NEWSLETTERS
The Education Innovator #26
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 July 11, 2005 • Number 26
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Feature
Local-Flexibility Demonstration Program, Seattle, Washington
What's New
First Lady Laura Bush speaks in South Africa; U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings speaks with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Institute of Educational Sciences launches a new listserv; Assistant Deputy Secretary Rees addresses International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement groups; Educational Testing Service (ETS) issues a revision of The Evolution of Educational Assessment; and Quantum Simulations receives NIH grant to develop tutoring for students who are blind.
Innovations in the News
The first generation of charter school students graduates in Gotham (NY); plus information about high school reform, and teacher quality / leadership.

Seattle Combines Funding Ingredients through Its Federal Demonstration Program
Great recipes have one thing in common: quality ingredients. For example, take a quart of accountability for student achievement, a pint of long-term educational interventions, then mix in a little flexibility, and you have the recipe for the Seattle Public Schools' Local-Flexibility Demonstration Program.

The Local-Flex program, authorized under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), allows up to 80 school districts across the country to spend federal education funding with fewer regulations to strengthen their own education programs, as long as the districts demonstrate that funds are contributing to improvements in student achievement. On November 6, 2003, the U.S. Department of Education granted Seattle local flexibility authority, making it the first district in the nation to participate in the Local-Flex pilot project under Title VI of NCLB.

Local-Flex enables local educational agencies to concentrate on the areas in their districts that need the most improvement, thus reflecting local needs. The program allows discrete, typically narrow, funding streams to be combined for different purposes. Under Local-Flex, districts can use all of the funds from the following federal formula grants to address any purpose under NCLB: Quality Teachers / Principals (Title II Part A), Enhancing Education Through Technology (Title II Part D), Safe and Drug-Free Schools (Title IV Part A), and Innovative Education (Title V Part A).

Local-Flex is a five-year initiative, with a renewal option for an additional five years, based on the district's performance. Seattle, the largest school district in the state of Washington, applied for Local-Flex to improve the quality of teaching and learning so that all students would meet or exceed Washington State Standards. After determining that the state would not be submitting a State-Flex application, the district submitted a Local-Flex application through its Office of Grant Services to the U.S. Department of Education. The application outlined Seattle's five-year plan and detailed how it would consolidate funds to improve student achievement and take steps toward reaching Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals defined by the state. The application also included academic achievement data, measurable annual goals, specific strategies that the district planned to use to meet those goals, and an assurance that its evaluation data would be submitted to the state's Office of Public Instruction.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education implemented a peer review process to determine the merit of the application, and provided Seattle with extensive technical assistance during the application's development. One of the hallmarks of Seattle's Local-Flex planning process is that both private and public school officials participated in conference calls with the U.S. Department of Education, to ensure equitable services to all students in the area, regardless of whether they attend a public or a private institution.

Jay Iman, Seattle's Grant Manager, states, "The application process and the resulting program have proven to be a real partnership among the federal government, Seattle Public Schools, and our State Office of Public Instruction. Coordination has been relatively smooth; and given that this is a demonstration program, the district has been able to compromise little while sustaining its mission of improving education for all students."

Like many urban districts, Seattle serves a large population of economically disadvantaged students, approximately 40 percent of whom qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. Additionally, Seattle students speak more than 80 languages. To overcome these barriers, the district consolidated $5.4 million of federal funding from the appropriate formula grants for the 2003-2004 academic year into programs for bilingual instruction, new teacher orientation and leadership development, as well as professional development for literacy, mathematics, science, and special education.

Seattle created two categories of schools to target. The first, called Tier One Schools, had not reached the state's definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two or more years. The second, called Tier Two Schools, had not made AYP for one year, or had made AYP only because there were fewer than 30 students in a subpopulation group, and these students were not counted for the purposes of measuring AYP.

Seattle initially laid out four measurable goals for these targeted schools, which were closely aligned to the goals that No Child Left Behind aims to achieve by the year 2014: 1.) all students would reach or exceed state and district standards in reading and math; 2.) the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers would be eliminated; 3.) the unexcused absence rate for students in grades one through eight would decrease to one percent or less; and 4.) an 85 percent graduation rate would be established for students in grades nine through twelve.

