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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NAEP DATA CONTRADICT BUSH ADMINISTRATION EDUCATION CLAIMS;

PRESS RELEASE

Dr. Monty Neill  (617) 864-4810 
or Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
 for immediate release, Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NAEP DATA CONTRADICT BUSH ADMINISTRATION EDUCATION CLAIMS;
“NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” HAS NOT LED TO FASTER SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
 
    Bush Administration claims about the controversial “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law are undermined by data from its own Department of Education, according to an analysis of newly released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “NAEP shows educational improvement across the nation slowed significantly since NCLB went into effect,” said FairTest co-Executive Director Monty Neill. “This happened despite the fact that curriculum narrowed in many schools to little more than test preparation in reading and math”
     “Gains from 2000 to 2003, before NCLB went into effect, were significantly greater than they were from 2003 to 2007, when NCLB was the law,” Neill continued. “That deflates the administration’s claims that federal law is driving school improvement. For example, black students’ 4th grade math scores jumped from 203 to 216 in the three years before NCLB took effect, then edged up to 222 from 2003 to 2007.”
     FairTest also cited today's National Assessment Governing Board news release on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) score trends, which acknowledges:
 - “[Mathematics] gains made since 2003 are . . . not as large as those realized during some earlier period.”
 -  “The average 8th-grade reading score . . . remains below the level of achievement shown in 2002.”
     “The administration continues to cherry-pick test scores to defend its deeply flawed education policy,” said Neill. “There are much better ways to improve educational quality and equity. Congress should listen to the more than 140 national education, civil rights and religious organizations that have come together to call for an overall of this damaging federal law."
- - 3 0 - -
The multi-organizational statement calling for an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind” and other assessment reform materials are available at http://www.fairtest.org
 
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Co-Executive Director
FairTest
342 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4810    fax 617-497-2224
monty@fairtest.org
http://www.fairtest.org

Voucher 'threat' sparks debate

Voucher 'threat' sparks debate

By Bob Bernick Jr.
Deseret Morning News

Published: September 25, 2007
A high-powered group of Utah businessmen and health experts put forward Monday a plan providing affordable health insurance to an estimated 360,000 Utahns, while GOP legislative leaders are accused of saying that the plan may fail in the 2008 Legislature if leading businessmen don't support vouchers on November's ballot.
"I find this highly offensive — tying health insurance for needy people to education vouchers," said Rep. Phil Riesen, an East Millcreek Democrat who sits on a United Way/business health care subcommittee that put together the comprehensive health insurance plan. GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is studying the plan to see if he will support it in the 2008 Legislature.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, said his comments before the United Way subcommittee — on which both Clark and Riesen sit — were misinterpreted.
"It was not my intent to tether those two issues together," said Clark, the second most powerful Republican in the Utah House.
"I've never had (such) a conversation with a colleague. It has not been a part of any (GOP) leadership conversation — tying health care and vouchers together," said Clark Monday. And he personally does not tie the two issues together, Clark added. "But I do think that those are all relevant issues for discussion."
However, another person at the meeting said he took Clark's comments not as a threat but the GOP leader's candid assessment of the possible political realities in the Legislature — as unpleasant as they may be.
Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said the governor supports both an expanded health-insurance plan to insure more Utahns and the Legislature's voucher program. "But he believes the issues should be vetted and decided on their own merits" and not politically tied together, she said.
Riesen said the implied threat — as he took it — was made in August, just as GOP legislative leaders put together their pro-voucher political issue committee, called the Informed Voter Project. Clark is among the GOP leaders who set up the PIC.
The PIC's aim, as detailed in a Sunday Deseret Morning News report, is to raise at least $300,000 to push the private-school, voucher-tuition plan that goes before voters Nov. 6. The PIC is holding town meetings across the state, with GOP legislators and others trying to inform residents about vouchers and what they will do, GOP legislative leaders say.
According to Riesen, Clark, when asked about the political chances in the Legislature of the broad health-insurance plan, told the health subcommittee that if local businesses don't support the voucher plan, there would be little chance of the health-insurance plan passing the GOP-dominated Legislature.
"Dave said that the Legislature had been very supportive of Utah business in the past, but that given that the business community was not supporting vouchers, he didn't see (the health-insurance plan) passing at all," said Riesen, a former Utah TV newscaster.
"So, 360,000 Utahns are not going to get health insurance" because businessmen won't give money to pro-voucher GOP legislators, said Riesen, who like every Democrat in the 2007 Legislature voted against private school vouchers.
Clark said he never intended to tie together the Legislature's support of business — or support of vouchers several years ago by a group of businessmen — and the current lack of support for vouchers in the November election.
"I don't recall exactly" what he said at the subcommittee, but no connection was meant, Clark added.
GOP leaders admit that they met with local business lobbyists this summer to ask for financial contributions to the pro-voucher PIC.
Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who helped form the PIC, said GOP leaders brought together lobbyists and government liaison officials from businesses and/or trade associations that had previously backed a public education reform plan, which included vouchers. Because the businesses had backed vouchers previously, GOP leaders figure they should now put their money where their mouths are.
But Riesen said Clark's comments upset several members of the United Way subcommittee. "It was very offensive to hear that" from Clark, Riesen said. And some subcommittee members walked out after Clark's political analysis, Riesen added.
Vouchers "are a very emotional issue," Clark said. And he personally finds the anti-voucher ads "deeply disturbing and very disingenuous" — an inaccurate description of vouchers and their intent, he added.
The health-insurance plan — which would help businesses provide health insurance for their employees — is so large and far-reaching that Clark said he doesn't see it passing in the 2008 Legislature. "We hope to move the ball forward. But it will take time to educate people" about the health insurance proposal.
Legislative Republicans adopted a private school voucher law this past session that would provide $500 to $3,000 per child — depending on family income — for parents who send their children to private schools. The schools receive the voucher tuition money, not the families.
Pro-public education groups gathered enough voter signatures last spring to put the measure on this year's ballot.
If voters reject vouchers, most GOP legislators would face re-election in 2008 with voters opposed to one of their major legislative efforts. And a number of Republican lawmakers are apparently taking the voucher issue personally, working hard to get it approved in November.
Huntsman says he will not actively work in favor of vouchers before the vote, although he ran in 2004 on a pro-voucher platform and signed the lawmakers' bill into law last spring.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com

© 2007 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved

Voucher 'threat' sparks debate

Voucher 'threat' sparks debate

By Bob Bernick Jr.
Deseret Morning News

Published: September 25, 2007
A high-powered group of Utah businessmen and health experts put forward Monday a plan providing affordable health insurance to an estimated 360,000 Utahns, while GOP legislative leaders are accused of saying that the plan may fail in the 2008 Legislature if leading businessmen don't support vouchers on November's ballot.
"I find this highly offensive — tying health insurance for needy people to education vouchers," said Rep. Phil Riesen, an East Millcreek Democrat who sits on a United Way/business health care subcommittee that put together the comprehensive health insurance plan. GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is studying the plan to see if he will support it in the 2008 Legislature.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, said his comments before the United Way subcommittee — on which both Clark and Riesen sit — were misinterpreted.
"It was not my intent to tether those two issues together," said Clark, the second most powerful Republican in the Utah House.
"I've never had (such) a conversation with a colleague. It has not been a part of any (GOP) leadership conversation — tying health care and vouchers together," said Clark Monday. And he personally does not tie the two issues together, Clark added. "But I do think that those are all relevant issues for discussion."
However, another person at the meeting said he took Clark's comments not as a threat but the GOP leader's candid assessment of the possible political realities in the Legislature — as unpleasant as they may be.
Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said the governor supports both an expanded health-insurance plan to insure more Utahns and the Legislature's voucher program. "But he believes the issues should be vetted and decided on their own merits" and not politically tied together, she said.
Riesen said the implied threat — as he took it — was made in August, just as GOP legislative leaders put together their pro-voucher political issue committee, called the Informed Voter Project. Clark is among the GOP leaders who set up the PIC.
The PIC's aim, as detailed in a Sunday Deseret Morning News report, is to raise at least $300,000 to push the private-school, voucher-tuition plan that goes before voters Nov. 6. The PIC is holding town meetings across the state, with GOP legislators and others trying to inform residents about vouchers and what they will do, GOP legislative leaders say.
According to Riesen, Clark, when asked about the political chances in the Legislature of the broad health-insurance plan, told the health subcommittee that if local businesses don't support the voucher plan, there would be little chance of the health-insurance plan passing the GOP-dominated Legislature.
"Dave said that the Legislature had been very supportive of Utah business in the past, but that given that the business community was not supporting vouchers, he didn't see (the health-insurance plan) passing at all," said Riesen, a former Utah TV newscaster.
"So, 360,000 Utahns are not going to get health insurance" because businessmen won't give money to pro-voucher GOP legislators, said Riesen, who like every Democrat in the 2007 Legislature voted against private school vouchers.
Clark said he never intended to tie together the Legislature's support of business — or support of vouchers several years ago by a group of businessmen — and the current lack of support for vouchers in the November election.
"I don't recall exactly" what he said at the subcommittee, but no connection was meant, Clark added.
GOP leaders admit that they met with local business lobbyists this summer to ask for financial contributions to the pro-voucher PIC.
Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who helped form the PIC, said GOP leaders brought together lobbyists and government liaison officials from businesses and/or trade associations that had previously backed a public education reform plan, which included vouchers. Because the businesses had backed vouchers previously, GOP leaders figure they should now put their money where their mouths are.
But Riesen said Clark's comments upset several members of the United Way subcommittee. "It was very offensive to hear that" from Clark, Riesen said. And some subcommittee members walked out after Clark's political analysis, Riesen added.
Vouchers "are a very emotional issue," Clark said. And he personally finds the anti-voucher ads "deeply disturbing and very disingenuous" — an inaccurate description of vouchers and their intent, he added.
The health-insurance plan — which would help businesses provide health insurance for their employees — is so large and far-reaching that Clark said he doesn't see it passing in the 2008 Legislature. "We hope to move the ball forward. But it will take time to educate people" about the health insurance proposal.
Legislative Republicans adopted a private school voucher law this past session that would provide $500 to $3,000 per child — depending on family income — for parents who send their children to private schools. The schools receive the voucher tuition money, not the families.
Pro-public education groups gathered enough voter signatures last spring to put the measure on this year's ballot.
If voters reject vouchers, most GOP legislators would face re-election in 2008 with voters opposed to one of their major legislative efforts. And a number of Republican lawmakers are apparently taking the voucher issue personally, working hard to get it approved in November.
Huntsman says he will not actively work in favor of vouchers before the vote, although he ran in 2004 on a pro-voucher platform and signed the lawmakers' bill into law last spring.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com

