have failed the two-part test. This year's 12th-graders were the first class to face the testing requirement, which includes a section on eighth-grade math and another on ninth- and 10th-grade English. Students are required to answer little more than half the questions correctly and can take the test multiple times. Students with learning disabilities are exempted from the test.

Originally slated for students in the class of 2004, the test was postponed for two years because of low passing rates. In January, O'Connell, who wrote the legislation mandating the exam in 1999, rejected calls from civil rights groups and others to consider alternatives to the test.

In issuing the injunction, Freedman said he was swayed by Gonzalez's argument that many impoverished and minority students -- particularly those learning English as a second language -- attend low-performing schools that do not prepare them for the test.

Of the 46,700 seniors who have failed the test, 20,600 are designated as limited English learners and 28,300 are poor.

Some of those students have retaken the tests, but it is not known how many may have passed.

— Times staff writers Joel Rubin and Seema Mehta contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-052406exam_lat,0,4961108.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Patrick Shannon's Hall of Fame Speech b/4 the International Reading Association

There is mention herein of new book by Lani Guinir titled, "Meritocracy, Inc." I'm glad that she has taken these issues of standardized testing and ideology into account. -Angela

IRA* Hall of Fame Speech
By Patrick Shannon
Chicago, May 2006

NCLB is the meeting place for several of America’s most cherished biases. Perhaps, this is why so many find fault with the particulars of the law and its delivery but stop at some point during their criticism to affirm its rhetorical goals. We accept at face value NCLB’s commitment that all children can learn, that what we teach them is necessary for their futures in an increasingly uncertain world, and that schools should be institutions that render predictable results to enable equal opportunities within our democracy. Personal learning with social consequences for our economy and democracy seem to be worthy goals, and we appear to validate them, even when we argue that NCLB could be more effective and efficient in addressing them. But schools and America have never offered equal opportunities to all students and citizens. In the time allotted to me, I’ll argue that Americans do not act as if they value equal opportunity and that schools are designed to provide scientific evidence that inequalities in America are legitimate, justified, and natural. NCLB is not the problem-rather it is but one iteration of that design which frames the project of American inequality in the language of equal opportunity.
In the August 2005 issue of the Teachers College Record, David Berliner surveys the impact of economic inequality in America upon school achievement. He begins with the fact that Americans accept the highest level of child poverty of any industrialized country in the world. Scandinavian countries have 2 or 3 percent, Germany 10; but in the United States, nearly 22 percent of children live in poverty. Over 1 in 5 children lives in a family below the poverty line. Let me remind you that the poverty line for a family of four is $19,000. Living below the poverty lines means that these children have inadequate housing, lack nutritional meals, and receive spotty health care. Berliner links each of these factors with lower achievement in schools. Tired, hungry and ill students don’t score as high on standardized tests as their rested, regularly fed, and healthy peers regardless of what the school programs might include. Well before the advent of NCLB we accepted these scores as indicative of what children have learned and what they are capable of learning in the future. We reward the students who score higher with more opportunities, and we repeat the past opportunities until the lower scoring students jump over the proficiency bar. We call this closing the achievemen t gap and rest on the premise that we are making decisions according to merit.

But as Lani Guinier argues in her new book, Meritocracy Inc., these scores have less to do with merit and more to do with social class status. Here’s Guinier:

I am arguing that many of the criteria we associate with individual talent and effort do not measure the individual in isolation but rather parallel the phenomena associated with aristocracy; what we’re calling individual talent is actually a function of that individual’s social position or opportunities gained by virtue of family and ancestry. So although the system we call meritocracy is presumed to be more democratic and egalitarian than aristocracy, it is in fact reproducing that which it was intended to dislodge. Dollars and Sense 2006 Feb. 3.

Over half a century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Southern schools’ segregation was unconstitutional and “inherently unequal”. During the last two decades, resegregation has been occurring across America despite an increase in diversity within the student population. Over the last 30 years, the Black student population has increased by nearly six million, the Latino population has increased by four million and three million for Asian students. Six million fewer white students attend public schools. In his 2001 report Schools More Separate, Gary Orfield states that racially resegregated schools offer vastly unequal educational opportunities and that gaps in achievement and graduation rates began to expand in concert with growing segregation of schools. These gaps had been closing substantially between the 1960s and the mid 1980s. Those who remain unconvinced about the effects of resegregated schools might consult Jonathan Kozol’s 2005 The Shame of A Nation. Both Orfield and Kozol argue that the resegregation of schools results directly from a continued segregation of housing in an America. in which racial minorities in the North and Midwest are steered toward inner city neighborhoods and rings of older suburbs and white families in the South and West isolate themselves behind gates and in exburbs.

Continued and growing poverty and segregation make a mockery of the NCLB commitment that all children can learn. Of course they can and do learn daily, but what are poor and minority children learning when American adults stand by silently in the face of these inequalities? Despite the hard work of some researchers and teachers who struggle diligently to lessen the blows of poverty and segregation, the lesson is clear. In America, equal opportunity means that middle and upper class white students are born on third base and think they’ve hit a triple. That is, the American education system continues the advanta ges that these students enjoy outside of school by writing and performing school standards, curriculum and tests that do little more than confirm these existing social advantages. This is not pessimistic talk or the subtle bias of low expectations. Rather my analysis is based on 100 years of test results that offer zip code as the best predictor of achievement or intelligence test scores and the continued misguided reform practices of seeking the proper science in order to discover the one best system that will teach all students to read, calculate and think efficiently. The intellectual and academic consequences of poverty and segregation are not problems for science to solve through experimentation and technology that isolate the individual as the unit of learning. Rather, these consequences are politic al issues to be decided by moral commitment to a democracy based on social, economic and political equalities.

