Charter Schools Week
Helping America's Youth
In response to the horrific attacks on the campus of Virginia Tech University, President Bush and Secretary Spellings issued the following statements:
"Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today.... I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.... Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community."
|||President George W. Bush (4/16/07)|
"As the mother of a daughter in college, my heart goes out to the parents of the students who lost their lives and to the entire Virginia Tech community on this sad day. My Department is working with the White House and other agencies to identify what resources can be provided to Virginia Tech as they assess their needs."
|||Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (4/16/07)|
A presidential proclamation honoring victims of the tragedy is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/04/20070417.html.
On April 12, the President and Secretary met with a group of education, business, and civil rights leaders at the White House to discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. The attendees recommended some changes but were unified on the need to renew the law. "I believe the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be reauthorized because it's working," the President noted. "It's a piece of legislation which believes in setting high standards and using accountability to make sure that every single child receives a good education." For more information, please go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/04/20070412.html.
Then, a day later, the President and Secretary met with parochial school leaders and parents. "We want every school, public or parochial, to meet expectations and to give our children the skill sets necessary to realize the great promise of the country," the President said, praising the Catholic school system for often educating the neediest students and supplying a school choice. "Parental choice is a very important part of educational excellence." For more information, please go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/04/20070413-4.html.
This week, the Secretary returned to the Gulf Coast to launch the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative. The initiative, a public-private partnership between the Department, First Book, and Scholastic, will provide new books to replenish schools, libraries, community organizations, and homes. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/04/04182007.html.
Approaching the end of the school year, thoughts turn to testing. Here is some key news from that front.
Nine states (AR, IN, KY, MD, MA, NJ, OH, PA, and RI) have agreed to share an Algebra II end-of-course assessment from Pearson Educational Management. The test should be ready for implementation next spring, although not every state will use it immediately. The only other such test-sharing agreement is among four New England states (ME, NH, RI, and VT), spanning third- through eighth-grade. For more information, please go to http://www.achieve.org/node/836/.
ACT's latest national curriculum survey highlights the persistent gap between what high schools are teaching and what colleges want incoming students to know. Specifically, high schools tend to offer less in-depth instruction of a broader range of skills and topics, while colleges often seek students with a more in-depth understanding of a selected number of fundamental skills. Why the disconnect? According to ACT, the primary problem is state academic content standards, which teachers are required to follow. Therefore, many states are creating P-16/20 councils to coordinate goals and expectations across all the levels of education. For more information, please go to http://www.act.org/path/policy/reports/curriculum.html.
"Beating the Odds," the Council of the Great City School's annual analysis of state-mandated tests in 67 big city school districts in 37 states, reveals urban systems are continuing to improve in reading and math. Indeed, 55% of students scored proficient or above in fourth-grade reading in 2006 (a gain of 12 percentage points from 2002), and 42% were proficient or above in eighth-grade reading (a gain of eight percentage points from 2002). In math, 59% of students scored proficient or above in fourth-grade during 2006 (a gain of 15 percentage points from 2002), while 46% were proficient or above in eighth-grade (a gain of 11 percentage points from 2002). Several urban districts (five in reading and seven in math) had both fourth- and eighth-grade scores equal to or greater than their own states, and the proficiency gap between urban systems and their respective states generally declined. Moreover, within districts, racial proficiency gaps are narrowing. For more information, please go to http://www.cgcs.org/publications/achievement.aspx.
Also, on April 19, the Department released state-by-state data on the Reading First program. Students in Reading First schools largely recorded impressive gains on standardized tests in reading fluency and comprehension from 2004 to 2006. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/04/04192007.html.
This summer, the agency is sponsoring 19 Teacher-to-Teacher regional workshops for teachers to learn from fellow educators who have had success in raising student achievement. Each workshop focuses on a specific subject or subjects (math and science, history, art, etc.) Registration is free, and meals/refreshments will be supplied during scheduled activities, but participants are responsible for transportation and lodging. For more information, please go to http://www.t2tweb.us/Workshops/Schedule.asp. (Registration is already underway for several venues. The remaining venues will be posted shortly.)
Charter Schools Week
From April 30 to May 4, charter advocates, students, teachers, and parents will celebrate the important role high-performing charter schools play in the American public education system. This year's theme is "Closing the Gap." The week is also an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the more than 4,000 charter schools serving over a million children in 40 states and the District of Columbia. To help, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has developed a detailed toolkit. For more information, please go to http://www.publiccharters.org/content/publication/detail/1866/.
Note: In the week preceding National Charter Schools Week, Secretary Spellings will keynote the seventh-annual National Charter Schools Conference in Albuquerque. For more information, please go to http://www.nationalcharterconference.org/.
The Safe and Drug-Free Schools' Mentoring Program promotes mentoring activities for at-risk children that (1) assist such children in receiving support and guidance from a mentor; (2) improve academic performance; (3) improve interpersonal relationships with peers, teachers, family members, and other adults; (4) reduce the dropout rate; and (5) reduce juvenile delinquency and involvement in gangs. To be eligible for funding, projects must be school-based and serve students in one or more grades (4-8) living in high-crime areas, troubled-home environments, or rural areas or who attend campuses with violence problems. The deadline for applications is May 23. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/programs/dvpmentoring/.
Helping America's Youth
On April 11 and 12, First Lady Laura Bush hosted a regional conference on Helping America's Youth at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The first day of the event was dedicated to hands-on training on the Community Guide to Helping America's Youth, a web-based tool to assist communities in coordinating resources and tracking effective programs. On the second day, the First Lady addressed attendees and joined local, regional, and state leaders for panels on challenges facing youth and successful methods for positive development. For more information, please go to http://www.helpingamericasyouth.gov/.
The Department's next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, on teacher quality, is scheduled for May 15. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/edtv/.
Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans' American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) conference in El Paso (April 23-25), the Literacy Station Project in Santa Fe (April 29), and the Asian-Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit here in Washington, D.C. (May 3). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.
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