© 2007 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved

Monday, September 24, 2007

Neil Bush link to federal funds questioned

Neil Bush link to federal funds questioned
Group seeks inquiry into purchases of educational equipment sold by Austin company.

Click-2-Listen
By Larry Lipman
WASHINGTON BUREAU
Saturday, September 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan ethics watchdog group has urged the Education Department's inspector general to investigate why federal money has been spent on educational products sold by a company founded and headed by Neil Bush, President Bush's younger brother.

The company, Ignite! Learning, based in Austin, has sold curriculum-loaded projectors worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to school districts around the country, partially funded through the federal No Child Left Behind Act promoted by the president, according to a letter sent Wednesday from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Over the past five years, Austin has spent $70,940 for the units, of which nearly $42,400 was federal money, according to documents filed with the letter to the inspector general. Longview has spent $126,400 for the units, of which $94,060 was federal money, according to documents.

In its letter, the watchdog group said there is no evidence the units meet standards in the No Child Left Behind Act.

"It is astonishing that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unproven educational products to the financial benefit of the president's brother," said Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director. "The IG should investigate whether children's educations are being sacrificed so that Neil Bush can rake in federal funds."

Devon Price, director of marketing for Ignite! Learning, confirmed that Neil Bush is the company's founder and chief executive. Bush could not be reached for comment.

The company "has no control over how school districts choose to spend federal funds," a statement said.

It also claimed that the group's letter contains inaccurate statements about the Ignite curriculum, which it said is used in 22 states.

"What we can say is that Title I and other federal monies have been used to purchase Ignite products, just as they have been used to purchase products from every other educational publisher and provider," the statement said.

larryl@coxnews.com

Find this article at:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/nation/09/15/0915ignite.html

Sunday, September 23, 2007

New position aims to raise attendance rates

By KATHERINE CROMER BROCK
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

GRAPEVINE -- As a member of a family of migrant workers, Marina Flores grew up all over the country -- Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, California, Arizona, Texas.

"It was hard," said Flores, now 47. "We didn't realize how hard it was at the time."

But that helps her relate to some students she meets in her new job as Grapevine-Colleyville's attendance interventionist.

"I was a student who moved around and knew what it was like to be all over the country," Flores said. "But you can overcome a little bit of harshness. I do feel that I can relate, especially to the kids who feel that they're a square peg being pushed into a round hole."

The district created Flores' job, which has a salary of $54,390, to help students who are at risk of dropping out or not graduating.

"It's providing additional support for our kids who are struggling," said Superintendent Kay Waggoner. "The greatest focus will be at the high school level. That's where the need will be the greatest."

Flores started work in August. She's rarely in her office, often racing between schools and visiting students at home.

Her priority is to find fifth-year seniors, those who did not graduate last year with the rest of their class. She has a list of 15 to 20. If they're not in school by Sept. 28, they're considered dropouts by the state, and can count against the district's state accountability rating.

Flores said the district will do whatever it takes to help these students finish their coursework, pass required classes or pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

She expects to coordinate with social service agencies and schools to get students the tools they need to achieve those goals. They need their diploma, she said, regardless of the hardships they face.

"That one little piece of paper makes a huge difference in their lives," Flores said. "They don't see that right now."

Flores said she will also help younger students who struggle with attendance. The district's overall attendance rate is 97 percent.

Most area districts don't have a similar position. Some, like Birdville, Arlington and Fort Worth, have truancy officers who are current or former police officers.

"My job is not the truancy officer," said Flores. "I am not out here to police anything. I am an educator."

Flores has a degree in history and elementary education from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master's degree in education administration. She was a teacher's assistant at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in North Richland Hills for six years, and taught in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford district for 11 years.

In H-E-B, she taught first and third grades and worked with special-education students.

Flores is excited about what her new job can become, especially working hand-in-hand with Sharon Greene, the district's social worker.

"What we're doing is helping students to understand how we can do this together," Flores said. "It will help us, but it will ultimately benefit them and help the students be successful in the long run."

Flores said support from the community is key to the success of her mission.

"Put children first," she said, as a message to anyone in the community who has regular contact with children. "Always have respect for education. We're striving to teach and raise our children and to help society as a whole."

Top 10 percent gives equal access to flagship schools

Time to work on upping capacity and preparation
By STEPHEN BROWN II
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 19, 2007

As we begin another school year, now is the time to remember what saved Texas' top 10 percent rule was the awakening of members in the state House who could not bring themselves to vote against a rule that has achieved its initial purpose in most districts. It's equally important for the general public to understand its benefits, as well. In reality, the top 10 percent rule is not where the system is broke. In fact, it's been one of the true successes in achieving a merit-based system that gives all Texas students access to our state's flagship universities.

This past session, in large part based on the urgings of one university — the University of Texas at Austin — the Texas Legislature was well on its way to drastically limiting the impact of the top 10 percent rule by capping the number of students enrolling under it to 50 percent. UT officials failed to appreciate the overwhelming benefit of enrolling a diverse, competitive field of incoming freshmen. In one of the session's more dramatic moments, legislators representing mostly rural and inner city schools defeated attempted modifications to the top 10 percent rule.

What has been the impact of Top Ten? African-American enrollment has almost doubled at the University of Texas, from 266 in 1996 to 400 in 2006. Similarly, Hispanic enrollment at that university grew from 932 to 1,300.

A substantial amount of growth can be attributed to this rule change, as 75 percent of incoming African Americans and 80 percent of incoming Hispanics were top 10 percent students.

These students have demonstrated the ability to not only meet the expectations of academic excellence but in most cases to exceed them.

According to UT Austin's own data, top 10 percent students outperform non-top 10 students in GPA, retention and graduation rates. Despite some of these students not coming out of premier high schools, they are nevertheless capable of making the necessary adjustments at the college level. That is, exceptional students will perform exceptionally in almost any environment that they are placed.

All students in poor performing schools and school districts deserve a better pipeline of opportunity throughout their public school careers.

Instead of punishing the top 10 percenters from underperforming high schools by limiting their access to UT, why not focus on rebuilding these schools with the resources, tools and teachers needed to improve its performance? Our state can't afford the disparity gap that exists within our public school system. That's an issue of college preparedness that has shown to be distinctly different from the ability of top 10 percenters to perform (or even outperform) their contemporaries in our state's elite universities.

While UT clamors about diminishing capacity and an inability to attract talented nontop 10 percent students, the question remains why UT Austin continues to fill the nontop 10 percent spaces with the traditional suburban students that meant over 50 percent of UT's student body came from 65 schools prior to the enactment of the top 10 percent plan. Capping the top 10 percent plan would result in fewer talented students from rural, inner-city and border high schools and more students from a select few suburban high schools. Further, the capacity issue that exists at UT-Austin is one that can be addressed without limiting top 10 percenters. Members of the House Education Committee questioned if UT-Austin is experiencing a capacity problem why does it only have a 47 percent classroom utilization rate?

