The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, Washington, DC
- U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announces selection of 2006 Presidential Scholars.
- Secretary Spellings issues letter to America's teachers.
- At the kick-off of National Charter Schools Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings delivers remarks.
- Secretary Spellings speaks at the "No Child Left Behind Summit: The Path to 2014."
- Secretary Spellings issues statement regarding Earth Day.
- President Bush and Secretary Spellings visit Tuskegee University.
- President Bush issues executive order creating a National Mathematics Advisory Panel.
- Secretary Spellings travels to Bangalore India with U.S. Senators.
- First Lady Laura Bush announces a Conference on Global Literacy that the U.S. Department of Education will co-sponsor.
- U.S. Department of Education announces guidelines for new Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants.
- U.S. Department of Education releases "Toolkit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities."
- Eight new states chosen for State Scholars Initiative.
- The National Assessment of Title I: Interim Report to Congress is released.
- Title I Accountability and School Improvement Efforts From 2001 to 2004 is issued.
- U.S. Department of Education organizes summer 2006 Teacher-to-Teacher workshops.
- NCES releases a report on The Adult Lives of At-Risk Students.
- NCES releases a report comparing the content of two fourth and eighth grade science assessments.
- NCES releases a report that includes findings from the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Video Study.
- The May edition of the Education News Parents Can Use program will highlight OII programs and staff.
- Guidance to assist private schools in becoming providers of supplemental educational services (SES) is released, and a new website related to private school participation in SES is launched.
- The Montalvo Arts Center (CA) offers Teaching Artist Fellowships.
- The History Channel's Save Our History Grant Program now accepting applications.
- The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems sponsors a Superintendents' Academy.
- A report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) analyzes the impact of NCLB on English language learners (ELLs).
- Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation co-author No Child Left Behind: A Primer.
- National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) launches online parent center.
- A report from Jobs for the Future (JFF) examines the nation's high school dropout situation.
- Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) will sponsor its annual Reading Is Fun Week from May 14-20.
- RIF website nominated for a Webby Award.
- The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) continues work on Great Schools by Design and releases findings from its National Summit on School Design.
- The Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project releases Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job.
- A study from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) analyzes teachers' professional development.
- Education Week releases Technology Counts report.
- Standard & Poor's releases a new paper and Benchmarking Workbook.
- The National Writing Project hosts poetry reading, and the Spring 2006 edition of lesson plans from Smithsonian in Your Classroom is available online.
Innovations in the News
- Charter Schools/Choice
- Closing the Achievement Gap
- Parental Involvement
- Raising Student Achievement/School Reform
- Teacher Quality and Development
Expanding Educational Options - The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program
Shirley Hayes understands the importance of choice in education. Ms. Hayes chose her career path early, deciding as a little girl that she would grow up to be a teacher. Ms. Hayes spent much of her professional life as a principal or, in her words, "a teacher with a larger audience," at Park View Elementary, a public school in Northwest Washington, DC. After 23 years, Ms. Hayes chose to leave Park View to venture to the east side of the city and into the realm of private education, becoming the principal of Nannie Helen Burroughs, a religiously affiliated elementary school. After arriving there, Ms. Hayes was pleased to learn that many of her former students were enrolling their children and grandchildren at Nannie Helen Burroughs because they trusted her as a school leader. But Ms. Hayes also knew that many more of her former students did not have a choice for where they could send their children to be educated because their income levels could not support private school tuition. Now, 12 years later, Ms. Hayes is proud that her school is one of 68 private schools in Washington, DC, accepting children through the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, the nation's first federally funded initiative to provide low-income students with scholarships to attend private elementary and secondary schools.
Congress created this five-year pilot program in January 2004 through the District of Columbia School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education subsequently held a competition for the grant to administer the program. In March of that year, the nonprofit Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF) was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to administer the program, with the supervision and support of the office of DC Mayor Anthony Williams. WSF named its new initiative the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). It became the only joint scholarship initiative at the elementary and secondary level of the Federal government and a local educational agency, the District of Columbia Public School system (DCPS).
