Jackson Named to Obama Policy Team
The Schott Foundation for Public Education, in Cambridge, Mass., has announced that its president, John H. Jackson, has been named to a transition group that will advise the incoming Obama administration on education-policy priorities.
It noted that the head of one of its grantees — Geri D. Palast, executive director for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, in New York—has also been named to the Education Policy Working Group.
The Schott Foundation supports work aimed at improving public schools. Mr. Jackson previously served as a civil-rights adviser in the U.S. Education Department during the Clinton Administration.
The Obama transition project has posted the names of members of the working groups who are advising the next administration in various policy areas. However, most of them do not include biographical information.
Inequities in graduation rates are the focus of Schott Study
To some extent, Lincoln County reflects the findings of a recent study, conducted by The Schott Foundation for Public Education, dealing with the inequities in graduation rates as they pertain to black males.
For over five years, the foundation traced the performance of black males in public education systems across the nation. The report documents that "states and most districts with large black enrollments educate their white, non-Hispanic children but do not similarly educate the majority of their black male students."
.. More than half of the black males in the study did not receive diplomas in 2006. The standard for the graduation rate of these students for states with more than 10,000 black male students was set by New Jersey in 2006 at 74 percent.
.. The one million black male students enrolled in New York, Florida, and Georgia public schools are half as likely to graduate with their class as white, non-Hispanic students.
.. Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin graduated fewer black males with their peer group than the national average, which was 47 percent for 2006. Georgia's graduation rate for these students was 40 percent that year.
The graduation rates at LCHS for black males over the past three years are as follows: 2006, 58 percent; 2007, 79 percent; and 2008, 63 percent. The figures were higher for their white counterparts.
.. In Georgia, white male eighthgraders were twice as likely to read at the basic level as their black counterparts in 2007. Also, 55 percent of black male eighth-graders performed at below the basic level in mathematics; whereas, the figure for white students was 20 percent.
The Schott report goes on to add that these trends and others cited in the study are evidence of a schoolage population that is substantively denied an opportunity to learn and of a nation at risk.
According to Dr. Michael Holzman, an independent consultant who did the research for the Schott study, "The education of black children has always been a crucial concern in the United States. There are a number of factors contributing to the inequities in graduation rates - - school, family, and community."
Among the factors that make it very difficult for black children to participate in the education process are:
.. The expulsion rates are very high for black males, explained Dr. Holzman. In 2005, more than half as many black male students in proportion to enrollment were expelled as were white male students.
.. The number of out-of-school suspensions given to black male students in 2005 was equivalent to 20 percent of Georgia's black male student population. The figure for white males was eight percent.
.. "With the way special education programs work, black males are much more likely to be labeled as mentally handicapped than is scientifically indicated," said the research consultant.
"Close to 1.5 percent of the general population have IQs of 70 and under and are therefore considered mentally retarded; whereas, from five to six percent of black male students are told they are mentally retarded," Holzman continued.
"This is sometimes used as a way to get the kids out of the classroom."
Moreover, if black male children had been admitted to Georgia's Gifted and/or Talented programs at the same rate as white male children, the programs would be serving at least 25,000 more students.
In conclusion, Dr. Holzman said, "The essential thing is black male students need to learn to read along with everybody else, so they won't be completely discouraged. School systems have to start offering rich and appropriate instruction when students are three or four years old. This would be a good way to address the inequities in graduation rates."
In her comments, Regina Reid, graduation coach at LCHS, said that many times, students are disengaged from what is going on the classroom. "Some do not participate in class and basically, lack relationships with their teachers, the school staff, and even their peers.
`"Also, some students are dealing with emotional issues at home or work which have nothing to do with school."
She further indicated that this lack of investment in learning develops over a period of time.
"Another factor that affects a child's performance in the classroom is parental involvement," said Reid. "Parents often become involved too late - - the child has failed too many classes and/or missed too many days of school and can't make up all of the work."
To decrease the dropout rate at LCHS, the graduation coach works closely with the school counselor, the teachers, and administrators to address concerns with the students and their parents. She and the School Improvement Team (SIT) monitor school data such as attendance, grades, and test scores.
"I also talk with the students individually in an effort to get to know them and build a relationship with them," said Reid. "I try to find out what concerns they have that could have an impact on their education."
In addition, LCHS offers:
.. Peer tutoring after school.
.. Tutoring by teachers both before and after school.
.. The Credit Recovery program, which is designed to give students, who have been unsuccessful in select classes, the opportunity to earn credits online.
.. Dual-enrollment classes at Augusta Tech.
For more information about any of these initiatives, contact Regina Reid at 706-359-3121.