Maximizing existing space to meet the needs of all who are qualified and eligible to attend should be UT's first priority. The increased revenue that the school would receive by enrolling the students to fill those empty rooms would more than offset any additional faculty costs. If UT Austin still remains overbooked after addressing classroom utilization, incentives could be offered to students willing to volunteer to attend other state universities.

The answer lies with creative solutions to open the doors of access to higher education and not closing them on students who have proved themselves worthy at every opportunity given.

Brown is the managing director of Capitol Assets, a Houston-based public affairs firm and volunteer advocate for the Houston Area Urban League.

A kind of double talk

By LISA FALKENBERG
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 17, 2007

The candy-colored classroom full of pre-kindergarten students at Cedar Brook Elementary School seems typical, except that half of the 22 cross-legged 4-year-olds, mostly the blond ones, seem lost.

As the teacher leads the class through early morning songs and drills on colors, numbers and months of the year, some children exclaim answers and belt out lyrics. Some move their mouths but make no sounds. Still others make sounds but make no sense.

All that's to be expected. Every child in the class, regardless of his or her native language, is being taught in Spanish. After lunch, they'll get some instruction in English.

The method of instruction is known as a two-way form of "dual language," a twist on traditional bilingual instruction that combines native English speakers and native Spanish speakers in one class, with the goal of helping both become bilingual.

Praised, criticized
The immersion technique has been around for decades and has been implemented in schools across Texas. There are plenty of challenges in implementing the program, such as finding enough native English speakers to balance out the classes. But, generally, educators and researchers sing its praises, especially in regards to helping children from Spanish-speaking homes learn English while keeping pace with their peers academically.

Still, a Republican state lawmaker caught hell several months ago when he passed a bill setting up a six-year, dual-language pilot program in 30 campuses in 10 public school districts across the state.

Rep. Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, who is chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said his plan to expand the successful dual-language model got all tangled up with the immigration debate. "The only controversy is that it's being tied to illegal immigration,'' Eissler says.

"The negative stuff I hear is that 'you're bending over for these kids, for illegal immigrants,' that it's more for illegal kids than for native kids. And that's not the case. It's a more effective way to teach English. And, on a voluntary basis, English speakers get to learn another language."

Eissler said he's still waiting to see if the Texas Education Agency will fund the dual-language pilot program.

One of the leading naysayers, Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, said supporters were "worshipping at the feet of diversity." She said Texas students should focus on mastering English, period, and claimed a dual-language pilot would turn Texas students into guinea pigs.

Perhaps Riddle was unfamiliar with humankind's ability to learn many languages and the cognitive, social and economic benefits of doing so. Perhaps she was unaware of programs like the one at Cedar Brook in Spring Branch ISD, which began dual language a decade ago with apparently shining results.

The voluntary dual-language program is so popular, the school holds a lottery to determine who gets in and its participants make up about two-thirds of the 580-student body, said program coordinator Susan Eyre.

I visited a pre-K class and a class of fifth-graders nearing the end of several years of dual-language instruction at Cedar Brook.

Learning the language

In the pre-K class, a teacher used signs and body language to convey meaning as she instructed in Spanish. After only a few weeks, some English speakers had begun to understand her. One little girl, asked in Spanish if she wanted to write her name on another page, responded, albeit in English, "No, we can't do another page."

During a game teaching body part vocabulary, an English-speaking boy exclaimed, "Ears! Escucha!" the Spanish word for "listen."

Others learned at their own pace.

During Spanish song time, one boy in Spider-Man sneakers played with the drawstring on his pants and rubbed his eyes. In the middle of a verse, a little blond girl struggling through a song of salutations finally stuck out a twisted, tuckered-out tongue. The teacher, asking another what color she was wearing, encouraged the silent girl to respond, "Habla, mami. Rojo!" she said.

It's usually around Christmas when the students start verbalizing in their non-native language, Eyre said. Through first grade, the students are taught 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent English.

"Some parents say, 'You mean you're going to teach my child to read in Spanish first?' " Eyre said. She said others ask, "How am I going to help my child when I don't speak Spanish?"

Eyre assures them that the process of language acquisition is the same, no matter the language, and that English skills would be incorporated into social studies, science and math, which are taught in English. By second grade, classes are taught in 80 percent Spanish, then 70 percent in third grade, 60 percent in fourth, until fifth grade, when students get an even 50/50 exposure to both languages.

The results are impressive. A diverse classroom of fifth-graders, Hispanic, white and black, worked on word problems and answered a teacher's questions in fluent Spanish.

When given a chance to talk amongst themselves, however, nearly every group chose the language of the land: English.

The only shortcoming of Cedar Brook's dual-language students seems to be the dreaded task of learning quirky English grammar. Because they don't have language arts in English until the fifth grade, they sometimes stumble over tricky spelling words, contractions, sentence structure and letter combinations that don't exist in Spanish.

"They're awesome Spanish writers, but everything is in English now," said teacher Jim Garrett. "The first week they were spelling 'with' like 'w-i-t.' They were just trying to imagine how to spell it because there's no 'th' sound in the Spanish language."

Not to worry. Garrett said the students catch up when standardized tests roll around.

Cedar Brook Elementary gets the highest possible rating by the state: exemplary.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Debate on Ending SAT Gains Ground

This piece also provides fodder for those seeking portfolio-based assessment as part of the re-authorization of NCLB. It's interesting that it's Charles Murray behind this, author of THE BELL CURVE. -Angela


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

September 19, 2007
Debate on Ending SAT Gains Ground

By PATRICIA COHEN
The social scientist Charles Murray has a knack for noisily tapping into cultural preoccupations. In his 1984 book, “Losing Ground,” he argued that welfare perpetuated dependency and should be eliminated. In “The Bell Curve” (1994), which he wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein, he argued that those who get ahead in America (mostly whites) are genetically endowed with more intelligence than those who do not (disproportionately African-Americans).

Now Mr. Murray is at it again, proposing in a recent article to abolish the SAT. This position cannot help but provoke a double-take. After all, while making his arguments about genes, race and intelligence, Mr. Murray promoted the I.Q. test as a reliable measure of aptitude. Yet he is suggesting that one of the most widely used assessment tests be eliminated.

With so many college officials and parents dissatisfied with the SAT, even those who think Mr. Murray’s other theories are misguided or offensive could find themselves agreeing with him on this issue.

Unlike other critics of the SAT, Mr. Murray does not see the test as flawed, nor does he think that the wealthy have an unfair advantage because they can buy expensive coaching. But he recognizes that most people do not agree with him and believe the test is rigged to favor the rich. “It is a corrosive symbol of privilege,” he said.

And so, he concludes that college admissions offices should reject the SAT and substitute other standardized tests: subject or so-called achievement tests that gauge knowledge in specific disciplines like history or chemistry.

“This is really a hot topic,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University. Mr. Fitzsimmons, who is chairman of a commission on testing organized by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “We’re going to be talking about these issues” when the commission meets next week at the association’s annual convention in Austin, Tex.

Mr. Fitzsimmons said he sent every panel member a copy of “Abolish the SAT,” an article Mr. Murray wrote this summer in which he outlined his new idea.

The article appeared in The American magazine, published by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where Mr. Murray is a scholar.

During a recent visit to New York from his home in Burkittsville, Md., Mr. Murray called his views on the SAT “a direct follow-up to ‘The Bell Curve.’ ”

His doubts about the exam started after he read a 2001 study and follow-up done at the University of California finding that the combination of high school grades and standardized subject test scores predicted success in college just as well as the SAT.

“I read that and said, ‘This can’t be right,’ ” said Mr. Murray, who has long credited the SAT with revealing his own aptitude in 1961, when he applied to Harvard from an obscure high school in Newton, Iowa. But after further study, he decided the research was right.

Mr. Fitzsimmons said subject tests were the best predictor of good grades at Harvard, high school grade point average was second and the SAT was third. Although few colleges ask for subject tests, Harvard requires applicants to take three as well as the SAT, to give students more ways to show their abilities, he said.

The College Board, which administers both the SAT and the subject tests, not surprisingly said both were important. Although many more students take the SAT than the subject tests, Laurence Bunin, the board’s vice president of operations, said, “For kids who take both, 30 percent do differently on them.” Black students in this group, he added, more often do a bit better on the SAT than on the subject tests.

Where Mr. Murray and some other SAT skeptics may part company is in explaining why students from wealthy, highly educated families are overwhelmingly the high scorers.

Mr. Murray said this had nothing to do with being able to afford coaching because short-term test preparation had an insignificant impact on results. Both Mr. Fitzsimmons and the College Board agree that research shows that commercial coaching affects scores only marginally. “The urban legends about test preparation hurt the face validity of the test,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “If we do nothing else in this commission except get out that information about test preparation, then it would be worthwhile.”

Although coaching would no doubt continue if subject tests replaced the SAT, at least students would be focused on content as much as test-taking strategies, Mr. Murray said. There would also be pressure to improve local high school curriculums so that students were prepared, he wrote.

