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Education Week Roundup, Nov. 14

The legislative work to reauthorize NCLB has stalled in recent weeks. But the issues that the law has raised won't be going away, judging from the current issue of Education Week. In this week's paper, you'll find stories on improving low-performing schools and addressing the educational needs of children in poverty, as well as an essay on testing and accountability.

On the front page, Catherine Gerwertz writes up a new report calling for the creation of "turnaround specialists" to lead local efforts to improve districts' worst-performing schools ('Turnaround' Work Needs Rethinking, New Report Says). The report's authors acknowledge that such specialists don't exist, but they are working with a corporate consulting firm to develop some in New York City, Chicago, and other big cities.

Also on the front page, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo reports on the success of Boston's work to improve 10 schools (Students in Boston's 'Pilot' Schools Outpacing Others). The schools, which have small class sizes and extra time for teacher planning, are showing promise. A new evaluation says that compared with other schools, the pilots have higher promotion rates and graduation rates, as well as fewer discipline problems.

Inside the paper, Debra Viadero explains that a large research project has found "some improvements in quality," said Adam Gamoran, the leader of the project (No Easy Answers About NCLB's Effect on 'Poverty Gap'). But, he adds: "You're going to need a big improvement in implementation if you're going to get anywhere near the kind of improvements that are demanded by NCLB."

In the Washington section, I recap the opposition to the NCLB discussion draft mounted by the National Education Association and its California affiliate (NEA Leads Opposition to Law's Renewal). Many of the details I've covered in the blog (see here, here, and here). Check out these fresh quotes:

"What we do not need is another bad No Child Left Behind bill," said Reg Weaver, NEA's president. "We learned from the last time [when NCLB was created] from not getting involved," said David A. Sanchez, the president of the California Teachers Association.

Also note that the CTA spent $12.6 million last year on statewide elections.

In a short story, I highlight a proposal from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to allow 12 states wide flexibility in designing accountability systems in exchange for increasing the rigor of their standards (Alexander Bill Offers States More Latitude). Many folks in Washington are saying this is a proposal to watch carefully.

Alyson Klein writes about the showdown over education spending (Jousting Continues Over Budget Increase for Education). Since the story went to press, Congress sent the education appropriations bill to President Bush, who promptly vetoed it. More to come on this.

Finally, W. James Popham explains why today's assessments are poor measures of instructional quality (Accountability Tests' Instructional Insensitivity: The Time Bomb Ticketh). "They tend to measure the socioeconomic composition of a school's student body, rather than the effectiveness with which those students have been taught," he writes. It would take several years for testing experts to figure out how to remove bias from tests, he concludes.

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