To reach its goals, the district crafted five strategies that it believed would prove successful in meeting the academic needs of its students. These strategies included: 1.) improving teachers' knowledge, skill, and application of research-based practices for math, science, and literacy content and pedagogy; 2.) improving teachers' knowledge and skill in the use of data to inform instruction and the use of standards-based, culturally responsive teaching and differentiated instruction; 3.) improving beginning teacher quality and preparation; 4.) enhancing the integration of technology in classrooms; and 5.) providing intervention and support services for academic achievement, re-entry, and substance abuse issues for targeted student populations.

The flexibility provided by the demonstration program has allowed Seattle to integrate funds to better align its resources with its priorities and reform strategies, and to maintain a stable program regardless of changes in the district's senior leadership and school board composition. For example, the long-term, five-year focus on interventions, as opposed to the usual focus on annual plans, has the potential to increase the stability of programming and gives the district more flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of its students and schools. This five-year plan does have its challenges, since multiple priorities need to be addressed simultaneously. To this end, Seattle has used its resources to hire intervention specialists and expert coaches in reading and mathematics, has created a comprehensive professional development program for teachers in literacy instruction based on brain research and bi-lingual instruction, has increased support to student re-entry programs, and has strengthened a mentoring program for beginning teachers. Additionally, master technology teachers have been deployed to schools to assist their colleagues with integrating technology into daily lessons.

With these resources at their disposal, teams of school administrators, district staff, and representatives from teachers' organizations apply a three-phased approach to tailor interventions to each school. First, the school's current situation is analyzed. Then, research-based interventions are aligned with the school's specific needs. Finally, the school implements the interventions and monitors their impact on student performance.

The district also has improved relationships between its public and private schools. During the initial implementation of Local-Flex, the district's Office of Grant Services sponsored orientation sessions for private school administrators and staff in order to explain the parameters of the program. Since that time, Local-Flex has enabled private schools to consolidate funds to mount new and modified interventions for their students. Seattle has also hired a coordinator who acts as a single point of contact between the district and its private schools, which has improved and expedited communication among the entities. A Private School Coordination Newsletter informs private schools of the district's expectations and provides updates concerning federal funding.

Improved communication has led to a greater level of private school participation under Local-Flex as compared to the participation of a few years ago. For example, nine private schools participated in the Safe and Drug Free Schools program (Title IV) prior to 2003; now 34 schools participate in the program under Local-Flex. Additionally, no private schools were identified as having previously participated in the Enhancing Education Through Technology program (Title II Part D), but now 34 schools participate.

By taking part in Local-Flex, Seattle has traded a relaxation of federal funding requirements for strict accountability for results. All evaluation data from the project must be distributed to the local community, the State, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative and interesting; however, it does not yet have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The program has not been implemented long enough to have significant student achievement data.

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What's New
From the White House

First Lady Laura Bush spoke at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, South Africa, linking the idea that learning should be at the center of every culture with the empowerment of women through education. Mrs. Bush acknowledged that women in South Africa are finally able to work together and speak about the difficulties they face, such as violence and dealing with HIV and AIDS. She hailed organizations such as the Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women and the Mothers Program at Khayelitsha. (July 12)

From the U.S. Department of Education

The 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trends in Academic Progress report (also known as the "Nation's Report Card") has been released. The same NAEP test in reading and mathematics has been used for over 30 years. The data show that gains in student achievement are being made. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings noted that "more than half of the progress in reading for 9-year-olds during the Report Card's entire history has been made in the last five years." (July 14)

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings answered questions from members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), including the organization's president, Edward J. McElroy, at AFT's annual conference.The Secretary spoke about the No Child Left Behind Act and her intent to continue working with AFT on important educational issues. (July 8)

The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences has created a new listserv, available free to the public. Subscribers interested in education research, evaluation, and statistics will automatically receive periodic notification of information available on the IES website via their email inboxes. The listserv will focus on such topics as funding and training, research, recent publications, and education facts and figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. (July 14)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII)

Assistant Deputy Secretary Nina S. Rees addressed the 2005 North American Annual Conference of the International Baccalaureate Organization on how "Rigorous Coursework Leads to Better Results." Ms. Rees will also speak to the annual Advanced Placement National Conference in Houston, Texas. The purpose of the conference is to provide strategies for middle and high school teachers and administrators to use when their schools are involved in the AP program and Pre-AP Community. (July 9)