These arguments make sense to Mr. Fitzsimmons, who said, “People are going to prepare anyway, so they might as well study chemistry or biology.” He added that “the idea of putting more emphasis on the subject tests is of great interest” to his group.

But Mr. Murray takes his argument a step further. “The children of the well educated and affluent get most of the top scores because they constitute most of the smartest kids,” Mr. Murray wrote. “They are smart because their parents are smart.”

It is in the genes, he believes, rejecting the notion that wealth, privilege and cultural familiarity might be responsible for success instead.

This is the same point made in “The Bell Curve.” Although the brief sections of the book devoted to genes and race dominated debates, the authors’ overarching theme was about the widening gap between the successful, wealthier “cognitive elite,” who are marrying each other and passing on their talents and smarts to their children, and the impoverished underclass, who are leaving their children a legacy of weakness.

“We are cognitively stratified in a very worrisome way,” Mr. Murray said over coffee. “It is meritocracy with a vengeance. We now have increasing isolation from each other that is different from the old socioeconomic stratification.”

Mr. Murray said he had been thinking about these issues for a book he is working on about higher education, titled “Simple Truths.” He has four of them: Ability varies; half of all children are below average; too many people go to college; and the future depends on how the gifted are educated. At the moment, he said, “our college system is broke.”

On one hand, a proposal to abolish what is arguably the single most influential criterion for admission to college sounds pretty radical. On the other, Mr. Murray is simply suggesting that admissions officers replace one kind of nationally standardized test administered by the College Board with another kind.

Yet wouldn’t the subject tests eventually fall prey to the same failings of the SAT? No, said Mr. Murray, arguing that tests in subject areas studied in school lack the mystique of the SAT.

“A low-income student shut out of opportunity for an SAT coaching school has the sense of being shut out of mysteries,” he wrote. “Being shut out of a cram course is less daunting. Students know that they can study for a history or chemistry exam on their own.”


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Debate on Ending SAT Gains Ground

September 19, 2007
Debate on Ending SAT Gains Ground

By PATRICIA COHEN
The social scientist Charles Murray has a knack for noisily tapping into cultural preoccupations. In his 1984 book, “Losing Ground,” he argued that welfare perpetuated dependency and should be eliminated. In “The Bell Curve” (1994), which he wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein, he argued that those who get ahead in America (mostly whites) are genetically endowed with more intelligence than those who do not (disproportionately African-Americans).

Now Mr. Murray is at it again, proposing in a recent article to abolish the SAT. This position cannot help but provoke a double-take. After all, while making his arguments about genes, race and intelligence, Mr. Murray promoted the I.Q. test as a reliable measure of aptitude. Yet he is suggesting that one of the most widely used assessment tests be eliminated.

With so many college officials and parents dissatisfied with the SAT, even those who think Mr. Murray’s other theories are misguided or offensive could find themselves agreeing with him on this issue.

Unlike other critics of the SAT, Mr. Murray does not see the test as flawed, nor does he think that the wealthy have an unfair advantage because they can buy expensive coaching. But he recognizes that most people do not agree with him and believe the test is rigged to favor the rich. “It is a corrosive symbol of privilege,” he said.

And so, he concludes that college admissions offices should reject the SAT and substitute other standardized tests: subject or so-called achievement tests that gauge knowledge in specific disciplines like history or chemistry.

“This is really a hot topic,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University. Mr. Fitzsimmons, who is chairman of a commission on testing organized by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said, “We’re going to be talking about these issues” when the commission meets next week at the association’s annual convention in Austin, Tex.

Mr. Fitzsimmons said he sent every panel member a copy of “Abolish the SAT,” an article Mr. Murray wrote this summer in which he outlined his new idea.

The article appeared in The American magazine, published by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where Mr. Murray is a scholar.

During a recent visit to New York from his home in Burkittsville, Md., Mr. Murray called his views on the SAT “a direct follow-up to ‘The Bell Curve.’ ”

His doubts about the exam started after he read a 2001 study and follow-up done at the University of California finding that the combination of high school grades and standardized subject test scores predicted success in college just as well as the SAT.

“I read that and said, ‘This can’t be right,’ ” said Mr. Murray, who has long credited the SAT with revealing his own aptitude in 1961, when he applied to Harvard from an obscure high school in Newton, Iowa. But after further study, he decided the research was right.

Mr. Fitzsimmons said subject tests were the best predictor of good grades at Harvard, high school grade point average was second and the SAT was third. Although few colleges ask for subject tests, Harvard requires applicants to take three as well as the SAT, to give students more ways to show their abilities, he said.

The College Board, which administers both the SAT and the subject tests, not surprisingly said both were important. Although many more students take the SAT than the subject tests, Laurence Bunin, the board’s vice president of operations, said, “For kids who take both, 30 percent do differently on them.” Black students in this group, he added, more often do a bit better on the SAT than on the subject tests.

Where Mr. Murray and some other SAT skeptics may part company is in explaining why students from wealthy, highly educated families are overwhelmingly the high scorers.

Mr. Murray said this had nothing to do with being able to afford coaching because short-term test preparation had an insignificant impact on results. Both Mr. Fitzsimmons and the College Board agree that research shows that commercial coaching affects scores only marginally. “The urban legends about test preparation hurt the face validity of the test,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “If we do nothing else in this commission except get out that information about test preparation, then it would be worthwhile.”

Although coaching would no doubt continue if subject tests replaced the SAT, at least students would be focused on content as much as test-taking strategies, Mr. Murray said. There would also be pressure to improve local high school curriculums so that students were prepared, he wrote.

These arguments make sense to Mr. Fitzsimmons, who said, “People are going to prepare anyway, so they might as well study chemistry or biology.” He added that “the idea of putting more emphasis on the subject tests is of great interest” to his group.

But Mr. Murray takes his argument a step further. “The children of the well educated and affluent get most of the top scores because they constitute most of the smartest kids,” Mr. Murray wrote. “They are smart because their parents are smart.”

It is in the genes, he believes, rejecting the notion that wealth, privilege and cultural familiarity might be responsible for success instead.

This is the same point made in “The Bell Curve.” Although the brief sections of the book devoted to genes and race dominated debates, the authors’ overarching theme was about the widening gap between the successful, wealthier “cognitive elite,” who are marrying each other and passing on their talents and smarts to their children, and the impoverished underclass, who are leaving their children a legacy of weakness.

“We are cognitively stratified in a very worrisome way,” Mr. Murray said over coffee. “It is meritocracy with a vengeance. We now have increasing isolation from each other that is different from the old socioeconomic stratification.”

Mr. Murray said he had been thinking about these issues for a book he is working on about higher education, titled “Simple Truths.” He has four of them: Ability varies; half of all children are below average; too many people go to college; and the future depends on how the gifted are educated. At the moment, he said, “our college system is broke.”

On one hand, a proposal to abolish what is arguably the single most influential criterion for admission to college sounds pretty radical. On the other, Mr. Murray is simply suggesting that admissions officers replace one kind of nationally standardized test administered by the College Board with another kind.

Yet wouldn’t the subject tests eventually fall prey to the same failings of the SAT? No, said Mr. Murray, arguing that tests in subject areas studied in school lack the mystique of the SAT.

“A low-income student shut out of opportunity for an SAT coaching school has the sense of being shut out of mysteries,” he wrote. “Being shut out of a cram course is less daunting. Students know that they can study for a history or chemistry exam on their own.”


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Support Grows for Teacher Bonuses

More Schools Offer Performance Pay as House Debates Issue

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 18, 2007; Page A01

A movement gaining momentum in Congress and some school systems in the Washington region and beyond would boost pay for exceptional teachers in high-poverty schools, a departure from salary schedules based on seniority and professional degrees that have kept pay in lockstep for decades.

Lawmakers are debating this month whether to authorize federal grants through a revision of the No Child Left Behind law for bonuses of as much as $12,500 a year for outstanding teachers in schools that serve low-income areas.

National teachers unions denounce the proposal for "performance pay," saying it would undermine their ability to negotiate contracts and would be based in part on what they consider an unfair and unreliable measure: student test scores.

Debate over the proposal has exposed unusual fissures between the influential unions and longtime Democratic allies. Some education experts say the unions are out of step with parents and voters who support the business-oriented idea of providing financial incentives for excellent work.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that the teaching workforce is leaking talent and that his proposal would help rejuvenate it. Young teachers watch their friends "go off and get paid for their time and ingenuity" in other fields, Miller said. "In teaching, you go as fast as the slowest person."

Miller's proposal, building on recent federal steps to encourage incentive pay, would provide grants to school systems that choose to pay bonuses to teachers who excel in high-poverty schools, worth up to $10,000 in most cases and $12,500 for specialists in math, science and other hard-to-staff subjects. Decisions on who gets extra pay would be based on student test gains and professional evaluations. Miller's aides said they had no cost estimate for the measure.