What would be a commitment to real equal opportunity among all American students? While more and better teachers, useful curricula, and better facilities are important to be sure, they do not and cannot overcome the effects of systematically enforced poverty and segregation. They are not and cannot be sufficient to provide equal opportunity among American students. Berliner advocates that as we call for better teachers, curricula and facilities, we must also work for universal medical insurance, an increase in the minimum wage, and more jobs in inner cities and rural areas. Children who come from homes with employed adults, health care, and realistic hope for their future score higher on tests. Berliner estimates that raising a poor family’s income by $13,000 improves children’s IQ significantly and reduces bad behavior. Such a program implemented nationally would be much cheaper than Head Start, learning disabilities programs or prison. Stop the American wars of aggression overseas and fund it today. In order to increase equal opportunities, Guinier suggests the elimination of standardized testing as a measure of merit and more direct attention to social programs like affirmative action that add to democratic practices and outcomes. Orfield recommends that we explore federal housing policies to promote desegregation of existing housing patterns and to develop new policies in o rder to prevent further resegregation of inner suburbs. Berliner, Guinier, and Orfield are not wild-eyed radicals spouting utopian dreams. Rather, they are tenured professors, who seek to invigorate American democracy through social programs that acknowledge seriously the complex social contribution to learning.

Why don’t we follow their suggestions? My fear is that too many Americans equate democracy with capitalism – that we fear equality or even equal opportunity because we seek every advantage in the race to sustain ourselves and prosper in an environment of savage competition. Outside our families, we understand others through relations of exchange – the money nexus if you will – and we know that their gain can only mean our lost. Daily announcements of job layoffs and outsourcing evince this fear. Read Louis Uchitelle’s The Disposable American for a new account of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Fear of Falling. Americans look out for number one and cling to the myth that we are self taught and responsible for all the good or bad fortune that comes our way. With our standards, curricula, and tests, we’ve built over time and continue to maintain the educational structures that make the myth appear to be reality. We foster competition at every turn. We open every aspect of life to the market and believe that these markets are free despite every indication that participating businesses and entrepreneurs seek protection from competition in each. Think oil, sugar and steel. We swallow the rhetoric of tax relief as if taxes weren’t what make any cooperative venture for mutual benefit pos sible. Think Medicaid, social security, and public schools. Simply, we turn our backs on ways to create equal opportunities for the poor and minorities because it is not in our best interests to do so. NCLB is not the problem because it is nothing but a rhetorical gloss to cover over American inequalities, while offering the illusion that the federal government is doing all it can to further economic opportunity and political power for every citizen.

What do we lose by continuing to participate in NCLB and by our silences perpetuating poverty and segregation in America? John Dewey answered this question more than a century ago.when he wrote about America’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. Then, too, we faced an uncertain world which demanded new social knowledge to negotiate against the continuous fragmentation of our lives. The parallels are many because the differential treatment at schools then was also justified by reference to personal learning for general economic and democratic benefit. Dewey wrote, “ in the name of democracy and individual freedom, the few as a result of superior possessions and powers had in fact made it impossible for the masses to realize personal capacities and to count in the social order.” The casualty, then as now, is what Dewey called true democracy. Far more than a form of government, true democracy should be an associated method of living together that breaks down social barriers among people. According to Dewey, true democracy is the “free and mutual harmonizing of different individuals with every person sharing in the determination of the conditions and aims of his own and collective actions” (Dewey, 1910, 268). Dewey, Berliner, Guinier, Orfield and Kozol lament the silence of educators on matters of poverty and segregation because they are manifestations of our alienation from one another and prevent us from realizing democracy. Each separately and all collectively implore us to act on these larger social issues – these progressive dreams.
NCLB insults us by replacing teachers with the technologies of scripted instructional systems, by privatizating public education through for profit schools and tutorial companies, and by identifying vulnerable social groups for failure through disaggregated test scores. If we are to make a difference in the lives of our students, then we must look past NCLB in order to join with other individuals and groups to demand that American government provide programs which ensure the basic human rights of housing, health care, food and jobs for all citizens. Only then will we end poverty and segregation and position schools to contribute to the potential of a true democracy. Let NCLB be our catalyst to think these thoughts and to take these steps. And to quote lyrics from Rage Against the Machine-

These are all American dreams.
These are all American dreams,
These are all AMERICAN dreams…

Thank you.

Austin Searches for Ways to Improve Teacher Quality

Austin searches for ways to improve teacher quality
Poor, minority schools at disadvantage

By Raven L. Hill
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Monday, May 22, 2006

Interstate 35 essentially divides the 80,000-student Austin school district in
two.

The western half has more affluent and higher- achieving campuses with a
relatively stable corps of veteran teachers. The east is filled with poorer,
low-performing schools that struggle to keep their teachers, mostly novice,
from year to year.

Schools in East Austin, many with large minority and low-income populations,
often have trouble hiring and keeping teachers. At LBJ High School in East
Austin, Principal Patrick Patterson is proud of senior Charles Walker's good
grades.

