COMET • Vol. 3, No. 20- 25 May 2002


(1) “Teachers’ Bid for More Bargaining Power Fails” by Duke Helfand

Source:  Los Angeles Times – 23 May 2002


The state teachers union on Wednesday lost a bid to vastly expand its collective bargaining powers but is still trying to gain a say on such issues as textbook selection and curriculum.

A bill pushed by the California Teachers Assn. would have required school districts and local teachers unions to negotiate those kinds of decisions now usually made by administrators. After opposition from Gov. Gray Davis and school board groups, the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an amended version that stripped out references to collective bargaining and would set up another system allowing teachers unions to help make those decisions.

Under the amended bill by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), local school boards and teachers unions would form academic partnerships to choose textbooks and develop curriculum and “any program designed to enhance pupil academic performance”…Both sides would have to sign off on any agreements. Currently, school boards set policies and are required only to consult teachers unions…

A Davis spokeswoman would not comment, saying the governor had not yet seen the amended bill. But she said Davis would resist any legislation that would bog down textbooks or curriculum in the collective bargaining process…

Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn., was among the education leaders who met with the union to draft a compromise on the bill. His association remains unhappy with the amendments.

The recent meetings were led by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, (D-Sacramento) and included Goldberg, a former teacher and member of the Los Angeles school board…Steinberg, who heads the Appropriations Committee, said he believes that the two sides have begun to bridge their differences.

“I hope this can move forward with some of the rhetoric toned down and the ability to talk about some of these remaining issues,” Steinberg said. “There is general agreement that teachers ought to have real input. The debate has always been about the method to achieve that.”


Related article:

“Teachers’ Proposal Amended” by Jim Sanders (The Sacramento Bee – 23 May 2002):

…Here’s a basic outline of what the bill now proposes:

* “Academic partnerships” would be created upon the request of the teachers union or school board to consider and vote on major academic matters.

* The partnership would consist of appointees by the union and district management, with each side given an equal vote.

* Parents could attend meetings of the partnership and participate in its work groups but would not cast votes.

* Incentives, such as freedom from state mandates, would be offered to encourage the partnerships to reach agreement.

* Issues subject to collective bargaining, such as pay or benefits, could not be addressed by the partnership.

* Any agreements reached by the partnership would have to be ratified by both sides.

* If agreement could not be reached, the school board would make the final decision after considering written reports from each side, hearing public testimony and providing an explanation of its reasons and potential fiscal consequences.

* Complaints alleging failure to participate in good faith could be filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, which would investigate, make findings and potentially order the two sides to continue discussions…

Goldberg said the amendments resolve three key criticisms of the original bill by ensuring that partnership meetings are public, parents are involved and collective bargaining is not expanded. Disputes could not spark teacher strikes…

(2) Meeting Minutes–California State Board of Education

Contact: Richard Brandsma, Executive Director of the California State Board of Education – (916) 657-5478


Minutes from past meetings (March 1998-March 2002) of the State Board of Education (SBE) are available at the website above. The agenda for the 29-30 May 2002 Board meeting is available at

Among the topics on the agenda for the May SBE meeting are the following: the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE); the Golden State Examination; establishment of an advisory body to the State Board of Education to provide guidance and advice on the State Board’s responsibilities with respect to the state assessment system; implementation of the Mathematics and Reading Professional Development Program (AB 466); the purchase of non-adopted K-8 instructional materials with restricted state funds; approval of providers of professional development in mathematics (AB 1331); the 2002 Base Academic Performance Index (API); and integrating the CAHSEE Results in the Academic Performance Index (API).



(1) Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


.Children’s experiences with school are almost as varied as the children themselves. Children’s early education sets the tone for their later learning. Therefore, it is important to capture information on children’s initial interactions with school; that is, their kindergarten and first grade years.

