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The Education Innovator #31
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 August 23, 2004 • Number 31
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Feature
School Wise Press
What's New
U.S. Department of Education responds to article in The New York Times about charter schools; Deputy Under Secretary Rees discusses charter schools on PBS and C-Span; Congressman Boehner issues letter in support of charter schools; Amistad Academy is the subject of a new documentary to air Aug. 25; the National Center for Education Statistics releases report on home-schooled students; and the Education Commission of the States issues a report on restructuring efforts in Baltimore.
Innovations in the News
Longview (TX) school district and Hamilton County (TN) receive magnet school grants, plus information on school choice and alternative routes to teacher certification.

School Wise Press Develops School and District Performance Reports
Thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), parents are entitled to more information than ever before about the quality of their children's schools. Under NCLB, school districts are required to prepare and distribute a yearly report card on their performance—and the performance of their individual schools as compared to other schools—as a condition of receiving federal funds. The report card is to go to all parents of students who attend the district's schools.

School Wise Press is an example of one company that helps districts write such a report card in a clear and unified format and in language parents can understand. Having this report card follows the business practice of the "consumer's right to know" and supplies baseline data against which the district's progress in furthering student achievement can be measured and understood.

School Wise Press has published report cards for California school districts and charter schools for the last five years, and the company's services are now in even greater demand as districts see value in open communication with the public. The company has worked with 103 districts, covering 1,176 schools, to develop and publish these accountability reports both on line and in print, in English and in Spanish.

Under No Child Left Behind, the school report card must include:
  • student performance on state assessments (by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, English language proficiency, and economic status);
  • student performance data compared against the state's objectives;
  • two-year trend data on state assessments in each subject area and at each grade;
  • student graduation rates;
  • professional qualifications of teachers; and
  • student discipline policy.
School Wise Press's professional management division, drawn from the fields of publishing and education, produces reports that show this information and more, in easy-to-read text and through charts, graphs, and other graphics—much like investment portfolio financial statements.

District accountability reports are written from the point of view of school district leaders and are addressed to the community—the stockholders, if you will. The report from Azusa Unified School District download files PDF (743 KB) in California, for 2002-2003, for example, opens with a letter from the superintendent, giving an overview of the district and highlighting what the school will be doing with $75 million from the recent passage of a bond. The 20-page report then goes deeper to discuss test results, how student progress is measured, what the district is doing to prepare students for college, information about teacher quality and teacher preparation, financial analyses and trends, and lists of schools that need improvement.

The report aggregates data to show how the school district is doing as a whole, and then shows the Academic Performance Index by school and whether an individual school is making adequate yearly progress. For example, in the Azusa district, 28 percent of all students in grades 2-8 scored at or above average on the reading California Achievement Test (CAT/6) in 2003, while 40 percent in grades 2-8 scored at or above average on the math CAT/6. Text around the charts puts the figures in a context, explaining, for example, that 41 percent of those taking the tests are English language learners.

Individual school reports, prepared by School Wise Press, are also available from the district. The superintendent invites the community to contact the district office for these reports or go to the district website.

School Wise Press publishes these school accountability reports in two installments. One-page reports, which capture key factors on students, teachers, test scores, and measures of progress, are generated in September-October. Examples of school reports for Gilroy Unified School District, a rural, largely Spanish-speaking district, illustrate this type of report. School Wise creates much longer reports, which meet the requirements of state and federal law, in the spring, once principals have provided narrative that describes programs, policies, and curricular emphases. The Brownell Middle School's full-length annual report for example, shows that the percent of students who scored proficient or higher in English/Language Arts on the state test is about the same as that for the entire state of California.

School Wise Press reports attempt to find the balance between providing too much information—which can overwhelm the reader—and too little information—which does not provide enough depth to be meaningful. With the idea of communicating information to the customer within a context, School Wise also believes that the report cards should present comparative data and evidence on how schools differ from one another. Ultimately, performance information should be made transparent to the parents and the communities that support them.

School Wise Press has also produced report cards on Kansas City, MO, schools, with KSA-Plus and with support from the Ewing W. Kaufman Foundation. The Kansas City project includes all public schools in the city—traditional, as well as charter schools. These report cards were published by a local nonprofit organization, the Partnership for Children, which mailed them to all parents and schools, and, in binder form, to libraries and other civic agencies.