Lynne Lively, a bilingual teacher at Odom Elementary in Southwest Austin, says
that she has taught primarily low-income students and that teachers must
sometimes also be nurses and social workers.

Almost uniformly, the schools on the east rank near or at the bottom of district
schools on state test results.

It's not geography causing students to fail.

Teachers, second perhaps only to parents, have a profound impact on student
success.

Their effectiveness is greatly influenced by academic preparation, certification
exam scores and years of experience. When a teacher fails to connect with
students ˜ whether it's due to inexperience or attrition because of intolerable
working conditions ˜ students suffer.

In Austin, students on the city's east side appear to suffer the most.

This is an old issue that's getting new attention as the district wrestles with
closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, as well as
among different income levels.

Though experts caution that having a stable staff of veteran teachers doesn't
guarantee good test scores, they say it definitely influences them.

According to a report issued this spring by a district task force of teachers,
principals, parents and representatives of education organizations:

-Students at struggling schools are twice as likely to see their teachers leave.

The three high schools with the greatest percentages of white students had a
cumulative five-year turnover rate of 33 percent. The three high schools with
the greatest percentages of minority students had a rate of more than 60
percent.

Overall, officials estimate that 16 percent of Austin teachers leave the
district annually. It costs the district almost $10 million a year to replace
them.

-The gap between average teacher experience levels at predominantly minority and
poor schools and white, wealthier campuses has increased to almost five years
since 2000.

In 2005, the average teacher at predominantly minority schools had about 10
years of experience, virtually unchanged from five years earlier. At
predominantly white schools, teachers had almost 15 years of experience, up
from 13 years in 2000.

-Teachers with full state certification, who score high on the instruction
portion of their certification exams and have more than three years'
experience, tend to be more effective in the classroom.

Poor and minority Austin schools tend to have fewer teachers with such
achievements. About 11 percent of the faculty on elementary campuses failed an
instructional skills certification test at poor schools, compared with less
than 3 percent at their wealthier counterparts.

Ed Fuller, a researcher at the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Center for Teaching
Quality, led the task force's study.

Fuller said Austin's gaps were surprising: "No matter what measure you look at,
there's just pretty wide disparities between the two sets of schools. Not
surprisingly, we see large disparities in student achievement."

Superintendent Pat Forgione said he plans to raise salaries in next year's
budget and make performance-based incentives part of the district's
compensation plan to help lure and retain experienced and specialty teachers.

"I believe in being very specific in your investment," Forgione said. "I would
like to find a way to incentivize doing the hard work, but I want to see
evidence of doing the hard work."

Why teachers leave

The impact of high teacher attrition rates is reflected in passing rates on the
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Johnston High School lost 80 percent of its faculty last year in the wake of a
state-mandated restructuring; 20 percent of the student body passed all
sections of the state's achievement exam that year. Less than 3 percent of the
faculty at Blackshear Elementary chose to stay at the school last year; about
60 percent of students passed the TAKS.

By comparison, Kiker and Patton elementary schools retained 75 percent of their
staffs. At Patton, 85 percent of students passed the test; 92 percent passed at
Kiker. At Anderson High School, where the turnover rate was 33 percent, more
than 80 percent of students passed the TAKS.

For the district to close the achievement gap between east and west, white and
minority students, poor and wealthy ones, it will have to ensure that the
neediest students get ˜ and keep ˜ the best teachers, researchers say.

"Novice teachers have good hearts, good heads and good intentions," said Louis
Malfaro, president of Education Austin, which represents 4,000 teachers and
support staff members. "But they're not as good as those more experienced
teachers."

The district's task force found that schools serving high percentages of
minority and low-income students were harder to staff because they are
generally perceived as having fewer resources, more disciplinary problems, weak
school leadership, lower test scores and higher dropout rates.

The report noted, "The students most in need of well-qualified teachers who know
the students and community well . . . and high-quality instructional resources
are the least likely to receive them."

For many teachers, the opportunity to work with the neediest students is the
reason they got into education. But even the most devoted among them are
challenged to stay.

Lynne Lively, a bilingual teacher at Odom Elementary in Southwest Austin, has
taught primarily low-income students her entire career.

Lively said teachers sometimes must be nurses and social workers as well.

"Often kids from low-income homes come from chaotic situations. You don't have
as much parent involvement. Our moms are poor. Our dads are holding down two
jobs. They may not be working," she said. "Their parents are struggling, and
they're doing the best they can."

Jo Mikels came from Mendez Middle School in Southeast Austin to teach at Small
Middle School in Southwest Austin when it opened in 1999.

Mikels said working with poor children can be overwhelming for new teachers who
expect a child to have had certain shared experiences, like going to the beach,
the zoo or restaurants that don't serve fast food.

"There may be no reference point," she said. "You have to build those
experiences in somehow. It's more challenging."

Mikels, who has been a teacher for 32 years, said she worries about teachers not
going to schools where there is the greatest need and how that contributes to
the achievement gap.

When she decided to leave Mendez, it was purely to work closer to home, she
said. "I really identify with the east side a lot. I taught just as hard there
as any other school."

An advantage of working at a school with little turnover is that teachers can
build relationships with one another, which can only help students, Mikels
said: "You know exactly what a child learns in sixth grade that can be built on
in seventh grade and eighth grade. You have time to have those discussions.
That's huge for the continuum of learning."