This report is the third in a series based on findings about young children’s early experiences with school from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K)… Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the ECLS-K selected a nationally representative sample of kindergartners in the fall of 1998 and is following these children through the spring of fifth grade. The study collects information directly from the children, their families, teachers, and schools. The full ECLS-K base-year sample is comprised of approximately 22,000 children who attended about 1,000 kindergarten programs during the 1998-99 school year.

The first report, America’s Kindergartners…, provided a national picture of the knowledge and skills of beginning kindergartners. It revealed that while first-time kindergartners are similar in many ways, differences exist in their knowledge and skills in relation to their age at school entry, race/ethnicity, health status, home educational experiences, and child care histories. The differences found at school entry were consistent with the differences in other national studies of older children (e.g., National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Education Longitudinal Study of 1998).

The Kindergarten Year…, the second report, showed that children considered at-risk for school failure acquired many of the basic skills in reading and mathematics during their first year of school that they did not have when they began the kindergarten year. Consequently, by the spring of kindergarten, the majority of these children knew their letters, numbers, and shapes; about half made the connection between letter and sound at the beginning of words; and almost three-quarters understood the mathematical concept of relative size (e.g., out of two objects, identify which object is longer). However, these same children fell behind their more advantaged classmates. Specifically, across the kindergarten year, the gap between disadvantaged children and other children widened in more advanced reading (e.g., recognizing words by sight) and mathematics skills (e.g., adding and subtracting).

This report, the third in the series, opens with a picture of these same children as first-graders… This report focuses more on the status of children’s reading and mathematics achievement in the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade…

Children’s reading and mathematics knowledge and skills that differ by child, family, and school characteristics at the beginning of kindergarten persist into the spring of kindergarten and the spring of first grade. The findings in this report also suggest the beginnings of differences in children’s reading and mathematics performance by their sex. By the spring of first grade, females are more likely to be reading, whereas males are more likely to be proficient at advanced mathematics (i.e., multiplication and division). The longitudinal nature of the ECLS-K will enable researchers to track these differences in terms of children’s third and fifth grade reading and mathematics performance…

(2) “Study: Arts Education has Academic Effect” by Tamara Henry

Source: USA TODAY – 20 May 2002


Schoolchildren exposed to drama, music and dance may do a better job at mastering reading, writing and math than those who focus solely on academics, says a report by the Arts Education Partnership.

”Notions that the arts are frivolous add-ons to a serious curriculum couldn’t be further from the truth,” says James Catterall, education professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, who coordinated the research.

The report is based on an analysis of 62 studies of various categories of art — ranging from dance, drama, music and visual arts — by nearly 100 researchers. It’s the first to combine all the arts and make comparisons with academic achievement, performance on standardized tests, improvements in social skills and student motivation…

The report took two years to produce, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education.

Gerald Sroufe of the American Educational Research Association describes the report as ”a benchmark” and ”a starting place for future research in the arts because it represents a fairly comprehensive picture of what research-based knowledge exists.” However, he says, the report is ”necessarily a thin volume, including some rather thin studies.”

Eileen Mason of the National Endowment for the Arts says that President Bush has requested $11 million to support arts education projects.

”We are eager for more research,” Mason says. ”We want to learn more about how we can best convey to our children the knowledge and skills required to create, perform and respond to the arts. At the same time, we need to know more about how the arts help to develop other capacities of our children, such as language, reading and spatial reasoning.”

School officials often complain that arts programs tend to be the first cut in schools facing budget deficits.

G. Thomas Houlihan, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, acknowledges that many school superintendents, principals and teachers are unaware of the value of arts education. He says copies of the report will be distributed to school leaders throughout the nation.

Houlihan says he was impressed by the one study finding that ”arts motivate and reach certain students.”

The Arts Education Partnership is a coalition of more than 100 national education, arts, philanthropic and government organizations. CCSSO and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies administer the partnership under a cooperative agreement with the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Arts.

(3) Improved “Ask Dr. Math” Archives

Source:  The Math Forum Internet News – 27 May 2002


The Math Forum has reorganized over 7800 Ask Dr. Math questions and answers to make them easier to browse and search. We continue to categorize items in the archive by level and mathematics topic.