The purpose of the OSP is to give DC parents the opportunity to exercise greater choice in the education of their children. Elementary and secondary school students who are residents of Washington, DC, and are members of families whose income does not exceed 185 percent of the poverty line are eligible to apply. Students receive scholarships of up to $7,500 per year to pay for tuition, fees, and transportation costs to attend participating private schools in the city. In making scholarship awards, if there are more eligible applicants than available scholarships, applicants receive scholarships through a lottery system. Scholarship priority is given to applicants attending schools identified as in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring under Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act. During the 2003-2004 academic year, 15 elementary, middle, and high schools in Washington, DC, fell into one of those categories. In 2004-2005, 88 schools in the city fit that description. Between 2003 and 2005, about 44 percent of the total public school OSP applicant pool came from a public school that was identified as in need of improvement.
Opportunity Scholarships are renewable for up to five years (as funds are appropriated), as long as students remain eligible for the program. Participating private schools must be located in Washington, DC, and agree to report to parents of scholarship students at least once per year, describing the academic performance of the student and the aggregate performance of other students in their schools. In addition, schools must report to parents regarding the safety of their facilities. Private schools must agree to scholarship program requirements regarding fiscal responsibility and nondiscrimination in admissions and operations with regard to program participants. The statute also requires that the OSP submit to an ongoing, rigorous, independent evaluation of the effects on students and families. Georgetown University and Westat Corporation, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), were chosen to lead the evaluation. Currently, data are being collected for an analysis of the OSP's effectiveness in improving student outcomes. These data and analyses will be presented in a 2007 report. A study just released from the evaluation team details OSP participation during 2005-2006, the program's second year.
According to this study, OSP reached capacity with over 1,700 students using scholarships at 60 of the 68 participating private schools. WSF reports that the eight schools that did not serve scholarship students either had no scholarship recipients choose to attend their institutions because the schools ended in either kindergarten (three schools) or third grade (one school), or that the schools filled their open slots before scholarship recipients could be placed. (Five schools stopped accepting applications by February 1). The IES study reveals that during the OSP's first- and second-year application periods, a total of 5,818 individuals applied for Opportunity Scholarships, 4,047 of whom were deemed eligible to receive funds. Based on Census numbers from the year 2000, this total correlates to ten percent of the base of eligible low-income students participating in the OSP during both years of the initiative.
The relatively high number of OSP participants may be attributed to a comprehensive outreach campaign led by WSF before the start of each academic year. Approximately 23 percent of the WSF outreach budget originated from contract funds from the U.S. Department of Education. The rest of the funds for outreach activities were raised privately. When the OSP first began, WSF held public meetings at the Washington Convention Center and other locations throughout the city so that families could learn more about the scholarships and fill out applications. At Nannie Helen Burroughs School, Principal Hayes took it upon herself to reproduce the WSF announcement and forward it to parents at her school and in the surrounding community. After three weeks of initial outreach efforts, nearly 2,700 families submitted applications before the start of the 2004-2005 academic year. Ultimately, 1,027 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade enrolled in private schools through the OSP in 2004-2005. On average, OSP students in 2004-2005 came from families that consisted of one adult and three children. The average family earned an annual income of $18,742, far below the program's income-eligibility threshold of 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which for a family of four in 2004-2005 was $34,873.
A chronicle of the OSP conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals that outreach efforts for the second year of the program were varied and far-reaching. WSF organized more than 60 neighborhood application meetings; two 25,000-piece mailings to recipients of food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); home visits to disabled parents and guardians; and informational meetings for groups including the Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect, Asian-American LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, and Development), the Vietnamese-American Community Service Center, and the Spanish Education Development Center. WSF also mailed 33,000 informational packets to families of children attending schools in need of improvement. To cast a wider net, WSF collaborated with the DC State Education Office (SEO); DC ParentSmart, a parent information center working in the city; and a local charter school association, among other organizations, to inform 83,000 public school families, including public charter school families, of the availability of Opportunity Scholarships. WSF also reached out to non-English speaking families by employing Spanish-speaking staff at its main office and creating information booklets and applications printed in Spanish, Chinese,Vietnamese and Amharic.
