NEWSLETTERS
The Education Innovator #13
Volume III
Archived Information


The Education Innovator
 April 11, 2005 • Number 13
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What's inside...
Feature
SchoolMatters Website
What's New
Secretary Spellings issues new guidelines for implementing NCLB; first-year DC choice participation report released; Secretary Spellings releases two NCES reports on high school/college dual enrollment; OII releases Choosing a School for Your Child; The Teaching Commission releases report on teacher professionalism and pay; Region VII Comprehensive Center expands www.helpforschools.com; and IBM donates KidSmart Young Explorer Learning Centers to New York City.
Innovations in the News
Mississippi leaders consider the creation of two new charter schools; plus information on choice, supplemental educational services, and technology.

SchoolMatters Supports Data-Driven Choices and Decisions
Consumer reports are available for cars, appliances, and services. What about education? As parents find that they can be wise consumers of quality education, they are asking pointed questions about schools: How are the students performing on state standardized tests? What are the class sizes? How much is spent for each student's education? SchoolMatters, a new, online clearinghouse for education statistics, student achievement, and other data concerning schools, districts, and states across the country, was created to answer these and other questions for parents, policymakers, and community officials. Developers of SchoolMatters hope that people looking for education information will find this site a place for "one-stop shopping," as they no longer have to search through multiple sources to find the data they need.

SchoolMatters presents education data much like a business conveys information to its stockholders through charts, graphs, and other written and visual tools. Information is available for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and is derived from state departments of education, the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census, and testing vendors. All data are broken into categories: student performance, school environment, community demographics, and spending, revenue, and taxes. The website analyzes student outcomes data such as scores on national and state standardized tests, attendance rates, and graduation rates. It also depicts a school's environment by analyzing class sizes, teacher qualifications, and student demographics. Community characteristics, such as labor force statistics and adult education levels are presented, along with financial data for each school district.

Nearly every term contained on the website is connected to a user-friendly glossary. The glossary includes acronyms for standardized tests and language from the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to help people better understand SchoolMatters' information. A "Learning Center" link offers separate, interactive tutorials for parents, educators, and district and state leaders showing them how to access the tools on the site.

Visitors can search for information related to their state by using the drop-down menu on the homepage. After selecting their state, they have immediate access to the number of students and districts in the state, the amount the state spends per pupil, and contact information for their state's department of education. Scrolling down the page reveals colorful bar graphs detailing how students performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the "Nation's report card." The graphs show how student performance in the chosen state compares with national performance on the assessment. Even though visitors can use the "Compare States" tool to look at measures that are comparable across states, such as the NAEP, the site does not allow comparing data from state assessments, because individual state assessments and definitions of student proficiency vary.

Users also can look at the performance of individual schools with similar demographics. The site shows reading and math proficiency (RaMP) and measures how close schools are to attaining 100 percent proficiency in both subjects by 2014 - the goal set by NCLB. Users can find school districts with similar community characteristics and finances and compare their student performance data. If a particular school has higher performance data, users might want to look at that school to discover what instructional techniques and materials it employs to bolster student achievement.

The information on SchoolMatters can help the public understand the relationship between education spending and education results. The site offers its users the sort of detailed information on performance and financial data that investors have had about corporations for years. Users can see if their school district is getting results for the amount of money it spends using the "Instructional Spending Allocation Index." This tool enables users to see how their education systems spend money and what portion of their tax dollars are going toward schools.

The website promises to "educate, empower, and engage" its users. For example, school board officials can use SchoolMatters to make data-driven education decisions and policies, while parents can use the site to gain greater knowledge and awareness of the education choices for their children.

Paul Gazzerro, a director for Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services, which helped to create SchoolMatters, states, "The site is meant to be a guide and conversation-starter. We want people to come back and use this site to enhance and add dialogue to local conversations."

SchoolMatters builds on an earlier website called SchoolResults (see Innovator, September 15, 2003), which was funded in part by seed money from the U.S. Department of Education with a grant administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The current, expanded website is managed by the Education Data Partnership of Standard & Poor's, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); the nonprofit Achieve, Inc., and CELT Corporation, a technology company. The new SchoolMatters is funded by grants from the Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Resources: Note: Those involved in creating SchoolMatters explain that although the website has a broader scope than any online source to date, it is a work in progress. SchoolMatters will continue to be updated with new information as it becomes available.

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What's New
From the U. S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings released new guidelines, Raising Achievement: A New Path for No Child Left Behind, at a meeting with state education chiefs and other education leaders. The guidelines are a "common sense" approach to implementing the law, maintaining a strong focus on informing parents about the quality of their child's school and school choice options, ensuring that local school districts implement the free tutoring provisions of the law in good faith, and encouraging the expansion of capacity for public school choice through the creation of charter schools. (April 7)

A report on the first year of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program has been released. This federally funded program provides low-income Washington, DC, school children and their families with scholarships to attend private elementary, middle, and high schools. More than 50 DC private schools signed on to participate in the program's first year, and over 400 students, who would have otherwise been attending public schools "in need of improvement" under No Child Left Behind, were offered scholarships. Secretary Spellings explained in her letter transmitting the report to Congress, "This report provides baseline data...describes the purposes and design of the scholarship program, the first-year implementation activities, and the characteristics of both applicants and scholarship users." (April 4)