The new pages for browsing by level are:

– Elementary Level:

– Middle School Level:

– High School Level:

– College Level:

(4) “Making the Grade” by Mathew Weinstock

Source: Government Executive – 1 May 2002


…School superintendents and other education administrators in the states are not humming the infamous lines of age-old doggerel–“No more pencils, no more books”–in Cooper’s 1972 hit. They are too busy leafing through the biggest rule book they’ve seen in years, cramming for one of the most important tests of their professional lives–implementing the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. While educators are studying the 1,200-page law and accompanying draft regulations (final rules are due this summer), Education Department officials are sharpening their pencils as they gear up to monitor states’ implementation of the law…

The emphasis on standards and assessments is nothing new. Education has been moving in that direction since 1994, the last time the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized. But No Child Left Behind constitutes a fundamental shift in the relationship between the Education Department and the states… The department must provide states with guidance on meeting the requirements of the new law–something it has never been good at, according to state educators and current and former Education Department officials. In addition, despite its emphasis on compliance, the department also lacks a strong enforcement arm. State superintendents generally are skeptical of threats that their funding will be jeopardized if they fail to comply with federal mandates.

“At the state level, I didn’t really feel any pressure with regard to accountability from the federal government,” says Eugene Hickok, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of education. Now undersecretary at the federal department, Hickok is largely responsible for seeing that No Child Left Behind gets implemented. “I think there has always been a compliance mentality on the part of the federal government which said, “This is what you have to do.” It wasn’t very proactive in terms of showing states how to get there,” he says.

It won’t be easy for Education to balance its new mandate to offer a helping hand while enforcing legislative requirements. During a meeting in mid-March with state school superintendents, Hickok said the department wants to send staff to states to offer guidance and talk about the new law’s requirements. “We are eager to help you,” he said. But a few minutes later, Hickok reminded the officials that the department will also rap them with the proverbial ruler by withholding federal funds if they don’t comply. Members of Congress, he said, have made it clear that they are keeping a close eye on the department and will demand that states meet the letter of the law…

Work on overhauling the federal role in education started long before Bush took office… Lawmakers had been studying various options for reauthorizing the elementary and secondary education program since 1999, and much of the groundwork for an enhanced federal role was put in place during the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For example, that law required states getting federal funds to develop challenging academic content and performance standards. The states had to create assessment systems to measure how well students measured up to those standards. Compliance deadlines stretched over seven years. Content and performance standards were supposed to be in place by the 1997-1998 school year. Assessments systems should have been up and running by spring 2001. Missing those deadlines meant risking federal funding.

Much of that funding is delivered through Title I of the 1965 law, the largest elementary and secondary education program run by the federal government. Title I provides states with financial assistance to improve teaching and learning for disadvantaged students. It reaches about 12.5 million students in both public and private schools. In fiscal 2001, the program’s budget was $8.6 billion. With passage of No Child Left Behind, the administration is seeking $11.4 billion for Title I grants in fiscal 2003. Overall, that’s actually a drop in the bucket–about 7 percent of all education spending nationwide. But that 7 percent accounts for nearly 40 percent of most states’ costs of running programs to reach out to disadvantaged students. “We can’t run our program without that money,” says Nancy Grasmick, Maryland’s state school superintendent. “Nothing else funds it.”

Nevertheless, the prospect of losing such funding is apparently not much of a motivating factor for most states. Data from the Education Department, the General Accounting Office and other sources shows that as of March, only 17 states had fully approved standards and assessments systems, as required by the 1994 reauthorization. The department has granted waivers to 29 states and Puerto Rico, giving them more time to catch up. Alabama, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Montana and West Virginia are so far behind that they must enter into compliance agreements with the federal government or risk losing their Title I funds. In such agreements, states spell out how and when they plan to comply with the law…

Dane Linn, director of education policy studies at the National Governors Association, argues that money has always been the core issue. With the Education Department supplying only 7 percent of overall funding for elementary and secondary schools, “No one took the department seriously” when it came to enforcement, he says.

