2002 Archive‎ > ‎

Vol. 3, No. 35 - 22 November 2002



ARTICLES & ANNOUNCEMENTS (CALIFORNIA FOCUS)

(1) "Title I & II Funding and Professional Development" by Peter Birdsall

Source: California League of Middle Schools

URL:  http://www.clms.net/

Substantial confusion and concern has been expressed about a provision in the new federal law, which appears to prohibit the use of Title I and II funding for attendance at conferences and workshops.  In fact, the federal law does not prohibit such attendance, but it does require that, in order to be eligible for federal funding, it must be connected with the broader professional development strategies and activities of the school district.

According to California Department of Education [CDE} staff, there certainly are circumstances where the use of these funds for attendance at workshops and conferences would be appropriate.  Key elements of approval for participation in such conferences would be based on a professional development needs assessment and indication that there was a clear plan for meaningful follow-up, such that the information obtained would be integrated into the on-going professional development, mentoring and support for that school or teacher.

In this context, activities clearly not allowable would be attendance at conferences or workshops which are disconnected from the local needs assessment and the overall professional development program, or where the follow-up was no more substantive than a 10 or 15 minute presentation by the participating teacher on what he or she learned at the conference. 

Allowable examples would include attendance at a conference to review scientifically-based research and determine which programs and/or approaches would be most appropriate for use in a specific school or classroom.  Another example would be a district focusing on implementation of scientifically-based mathematics instruction in grades 6-9 and sending staff to a conference where they would have access to specific research and models for such instruction. 

The CDE has indicated that they intend to allow latitude to local education agencies on the use of these funds provided that expenditures are based on a local needs analysis and a comprehensive professional development program that includes follow-up and support.  Ultimately, the primary accountability measure in both state and federal law is student performance...

[Some possible sources of funds for conference attendance include the following:] AB 1115; AB 1113 (Safe Schools); Title I (Staff Development, Migrant Ed); Title II; Title III (LEP, Bilingual); Title IV (21st Century Schools, Safe and Drug Free Schools); Title V (GATE, Innovative Strategies); Mentor; SIP; School-to-Career; Perkins; ROP; California Partnership Academy; AG Incentive Grants; SSP Grants; EIA; IIUSP; EIEP; TUPE; & PAR.

(2) School Finance 2002-03: Federal Actions Take Center Stage

Source: EdSource Online -November 2002

URL: http://www.edsource.org/pub_edfct_SchFin02.cfm

Faced with a fiscal crisis of historic proportions--but constrained by state law from cutting public education--California's leaders faced no simple choices as they crafted the state budget for 2002-03. They ultimately solved their immediate dilemma, but not their long-term financial problem, by making some modest changes in state programs and by borrowing from the state's future.

Ironically, while state leaders were forced to cut back on some of the programs they had created as part of California's education reform efforts, they were also compelled to create new initiatives, programs, and policies in order to capture an infusion of funds from the federal government and its No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

[A report available for free download in PDF at http://www.edsource.org/pdf/SchoolFinEdF_02-03_Final.pdf] details how much funding K--12 education will receive overall for 2002--03, how those funds are to be allocated by the state, and what additional policy actions state leaders took during the legislative session. It also describes California lawmakers' progress so far in addressing NCLB and how some of its requirements fit with existing state policies.


ARTICLES & ANNOUNCEMENTS (NATIONAL FOCUS)

(1) "Action Guide for Community & Parent Leaders"

Source: PEN Weekly NewsBlast - 22 November 2002

URL: http://www.publiceducation.org/pubs/pubpreorder/orderform.asp

Public Education Network [PEN] has developed an indispensable guide for community leaders, parents and educators on how to use the No Child Left Behind' law to advocate for improved public education. The guide cuts through education jargon and explains the law's new requirements for states, districts, and schools in clear terms. It prioritizes 10 major areas in the law where the public should concentrate its action. The guide is organized as an easy-to-use professional development tool for administrators and teachers committed to improving student achievement. The guide is now available for free download [URL above]. Single hard copies are free.

(2) "Bush to Push for Math and Science Upgrade" 'by David J. Hoff

Source:  Education Week - 20 November 2002

URL:  http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=12math.h22

The Bush administration is preparing a campaign to highlight math and science education and improve the way schools teach the subjects, entering the fray on an issue that has split advocates of a basic-skills focus and educators of a more progressive bent.

Officials at the White House and the Department of Education are planning a one-day kickoff summit early next year, during which President Bush would call attention to the need to raise student performance in mathematics and science. And the president, according to an administration official, would use the gathering to launch a search for research-based ways of teaching the subjects and improve teachers' knowledge of them.