Advocates of performance pay have seen similar initiatives fail, and many take pains to avoid the term "merit pay" and its association with past mistakes. But with fresh support from foundations and new tools that enable student achievement data to be linked to individual teachers, many experts said the idea is gaining favor. Performance pay efforts are underway in school systems in Denver and Minnesota, and some local administrators are planning to establish fast tracks for financial rewards for top teachers.

The Prince George's County school system has a five-year, $17 million federal grant to develop a program that will reward teachers for student test gains, positive classroom performance evaluations, and professional activities such as mentoring other teachers or becoming certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Participation by teachers at the selected schools will be voluntary.

Expected to start next year in 30 schools that serve low-income areas, the initiative could add as much as $12,000 to a teacher's annual salary, making it possible for a top-rated fourth-year teacher to make as much as one with 14 years of experience, Superintendent John E. Deasy said. Salaries for starting teachers in Prince George's and elsewhere in the area are a little more than $40,000 a year.

"We need to pay our best and brightest more, particularly in places where it's most difficult to work," Deasy said.

In the District, a five-year, $14 million federal grant is fueling a pilot program to reward teachers and principals in a dozen high-poverty public schools each year that achieve the strongest gains in test scores and share successful strategies with others. Details are being worked out by the city school system, the local teachers union and a partner organization, New Leaders for New Schools.

The approach is also being tried in a dozen charter schools with help from a private grant. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently operated.

The D.C. Preparatory Academy, a charter in Northeast Washington, adopted another performance pay plan designed by the national foundation-funded Teacher Advancement Program. Its model pairs teacher evaluations with professional development and training.

One day last week, math teacher and mentor MaryKate Hughes observed how another math teacher set goals and expectations for his students. In another classroom, Hughes made notes on a science teacher's pacing and preparation. Newer teachers can receive bonuses of as much as $2,000 based on test score improvements and evaluations by master teachers and principals.

"Our goal is to find good teachers who can become great teachers," Hughes said.

In Arlington County, the school system is starting an initiative that offers teachers three opportunities to skip a step on the pay scale, an increase worth as much as 5 percent in salary each time.

This school year, teachers can qualify for the pay increase through national board certification. In coming years, they will be able to apply by submitting a portfolio of work demonstrating professional development in such areas as leadership and parent outreach. The portfolios would be reviewed anonymously by a panel of peers and supervisors.

Arlington officials stressed that evaluations would not hinge on test scores, although teachers could submit them as evidence of success. Officials with the school system and the county teachers association, who designed the program together, said relying on test scores would fail to capture the complexity of teaching and discourage teachers from working with challenging students.

"If I'm only going to be evaluated on the test scores of my kids, I'll take the gifted kids," said Lee Dorman, president of the Arlington Education Association.

There is controversy over using standardized tests to rate schools. Tying test results to teacher pay would raise the stakes. But performance-pay advocates say it's only fair to evaluate teachers the same way schools and children are measured.

The idea of merit pay gained popularity in the 1980s. But some attempts then to implement the concept failed amid teacher complaints that evaluations were too subjective. Critics said principals were given leeway to give bonuses to favorite employees. Fairfax County began a program in 1986 that paid teachers as much as $4,000 in annual bonuses. But by the early 1990s, the program fell out of favor with many teachers. It was abandoned in 1992 as the Fairfax School Board grappled with budget cuts.

The new performance pay movement is rife with experiments that have yielded few definitive national studies showing gains in student achievement. Union leaders are urging lawmakers to hold off on Miller's proposal. National Education Association President Reg Weaver called the proposal an "unprecedented attack" on collective bargaining rights.

Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, rejected the argument that performance pay would lure teachers into hard-to-staff schools. "I would think it would be a disincentive to take on something when you don't know how it will work," she said.

Still, schools in many places are plunging ahead. Systems across Minnesota have adopted performance pay measures, prompted by an $86 million initiative. After a long study, the Denver public school system began a district-wide incentive pay program in recent years.

As debate over performance pay unfolds, Miller said he is sure about one thing: "The demand is there."

UC Irvine rehires Chemerinsky as dean

The school's chancellor flies east to re-recruit the legal scholar, whom he had earlier fired.
By Garrett Therolf and Richard C. Paddock, Los Angehttp://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-uci18sep18,0,6932646.story?coll=la-tot-topstories&track=ntothtmlles Times Staff Writers
September 18, 2007

UC Irvine's chancellor tried to salvage the reputation of his fledgling law school Monday by announcing that he had reinstated Erwin Chemerinsky as its founding dean, but his own troubles persisted as faculty members continued to question why he had sacked the liberal scholar and contemplated taking action against their university's leader.

The agreement with Chemerinsky, made five days after the deanship was rescinded, came after Chancellor Michael V. Drake and his wife flew to Durham, N.C., over the weekend so the two men could speak face to face.

The talks began Sunday morning over pastries at Chemerinsky's home and continued late into the night.

"Many issues were addressed in depth," the two said in a joint statement, "including several areas of miscommunication and misunderstanding. All issues were resolved to our mutual satisfaction."

Drake still faces crucial meetings this week when the UCI Academic Senate holds an emergency meeting to consider his actions and the UC Board of Regents meets in Davis, where some members will probably ask why Chemerinsky had been dropped.

"People at the regents level will be asking what really happened," said Richard Blum, chair of the regents. "At the end of day, the whole thing was a little awkward."

According to Chemerinsky, Drake had said he was pulling back the job offer because of pressure from conservatives over his outspoken liberal politics. The chancellor denied it.

In a conference call with reporters, the chancellor and new dean agreed that Chemerinsky would enjoy absolute academic freedom and would continue to write opinion articles on a wide range of issues, not just legal education as Drake suggested last week.

"Chancellor Drake reaffirmed in the strongest possible way the academic freedom that I would have, as all deans and faculty members do," Chemerinsky said. He later noted that he was aware that his role as dean also would require him to build a broad base of support. Before he was ousted, the dean had sought conservatives for some slots on his board of advisors.

Drake declined to discuss his decision to drop Chemerinsky, and he was vague on the reasons behind his turnaround. "Circumstances change; knowledge comes in," Drake said.

Before the agreement, brokered with the help of a small group of influential Orange County attorneys, both men said their conflict left them feeling bruised. On Monday, however, both professed to have a strong relationship that would not hinder the law school.

Chemerinsky, a professor at Duke University, said he hoped Drake was not so politically damaged that he could not continue as chancellor. "I never would have accepted this position if I didn't think I would have the chance to work with Michael Drake," he said.

Some faculty at UCI were not so supportive.

Business Professor Richard McKenzie did not think the chancellor could keep his job. "I personally do not see how [Drake] can be effective going forward given the opposition across campus to what he did. I've never seen the faculty so unified."

The cabinet of UCI's Academic Senate met in closed session Monday to consider a response to the furor.

The panel has sway over the university's curriculum and has played a critical role at pivotal moments in university controversies. In 1983, UCI was the prime candidate to house Richard Nixon's presidential library, but the sponsoring foundation dropped the university as a prospect after the Academic Senate voted to place restrictions on it.

The panel's current vice chairwoman, Jutta Heckhausen, said: "I think that Chancellor Drake did an excellent job as chancellor for UCI until the Chemerinsky hire. . . . All the more perplexing it is to see him be so secretive and vague about the reasons for rescinding the offer."

She declined to say what proposals were drafted in Monday's closed-door meeting, but an emergency meeting open to all faculty members will be held Thursday to discuss "concerns about academic freedom and the chancellor's leadership on campus," according to Timothy Bradley, a biology professor who is the senate chairman.

Some faculty members said one proposal to be presented would be to investigate whether Drake caved in to pressure from political conservatives when he decided last week to drop Chemerinsky.

Others have pushed for a no-confidence vote.

This week, Drake is expected to be at UC Davis for the meeting of the regents, who must approve Chemerinsky's $350,000 salary. The regents do not have veto power over Chemerinsky's appointment, only his salary. They must approve any salary greater than $205,000.

Some regents are likely to ask Drake informally to explain the controversy.

Blum had been traveling in the Middle East when the crisis over Chemerinsky began. He said he looked into the matter on his return and found no indication that any of the regents were involved in the decisions to fire the law professor or to rehire him.

Blum said he had yet to talk to Drake.

"As to what happened, your guess is as good as mine," said Blum, a behind-the-scenes Democratic Party advisor and husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "I think he was left pretty much on his own to do whatever he wanted to do. The call was up to him to straighten it out or not straighten it out."

The ousting of the law school dean quickly shot through academic and legal circles, fast becoming a national story about academic freedom.

"I do not believe that Chancellor Drake realized how this could become an issue of national importance," said Joan Irvine Smith, a Chemerinsky supporter who has donated $1 million to the new Donald Bren School of Law through her foundation.

