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Education Week Roundup, Dec. 5

NCLB doesn't dominate the front page of Education Week, as it has done in recent months. But its presence is still felt throughout the current issue of the newspaper.

On Page 1, Mary Ann Zehr reports that all states and the District of Columbia are complying with NCLB's requirement to assess English-language learners for reading proficiency in their new language (States Clear Initial Hurdle on ELL Tests). "But we don't know how they actually translate into performance of English-language learners," said Jamal Abedi, the professor who conducted the study.

In the Washington section, I explain why Title I's funding formula hasn't been the subject of debate this year (Usually Contentious Title I Formula Is No NCLB Barrier). Despite changes in 2001 that have reduced some districts' share of the program's $12.8 billion, House members don't appear to ready to change the formula. Even though the changes benefit districts with large percentages or numbers of disadvantaged children, the beneficiaries aren't always the neediest districts, some say.

The public wanted Republican presidential candidates to answer questions about NCLB in last week's debate, Alyson Klein and Michele McNeil write in the Federal File. Instead, editors at CNN chose to focus on giving undocumented college students access to student aid in the only education question asked at the Nov. 28 debate (YouTube Debate for GOP Avoids Most Ed. Queries).

U.S. students' showing on international tests has stagnated, according to stories by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo and Sean Cavanagh (America Idles on International Reading Test and Against Other Nations, U.S. Below Par in Science). For an update, see yesterday's online story on results from the Program for International Student Assessment (U.S. Students Fall Short in Math and Science). Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and other NCLB advocates point to upward trends in national assessments as evidence of NCLB's effectiveness. Will critics use these results against the law?

On the back page, PBS journalist John Merrow offers the latest argument for national standards (Learning Without Loopholes). While NCLB is on hold in Congress, states should work toward setting common standards, Merrow says. If a bunch of states adopt voluntary standards, he predicts, "the rest will follow."

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