The project marks the logical next step, the official said, after the administration established its $5 billion Reading First program. But the math and science project isn't as well defined at the start because the research on effective math and science practice isn't as conclusive, according to the official, who asked not to be identified.

"The challenge is: We don't have that kind of definitive knowledge...as we do in reading," said the official.

But as with reading, where there's a long-running philosophical debate over phonics-based and literature-centered instruction, the effort is likely to encounter a divide between proponents of particular approaches to teaching the subjects, particularly math.

In mathematics, some want to emphasize basic skills, such as memorizing multiplication tables and mastering basic computational skills, while others advocate instruction that builds students' understanding of mathematical concepts before working on basic skills. The latter approach has been advocated by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which set off the current debate in 1989 when it published its standards for K-12 math education.

While the initiative has yet to be publicly announced, the Education Department has already made a $400,000 grant to three leaders of the basic-skills movement for efforts to raise teachers' content knowledge-one of the major goals of the administration's program. The recipients of the grant were leaders in the back-to-basics push in California, and those awards have led others in the field to maintain that the new initiative will have a distinct bias.

"It's clear that by choosing these three people, they're taking sides," Bill Jacob, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said of department officials. "It's clear...they're going to accept the view of these three people."

Educators and policymakers have been debating what they see as poor U.S. mathematics and science achievement at least since 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I-the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth.

The focus of debate in the 1960s was how to prepare the nation's brightest students for careers in mathematics and science. In the past 20 years, the agenda has switched to raising overall achievement to be on par with countries that are the United States' economic competitors.

On international tests given since the mid-1990s, U.S. middle school and high school students have scored at or below the international average in both subjects.

President Bush is likely to cite such statistics when he inaugurates the federal initiative early next year. Organizers had been trying to schedule the event for December, but they have postponed it because Mr. Bush could not find room on his schedule.

Mr. Bush and others at the event are also going to stress that a solid grounding in mathematics and science is vital for students' career success, the administration official familiar with the initiative said.

The initiative will eventually include a variety of federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, according to that official and another official at one of the agencies.

The NSF is preparing to play a "supporting role" in the effort, but its duties are still not defined, said William Noxon, a spokesman for the independent agency.

In addition to seeking research on best practices in math and science, the initiative will attempt to increase teachers' knowledge of the subjects they teach.

The Education Department has made a one-year, $400,000 grant to Doug Carnine, the director of the National Center to Improve the Tools of Education, based at the University of Oregon in Eugene; R. James Milgram, a Stanford University mathematics professor; and Tom Loveless, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

The grant will seek to forge a consensus among university presidents, deans, and mathematicians about the amount and types of math courses that prospective teachers need to take. Many elementary teachers take just one year of college-level math, and they need twice that much to give them the foundational skills they need to teach the subject to young children, Mr. Milgram said.

In addition, the project will develop professional-development materials to be used in upgrading the skills of current middle school math teachers.

The one-year timeline for what promises to be a difficult task suggests that the grant's recipients know the types of recommendations they will ultimately make, said Mr. Jacob of UC-Santa Barbara.

"What they're going to do is deliver what they've already prepared," he asserted.

The split between Mr. Jacob and the group working on the Education Department project reflects the contentiousness that has marked mathematics education over the past decade or so.

Mr. Jacob supports the standards published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which outline what K-12 students should learn at every step of the way. The standards have helped shape textbooks, curriculum, and state standards since they first came out in 1989. The NCTM revised the standards to clarify that basic skills are an integral part of mathematics instructions, but the changes haven't appeased the standards' harshest critics.

But they have also been the subject of criticism from those who say they lack the rigor and emphasis on basic skills that K-12 students need. Mr. Milgram helped rewrite the California math [framework]...that [(in its1992 version)] had reflected the NCTM's influence.

One of the goals of the federal initiative, the administration official said, is to find a way for the opposing sides to agree on basic principles of mathematics education.

"We have to move people from the battle lines," the official said. "We all want the same thing: for children to get a strong foundation in mathematics."

On the Web

_________________________

* Read "Principles and Standards for School Mathematics" ('http://standards.nctm.org/document/index.htm) from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Accompanying the report are a set of electronic examples designed to highlight the importance of beginning math education with concepts rather than basic skills (http://standards.nctm.org/document/eexamples/index.htm).

* Read "Reform Mathematics vs. The Basics: Understanding the Conflict and Dealing with It" (http://mathematicallysane.com/analysis/reformvsbasics.asp), a 1999 presentation posted by Mathematically Sane.

* The Association Research Group (http://www.ams.org/government/nctm2000.html) of the American Mathematics Society advised the NCTM in the 2000 revision of its policy recommendations. Its report on the revision process examines the strengths and weaknesses of the new standards and gives suggestions on how the 'basic skills' and 'concepts' positions can be brought together, though the group generally favors basic skills education (http://www.ams.org/notices/199802/howe.pdf).