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AQE & CFE React to Board of Regents $879 Million State School Aid Proposal
Praise Regents Leadership in Tough Times in Calling on Governor Paterson to Maintain Commitment to School Children
The New York State Board of Regents released its state school aid proposal today calling for $879 million in new school aid in 2009, a 4.1% increase. The proposal includes a $586 million increase in foundation aid, $58 million in new funding for Pre-K and $44 million in Academic Enhancement Aid towards complying with the court ordered commitment to provide every child the right to a quality education. In 2007 the legislature and the governor enacted a commitment to phase-in a $7 billion increase in school aid over four-years as a settlement to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The Regents proposal protects two centerpieces of the CFE settlement: the foundation formula that provides for fair funding distribution and the Contract for Excellence accountability system.
"By proposing $879 million in increased school aid this year, the Board of Regents is providing the type of leadership our school children need in these difficult economic times," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "While the amount proposed by the Regents is less than amount that is due to school kids this year under the CFE settlement, the Regents have drawn a line in the sand that says New York State must provide a serious commitment to our school children even in a fiscal crisis. The Regents proposal essentially covers a little more than the normal inflationary costs needed to let school districts maintain existing programs. If the Governor proposes anything less school kids will face cuts in education programs. The Regents proposal underscores the need for the Governor to advance serious revenue proposals, such as tax increases on the state’s highest income earners, as part of a balanced and responsible approach to the state budget. If the Governor fails to provide at least as much aid as the Regents have proposed it will not only turn the clock back for school kids, it passes the buck on the costs of education down to local homeowners."
"Governor Paterson should heed the call of the Regents and look at their proposal as a floor, not a ceiling on the payment due on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement this year," said Helaine Doran, Deputy Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity. “We have a court ordered settlement and it must be met -- the Regents' proposal provides about half of what is due this year. Governor Paterson must prioritize building onto the Regents proposal and not backing away from our school children as his recent letter to school boards and superintendents around the state suggested he may do."
The Regents are also proposing legislative changes to protect the increased investments the state has made in our schools these past two years by strengthening accountability under the Contracts for Excellence. The Contracts for Excellence have successfully reduced class sizes, created tutoring and after school programs and other key reforms that have focused resources on the neediest students. Without the legislative changes proposed by the Regents the new moneys invested in the past two years would not be subject to the accountability measures of the Contract for Excellence.
"Money and accountability have always gone hand-in-hand throughout the CFE struggle," said Helaine Doran. "Without the legislative changes proposed by the Regents, more than $1 billion invested in Contract for Excellence programs in the past year would no longer be subject to the scrutiny of the Contract. The $44 million in Academic Enhancement Aid will help maintain the Contract for Excellence programs by paying for the inflationary costs of these reforms."
The Regents proposal would distribute 78% of new funds to high need districts--including high need large cities, small cities, suburbs and rural districts.
"The Regents wisely prioritize the neediest students and school districts during these most difficult fiscal times -- students who have gone the longest with the least should be at the head of the class when it comes to prioritizing how New York State distributes funding in a tight budget," said Easton.
The Regents propose $58 million in new Pre-K funding. In 2007 and 2008 New York State increased Pre-K funding for the first time in seven years.
"The Regents are saying we must continue to expand Pre-K right now. Speaker Silver and the Assembly have always championed Pre-K, we hope Governor Paterson's budget will provide more four-year old access to Pre-K. It is among the most cost effective and successful educational programs," said Easton.
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Preschool for all a critical reform
For many middle-class Americans, a preschool education is considered an essential part of their children's schooling; they wouldn't dream of sending their children off to kindergarten without a foundation for an education they hope will extend to college or beyond.
In 2005, two-thirds of 4-year-olds and more than 40 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in a preschool education program, representing a substantial increase over earlier decades, according to a publication of the National Institute for Early Education Research. Studies also show that children's learning and development improves with an early education.
So who wouldn't want their child to have the benefit of a preschool education? Very few, according to a recent survey of parents in Springfield and Holyoke, where poverty rates are high and preschool enrollment is lower than the state average.
According to a survey commissioned by the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation's Cherish Every Child Initiative, there is strong interest in high-quality, affordable universal pre-kindergarten among parents in Springfield and Holyoke. But the survey also found that Springfield and Holyoke children are much less likely to benefit from a formal preschool experience than children statewide. Specifically, 53 percent of Springfield's children under the age of 7 and 58 percent of Holyoke's children are cared for exclusively by family members, in contrast to 8 percent of young children statewide.
Access to a preschool education shouldn't be only a middle-class prerogative; it should be a right, not a privilege.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick has identified affordable universal pre-kindergarten as one of his top educational priorities, and we hope the current budget difficulties won't affect funding for this critical education component.
Funding early childhood education is the right thing to do and it's an investment in the future of our children and the long-term economic strength of the commonwealth.
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A Job for a Reformer
WITH MUCH of his national security and economic teams in place, President-elect Barack Obama faces another critical pick: education secretary. No names have emerged from the transition team, but warring camps within the Democratic Party are furiously seeking to influence the decision. We trust that Mr. Obama was serious when he promised change and will select someone who -- instead of just tinkering with a tired, low-performing system -- will be bold in choosing new directions for American education.