Secretary Spellings released two new reports from the National Center for Education Statistics that show: (1) about 813,000 high school students are taking advantage of dual enrollment programs to earn college credits while still in high school, and (2) 71 percent of public high schools offer programs in which students earn credit at both the high school and college levels. (April 6)

From OII

The Office of Innovation and Improvement released a new booklet for parents, Choosing a School for Your Child, at the Innovations in Education Exchange on April 12. The booklet is designed to be a "parent planner" with descriptions of the types of school choices available, questions to ask when considering schools, and information about the choice provisions of No Child Left Behind. The booklet is available free and in bulk from ED Pubs (order # EU 0121 P). (April 12)

Teacher Quality

A new report from The Teaching Commission says that two-thirds of the general public and one-third of teachers surveyed support pay increases for teachers with the best record of improving students' academic achievement based on standardized test scores and other measures. The report also revealed that the public and teachers recognize the importance of high-quality professional development for educators. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Ray Simon issued a statement saying that this report underscores the U.S. Department of Education's belief that it is time to recognize teachers as professionals and to bring their pay into the 21st century. (April 6)

Technology

The U.S. Department of Education's Region VII Comprehensive Center has added new materials and information to its online database of education resources, helpforschools.com. The Grants Detective, which allows users to search for listings of available public, private, and corporate grants and to post new grant information in the database, is now available through the website's Writing Successful Grants Knowledgebase. Additions have also been made to Education on the Web and the School Improvement and English Language Learner Knowledgebases. (April 4)

IBM has donated over 100 Young Explorer Learning Centers, designed specifically for three- to seven-year-olds, to pre-K and kindergarten classes in lower Manhattan that were affected by the events of September 11. IBM has been increasing its efforts to provide technology to young children through its KidSmart Early Learning program. (April 11)

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Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
The one charter school in Mississippi might be getting company soon. The Hayes Cooper Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology School is the state's only charter school; however, recent developments in the Mississippi State Legislature have called for a 13-member commission to study whether two residential high schools, one for the arts and the other for math and science, should be transformed into charter schools. If approved, the commission will report to the Legislature by December 1, 2005. The charter school law, first enacted in 1996, has been extended to July 1, 2007. [More-The Sun Herald] (April 1)

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush recently spoke at Paul Junior High Public Charter School in northwest Washington, DC, to advocate for mentoring programs that help keep at-risk youth off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. The President discussed the new Helping America's Youth initiative to be led by the First Lady, who plans to organize a summit at the White House to brainstorm strategies to positively influence young people. [More-The Washington Post] (April 2)

The winner of the Arizona Geography Bee attends Valley Academy Charter School. Thirteen-year-old Kevin Bertram's love of Russian history helped him win when he answered that the Pribilof Islands are located in the Bering Sea. Kevin will compete in the national competition in Washington, DC, in May. [More-Arizona Republic] (April 2) [free registration]

Choice
Fifty-five percent of Indiana adults support school vouchers, according to a poll conducted by the Indianapolis Star, an Indianapolis television station, and Selzer & Co. Individuals polled believe that the state should use tax dollars to give families the option of moving their children out of failing schools and sending them to the public, private, or parochial schools of their choice. [More-The Indianapolis Star] (April 4)

Supplemental Educational Services
In Portsmouth (VA) one parent has used word-of-mouth to tell other parents about the opportunity offered by the free tutoring under No Child Left Behind. With this type of enthusiasm, the community looks at how informing parents about supplemental educational services should be a joint responsibility of the schools, parents, and the providers. [More-Virginian-Pilot] (April 4)

New York State has approved the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) as a supplemental educational services provider for students in grades two through five in schools that are not meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind. UFT will provide services through its nonprofit organization, the Educational Foundation. The UFT program also will offer workshops, learning sessions, and the Dial-a-Teacher service for parents. [More-The New York Teacher] (March 31)

So far this school year, 4,328 students in Hawaii have signed up for supplemental educational services, which is a 77 percent jump over last year. Administrators across the state have sent home letters, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to encourage parents to have their children participate. One school principal says that his school will do whatever it takes to "provide this opportunity for our students." [More-Star Bulletin] (March 22)

Technology
How to prepare today's children to function and be successful in an increasingly technological world was the hot topic at the Consortium for School Networking's tenth annual conference in Washington, DC, in March. More than 800 school leaders, decision makers, and educators attended the event in order to better understand how to use technology to its full advantage in the nation's public schools. Many participants urged educators to embrace some of the portable media devices, such as the iPod, which are popping up in schools. [More-eSchool News] (March 28) [free registration]

Susan Patrick, the U.S. Department of Education's director of educational technology, visited Allegheny Intermediate Unit's (AIU) headquarters in Pennsylvania. AIU is an educational service agency that provides support to communities, schools, and families. While there, Patrick discussed the National Education Technology Plan, a federal report that outlines how technology is used in schools and recommends future uses of technology. Currently, students spend 27 hours a week at home on the Internet researching, doing homework, playing games, and chatting. Conversely, at most schools students only can get 15 minutes of online time per week. [More-McKeesport Daily News] (March 29)

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009