Education tried to beef up its enforcement toward the end of the Clinton administration. In late 1999, Michael Cohen, then-assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, asked states to show how they were complying with the 1994 legislation. After reviewing the documents they submitted, he sent out a series of letters telling states what they needed to do to improve performance. Cohen, now a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, a Washington think tank, says he wanted states to know exactly what the department expected. But few of the letters mentioned any threat of losing federal funding. A review of several letters by Government Executive shows that most of them advised states to apply for timeline waivers since they were likely to miss statutory deadlines. Nonetheless, Linn says, there was an underlying message that Education was starting to pay close attention to compliance.

Despite the effort, no state ever lost funding for failing to comply with federal mandates.

With that as the backdrop, members of Congress and the administration went to work last year on No Child Left Behind. They were tired of hearing excuses from state educators, says one staff member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. This time around, they were going to take a much more active role. The law they produced extends standards and assessment requirements to all schools, not just those receiving funding under Title I. It also forces states to collect data on individual students, rather than aggregating them at the school level. Part of the intent behind No Child Left Behind is to hold states accountable for poor- performing students. Along with putting in more prescriptive language on such issues as testing standards and how to assess students’ progress, Congress gave the Education Department a much bigger stick.

“The law says that we can no longer wait for states to develop high standards and a system for measuring and monitoring adequate yearly progress in meeting the standards, as required in the 1994 legislation,” Education Secretary Rod Paige wrote state school superintendents in February. The new law forbids any more deadline waivers. And, it directs the department to withhold 25 percent of Title I administrative funds from states that fail to comply with its requirements.

Rodney Watson, assistant superintendent for accountability at the Louisiana Department of Education, says most school chiefs are taking the administration at its word. “They’ve sent a very strong message,” he says. Still, it’s important for the department to do more than just crack the whip. If 1994 serves as any example, states will be put to the test trying to meet rigid and fast-approaching deadlines under No Child Left Behind. Both Watson and Grasmick say the department must help states find ways to comply with the law…

As it strives to establish a role as both partner and enforcer in improving schools’ performance, the Education Department also must improve its capability to provide technical assistance. The challenges there run deeper than culture change. By their own admission, Education officials are unable to provide effective support in the areas of research and development, policy analysis and implementation of best practices. That’s troubling, says Grover Whitehurst, assistant Education secretary for research and improvement, especially since the phrase “scientifically based research” appears, by his count, 110 times in the new legislation.

Although the law calls for a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by 2005, Whitehurst says there is a dearth of knowledge about what that means–or how to train teachers so they meet this requirement. The same can be said of academic standards. There is little data on the best ways to teach math, for example.

“The quality of the data has always been suspect,” says Hickok, adding that the problem reaches beyond the department and into the entire education field. “Rather than having good quality research and development and evidenced-based data, people tend to do their own thing. The first step is for us to be bold enough and say, “This has to stop.” We have to get good data in place that over time will provide us with best practices.”

Hoping to close the knowledge gap, Congress is debating plans to reorganize Whitehurst’s office. Legislation introduced by Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., would move the Office of Educational Research and Improvement out of the department and into a semi-autonomous Academy of Education Science, divided into three centers: education research, evaluation, and data collection and analysis. The administration has not taken a position on the bill, but Whitehurst says it supports efforts to improve research.

Whether Whitehurst’s office is or isn’t reorganized, Education has to improve the way it sets research priorities and disseminates guidelines, he says. To that end, Hickok has set up a “war room” at the department. There, Education will track state compliance with the law and provide a clearinghouse of information for educators, parents and other interested parties.

“There has to be a broader understanding of these issues,” Hickok says. “The bigger challenge is after we push the conversation with staff here and at the states, how do we raise the public’s understanding of how we are trying to change things? What we need is a national conversation about where we want to go.”