Special Ed Flexibility
Adult Literacy Assessment
Quote to Note
This week, Secretary Spellings was in Arizona (April 2-3) and Minnesota (April 5) to engage business and community leaders and promote reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. In Arizona, she toured Mesa Arts Academy, a charter school operated by the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley, where students have made tremendous progress on the state assessment while infusing dance, music, painting, and other arts into the curriculum. She also met with members of the Arizona Business Education Coalition, representing technology and telecommunications companies (see http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/04/04022007.html). In Minnesota, she delivered remarks to the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce and toured Grainwood Elementary School (Prior Lake) (see http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/04/04052007.html). Looking for more details? Check out the Secretary's brand new travel log at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/notesfromtheroad/.
In response to persistent misconceptions about No Child Left Behind, there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of letters to the editor submitted by Department officials and published in major papers across the U.S. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/opeds/edit/.
No Child Left Behind is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. In honor of President Johnson's commitment to learning, President Bush recently signed a bill designating the U.S. Department of Education's main headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building. Before entering politics, Johnson was a teacher. During his presidency, he signed more than 60 education bills, including the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (establishing Head Start), ESEA, and the Higher Education Act of 1965. For more information, please go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/03/20070323-6.html.
Special Ed Flexibility
On April 4, Secretary Spellings announced new regulations under the No Child Left Behind Act allowing states to assess certain students with disabilities using an alternate assessment. Specifically, states may develop modified academic achievement standards based on grade-level contentand alternate assessments based on those standardsfor students with disabilities who are capable of achieving high standards but who may not reach grade level in the same time as their peers. States may count proficient and advanced test scores on these alternate assessments for up to 2% of all students assessed when calculating Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the law. These regulations build on flexibility already provided for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, where states may count up to 1% of proficient and advanced assessment scores based on alternate achievement standards toward the AYP calculation.
At the same time, the Secretary released guidance on the implementation of the new regulations, offering recommendations on such issues as how students with disabilities can be appropriately identified for this assessment. She also announced $21.1 million in grants to help states develop new assessments for these students and a Special Education Partnership for technical assistance (a July 2007 meeting with interested states, monthly teleconferences, etc.). For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/04/04042007.html.
Plus, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a new issue brief on the timing of entry into special education and the primary grades in which students receive special services. About 12% of students receive special education in at least one grade: kindergarten, first-grade, and third-grade, including 16% of boys, 8% of girls, 18% of poor students, and 10% of non-poor students. Half of those who begin special education in kindergarten are no longer receiving special education by third-grade. For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2007043.
The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (April 17, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) will highlight the growing range of options available to parents who want a quality education for their children. Today, parents have many choices. They can choose from neighborhood schools, charter schools, and other public schools of choice. Increasingly, they can also transfer their children to another school in or out of district. In addition, they can select private schools (religious or secular) or teach their children at home. And, free tutoring programs are now available to students in certain low-performing schools. No Child Left Behind, creative state legislation, and the expansion of privately funded scholarship programs for low-income children have each significantly expanded choice. Nevertheless, the demand for choice continues to outstrip supply. Thus, in his 2008 budget proposal, President Bush has allocated $500 million to help states turn around the performance of chronically under-performing schools and $300 million to provide new options, including public and private school choice in the form of Promise and Opportunity scholarships. The broadcast will discuss these proposals, as well as effective charter and choice programs raising student achievement. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/edtv/. (You can watch live and archived webcasts at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/.)
Speaking of choice, during the last couple of days (April 5-6) state policymakers and researchers have been gathering at the Fairmont Washington Hotel to hear about the Department's initiatives, resources, and technical assistance to support charter schools. The National Charter Schools Program Showcase featured a variety of practical breakout sessions and spotlighted eight charter high schools (see http://www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/charterhs/). The number of charter schools has jumped from 2,000 in 2001 to nearly 4,000 today. For more information, please go to http://www.sei2003.com/OII/CSPShowcase/.
Be sure to review the FY 2007 Grants Forecast (as of March 26) at http://www.ed.gov/fund/grant/find/edlite-forecast.html, which lists virtually all programs and competitions under which the Department has invited or expects to invite applications for awards and provides actual or estimated dates for the transmittal of applications under these programs. The lists are in the form of chartsorganized by principal program officeand will be updated regularly through July. (Note: This document is advisory only and not an official application notice of the U.S. Department of Education.)
Meanwhile, the Department has reopened the Advanced Placement (AP) Test Fee Program competition, which awards grants to states to enable them to pay AP fees for low-income students. Applications are due April 18. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/programs/apfee/.
Adult Literacy Assessment
NCES' "Literacy in Everyday Life" presents data from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the first assessment of the English literacy of adults (16 and up) in the U.S. since 1992. Three types of literacy were measured: prose (news stories and instructional materials), document (job applications and food and drug labels), and quantitative (balancing a checkbook and figuring out a tip). Between 1992 and 2003, there were no statistically significant changes in average prose and document literacy. However, average quantitative literacy increased. And, in a reversal from 1992, women had higher average prose and document literacy than their male peers in 2003. While men still recorded higher average quantitative literacy than women, that gap narrowed. Why does this matter? There is a clear, direct relationship between literacy and a number of future economic indicators, such as employment status, occupation, salary, and participation in public assistance programs. For example, a higher percentage of adults with high levels of literacy lived in households with incomes above $100,000. Moreover, parents at various literacy levels interact differently with children at home. For example, a higher percentage of adults with high prose literacy read to their children five or more times a week. For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2007480.
Quote to Note
"Now that we have this wealth of information [from No Child Left Behind], the next step is to use it to customize education. We've built an appetite for change and improvement, and we've done a good job of framing the problem. We know where we're falling short, where students' needs aren't being met, and where more rigor is needed. With the help of technology, we must now begin to answer those needs...."
|||Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (3/23/07),
at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference
April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week. This year's theme, "Inspire by Example," reflects the power volunteers have to inspire the people they helpand inspire others to serve. For more information, please go to http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/seasons/nvw/.
Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the National Catholic Education Association's annual convention in Baltimore (April 10-13) and the National School Boards Association's annual conference in San Francisco (April 14-17). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.
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