Drake originally offered Chemerinsky the job of dean Aug. 16, the same day his opinion article appeared in The Times, criticizing then-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales' death penalty policy. Chemerinsky signed his contract Sept. 4 and was fired a week later.

UC President Robert C. Dynes, who heads the 10-campus system, said Monday that he conferred with Drake as the controversy unfolded but that the decisions on Chemerinsky were Drake's alone.

Dynes said he continues to have complete confidence in the chancellor.

"The decision regarding Professor Chemerinsky's employment or that of any other administrator at UCI rests with Chancellor Drake, and it would have been inappropriate for me to intervene," Dynes said. Dynes noted that under UC's bylaws, hiring and firing deans rest with the chancellor.

Chemerinsky said last week that Drake had cited a likely "bloody battle" for his confirmation by the regents. That seemed unlikely, since it was listed on the consent calendar, where items usually are approved without debate.

In addition, The Times reported that Drake was "disturbed" when the state Supreme Court questioned the accuracy of Chemerinsky's article about the death penalty. Chemerinsky stands by the article.

UC Provost Wyatt R. Hume, who is the system's chief operating officer, said that he also was unaware of involvement by any regent. "That was an unfortunate perception and a misperception. We have seen no evidence of any kind of pressure," he said.

Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation

By SAM DILLON / NY Times
September 17, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

Tuscaloosa, where George Wallace once stood defiantly in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, also has had a volatile history in its public schools. Three decades of federal desegregation marked by busing and white flight ended in 2000. Though the city is 54 percent white, its school system is 75 percent black.

The schools superintendent and board president, both white, said in an interview that the rezoning, which redrew boundaries of school attendance zones, was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding. By optimizing use of the city’s 19 school buildings, the district saved taxpayers millions, officials said. They also acknowledged another goal: to draw more whites back into Tuscaloosa’s schools by making them attractive to parents of 1,500 children attending private academies founded after court-ordered desegregation began.

“I’m sorry not everybody is on board with this,” said Joyce Levey, the superintendent. “But the issue in drawing up our plan was not race. It was how to use our buildings in the best possible way.” Dr. Levey said that all students forced by the rezoning to move from a high- to a lower-performing school were told of their right under the No Child law to request a transfer.

When the racially polarized, eight-member Board of Education approved the rezoning plan in May, however, its two black members voted against it. “All the issues we dealt with in the ’60s, we’re having to deal with again in 2007,” said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members. “We’re back to separate but equal — but separate isn’t equal.”

For decades school districts across the nation used rezoning to restrict black students to some schools while channeling white students to others. Such plans became rare after civil rights lawsuits in the 1960s and ’70s successfully challenged their constitutionality, said William L. Taylor, chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights.

Tuscaloosa’s rezoning dispute, civil rights lawyers say, is one of the first in which the No Child Left Behind law has become central, sending the district into uncharted territory over whether a reassignment plan can trump the law’s prohibition on moving students into low-performing schools. A spokesman, Chad Colby, said the federal Education Department would not comment.

Tuscaloosa is not the only community where black parents are using the law to seek more integrated, academically successful schools for their children.

In Greensboro, N.C., students in failing black schools have transferred in considerable numbers to higher-performing, majority-white schools, school officials there said. A 2004 study by the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights documented cases in Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Virginia where parents were moving their children into less-segregated schools.

Nationally, less than 2 percent of eligible students have taken advantage of the law’s transfer provisions. Tuscaloosa, with 83,000 residents, is an hour’s drive west of Birmingham. During court-ordered desegregation its schools roughly reflected the school system’s racial makeup, and there were no all-black schools.

But in recent years the board has carved the district into three zones, each with a new high school. One cluster of schools lies in the east of the city; its high school is 73 percent black.

Another cluster on Tuscaloosa’s gritty west side now amounts to an all-black minidistrict; its five schools have 2,330 students, and only 19 are white. Its high school is 99 percent black.

In contrast, a cluster of schools that draw white students from an affluent enclave of mansions and lake homes in the north, as well as some blacks bused into the area, now includes two majority-white elementary schools. Its high school, Northridge, is 56 percent black.

At a meeting in February 2005, scores of parents from the two majority white elementary schools complained of overcrowding and discipline problems in the middle school their children were sent to outside of the northern enclave.

Ms. Tucker said she, another board member and a teacher were the only blacks present. The white parents clamored for a new middle school closer to their homes. They also urged Dr. Levey to consider sending some students being bused into northern cluster schools back to their own neighborhood, Ms. Tucker said. Dr. Levey did not dispute the broad outlines of Ms. Tucker’s account.

“That was the origin of this whole rezoning,” Ms. Tucker said.

Months later, the school board commissioned a demographic study to draft the rezoning plan. J. Russell Gibson III, the board’s lawyer, said the plan drawn up used school buildings more efficiently, freeing classroom space equivalent to an entire elementary school and saving potential construction costs of $10 million to $14 million. “That’s a significant savings,” Mr. Gibson said, “and we relieved overcrowding and placed most students in a school near their home. That’s been lost in all the rhetoric.”

Others see the matter differently. Gerald Rosiek, an education professor at the University of Alabama, studied the Tuscaloosa school district’s recent evolution. “This is a case study in resegregation,” said Dr. Rosiek, now at the University of Oregon.

In his research, he said, he found disappointment among some white parents that Northridge, the high school created in the northern enclave, was a majority-black school, and he said he believed the rezoning was in part an attempt to reduce its black enrollment.

The district projected last spring that the plan would move some 880 students citywide, and Dr. Levey said that remained the best estimate available. The plan redrew school boundaries in ways that, among other changes, required students from black neighborhoods and from a low-income housing project who had been attending the more-integrated schools in the northern zone to leave them for nearly all-black schools in the west end.

Tuscaloosa’s school board approved the rezoning at a May 3 meeting, at which several white parents spoke out for the plan. One parent, Kim Ingram, said, “I’m not one who looks to resegregate the schools,” but described what she called a crisis in overcrowding, and said the rezoning would alleviate it. In an interview this month, Ms. Ingram said the middle school attended by her twin seventh-grade girls has been “bursting at the seams,” with student movement difficult in hallways, the cafeteria and locker rooms.

Voting against the rezoning were the board’s two black members and a white ally.

Dan Meissner, the board president, said in an interview this month that any rezoning would make people unhappy. “This has involved minimal disruption for a school system that has 10,000 students,” he said.

But black students and parents say the plan has proven disruptive for them.

Telissa Graham, 17, was a sophomore last year at Northridge High. She learned of the plan last May by reading a notice on her school’s bulletin board listing her name along with about 70 other students required to move. “They said Northridge was too crowded,” Telissa said. “But I think they just wanted to separate some of the blacks and Hispanics from the whites.”

Parents looking for recourse turned to the No Child Left Behind law. Its testing requirements have enabled parents to distinguish good schools from bad. And other provisions give students stuck in troubled schools the right to transfer. In a protest at an elementary school after school opened last month, about 60 black relatives and supporters of rezoned children repeatedly cited the law. Much of the raucous meeting was broadcast live by a black-run radio station.

Some black parents wrote to the Alabama superintendent of education, Joseph Morton, arguing that the rezoning violated the federal law. Mr. Morton disagreed, noting that Tuscaloosa was offering students who were moved to low-performing schools the right to transfer into better schools. That, he said, had kept it within the law.

Dr. Levey said about 180 students requested a transfer.

Telissa was one of them. She expects to return this week to Northridge, but says moving from one high school to another and back again has disrupted her fall.

One of Telissa’s brothers has also been rezoned to a virtually all-black, low-performing school. Her mother, Etta Nolan, has been trying to get him a transfer, too.

“I’m fed up,” Ms. Nolan said. “They’re just shuffling us and shuffling us.”

No Child Left Behind: the dropout problem

By Wade Henderson and Bob Wise
San Jose Mercury News
09/17/2007

Now that their summer vacations are over, students have traded their beach towels for textbooks and members of Congress have returned to Washington after spending August in their districts and states. Already, Congress has started work on a revised No Child Left Behind Act, but if it doesn't include high school reform in the next version, the nation will continue to suffer from a dropout crisis that claims over 1 million students every year - 7,000 students every single school day.

Although the dropout crisis affects students from every race and income level, it disproportionately affects low-income students and students of color. According to independent estimates, only 57.8 percent of Latino, 53.4 percent of African-American, and 49.3 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students in the United States graduate with a regular diploma, compared with 76.2 percent of white students. Unfortunately, the public rarely hears about these low graduation rates because states are not required to report the graduation rates for minority students.

At the same time, low graduation rates for minority students should be of critical concern to every state, especially California, which has large percentages of these children. Between now and 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau expects the white population in the United States to only grow by 1 percent. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population is projected to increase by 77 percent and the African-American population by 32 percent.

If the country cannot better educate minority students and ensure that they graduate from high school, the national graduation rate, already only a paltry 70 percent, will fall even further as growing numbers of minority students are left behind.