Although publicly funded private school scholarship programs have existed in cities and states across the country for the last 15 years in areas such as Milwaukee and Cleveland, no model for a program characterized by a Federal/local partnership had existed before OSP was initiated. As a result, WSF had to create innovative methods for community outreach, systems for student placement, and other administrative procedures. From the outset, WSF has received assistance from community organizations including DC Parents for School Choice, the Greater Washington Urban League, and Capital Partners for Education.
WSF has emphasized the importance of support for students and families interested and participating in the OSP. WSF conducts one-on-one meetings with parents and has created numerous guidebooks and brochures, as well as a comprehensive website. The WSF website, for example, features lists of private schools participating in the OSP, news articles and studies concerning the program, and a "testimonials" page with feedback from parents, students, and national and community leaders. Additionally, the website includes links that enable visitors to listen to audio playback of interviews with OSP families. To help OSP families make informed choices and identify schools that can best serve the needs of their children, WSF has created a school directory. The directory lists the availability of enrichment activities and before- and after-school programming at participating schools, as well as information about the proximity of participating schools to public transportation. WSF has produced a brochure entitled, "How to Apply to a Private School" that walks families through the unfamiliar territory of the admissions process at private schools. Another booklet, "Planning Your School Search," helps families evaluate and rank school features that are important to them.
Many DC parents have cited school proximity and safety as key factors in selecting new schools, while others have cited the academic rigor and discipline at the private schools they chose. Still others sought schools that aligned with their religious denomination. Nikia Hammond, a mother of three children who attend Nannie Helen Burroughs School, notes, "Knowing that my children are learning good things and that a lot of things are instilled in them that I'm not able to do when I'm at work gives me a lot of peace of mind. With them in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, I see them as doctors. I see lawyers. I see teachers. I see them being anything they want to be." Ms. Hammond also chose the Baptist school because her mother knew and respected the principal, Ms. Hayes.
A Georgetown University/Westat evaluation of the OSP's first year, released in the fall of 2005, highlights parents' and students' satisfaction with the program. According to the study, of 45 participating families, nearly all of the parents and guardians reported becoming more involved in their children's education. They also perceived the private schools as safer, with smaller class sizes and more challenging expectations for students' behavior and academics than some of the public schools their children formerly attended. The students, who nearly unanimously reported that they intend to enroll in college, believed their new schools could help them reach that goal.
For advocates of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program such as Principal Shirley Hayes, the positive impact of the scholarships on students and families is a natural outgrowth of school choice. She notes, "Children and parents deserve the best. School choice provides parents the opportunity to seek and secure the best educational environment for their children...resplendent with resources and experienced, caring teachers in a safe and nurturing school environment." Ms. Hayes recently affirmed her commitment to the scholarship program by accepting a position to chair the Educational Opportunities and Partnerships Committee for the Washington Scholarship Fund's Board of Directors.