The different education factions of the party -- those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo -- were each convinced during the campaign that Mr. Obama shared their particular viewpoints. So it is not clear whether Mr. Obama is leaning toward the "disrupters," House education committee chairman George Miller's approving description of the reformers, or the "incrementalists" who are allied with teachers unions.
The choice of Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy transition group, along with speculation that she is a candidate for secretary or deputy secretary, is not reassuring to those in the reform movement. Ms. Darling-Hammond has been more critical than supportive of the No Child Left Behind law, dislikes linking teacher pay to test scores and is no fan of Teach for America. It would be a mistake to retreat from the accountability that No Child Left Behind has brought in improving learning and narrowing the achievement gap for minority students. And the next secretary should encourage the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship typified by Teach for America's success in attracting top college graduates to inner-city schools. Indeed, Mr. Obama might want to look to this new generation of educators -- people such as his adviser Jonathan Schnur, chief executive of New Leaders for New Schools, or the Education Trust's Kati Haycock -- in assembling a team equipped to deal with the new realities of education. Nor should opposition from the forces of the status quo scare Mr. Obama away from considering someone such as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who has helped improve the nation's largest school system.
We are not promoting any individual, but the ideal candidate would be someone who is not afraid to break with orthodoxy, who is more concerned with results than with ideology, who has a proven ability to lead large systems toward change and is passionate about regaining America's place as the best-educated country on the planet. It's encouraging that, in his nominations to date, Mr. Obama has been sure-footed and inspiringly unpredictable. He won't be able, nor should he try, to placate all the education interests, so he should focus on the only interests that matter -- those of America's schoolchildren.
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Senate Democrats Reach Deal With Dissidents
ALBANY — The long battle over which party will control the State Senate appears to be coming to a close.
Three dissident Democrats who had been debating whether to side with their own party or join Senate Republicans have worked out a tentative power-sharing deal with Malcolm A. Smith, the Democratic minority leader, that would give Democrats control of the chamber, according to a person involved the negotiations.
With the addition of the three — Pedro Espada Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn — Democrats would hold 32 seats in the chamber and Republicans 30.
Details of the closed-door negotiations — which occurred at the University Club, at 1 West 54th Street, in Midtown Manhattan, and involved Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat — began to leak out on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, Dean G. Skelos, the Republican majority leader, congratulated Mr. Smith, signaling that the Republicans had given up hope of finding a way to maintain control of the chamber. Mr. Skelos vowed to help Mr. Smith achieve an “orderly transition” of power.
Two people involved in the talks said that Mr. Espada will get the title of majority leader under the deal, though Mr. Smith would be the real leader of the Democratic caucus, with the title of president pro tempore. Still, the deal would make Mr. Espada arguably the most powerful Latino elected official in New York State.
Mr. Kruger would be named chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — a major post with the power to approve gubernatorial nominees and a lead role in negotiating state budgets — and the committee would become more autonomous.
And the senators will sit in alphabetical order in the chamber, rather than divided by party, along with other changes to the Senate’s rules that will make it more democratic — something Mr. Smith has long advocated.
All 32 members of the Democratic caucus will have to sign off on the deal, and some are not likely to be thrilled by it. But for now, senators expressed relief that an accord had been reached.
“It’s done,” Mr. Díaz said in an interview. “Malcolm Smith is the leader. We all agreed Malcolm Smith will be the leader. Malcolm Smith is the new leader. It is done. There will be some rule changes.”
Mr. Kruger said, “Today culminated the better part of a month of planning and preparation for what I view to be a historic agreement that will change the way the New York State Senate has been run for the better part of 200 years. It’s precedent-setting.”
Mr. Kruger was asked about the reports that Mr. Espada would be named majority leader. “Let’s not attach names to slots. That should come from the majority leader, actually the president pro tem — from Malcolm’s office,” he replied, perhaps giving a glimpse of the Senate’s new bifurcated governing structure. “For me, you should ask about concepts,” he said, adding, “I’m proud to have been the catalyst in making it happen.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Mr. Smith, said in a statement:
The meeting held today resolved rules changes proposed by Senator Smith, which will result in Senate reform and the election of Malcolm Smith as leader. The meeting was hosted and convened by respected Western New York businessman Thomas Golisano and Congressman Gregory Meeks.
Mr. Skelos, the Republican majority leader, said in a statement:
I congratulate Senator Malcolm Smith on winning the support needed to become the next leader of the State Senate and I pledge my full cooperation for an orderly transition.
Our state is facing significant challenges and it is critically important that we work together with the Governor and the Assembly to address the challenges facing the people of New York.
Our conference will continue to stand up to protect taxpayers across the state and when we have differences of opinion with others in state government, we will express them strongly and propose alternatives.
But in the end, the most important thing is the results we must achieve together to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.
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