Volume 4, Issue 1

January 14, 2005

Hot Topics

High-stakes testing has the spotlight as investigations into possible organized cheating on tests go forward at Texas schools and research casts fresh doubt on whether such testing can, by itself, reliably measure school quality and school improvement. The inquiry into suspicious test results at the Houston Independent School District that served as a model for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is being watched by school districts nationwide that are bound by similar testing as part of NCLB. Test results are also being investigated in Dallas, where most 5th graders at one historically under-performing school received perfect scores on the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.



Adding to concerns over gaming the testing system are findings from a new study concluding that such tests alone are not a reliable measure of school quality. Conducted by the University of Michigan’s Stephen W. Raudenbush for the Educational Testing Service, the study concludes that "snapshots of average proficiency" represented by high-stakes tests of a classroom from one year to the next likely reflect changes in the student population going through that classroom as much any change in instructional effectiveness.
Floridians have no shortage of news about their new universal prekindergarten program. The governor is defending the program's quality in the press, advocates are criticizing it for being short on quality, and those whose jobs it is to provide the services to as many as 150,000 4-year-olds come August are wondering how it can all be done in 8 months. Legislators won't pass a budget until their spring session, so providers don't know with certainty what the state wants them to do and how much they'll get paid to do it. Insiders say the legislators will allocate between $300 and $400 million.



More than two years after Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to provide preschool to all Florida 4-year-olds, Governor Jeb Bush signed the legislation to implement the new early education program earlier this month. While some are happy the legislation was finally passed, others point out that the program achieves only 2 of 10 quality benchmarks in NIEER's The State of Preschool: 2004 State Preschool Yearbook. Florida newspapers have quoted NIEER Director Steve Barnett who suggests that one way to improve the Florida program would be to offer financial incentives to pre-K programs, both public and private, that exceed the standards set by law in areas such as teacher training.
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has asked for $39.1 million in new money for early childhood programs, part of which would expand access to prekindergarten. The request came in Vilsack's Condition of the State speech, which did not elaborate on specifics. Funding for Shared Visions, Iowa's pre-K program targeted for disadvantaged families was somewhat less than $7 million for 2003-04. The program achieves 5 or NIEER's 10 quality benchmarks and serves 5 percent of 4-year-olds in the state.
Citing the massacre of elementary school children in Beslan, Russia last year, New Jersey Governor Richard Codey has called for tightening security at each of the state's 2,300 schools. According to his plan, each school will be evaluated by school security experts by September and training made available. The governor charged Rutgers University with holding a "school security summit" this year. Concern for school security grew last fall when data about two New Jersey public schools was found on a laptop recovered in Iraq — although it was subsequently judged not to be terrorist-related.

Calendar

January 19, 2005 - January 22, 2005
San Antonio, TX – Educators, policy makers, and community members will gather for the National Association for Bilingual Education’s annual conference.
January 23, 2005 - January 27, 2005
Greensboro, NC – Smart Start staff, child care providers, teachers, policy makers, and others from across the country will attend the annual Smart Start conference.
January 31, 2005 - February 4, 2005
Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Institute provides an opportunity for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs to come together to explore specific issues related to providing effective services to Hispanic children and families.
February 7, 2005 - February 9, 2005
Washington, DC – The 2005 Conference is intended for those involved in providing services to young children with special needs and their families.

Early Education News Roundup

January 14, 2005
Knoxville News Sentinel
Gov. Phil Bredesen said he plans to funnel some lottery money into his preschool education initiative when he unveils his budget to lawmakers in the coming weeks.
January 11, 2005
The Ledger, Lakeland, FL
Everyone needs to know the nonhyped, nonpolitical facts about the recently enacted universal prekindergarten legislation: It isn't what Florida voters mandated.
January 11, 2005
The Albuquerque Tribune
Also wrapped into that budget is the new preschool program at $9 million for the first year.
January 10, 2005
The Telegraph, Macon, GA
Georgia has taken all its child-care programs and housed them under a new department, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
January 9, 2005
The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA
A publicly funded preschool program would level the playing field and give families without the financial wherewithal the ability to start their child’s education off on the right foot.
January 7, 2005
Tallahassee Democrat
An unexplored opportunity exists to polish the quality of Florida's new pre-kindergarten program, suggests a leader in pre-K research.
January 6, 2005
Bangor Daily News
When the advocates of the Maine Children's Alliance come neither to appeal to the lawmakers' finer feelings nor to ask for money but instead to show them a way to save it with some hard-nosed accounting, jubilation should fill the Capitol.
January 4, 2005
Santa Maria Times, Santa Maria, CA
Which would you rather have, smart kids or roads without potholes?
January 3, 2005
The Advocate, Stamford, CT
At the heart of the wish list is funding for children in the state's neediest school districts to attend preschool.
January 3, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
An estimated 130,000 new students could enroll when the program begins in August, mostly at existing preschools and private day-care centers.
January 2, 2005
The Des Moines Register
When Gov. Tom Vilsack addresses lawmakers this month, expanding and improving preschool education across Iowa will be at the top of his priority list.

Resources

Education Week's ninth annual report card on public education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia includes information on school financing, academic performance expectations, lawsuits, and funding. Finance snapshots of each state are provided.