From the U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that 141 high school seniors have been selected as 2006 Presidential Scholars. These students have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. Presidential scholars will be honored in Washington, DC, from June 24-27. (May 4)
Secretary Spellings issued a letter to America's teachers during Celebrating Teachers Week (April 30-May 6). She noted, "The No Child Left Behind Act has brought out the best in our teachers. And they have brought out the best of this law, turning high standards and accountability into real results for our children." (May 2)
At the Charter Schools Program Showcase in Washington, DC, organized by the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Secretary Spellings launched the celebration of National Charter Schools Week. The Secretary discussed the importance of charter schools as one of the public school choice options under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). (May 1)
Secretary Spellings spoke at the "No Child Left Behind Summit: The Path to 2014." At the first in a series of summits on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Secretary Spellings discussed the role of teachers and administrators in ensuring that every child receives a high-quality education. (Apr. 27)
Secretary Spellings issued a statement concerning the 36th anniversary of Earth Day and congratulated the young people honored at the President's 2006 Environmental Youth Awards. (Apr. 21)
Along with President Bush, Secretary Spellings visited Tuskegee University. The President spoke about the American Competitiveness Initiative, which aims to strengthen innovation and education in the U.S. in part by improving mathematics, science, and foreign language studies and encouraging more rigorous coursework in high schools. In conjunction with the event, Secretary Spellings released a "parent checklist" outlining steps parents can take to ensure their children are prepared for higher education and the competitive workforce. (Apr. 19)
President Bush issued an executive order creating a National Mathematics Advisory Panel, which will advise the President and Secretary Spellings on the best use of scientifically based research for the teaching and learning of math. The panel's interim report will be submitted to the President and Secretary Spellings by January 31 with specific recommendations on a range of topics related to math education. (Apr. 18)
Secretary Spellings joined U.S. Senators Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia on their visit to Bangalore, India, as they learn more about foreign educational systems and the implications to U.S. competitiveness in the emerging world market. (Apr. 12)
As honorary ambassador for the United Nations' Decade of Literacy, First Lady Laura Bush announced a Conference on Global Literacy, scheduled for September 2006. The conference will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (Apr. 25)
The U.S. Department of Education has announced guidelines for current college students and high school seniors to apply for the new Academic Competitiveness Grants and National SMART Grants for the 2006-2007 academic year. Students who completed rigorous coursework in high school or who are pursuing degrees in math, science, and critical foreign languages are eligible. (May 4)
The U.S. Department of Education offers a new toolkit to help states implement the accountability provisions of NCLB for students with disabilities. The toolkit includes up-to-date guidance on assessing achievement and progress of students with disabilities, a set of technical assistance products, and information about new research. (Apr. 25)
Eight new states have been chosen for participation in the State Scholars Initiative, a national business/education partnership funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and managed by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The initiative is designed to increase the number of students who participate in rigorous curricula in high school. (Apr. 21)
The National Assessment of Title I: Interim Report to Congress has been released. The report includes two parts: Volume I, "Implementation of Title I," and Volume II, "Closing the Reading Gap: First Year Findings from a Randomized Trial of Four Reading Interventions for Striving Readers." The entire report examines key Title I components related to state assessments and student achievement scores, school choice and supplemental educational services (SES), and teacher quality. (Apr. 18)
Title I Accountability and School Improvement Efforts From 2001 to 2004 PDF, (151MB), examines the implementation of accountability and school improvement under Title I of NCLB from 2001-2002, the year before NCLB went into effect, and through 2003-2004, the second year of NCLB implementation. The report includes a special focus on 2003-2004, with findings on the identification of schools in need of improvement, interventions implemented at schools identified for improvement, and public school choice and SES under Title I. (Apr. 18)
This summer, the U.S. Department of Education will organize 14 Teacher-to-Teacher regional workshops for teachers to learn from fellow educators who have been successful in raising student achievement. A number of workshops will focus on enhancing instructional strategies in math, science, and critical foreign languages, subjects that are integral to the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. Workshops will be held across the country from June through August. Schedules and registration forms are available online. (Apr. 17)