Can tide be turned?

Many urban districts nationwide are grappling with ways to reduce the
achievement gap and teacher turnover. Some have successfully implemented
solutions.

The Wake County school system in North Carolina, which includes Raleigh and
nearby suburbs, redrew its attendance boundaries to reduce large pockets of
poor students and ensure that no school's population is more than 40 percent
economically disadvantaged. All schools became equally attractive to teachers.

Last spring, 80 percent of black students in Wake County elementary and middle
schools scored at grade level on state tests, up from 40 percent a decade ago;
91 percent of Hispanic students scored at grade level, up from 79 percent a
decade ago.

Economic integration might prove difficult to replicate in Austin, where many
parents vehemently oppose busing and the school system is citywide, not
countywide. Almost 60 percent of Austin students come from low-income families.

Forgione said mandating assignments would only spur teacher flight to nearby
districts that offer higher salaries and more affordable housing.

"I can't restrict where teachers will go," he said. "Our plan is to recruit
talent, hire them early and get them focused on going to the neediest schools."

Financial incentives and good working conditions can keep good teachers in poor
East Austin schools, said Fuller, an adjunct professor at the University of
Texas.

The task force recommended officials give teachers a substantial pay raise next
year, on a par with fast-growing suburban competitors; give stipends to retain
veteran and in-demand teachers in math, science and bilingual education, as
well as those who work in "hard-to-staff" schools; enhance mentoring programs;
and work with principals to improve working conditions.

LBJ High School Principal Patrick Patterson said he was lured to the school last
year by a stipend.

"Were it not for that piece of it, I probably would have stayed at Lanier," he
said. "In schools like LBJ and others that are filled with traditionally
hard-to-reach kids, I'm sure that it would be an incentive for teachers."

Though he has plenty of applicants for openings, Patterson said a stipend would
help: "The quality of my applicant pool would be greatly enhanced with a
stipend. All of them aren't experienced, nor do all have experience working
with hard-to-reach populations."

rhill@statesman.com; 445-3620

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/nation/05/22teachers.html

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dropout Data Raise Questions on 2 Fronts

Dropout Data Raise Questions on 2 Fronts
One Side Says Problem Isn't as Dire as Thought, but Others Doubt Research
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 23, 2006; A08

Economist Larry Mishel was troubled by high school graduation statistics that contradicted what he thought was good research. That was particularly true of data used by many politicians and pundits to bemoan a 30 percent dropout rate in American high schools.

"This picture was radically different from what I knew from labor market data I regularly examined in my studies of wage and job trends," said Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank. His research indicated that only about 12 percent of the workforce lacked a high school diploma or its equivalent, so how could the dropout rate be so large?

Political scientist Jay P. Greene also had trouble with the data, but for a different reason. He found many school systems were claiming low dropout rates, even though their ninth grades were bulging with restless students eager to be elsewhere and many had disappeared by graduation time. Working as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and as head of the education reform department at the University of Arkansas, Greene reported that graduation rates seemed to be worse than many people thought, as low as 50 percent in low-income urban neighborhoods.

A collision of those two views by prominent scholars was inevitable, and in the past several weeks it has hit the education policy world in an explosion of articles, e-mails and public debates, some quite heated. Experts disagree over who is right, and some say the truth may be somewhere in between. But the argument has aggravated a widespread feeling that information on how many children are disappearing from public schools is not nearly as accurate as it should be.

"Jay Greene and Larry Mishel have performed the valuable service of exposing the huge inadequacies in the way we measure the percent of students who achieve a regular high school diploma -- inadequacies not attended to in over two decades of education reform," said Paul E. Barton, senior associate in the Educational Testing Service's Policy Information Center.

Such congratulatory words have not ended the scholarly strife. Mishel and Greene continue their sometimes testy exchanges, and the argument has broken into disputes over lost diplomas, growth computation mistakes, uncounted immigrants and other issues loved only by people whose livelihoods depend on population data.

The major event has been the publication of a book by Mishel and Economic Policy Institute economist Joydeep Roy, "Rethinking High School Graduation Rates and Trends." It is only 100 pages, many of them full of charts, but it takes a big swing at powerful forces, particularly the National Governors Association and its recent report that said high schools are in crisis.

"About a third of our students are not graduating from high school," the association declared in a 2005 report by a task force that used Greene's data. "About three-fourths of white students graduate from high school, but only half of African American and Hispanic students do."

Mishel and Roy say that is wrong. Using U.S. Education Department data that follow student experiences and results of Census Bureau household surveys, they get very different numbers: an overall high school graduation rate with a regular diploma of 80 to 83 percent, a black student graduation rate of 69 to 75 percent and a Hispanic graduation rate of 61 to 74 percent.

They say that in the past 40 years, the high school completion rate, including graduates and those passing General Educational Development diploma tests, has gone up substantially and that the black-white gap has shrunk, except in the past 10 years, when there has been little improvement. Only graduation among Hispanics increased during the past 10 years.

Greene and Manhattan Institute research associate Marcus A. Winters have quickly counterattacked. They say the Mishel-Roy book is too dependent on Education Department longitudinal studies that follow a representative sample of students over several years and on census surveys that depend on people telling the truth about their success in school. If, for example, there were as many high school graduates in 2003 as Mishel and Roy said, they would number 476,442 more than the number of students school systems reported that year, Greene and Winters said.