* The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, a consortium of professional societies committed to the improvement of mathematics education and understanding, has published The Mathematical Education of Teachers'. The book recommends extensive preparatory coursework for mathematics teachers at all levels of K-12 teaching (http://www.cbmsweb.org/MET_Document/index.htm)

(3) "Bringing Evidence-Driven Progress To Education: A Recommended Strategy for the U.S. Department of Education"

Source: The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy

URL:  http://www.excelgov.org/displayContent.asp?Keyword=prppcEvidence

On November 18, the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy held a major policy forum with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. A webcast and transcript of the forum will be available [on the above web site] shortly.  For further information, please contact Jon Baron (202-530-3279).

[FINAL REPORT] EXECUTIVE SUMMARY [available in PDF at http://www.excelgov.org/usermedia/images/uploads/PDFs/CoalitionExSum.pdf]

The recent enactment of No Child Left Behind, and its central principle that federal funds should support educational activities backed by "scientifically-based research," offers an opportunity to bring rapid, evidence-driven progress--for the first time--to U.S. elementary and secondary education. Education is a field in which a vast number of interventions, such as ability grouping and grade retention, have gone in or out of fashion over time with little regard to rigorous evidence. As a result, over the past 30 years the United States has made almost no progress in raising the achievement of elementary and secondary school students, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, despite a 90 percent increase in real public spending per student. Our extraordinary inability to raise educational achievement stands in stark contrast to our remarkable progress in improving human health over the same time period--progress which, as discussed in this report, is largely the result of evidence-based government policies.

To address the opportunity offered by No Child Left Behind, the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy undertook a collaborative initiative with the Education Department to explore how the Department can most effectively use its new authority to advance evidence-based education policy. This document--our Coalition's final report on the initiative--sets out specific recommendations for consideration by the Department leadership, as well as the broader policy community including Congress. While this report is the product of extensive discussion with Department officials and staff, its final conclusions and recommendations are those of the Coalition--a nonprofit organization whose bipartisan Board is comprised of leading policymakers and scholars from a broad range of policy areas.

Proposed Strategy: The Department should launch a major, Department-wide effort to:

(i) Build the knowledge base of educational interventions proven effective through randomized controlled trials--not just in small demonstration projects but in large-scale replications; and

(ii) Provide strong incentives for the widespread use 'of such proven interventions by recipients of federal education funds.

The specific recommendations comprising this strategy are discussed on the next page [of the Executive Summary]...

(4) "Societies Raise Concerns about Document Removal from U.S. Department of Education Web Site" (Press Release)

Source:  American Educational Research Association - 21 November 2002

URL: http://www.aera.net/communications/news/021121.htm

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Library Association (ALA), in concert with 12 other national organizations, have joined in an effort to retain documents on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.

In a letter to Education Secretary Rod Paige, the 14 professional organizations have requested that all U.S. Department of Education materials retain the level of accessibility now available.

The groups have expressed concerns about the fate of information scheduled to be removed from the publicly accessible Web site. "Because the Internet has become, by far, the method of choice for disseminating information and research data widely and efficiently, we are concerned about efforts that would diminish access and use of these records," they wrote.

In addition, they are equally concerned about actions that would remove from access research, data, and other digests of information that otherwise have been publicly available, regardless of administration. They advocate that educational stakeholders be included in the web revamping process.

The AERA/ALA-initiated effort was triggered this fall after the library, educational research and related social science communities learned of an internal memo, "Criteria and Process for Removing Old Content from www.ed.gov," that the Education Department issued to staff members on May 31, 2002. According to the internal government memo, the federal initiative strives to remove from public access information that either is outdated or "does not reflect the priorities, philosophies, or goals of the present administration."

Dr. Felice J. Levine, AERA Executive Director, emphasizes the importance of access to research reports and data. "Sound policy depends on solid science," she notes. "We need to ensure that research materials remain accessible so that analysts can interrogate them further and compare new results with prior data. We need to resist policies or procedures that remove such information or make it difficult to find."

"The American Library Association supports Education Secretary Paige's effort to improve the functional usability of the Department's Web site--by making it more user friendly to the general public," says ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff. "However, we strongly believe that education information should be continuously accessible to educators, researchers, families, and children--and must remain permanently available to the public," she concludes.

In their letter, the professional societies state, "We, as well as the general public, need Internet access to the research, data, reports, and other digests and information that may be removed from the Department's Web site."

To read the complete text of the associations' letter online, go to http://www.aera.net/communications/news/021025.htm



COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.


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