NCES has released The Adult Lives of At-Risk Students: The Roles of Attainment and Engagement in High School. This study is a longitudinal investigation of the power of participating in high school and later educational outcomes. (Apr. 13)
NCES has released a report describing a study that compares the content of two fourth and eighth grade assessments in science: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from the year 2000 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from the year 2003. (Apr. 6)
NCES has released a new statistical analysis report that includes findings from the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Video Study. The video study analyzes teaching practices in eighth grade science classrooms in five countries: Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. This study expands upon the TIMSS 1995 Video Study. The study is the first attempt to analyze eighth grade science lessons as they are actually delivered to students. (Apr. 4)
From the Office of Innovation and Improvement
Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Christopher J. Doherty, as well as OII staff and programs, will be featured on the Department's May production of Education News Parents Can Use. The focus of the program will be "New Tools for Parents: Getting Informed and Getting Involved," and will cover school choice and SES.The program will air on May 16 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. (May 11)
Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Christopher J. Doherty and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Henry Johnson released new guidance to assist private schools in becoming providers of SES.The guidance responds to questions from the private school community in response to a call from Secretary Spellings that private schools become more involved in SES. OII also unveiled a new webpage containing more information on SES for private schools. (May 11)
A new Teaching Artist Fellowship from the Montalvo Arts Center's education program (CA) and the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs is the first national award of its kind dedicated to professionals in the teaching artist field. The fellowship provides a four-month residency at the Lucas Artists Programs and a partnership with a local school for curriculum development. The application deadline is June 15. (Mar. 16)
The History Channel's Save Our History Grant Program is funding partnerships between schools and local history organizations to create projects that teach students about their local history and engage them in its preservation. Projects may be implemented at any point during the 2006-2007 academic year. Guidelines and criteria are available online. The application deadline is June 2. (Mar. 14)
The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is sponsoring a Superintendents' Academy, a 10-month program that prepares top executives from business, nonprofit, military, education, and government backgrounds to lead school systems in urban areas. Applicants should be outstanding senior executives with proven track records of leadership success. The application deadline is September 15. (May 11)
No Child Left Behind
A report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) analyzes the impact of NCLB on English language learners (ELLs). The report concludes that, while many states exempt ELLS from test score and student outcome reports, the Federal law holds considerable promise for closing the achievement gap between ELLs and their peers. (Mar. 22)
Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (and former Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement) have produced an NCLB "citizen's guide." In the No Child Left Behind Primer, the co-authors trace the history of the law's main provisions, explain how these provisions are designed to work, and discuss the challenges involved with the law's implementation. (Feb. 2006)
The nonprofit National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has launched an online Parent Center. The center includes articles about parenting children with learning disabilities, stories from parents, and an interactive guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004. (Apr. 25)
Raising Student Achievement
Making Good on a Promise: What Policymakers Can Do to Support the Educational Persistence of Dropouts, a report from Jobs for the Future (JFF), is now available online. The report analyzes whether pathways exist to help dropouts pursue an education and move toward an economically productive adulthood. A couple of the report's key findings show that dropping out is epidemic in central cities and rural, low-income communities and that socioeconomic status, not race, is the key indicator for dropping out of school. (Apr. 11)
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), an Office of Innovation and Improvement grantee, will sponsor its annual "Reading Is Fun Week" from May 14-20. Students, teachers, schools, and parents can choose to celebrate the joy of reading in any way they choose. The RIF website offers sample activities. (May 11)
Riffington, the blue monster mascot for Reading Is Fundamental, may need to start practicing his acceptance speech. The Webby Awards, an international honor recognizing outstanding websites and called the "Online Oscars" by Time magazine, recently nominated the RIF website for the Best Charitable Organization/ Nonprofit Website of 2006. As a nominee, RIF's website also is eligible to win a People's Voice Award. (Apr. 11)