Districts that work with School Wise Press pay for the service. They then provide information about the district and schools to the community for free. School Wise Press's services, in addition to other national resources, such as the OII-funded GreatSchools.Net and SchoolMatters.Org, relate directly to the No Child Left Behind report card requirement. For questions that parents, the school, and the community might ask related to district performance, please see the U.S. Department of Education's Back-to-School Checklist.

Resources: Note: The featured innovation is a description of a one service that helps school district meet the reporting requirements of No Child Left Behind. The U.S. Department of Education has not formally evaluated the specific services of School Wise Press, and the information provided should not be regarded as an endorsement.

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What's New
U.S. Department of Education Issues Statements on The New York Times Article on Charter Schools
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and the U.S. Department of Education's Press Office issued statements about a recent New York Times article on charter schools, explaining that the article used faulty methodology to analyze results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. (Aug. 17, 18)


Deputy Undersecretary Nina Rees Discusses Charter Schools
Deputy Undersecretary Nina Rees was a discussant on PBS television's NewsHour and C-Span's Washington Journal about the recent American Federation of Teachers report on charter schools. (Aug. 18 and Aug. 21)


Ohio Congressman John Boehner Supports Charter Schools
Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) issued a letter in support of charter schools, saying, "The achievement gap in American education must be closed, and it won't be closed without strong support for our nation's innovative charter schools." The Congressman cited others who have issued statements supporting charter schools, including columnist Mickey Kaus, former Congressman Floyd Flake (D-NY), the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Post. (Aug. 20)


PBS Documentary: "Closing the Achievement Gap"
Closing the Achievement Gap, a new PBS documentary on charter schools, will premiere Aug. 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The production, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page, focuses on Amistad Academy, a Connecticut charter school founded in 1999 by a group of Yale Law School students who enlisted the help of local business and community leaders. (Aug. 11)


NCES Report on Home-Schooled Students
The National Center for Education Statistics released a report on home-schooled students. There were 1.1 million home-schooled children in the U.S. in 2003, up from 850,000 in 1999. (Aug. 2)


ECS Issues Report on Restructuring Efforts in Baltimore
The Education Commission of the States has issued a report analyzing the restructuring efforts in Baltimore download files PDF (522 KB). The efforts can provide practical lessons regarding the process of restructuring, which is one of the requirements under NCLB if a school fails to make adequate yearly progress for five years. (July 2004)


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Innovations in the News

Magnet Schools
Longview Independent School District (TX) received a $6.89 million OII grant for magnet schools. The funds will target five schools, which will offer a Montessori program and International Baccalaureate programs, for example. The grant will also cover such activities as professional development and retrofitting classrooms for technology and labs. [More-Tyler Morning Telegraph] (Aug. 17)

U.S. Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced more than $6 million over three years for Hamilton County (TN) through OII's Magnet Schools Assistance Program. The grant will support the restructuring of three low-performing minority high schools into magnet schools, which will feature career academies geared toward attracting more diverse student bodies. [More-Chatanoogan] (Aug. 4)

School Choice
There has been a spike in this year's school-choice revenue in Lee, MA. Revenue from students who live outside the district and choose to attend school in Lee totals $682,047, which is well above the district's estimate. The school committee voted to use most of the money to reduce taxes in the town. [More-Berkshire Eagle (Aug. 20)

Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification
Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard announced that the percentage of certified teachers in Louisiana is at a 10-year high at the same time high school students' scores on the ACT and national rankings of the state's accountability program are at an all-time high. One factor in the rise of the number of certified teachers is the availability of alternative certification programs. [More-Acadiana Now] (Aug. 20)

A new teacher at Clear Creek Independent School District (TX) has been a hairdresser, a school librarian, and a quilt show promoter, and has worked with the elderly. Now, at 64, Pauline Trout will be teaching fifth grade as a result of her participation in the University of Houston-Clear Lake alternative certification program. [More-Galveston County Daily News] (Aug. 17)

Two hundred of the 700 first-year teachers at Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools (NC) have been hired as "lateral entry teachers." These teachers, who are making career changes from other occupations to teaching, must have a bachelor's degree and must undergo 10 days of intensive training before school starts. They then have three years to finish required courses and earn full licenses. [More-Charlotte Observer] (Aug. 14)

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Last Modified: 10/31/2007