Alternatively, if the nation's high schools and colleges were to raise the graduation rates of minority students to the levels of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income across the country would add more than $310 billion to the U.S. economy. California alone would see $101 billion of this total.

But rhetoric and facts alone can't change the status quo. So our organizations have joined with several other groups (the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, National Council of La Raza, National Indian Education Association, National Urban League, and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center) to launch the Campaign for High School Equity. This marks the first time that so many prominent civil rights organizations have agreed to collaborate specifically on the needs of our nation's high school students.

The campaign will underscore the importance of graduating all children from high school with diplomas that guarantee that each is prepared for success in college, the workforce and life. Not only do our students deserve an excellent start toward a productive and fulfilling life, but our communities and nation also depend on a fully educated workforce to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.

Unfortunately, we're still a long way from this goal. Since enactment in 2002 of No Child Left Behind, we've seen higher test scores among the nation's elementary school students, but secondary school students continue to flounder. In part, this lack of progress is because the law was primarily written with earlier grades in mind. In fact, President Bush's original proposal only used the phrase "high school" twice.

This month, Congress can fix that oversight by addressing the needs of high schools as part of a revised law. Were Congress to enact significant reforms and make targeted new investments in the nation's middle and high schools, the economic return would be sizable. For example, if the nearly 1.2 million high school dropouts of the nation's class of 2006 had instead earned their diplomas, the U.S. economy would have seen an additional $309 billion in wages over these students' lifetimes.

The time to act is now. For every school day that Congress fails to act, another 7,000 kids will drop out of school.

WADE HENDERSON is counselor for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. BOB WISE is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Teachers train to help students with English

By KATHLEEN CARROLL / The Record
Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Jersey is preparing a corps of educators with a new specialty: helping immigrant students master English during regular academic classes.

Non-native speakers have reached a critical mass. Districts focused on boosting their test scores are including more students in mainstream classes. So the state Education Department is aiming to prepare 200 regular classroom teachers for the challenge, by expanding teacher training at three state universities this fall.

"The students are in regular classes with regular kids," said Raquel Sinai, coordinator of bilingual and English as a Second Language instruction at the state Department of Education. "All teachers should have the training, the knowledge and the skills to work effectively with them."

One in five New Jersey students does not speak English at home. These students no longer are concentrated in large cities: non-native speakers were enrolled at two-thirds of school districts during the 2006-07 school year. Although the state has embraced bilingual education and offers plenty of programs in Spanish and Korean, New Jersey students account for 167 languages, a significant barrier to offering bilingual classes in every academic subject.

The state has turned to "sheltered instruction" to prepare teachers for their evermore inclusive classrooms. New Jersey has trained 400 teachers so far, in districts such as Glen Rock, Wallington, Passaic and Bergenfield, during summer sessions at Rowan, Kean and New Jersey City universities.

By following a structured method called Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, teachers learn to incorporate language-learning goals in subjects such as math, science or social studies, often by writing them on the blackboard. They measure whether students have achieved both the academic and language objectives, and incorporate visual cues, hands-on activities and group discussion to promote language development.

"It is a structured approach to help people who aren't really able to draw on a deep understanding of second language acquisition," said Carolyn Adger, director of the language education and academic development division at the Center for Applied Linguistics, which helped develop the program a decade ago.

The techniques benefit mainstream students as well, because they promote sophisticated language development and communication skills, educators say.

A national focus on improving academics for traditionally low-performing students has spotlighted English language learners' performance on annual tests. Schools are forced to report their scores separately, and many have responded to low scores by including more students in regular academic classes led by teachers with subject expertise.

"There is a strong push for English language learners to perform at the level of native speakers, because of No Child Left Behind," said Janina Kusielewicz, supervisor of bilingual education and basic skills instruction in Clifton, among the state's most linguistically diverse communities.

More than half of Clifton's 11,000 students are non-native speakers, representing 68 primary languages. About 10 percent of Clifton teachers are trained in SIOP, particularly those working with older students. In middle and high school, students are more likely to have graduated from English as a Second Language classes but are still working at language mastery, said Kusielewicz.

The program is also popular in Ridgefield Park, where 2,000 students account for 36 different languages, such as Spanish, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Albanian, Turkish and Arabic.

"Our population is distributed so unevenly," said Louise Chaker, supervisor of bilingual, ESL and basic-skills programs. "We have so many ethnicities ... I felt there was a tremendous need for having teachers be a little more sensitive to the needs of the English as a Second Language student."

During an eighth-grade science class there last week, about two dozen students were assigned a short project on identifying physical properties. Students were required to discuss the properties they found in a bag of everyday items in small-group discussion and a short writing assignment.

In the center of the room, four students -- three mainstream, one ESL -- rifled through their bag, which was filled with standard office supplies. Teacher Melody Go prompted them to use descriptive language to explain the contents to someone who couldn't see them.

"And what do they all have in common?" she asked.

"Work," said Arianna Meza, a 13-year-old ESL student.

She caught herself, and repeated more robustly: "That they are all used for work."

Later, when the groups were sharing their findings with the class, Arianna repeated her finding in the more complex phrase. A bright, motivated student, she spoke only scattered English when she moved to New Jersey from Ecuador last year.

After the lesson, she ably described Go's class as fun and a comfortable challenge. She had already mastered every English word she wanted, except one.

"She explains so easily that I can understand what she says," she said. "She gives me confianza that I can ask whatever I want. What does that mean? Oh right. Confidence."

Schools can't be colorblind

Narrowing the achievement gap in schools requires acknowledging race, not ignoring it.

LA Times Opinion Page
September 16, 2007

The achievement gap between African American and Latino students and their white peers is stark and persistent. It has existed for decades, and it's growing more pronounced. The data refute what would be reassuring explanations. The gaps in reading and math test scores are not due to income disparities, nor are they attributable to parents' educational levels. The simple fact is that most black and brown children do not do as well in school as most whites.

The data also show, however, that African American and Latino children are excelling in schools scattered throughout California and the nation, suggesting that the achievement gap is not intractable. Rather, there is a profound disconnect between what we say are high expectations for children of color and the quality of education delivered to them in the classroom.

All of which leads to an uncomfortable but important conclusion: If a less-stratified society is desirable, we must be prepared to design educational programs that explicitly take race into account, that address African American and Latino students specifically and that openly recognize that we are not a single society when it comes to the needs of our children.

That is not easy, and it runs against America's desire to move beyond a preoccupation with racial differences. In its last term, the Supreme Court struck down school integration programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., engaging in legal and moral sophistry to suggest that race no longer matters. And California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell set off a tremor last month when he called on the state's schools to help Latino and African American students close the gap.

The court is wrong and O'Connell is right: Race does matter, and schools are better off realizing it. Ironically, one of those who implicitly recognizes that fact is President Bush, whose No Child Left Behind Act requires states to set the same performance targets for all students and to report those results by race, among other categories, revealing the truth of racial disparities in learning.

There was a time when the gap seemed on its way to obsolescence -- a relic that Brown vs. Board of Education and school integration would remedy. From 1970 through the late '80s, the gap between blacks and Latinos and white students narrowed exponentially. Then, in the '90s, improvement leveled and the gap began to grow.

Assigning causes is difficult, but there are striking examples of success amid a sea of failure. Why does Ralph J. Bunche Elementary School in gang-plagued Compton have an Academic Performance Index score of 866, almost equal to those of elementary schools in Beverly Hills and higher than many in Santa Monica or Torrance? After all, the school is 100% minority, and 40% of the students are non-native English speakers. Why do 81% of the students at Edison Elementary in Long Beach, where 90% of the students are Latino, 72% of whom are learning English, score as proficient or above in mathematics?

There are a few answers. In schools that help all children excel, the focus is squarely on instruction. The "teacher quality gap" runs almost parallel to the achievement gap. In math and science, for example, only about half the teachers in schools with 90% or greater minority enrollments meet minimum requirements to teach those subjects -- far fewer than in predominantly white schools. Early intervention in reading is key, as is truly ending "social promotion" -- the practice of promoting students to the next grade even when their skills lag behind significantly. And at great schools, teachers and students talk. They talk about expectations for themselves and for each other.

Do we honestly believe all children can achieve? Yes, we do. It therefore follows that strategies tailored to African American and Latino students must be integrated into the schools they attend. That requires developing programs based on race and devoting special resources to minority children, an approach that may offend the Supreme Court and those who wish for a society in which this is not needed. To them, we say: It is fair to wish for the day when we may cease to talk about race; in the meantime, it is inexcusable to ignore it.

Segregation in U.S. schools rising

Wisconsin ranks high in separation, studies find
By ALAN J. BORSUK / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 15, 2007

Mix two parts population growth (among Latino and African-American students) and one part population decline (white students). Fold in a continuing pattern in which whites, blacks and Latinos generally live separately from each other. Let the mixture steep in a much cooler climate - legal, political and social - toward integrating schools.