Russell Rumberger, a University of California at Santa Barbara education professor, said he carefully checked the longitudinal survey used by Mishel and Roy and found that it appeared to "generate very accurate population estimates confirmed by published data." Greene struck back with a political analogy. He said the "assertion that we should believe the results of a survey over population counts is a little bit like the people who asserted that Kerry really won the 2004 election because the exit polls showed him winning even though the vote count gave the victory to Bush."

Daniel J. Losen, senior education law and policy associate at the Harvard University Civil Rights Project, said he agreed with Greene that the dropout problem is severe. "There is a consensus that this crisis is real and particularly severe for Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans," he said.

Researchers say this is not just an academic question; there are consequences for many children. "If Larry Mishel is right that the graduation rates have been improving, then some of the radical reforms for high schools being proposed may be misguided or dangerous," said Richard Rothstein, a former New York Times columnist and a research associate at Mishel's think tank.

"It may seem that we are talking about just a few percentage points here and there," said John Robert Warren, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota who agrees with Greene, but "five percentage points would be 175,000 young people annually."

No matter who is right, Barton said, it is embarrassing for educational research to have scholars as reputable as Mishel and Greene be so dubious about the value of major sources of dropout data.

Barton said census officials told him that there had been no field or validity studies of the census question on high school completion rates -- so experts cannot be as confident about that data. By contrast, he said, "tens of millions of dollars have gone into getting the questions right in that survey that gives the monthly unemployment rate."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/22/AR2006052201187.html

Analysis suggests cheating on TAKS

Here we go again. This is reminiscent of the 1999 TAAS erasure-marks-cheating scandal. Clearly, this stuff is systemic in terms of the (perverse) incentives that motivate this behavior in adults. -Angela

Analysis suggests cheating on TAKS
TEA consultant cites suspicious scores in 1 in 12 Texas schools in '05

12:15 AM CDT on Tuesday, May 23, 2006

By JOSHUA BENTON / The Dallas Morning News

About one in 12 Texas schools had unusual TAKS results that suggest cheating occurred last year, according to a consultant hired by the Texas Education Agency.

The consultant, a Utah test security firm named Caveon, was hired after a Dallas Morning News series found suspicious scores in nearly 400 schools statewide, based on 2003 and 2004 testing results.

Caveon's analysis, using 2005 TAKS results, found even more: 609 schools, or 8.6 percent of the state's campuses.

But state officials say even those numbers are not a sign of cheating in Texas schools.

"Given the size of this program and the size of this state, yes, we had 600 campuses identified," said Gloria Zyskowski, TEA's director of test administration. "But we have over 5,000 campuses where the test was administered.

"While we take very seriously any allegations of cheating – we don't take any of that lightly – I believe that for the most part these tests are being administered according to the guidelines provided by the state."

The report, obtained using the Texas open records act, reopens a debate about the validity of results on the state's top test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. TEA has traditionally left investigations into allegations of cheating to the districts, and few teachers or students are ever disciplined for wrongdoing.

Caveon's report, like The News' analysis, is based on an extended statistical analysis of student answer sheets. For example, it would flag a classroom where every student answered all the test's questions in exactly the same way, or a classroom where very weak students made seemingly impossible gains in one year.

It would also catch classrooms in which an adult erased a large number of student answers after the test was completed.

The analysis found "statistical inconsistencies" in 609 of the 7,112 Texas public schools where testing was conducted last year. In many of those schools, only one classroom was found to have suspicious activity; in all, 702 classrooms statewide were identified.

Caveon's report emphasizes that the statistical measures are not, by themselves, proof of cheating. In some cases, there may be another explanation for the unusual data patterns.

But the report says Caveon used "a very conservative statistical approach" that means "reasonable explanations of these inconsistencies by referring to normal circumstances become improbable."

TEA does not plan to investigate each of the 609 campuses identified, and Dr. Zyskowski said the agency may not even release their names to school districts. "You want to be pretty cautious about releasing something like that," she said. "As soon as something like that is posted, you have to be very cautious that it is as accurate as it can be."

Instead, agency officials will compare the list with incident reports from 2005. Those reports are generated whenever an educator witnesses something improper during testing at his or her school. If no such report exists for a school on the Caveon list, Dr. Zyskowski said, it's unlikely there would be any further investigation.

Self-investigation
If further investigation is warranted, TEA typically asks districts to investigate themselves. Dr. Zyskowski said the agency does not have the resources to look into many allegations of cheating.

"That's sort of why we tend to be a little judicious, because we are limited in our resources," she said. "So we can only look at a certain number of issues, and we try to look at those that appear to be most serious."

The Caveon report also recommended increasing the number of staffers who monitor the testing process in suspicious schools. But Dr. Zyskowski said TEA does not have the staff to do that; additional personnel would have to come from school districts.

She defended the state testing system as fundamentally sound. State and federal government school accountability systems are based on test scores, which are a major driver of nearly everything in Texas public schools. "I really think that overall that it's not as big of an issue as it sometimes is portrayed to be," Dr. Zyskowski said.

The Caveon report did not name any of the schools it found, but it did provide examples without identifying them.

In one elementary school, 45 of the 262 answer sheets were exact duplicates of one another. An additional 29 students had perfect scores. In all, 141 answer sheets were flagged by the analysis, and Caveon says the chances of such a pattern happening naturally would be less than 1 in 1 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion – a 1 followed by 72 zeros.