Great Schools by Design, a national initiative of the American Architectural Foundation (AAF), seeks to improve the quality of America's schools and the communities they serve by promoting collaboration, excellence, and innovation in school design. Great Schools by Design engages architects, superintendents, teachers, parents, students, and others in conversations about improving school facilities. AAF will release the findings of its National Summit on School Design this month. (May 11)
Teacher Quality and Development
The Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project released a white paper entitled Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job. The paper asserts that teacher quality can be improved by basing tenure and bonus pay on student academic achievement and by eliminating barriers for teacher certification. (Apr. 2006)
A new study from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) reveals that professional development for teachers can have a positive impact on student achievement if it: (1) is sustained over time; (2) focuses on specific content areas or instructional strategies; (3) supports the collective learning of most, if not all, teachers in a school; (4) aligns with school and teacher goals; and (5) provides opportunities for teachers to practice and apply new knowledge. (Spring 2006)
Education Week's ninth annual Technology Counts report, The Information Edge, examines how technology and education policies are supporting the use of data to improve students' performance. The report reviews trends at the state, local, and classroom levels. (May 4)
In conjunction with National Charter Schools Week (May 1-6), Standard & Poor's recently released a paper explaining how the data and tools on SchoolMatters.com can be used to facilitate discussions and assessments of charter school performance. Additionally, a new Benchmarking Workbook helps educators plan and conduct benchmarking studies. (Apr. 25)
The National Writing Project and the Rural School and Community Trust sponsored an evening of rural poetry on May 8 at the Library of Congress. The rhythm of poetry and poet Langston Hughes are the centerpiece of the spring 2006 lesson plan series from Smithsonian in Your Classroom. Judy Buchanan, Deputy Director of the National Writing Project, serves as an advisor for the lesson plan series. (Spring 2006)
Innovations in the News
For the winner of a Minnesota essay contest, her charter school saved her life. She writes, "In fifth grade, my parents divorced, my beloved dog was killed, and I was forced to deal with an alcoholic father...I was contemplating suicide. My teacher...Ms. DeMunck was the only thing that saved me." That student, and other winners of the contest for charter school students statewide, read their essays on the steps of the State Capitol on May 5. The contest was sponsored by the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs' Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota. [More-University of Minnesota News] (May 5)
Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), may have a new career in documentary film. The UFT opened its own charter school, the UFT Elementary School, in September and hired a film crew to trace the successes and challenges of the endeavor. Barbara Malmet, a professor at New York University and friend of Ms. Weingarten, produced the film. On April 28, the 35-minute documentary was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. After the screening, the UFT hosted a red carpet fundraiser at Stuyvesant High School where 20 kindergartners and first graders sat in directors' chairs, donned Hollywood-style sunglasses, and signed autographs. [More-The New York Sun] (Apr. 24) (subscription required)
The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved charter applications for 22 schools in New Orleans. The approvals followed the recommendations of a committee assembled by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to review the applications. The committee recommended "unconditional approval" of charters at six schools and "conditional approval" of another 16 charters. Charters with conditional approval must address the weaknesses in their applications and report to BESE. In addition to opening the door to new charter schools, State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard announced that Robin Jarvis will serve as acting superintendent of the New Orleans' recovery school district, which took control of 107 low-performing schools in the 117-school system after Hurricane Katrina. [More-The New Orleans Times-Picayune] (Apr. 21) (subscription required)
Closing the Achievement Gap
Nationwide, about 72 percent of girls in the high school class of 2003 earned diplomas, compared to 65 percent of boys. This "gender gap" is even more prevalent among minorities, according to a recent PDF (1.97MB). Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates that, in 2003, 59 percent of African American girls, but only 48 percent of African American boys earned diplomas. Among Hispanics, the graduation rate was 58 percent for girls, but only 49 percent for boys. [More-The New York Times] (Apr. 19) (subscription required)