This recipe for re-segregation is the subject of two new national studies.

Both say the tide of desegregation that roiled America from the 1950s through the 1970s has turned, and the reduction in racial separation that often came via court order and school bus is being reversed.

But there is a twist: Largely because there are so many more minority students than in the past, fewer whites are going to schools that are all-white or close to it.

At the same time, the numbers of all-minority schools are increasing.

Within several years, for the first time, fewer than half of the nation's kindergarten through 12th-grade students will be white.

In each of the studies, Wisconsin was listed as one of the states where segregation, particularly for African-American students, is strong.

The findings come at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., a milestone in efforts to end legal segregation of schools.

And they come in the aftermath of a 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in June that overturned voluntary desegregation efforts in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, and cast doubt on the constitutionality of remaining school assignment efforts based on race.

"Nearly 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have now lost almost all the progress made in the decades after his death in desegregating our schools," writes Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The data in the UCLA report and in the report from the Pew Hispanic Center show that the level of racial integration still is much higher now than 40 years ago, by most measures, but the trends in the last couple of decades have been toward segregation, especially in the South, the region where legal segregation was the most overt and efforts to change it the most sweeping.

In its report, the Pew Center says the percentage of white students attending schools that were at least 95% non-Hispanic white dropped from 34% in 1993-'94 to 21% in 2005-'06, but the percentage of Latino students in schools that were at least 95% minority rose from 25% to 29%.

For black students, the totals increased from 28% to 31%.

The UCLA report lists Wisconsin as having the 16th highest percentage (72%) of black students attending schools that are more than 50% black and the 11th highest percentage (41%) of black students attending schools that are more than 90% black.

It also puts Wisconsin among a half-dozen states where the percentage of black students attending schools that are more than 90% black at least doubled from 1991 to 2005.

Wisconsin has the 16th highest percentage (17%) of Latino students attending schools that are more than 90% Latino, the UCLA report says.

Using slightly different definitions, the Pew report says Wisconsin had the fifth-largest decline over 12 school years ending in 2005-'06 in the percentage of white students attending nearly all-white schools (from 58% to 31%) but had the second-highest increase in the percentage of black students attending nearly all-minority schools (17% to 32%).

No figures were released in either report for the Milwaukee area specifically, but it appears highly likely the national trends are true here.

While nearly-all-black or all-Hispanic schools are found frequently in the city and suburban schools remain predominantly white, it is much rarer to find, even in the suburbs, schools that have few, if any, minority students.

At the same time, the momentum behind school integration has faded. Little is being done to try to diversify the student bodies of individual schools in the city - the Milwaukee Public Schools system is less than 13% white - and participation in the voluntary city-suburban integration program known as Chapter 220 has decreased.

The voice on the issue heard most prominently in recent times in the African-American community was that of the African American Education Council, which called for reduced busing to be included as a goal for the new strategic plan for MPS.
Suburban schools

In the meantime, the state's open enrollment law is allowing an increasing number of students from the city, about two-thirds of them white, to go to predominantly white suburban schools.

"There are many parents who just don't see the value of (desegregation)," said Jerry Ann Hamilton, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The organization, a key player in school integration efforts here going back to the 1960s, continues to support the idea.

"We see the value of people learning to live together at an early age," Hamilton said.

But, she said, "there's been a lack of interest on the part of everybody on whether (schools) should be integrated" and court-ordered school desegregation in Milwaukee, starting in 1976, did not turn out the way advocates hoped.

Black children bore a disproportionate share of the busing, which rubbed many African-Americans wrong, while thousands of white people moved out of the city.

Hamilton said in the South, there was great excitement about school integration when it first occurred because African-Americans thought their children would have the same educational opportunities white children had.

When that hope wasn't fulfilled, she said, "much of the glamour of integration diminished."

Orfield, who has spoken often in favor of school integration, writes, "Resegregation . . . is continuing to grow in all parts of the country for both African-Americans and Latinos and is accelerating the most rapidly in the only region that had been highly desegregated - the South."

Orfield writes that the evidence supporting the argument that integration boosts educational success for minority students is becoming clearer just as the practice is becoming rarer and as the connection between segregation and low educational outcomes remains strong.

Other efforts to increase minority student achievement, including the federal No Child Left Behind law, have much weaker track records or chances of succeeding, he argued.

"As the U.S. enters its last years in which it will have a majority of white students, it is betting its future on segregation," he wrote.

The Pew Hispanic Center report
The Civil Rights Project report

LEXINGTON ‘PORTFOLIOS’ REPORT LACKS RESEARCH, RELEVANCE

Mathis exposes the agenda behind this so-called research report that comes out against portfolio assessment in time to influence the NCLB re-authorization. Good to get the word out on this. -Angela

****NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE****

LEXINGTON ‘PORTFOLIOS’ REPORT LACKS RESEARCH, RELEVANCE
Reviewer cites faulty generalizations and ignored research
in report’s support of standardized testing under NCLB

Contact: William J. Mathis, (802) 247-5757; (email) WMathis@sover.net
Kevin Welner, (303) 492-8370; (email) kevin.welner@gmail.com

TEMPE, Ariz and BOULDER, Colo. (Sept. 19, 2007)—A Lexington Institute report released earlier this month, and the institute’s subsequent press release of September 17, 2007, criticized the use of student portfolios to assess school performance. A new review of that report, however, finds it is ill-founded and of little value for research or policy development.

The Lexington report, called “Portfolios – A Backward Step in School Accountability,” is intended to influence the debate over the direction of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, offering a defense of the current test-based accountability system against the inclusion of “multiple measures.”

The report appears to have been written in anticipation of a “discussion draft” concerning NCLB changes, released by the leadership of the House Education Committee. The draft proposes allowing states to use “multiple indicators” – for example, graduation rates and percent of students taking advanced courses – to assess educational outcomes rather than depend so heavily upon standardized test scores.

The Lexington report was reviewed for the Think Tank Review Project by University of Vermont professor William Mathis. He concludes that the report more closely resembles a political polemic than a research report. It provides no new data, examines only two studies, and includes only results favorable to the report’s conclusions.

As Mathis notes, the House Committee’s summary lists a broad list of various alternative multiple indicators, but portfolio assessment is not on that list. Nonetheless, the Lexington report erroneously generalizes findings about portfolios to all non-test-based multiple indicators. The report also ignores a body of research with findings that present portfolios in a more favorable light.

In fact, Mathis’ review explains that the Lexington report’s focus on portfolios is particularly misguided because portfolios for statewide accountability purposes have received only scant attention since the turn of the millennium. Although Lexington’s press release emphasizes “dusting off” the use of portfolio assessments as a key part of NCLB accountability, the only group seriously discussing the subject appears to be Lexington itself. Given the absence of portfolio assessment from such agendas as well as from the House Committee’s list, it is troubling that the Lexington Institute report offers portfolios as the most notable of what it calls “multiple measures” and then uses that straw man to argue against adopting any instruments other than standardized tests.

In his review of the Lexington report, Mathis concludes that its “selective use of research suggests the author either intentionally slanted the evidence or was unacceptably cursory in his analysis.” The report’s failure to discuss contradictory research undermines its conclusions, and its attempt to “generalize all multiple measures from this questionable base completely discredits [the report].”


Find William Mathis’s review on the web here.

About the Reviewer

William Mathis is an adjunct professor of school finance at the University of Vermont and a local school superintendent. By training, Mathis is a psychometrician and served as Director of New Jersey’s state testing program and as a consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress as well as for other states’ testing programs.


About the Think Tank Review Project

The Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org), a collaborative project of the ASU Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and CU-Boulder’s Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC), provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Kevin Welner, the project co-director, explains that the project is needed because, “despite their garnering of media attention and their influence with many policy makers, reports released by private think tanks can be of very poor quality. Too many think tank reports are little more than ideological argumentation dressed up as research. We believe that the media, policy makers, and the public will greatly benefit from having qualified social scientists provide reviews of these documents in a timely fashion.” He adds, “We don't consider our reviews to be the final word, nor is our goal to stop think tanks’ contributions to a public dialogue. That dialogue is, in fact, what we value the most. The best ideas come about through rigorous critique and debate.”


CONTACT:
William J. Mathis, Adjunct Professor
University of Vermont
(802) 247-5757
WMathis@sover.net

Kevin Welner, Professor and Director
Education and the Public Interest Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
(303) 492-8370
kevin.welner@gmail.com


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The Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) conducts original research, provides independent analyses of research and policy documents, and facilitates educational innovation. EPRU facilitates the work of leading academic experts in a variety of disciplines to help inform the public debate about education policy issues.

Visit the EPRU website at http://educationanalysis.org

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The Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder seeks to contribute information, analysis, and insight to further democratic deliberation regarding educational policy formation and implementation.

Visit the EPIC website at http://education.colorado.edu/epic


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