The results also indicate the prevalence of cheating on the TAKS test with the highest stakes of all: the 11th-grade test, which students must pass to graduate.

The Caveon report does not break out suspicious incidents by grade level. But while it examined math and reading scores in grades three through 11, it looked at science and social studies scores only in 11th grade.

The study found suspicious scores in 4.8 percent of all 11th-grade science classrooms and 4.2 percent of 11th-grade social studies classrooms. Those figures are much higher than the 0.7 percent of math classrooms and 0.3 percent of reading classrooms flagged.

If those 11th-graders cheated on the TAKS test last year, they are probably graduating this month.

The News' series on cheating was prompted by unusual scores in Wilmer-Hutchins ISD, the much-troubled district on Dallas' southeast side. A News analysis found strong evidence of cheating in the district's elementary schools.

For example, it found that Wilmer Elementary had Texas' highest raw scores on the third-grade reading test in 2003 – despite the school's abysmal academic track record and having one of the state's most disadvantaged student bodies. Nearly every student at Wilmer had a perfect score on the exam.

The News' findings prompted a state investigation into Wilmer-Hutchins that found evidence that two-thirds of the district's elementary school teachers were helping students improperly on the exams, in some cases creating and distributing answer keys on test day.

As a result of those findings, the Wilmer-Hutchins school board was removed from office and the district is being dissolved. Later stories led to investigations, which led to educators being disciplined in Houston and Dallas.

The state's reaction
In response to the News stories, state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley said she did not think cheating was a significant problem. "If we have cheating on one campus, or in one classroom, that's unacceptable," she said in February 2005. "But I just don't think it's quite the widespread problem that it's been reported to be."

Still, her agency hired a test security firm as part of the renewal of its overall testing contract last year. That company is Caveon, which is led by former state and national testing officials.

Proving a cheating allegation after the fact is very difficult. Typically, discipline is not pursued against a cheating teacher unless there is eyewitness evidence of wrongdoing – something that can be hard to obtain. As of 2005, only two teachers had lost their teaching license because of cheating allegations in the previous decade.

That problem is compounded by the Caveon report's long lag time – which covers alleged irregularities more than a year old. Dr. Zyskowski said she hopes the company's analysis of 2006 data will arrive more quickly. Having two years of data will also make it easier to see patterns, she said.

E-mail jbenton@dallasnews.com

RAISING SUSPICION
An example of one unidentified high school whose scores the Caveon report found suspicious:

• 91 students took the 11th-grade math TAKS test.

• 55 percent of test takers got an unusual number of hard questions right but an unusual number of easy questions wrong. (Statistically expected number: 4 percent)

• 98 percent of answer sheets were identical or nearly identical to another answer sheet in the group. (Statistically expected: 6 percent)

• 49 percent of students showed unusually high gains from the previous year's test. (Statistically expected: 5 percent)

• The report: "The probability value that these identical answer sheets occurred by chance is so small as to approach the realm of impossibility." Caveon says that chance is less than 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

SOURCES: Caveon report, Texas Education Agency

SPOTTING THE PROBLEMS
Caveon's analysis of Texas test scores looked for four types of irregularities:

• Answer sheets with unusual numbers of wrong responses that have been erased and replaced with correct ones

• Inexplicably large jumps in students' test scores from the previous year

• Students who answer the harder questions on a test correctly but miss the easy ones

• Answer sheets that are unusually similar to those of other students in the same classroom

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/052306dnmetcheating.125e559b.html

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dr. Carlos Munoz, Jr. UC Berkeley Chicano/Latino Graduation Speech

Carlos, thank you for sharing. -Angela

Carlos Munoz, Jr. Keynote Speech
Chicano/Latino Graduation
Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
May 20, 2006

It's a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you to celebrate your graduation. You have been blessed with the intelligence, the love of familia, friends, and community. Most of all, you have been blessed with the work ethic of your parents and the legacies of struggle waged by our ancestors.

You came here prepared to work hard in your studies and to survive whatever obstacles were placed in your path. It was not easy, but you have persevered. You have every right to feel extremely proud of yourself. I know your parents are. And so are those who love you.

Some of you are immigrants. Others of you, like me, are children of immigrants. In particular, children of poor working class immigrants. Like me, some of you are the first in your families to graduate from college. No doubt some of you never thought it possible to get a college education. I remember that my immigrant father simply wanted me to finish high school!

Thanks to the Chicano/Chicana Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and in particular to the student activists of that generation who struggled to open the doors to these previously all white institutions, you are here tonight. In particular, if it were not for the 1969 "Third World Strike" that was organized by Chicano/Chicana and other students of color, I and the rest of the Latino faculty and staff on this stage, would also not be here tonight.

In the process of working and studying hard to get the knowledge you now have, you have also become more critically aware of the harsh realities and tragedies that regretfully exist throughout our nation and the world at large.

You witnessed the terrorism of 9/11. And more tragically, the even more tragic response by the President and the Congress to wage a war of destruction against a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. The war in Iraq has taken its toll of thousands of Iraqi innocent lives. Hundreds of lives of U.S. soldiers, including young Latino and Latina soldiers, your age, or younger, have also died and continue to die today in the streets of Iraq. They should have been here or at another university instead of the streets of Iraq where they met their death.