In Charlotte (NC) parent involvement means much more than becoming a teacher's "classroom helper." Parents are analyzing students' test scores, examining demographic trends, building electronic networks, and helping to shape curricula. These parents are trained to connect with schools through a group called Charlotte Advocates for Education. Parents who have been trained so far are involved in a variety of school initiatives - from helping Spanish-speaking students learn English to incorporating writing across the curriculum. Charlotte Advocates for Education is modeled after the Kentucky-based Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, which offers reports on turning around high-poverty schools, as well as other resources. [More-The Charlotte Observer] (Apr. 18)
Raising Student Achievement/School Reform
Newsweek recently released its annual "Best High Schools" list that recognizes public schools that "do the best job of preparing average students for college." Schools are ranked according to a ratio, devised by Washington Post writer Jay Mathews, that is the number of Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate exams taken by all students at a school in 2005 divided by the number of graduating seniors. In an accompanying article, the magazine attempts to answer the question, "What is high school really for?" Creating good citizens, celebrating the liberal arts, preparing students for the world of work, educating boys and girls separately, reaching out to all students, and emphasizing science and technology were some of the answers the magazine highlighted. [More-Newsweek] (May 8)
The number of home-schooled students nationwide who are taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams tripled between 2000 and 2005, from 410 students taking exams to 1,282 students. The growth in the number of test-takers may be attributed to home-schooled students wanting to validate the rigor of the academic material they studied. A Pennsylvania-based business, PA Homeschoolers, started by parents of a home-schooled student, provides AP test preparation classes for home-schooled students. PA Homeschoolers now serves 227 students who are taking AP exams in subjects from music theory to computer science. [More-Education Week] (April 26) (subscription required)
For high school freshman Lincoln Shryack, an extra credit essay turned into a ticket to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Lincoln was reading Elie Wiesel's memoir Night for his honors U.S. history class when his teacher, Darla Grady, informed him of Oprah Winfrey's first National High School Essay Contest. The assignment was to explain why Wiesel's 1958 book, which recounts his experiences as a teenager during the Holocaust, is relevant in today's society. Lincoln is one of 50 winners nationwide who will be on the Oprah Winfrey Show with Elie Wiesel, who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. The show will air in May. Darla Grady is one teacher in Springfield (MO) who benefits from a Teaching American History grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. [More-News-Leader] (Mar. 23)
Teacher Quality and Development
Maryland has a reason to be proud, with Kimberly Oliver, a kindergarten teacher at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, named the 2006 National Teacher of the Year. Ms. Oliver is the first educator from Maryland to receive the award. The National Teacher of the Year program is the oldest national honors program that recognizes excellence in teaching. The program, presented by the ING Foundation, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and is sponsored by Scholastic, Inc. [More-The Washington Post] (Apr. 25) (subscription required)
China's education minister has announced a plan to help hundreds of teachers in the United States learn or expand their knowledge of Chinese, calling the language "an important tool for the rest of the world." The initiative will bring more than 150 teachers from China to U.S. high schools. Nearly 600 U.S. teachers will be immersed in Chinese language and culture through summer institutes. The initiative also will provide financial aid to nearly 300 U.S. teachers seeking state certification in Chinese. The Chinese government will provide $4 million this year for the initiative, but total costs of the five-year program have not been finalized. [More-CNN] (Apr. 21)
New York City will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to lure new science, mathematics, and special education teachers to work in some of the city's most challenging middle and high schools. The housing incentive program was negotiated with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration and the city's teachers' union to address teacher shortages in these subject areas. Teachers must have at least two years of classroom experience to be eligible. The program will pay as much as $5,000 up front along with a $400 monthly housing stipend for two years. Teachers must commit to teach in the city for three years. [More-The New York Times] (Apr. 19) (subscription required)
Field trips aren't just for students in East Brunswick (NJ). Eleven teachers in the district are traveling to Gettysburg and other national historical sites through their participation in "The Overcoming Obstacles to Liberty" (TOOL) program, funded through a Federal grant from the Teaching American History program in the Office of Innovation and Improvement. These teachers, in addition to 43 other Central Jersey educators, are immersing themselves in American history by taking part in a series of colloquia with university experts, attending conferences, and reading books by authors such as David McCullough and Richard Brookhiser. [More-Home News Tribune] (Apr. 15)
Last Modified: 07/09/2009