Assessment

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) issued a revision of The Evolution of Educational Assessment, the sixth William H. Angoff Memorial Lecture by Dr. James W. Pellegrino of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Pellegrino explains how assessments need to be improved to meet the high demands of state and national expectations. He also illustrates how assessment will become part of the learning environment, because technology can produce immediate feedback regarding students' skill levels and understanding of content. (June 2005)

Technology

Quantum Simulations, a developer of artificial intelligence tutoring and assessment software, was recently awarded a grant from the National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in order to integrate accessibility for blind and visually impaired students into its Quantum Tutors program. The program will focus on mathematics and science. Demonstrations are available online. The project will be the first artificial intelligence tutoring program available to the blind. (July 14)

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Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
The first class of students just graduated from Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, one of New York's first charter schools. Ninety percent of these fourth-grade graduates is reading at or above grade level, as compared to only 69 percent of fifth-graders who attended regular public schools. In math, 77 percent of Sisulu-Walker students performed at or above grade level, compared to 54 percent of their peers who performed that well in the district. Teachers and the principal are accountable to a board of directors, which contracts through Victory Schools, Inc. (see also Innovator, April 19, 2004) [More-The New York Daily News] (July 13)

What are "Kippsters?" Kippsters are the 74 students who will be attending a no-nonsense school that has opened its doors in Annapolis (MD). The county's first charter school, the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Harbor Academy, which opened this week, welcomed students for a three-week summer school session. The Harbor Academy's mission is to provide a rigorous curriculum to a student body that mainly consists of African-American and Latino students. At the orientation session in the Annapolis Area Christian School, Principal Jallon Brown told students that the mission to get every one of them into a great college "starts today." [More-The Capital] (July 13)

High School Reform
More than 25 schools across Tennessee are beginning to look like mini colleges. Students pick "majors" and have more freedom to choose which classes they take, and they focus more directly on future career plans. Schools that adhere to this model are part of an expanding national reform initiative, High Schools That Work. The program was created in 1987 by a consortium of states called the Southern Regional Education Board. This week over 8,000 educators from 45 states, including 400 from Tennessee, will converge in Nashville to study the initiative and discuss how it can impact improvements in student achievement. [More-The Tennessean] (July 13)

The Southern Regional Education Board has honored Springdale High School (AR) as one of 29 secondary schools across the country to receive a Gold Implementation Award. The award acknowledges schools that participate in the High Schools That Work initiative and rate the highest on 16 measures for implementing the program. These measures include classroom expectations; standards in science, literacy, and mathematics; and the number of students earning postsecondary credit. Springdale ranked number one in math and scored in the top ten for reading, writing, and science among the 1,300 high schools participating in the program. [More-The Morning News] (July 13)

School Leadership
More teachers and assistant principals in West Texas, who are interested in becoming full-fledged principals, will have the opportunity to do so, due to a School Leadership Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant was recently awarded to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. The grant will include funds to provide tuition, fees, and books for 40 candidates in the Master of Arts in Education program with an emphasis on education leadership at UTPB. The grant also will be used to develop a regional training center for principals and assistant principals from the Ector County Independent School District and schools in Balmorhea, Big Spring, Fort Stockton, Pecos, Lamesa, Seminole, Stanton, and Snyder. [More-The Odessa American] (July 11)

Teacher Quality
What do you want to do when you grow up? Breakthrough Collaborative, a nationwide program, works with promising youth who are debating whether to enter the teaching profession. The group recruits high school and college students to teach in classrooms with younger students. Breakthrough works to address two issues facing the nation's teacher corps: the high burn-out rate and the shortage of minority teachers. Fifty-seven percent of its potential teachers are minority, compared with the nation's average of 13 percent, and more than 70 percent pursue internships or careers in education. [More-Minneapolis Star Tribune] (July 12)

A British program to recruit high-achieving, motivated individuals to teach in traditionally hard-to-staff schools recently graduated its first class. Over 150 participants in the Teach First program completed their two-year commitment, attaining teacher status and a certificate in foundations of leadership. Britain's government states that graduates have had a positive impact in some of London's most challenging schools. The program is loosely based on the Teach For America program in this country, which recruits teachers to work in inner-city and rural schools for two years. [More-BBC] (July 7)

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009