You have also witnessed another kind of war here at home. It is the war waged against hard working Latino undocumented immigrants and their familias who everyday contribute to the U.S. culture and the economy. At the time when Latino blood is being spilled in the battle fields of Iraq, the Republican controlled House of Representatives wants to criminalize them by making it a felony crime for entering the U.S. without papers. That is what the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) is all about.

Latino undocumented workers have courageously come out of the shadows by the millions to make clear they, like everyone else, deserves equality and human rights. Their struggle has generated a passion for social justice throughout the nation that has not happened since the 1960s when the farm worker movement led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. And the Black and Chicano Civil Rights movements, and the anti-Vietnam War made a similar impact.

I am extremely proud of those of you graduating tonight who have joined me in taking a strong stance against the injustice of the Sensenbrenner Bill HR 4437 here on this campus and who have marched in the streets of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere in solidarity with our undocumented hermanos y hermanas.

The millions of Latinos marching for immigrant

Rights in the streets of cities across this nation has

Also generated fear among those who are committed to preserving the status quo. They are the same ones who have framed Diversity as "un-American" and a source of division in our society. They are the same ones who oppose immigrant rights.

They have made Latinos the main target. For example, Samuel Huntington, a political scientist at Harvard, has argued in his writings that Latinos are the most serious threat to the White dominant culture. He fears that our nation will lose its single national language and its core WASP culture. As he put it, "In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico."

A new Latino leadership must emerge from your ranks to take on the responsibility of developing a new politics that can build on the positives of our diversity. We need a leadership that has a vision of the future that is based on the multicultural and multiracial reality of what our nation has become. A leadership that is dedicated to the process of building bridges between all the different races and cultures.

You have proven thus far that you have the intellectual and the critical thinking capacity to become this kind of leader for the 21st century.

The task will require new vision of Democracy that must include people of all colors. We are not islands unto ourselves. Latino liberation is not possible without making possible the liberation of people of all colors, including white folks who are not part of the white supremacy structure of power.

In reality, as Latinos we represent everybody. We know we are an indigenous people. But we must also know that we are African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European. We are Christian, but we are also Muslim and Jewish. We own the original meaning of an authentic Diversity. We are America!

I have been marching for social justice, peace, and Democracy since the 1960s. And I won't stop until the day I die. I know that your generation, and those of you in this graduating class in particular, will continue marching long after I'm gone.

I want to share my Vision for an authentic Multiracial Democracy that I have kept in mind throughout my life of struggle and activism. It is my graduation gift to you to keep in mind as you develop into our nation's leaders.

My vision is that Americans of all colors, religions, sexual preferences, men and women will give birth to an authentic Multiracial Democracy.

A Democracy that will promote a true racial and ethnic diversity and equality in everyday life.
A Democracy that honors its immigrant legacies and values as equal all immigrant workers whether they are documented or undocumented.
A Democracy that will promote social justice, religious tolerance, non-violence, and peace at home and abroad.
A Democracy with a government that will include a representative of every diverse group at the table of political power on behalf of the people, not the military-prison-corporate complex.
A Democracy with a national political multiparty electoral system where candidates for election include the poor and working class, not just those who are rich or middle class. With an electoral system where every vote will in fact be counted. No more Florida's, no more Ohio's, no more Bushes.
A Democracy where human needs are prioritized and not the needs of the rich and the corporations. Where health care and education are defined as Human Rights.
A Democracy that prioritizes youth as the most important Investment for the future of our nation and builds more schools instead of prisons.

THIS VISION WILL TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE COME TRUE.
But What I have learned in my lifetime is that struggle is life and life is struggle. But most importantly, that victory is in the struggle!

Congratulations to each and every one of you. Love, Peace, and Justice to you all!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lawmakers willing to work on No Child law

Lawmakers willing to work on No Child law
By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer | May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON --Lawmakers said Thursday they were willing to make the No Child Left Behind law more flexible, but warned there won't be a lot of extra federal money to help pay for it.

And don't expect the law to go away, members of the House Education & the Workforce Committee said as they kicked off a series of hearings in preparation for renewing the sweeping education law next year.

Since it was passed in 2001, teachers, parents and state education officials have complained about various aspects of the law, which requires schools to meet goals for student performance or face a variety of penalties.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, a California Republican who chairs the House committee said he's willing to listen to the complaints, but he's more interested in how to solve any problems.

"I'd like to hear the proposed solutions," McKeon said in an interview.

Under the law, all children must be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Some educators have complained that the law's emphasis on math and reading has detracted from other subjects.

Thursday's hearing featured examples of how schools can offer broad curriculums in science, physical education and the arts, while still meeting the law's requirements on reading and math.

Garrett Lydie, a physical education teacher from Laurel, Del., explained how he integrated math and reading into his classes, having elementary school students spell words and solve math problems while climbing a wall.

"During many of our physical activities, students apply the concepts they are learning in areas such as math, science, writing, reading and social studies to achieve a goal," said Lydie, the 2006 teacher of the year in Delaware.

But the issue of money kept creeping into the discussion.

"Without adequate and stable funding ... I can't get the needs met," Mickey Garrison, an elementary school principal from Roseburg, Ore., told the committee.

Democrats have long complained that the law has not been fully funded, while Republicans argue that federal spending on education has increased significantly since the law was passed.

"I think that when you talk to people, no matter what we give them, it's not enough," McKeon said. "We have backed this up with resources and we will push for more resources. But it's not all about resources."

Rep. George Miller of California, the education committee's top Democrat, said funding will be a critical issue as Congress works to renew the law.

"Where is education on the priority list of this government?" Miller asked.

The House narrowly passed a 2007 budget early Thursday that calls for cutting federal spending on education by more than $5 billion, about 7 percent.

McKeon said he has no specific plans for changing the law's requirements. "I don't have any ax to grind, other than to improve the law," he said.

Both McKeon and Miller said the committee plans to review the entire law before reauthorizing it, hearing from critics and supporters alike.

However, Miller said, it would be a waste of time for critics to argue that the law should be scrapped.

"I don't think the basic principles of the act are going to go away," Miller said.

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., agreed, saying, "One thing is for sure: It's here to stay."

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2006/05/18/lawmakers_willing_to_work_on_no_child_law/

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Future of Higher Education Is Divisive Topic for Panel

This is a very important piece for all of us in higher education to read very closely in terms of its possible implications. What is proposed below was tried unsuccessfully within the UT system around 5 years ago. Here are some related sources:

UT regents considering standardized testing plan
Testing would be part of system-wide accountability plan
By Ryan D. Pittman


4/11/01
UT Regents consider standardized tests
System officials report need for basic skills testing despite opposition from students and faculty
By Ryan D. Pittman



-Angela




May 20, 2006
Future of Higher Education Is Divisive Topic for Panel
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/20/education/20education.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1148231738-gdnght6pCU82Guc7Zd2iJQ

By SAM DILLON
WASHINGTON, May 19 — At one end of the table was the chairman of Kaplan Inc., complaining that he could not get Kaplan's for-profit, Internet-based law school accredited because it has no law library. At the other end was former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina, white-haired and distinguished, pleading for more federal aid for needy students.

The two are members of the Bush administration's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which concluded a two-day meeting here on Friday. And the person keeping them all laughing was Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist who suggested that some college students who take six years or more to graduate from college might be too lackadaisical to deserve government aid at all.

"They're climbing rock walls, they're playing, they're drinking — and they're getting Pell grants?" Dr. Vedder said.

The 19 members of the commission represent disparate opinions and interests, and finding common ground is not easy. Refereeing was the chairman, Charles Miller, a private investor and former head of the University of Texas Board of Regents, who wondered aloud how to build consensus among this cacophony of views.

"We may have to duke it out, or have a jump ball," Mr. Miller said.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings established the commission last fall to study how to increase access, affordability and accountability in higher education. Its recommendations on these issues could be critically important for the country's 17 million college students and their parents.

In an interview during the meeting, Mr. Miller said he hoped the commission's report would galvanize the Bush administration and Congress to legislate broad reforms in the nation's system for financing and regulating higher education. If it is punchy and well-written, he said, it could be as influential as "A Nation at Risk," the 1983 report commissioned by President Ronald Reagan that inspired a movement for higher standards and accountability in America's 90,000 public schools.

The commission includes representatives of wealthy private colleges, underfinanced public universities, overcrowded community colleges and for-profit trade schools, as well as private industries that want colleges and universities to concentrate on preparing students for the workplace. The members have discussed thorny issues, including how to control skyrocketing tuition, the proper role in higher education of Internet-based classes, and whether government should use its leverage as a provider of billions in federal aid to require private universities to administer standardized tests.

Mr. Miller's frequent mention during the commission proceedings of "A Nation at Risk," which excoriated the sorry state of America's elementary and secondary education, has left some members nervous.

"We've talked in private to him about that," said David Ward, a commission member and president of the American Council on Education, the largest association of colleges and universities. "If he means that 'A Nation at Risk' had a rhetorical flair that got people's attention, that's certainly true. But the pathology of the public schools in the 1980's is not comparable to higher education today. Our colleges and universities are successful — just not successful enough to confront the challenges of globalization without significant change."

After eight months of meetings and hearings, the commission is to begin writing its report, Mr. Miller said, hoping to get it to Ms. Spellings's desk by mid-September.

The members have a congenial working style that has often masked profound differences. Mr. Hunt argued to his colleagues that to help more needy students attend college, the commission must ask for more government money, because Congress will not simply reallocate financial aid away from middle-class families to the poor.

"If you think you're going to go out there and take those tax credits away from middle-class families, you ought to re-enroll in Politics 101," Mr. Hunt said.

Dr. Vedder said in an interview that his priorities were controlling costs and raising productivity.

"If the report argues, front and center at the top, for large increases in government spending on higher education, then some of us will have trouble signing," Dr. Vedder said.

Perhaps the commission's deepest conflict has been about how to measure student learning and compare it across institutions, a goal Mr. Miller has endorsed frequently.

Charles M. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that some on the commission would like it to recommend one or several national tests to measure what postsecondary students have learned. Others, Mr. Vest said, would have the commission ask that every institution state its educational goals, and how it will measure progress toward meeting them. Using a single test to compare students at a community college with students at an Ivy League institution would be of little use, he said.

"We mustn't fall into the trap of 'one size fits all,' " Mr. Vest said. "This is a critical moment for this nation. As the forces of change and globalization accelerate, I want this report to be a call to leadership and effectiveness, not an indictment of the current system. There's a difference in tone."


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company