Content

Across the Nation
States’ Data Obscure Federal Graduation Rates
Students Accepted for College On-the-Spot
Comprehensive Sex Ed Shown to Cut Teen Pregnancies
Schools Embrace Fingerprint Scanning
Size Alone Makes Small Classes Better, Research Finds

In Federal Policy
Has the Time Come for Voluntary National Standards?
Spellings Announces Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program
House and Senate Focus on Middle Level and High School Reform

In the States
New Program to Help the Families of Failing Students
Chicago Plans to Launch Public Boarding Schools
Florida County Sued Over Low Graduation Rate

Other News and Events
Call for Manuscripts
Former Student-Athletes for Hire
ING Unsung Heroes Award




Across the Nation

States’ Data Obscure Federal Graduation Rates
When it comes to high school graduation rates, you can’t always believe what’s reported. According to researchers, many states are continuing to convey inflated graduation rates for federal reporting requirements under No Child Left Behind, obscuring the national dropout epidemic. Researchers have found the inaccurate federal figures are hiding a national dropout epidemic so severe that only 70% of the one million U.S. students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later. The discrepancy between federal and state figures may stem from several factors including states’ embarrassment over actual figures, newly developed tracking systems, and the lack of a uniform federal formula for calculating graduation rates. New York Times, 3/20/08

Learn more about state accountability requirements for high school graduation rates in "What Counts: Defining and Improving Graduation Rates" from the NASSP Knowledge Center.

Students Accepted for College On-the-Spot
Several colleges have begun offering on-the-spot admission and scholarship awards to students in an effort to make the admission process more accessible. Students—who are required to provide their transcripts, SAT scores, and a letter of recommendation—don’t mind the quick in-person interview and often-waived application fee. They’re usually given a decision before they walk out the door, including the amount of scholarship money they’ll be awarded. Washington Post, 3/20/08

Help students meet the demands of college by creating sequenced, college-aligned curriculum. Read "College Knowledge: Getting in Is Only Half the Battle" from the Principal Leadership archives. (NASSP member log-in required. Not a member? Join now!)

Comprehensive Sex Ed Shown to Cut Teen Pregnancies
A new study has found that students who receive comprehensive sex education are half as likely to become teen parents as those who get abstinence-only sex ed or none at all. Researchers at the University of Washington also found that teens who had comprehensive sex ed—which often discusses condoms, birth-control, and abstinence—were no more likely to engage in intercourse than peers who were taught abstinence only. The study challenges the validity of the federal government’s decade-long push for abstinence-only curriculum in schools. Seattle Times, 3/20/08

In the April Principal Leadership

Check out the complete contents of this month's Principal Leadership—and the full PL archives—at www.nassp.org/pl.

Schools Embrace Fingerprint Scanning
Half of West Virginia’s school districts are now using fingerprint scanning to replace traditional lunch cards, representing a nationwide trend toward use of the technology. At about $700 per machine, fingerprint scanning can help students pay for meals, log their attendance, board buses, check out books, and visit the nurse’s office. But the technology’s emergence has raised concerns about the safety of the information collected from students. Stateline.org, 3/18/08

Size Alone Makes Small Classes Better, Research Finds
New research suggests that breaking students into smaller classes is beneficial in itself, despite what teachers do in those classrooms. The benefits are derived from what students feel they can do in smaller classrooms—get more face time with their teacher, for instance, or work in small groups with classmates. In one study, researchers found that in smaller classes in both elementary and high school, students stayed more focused and misbehaved less. USA Today, 3/24/08

In Federal Policy

Has the Time Come for Voluntary National Standards?
A recent report by the Center for American Progress found that local control of education creates several major problems including financial inequality, inconsistent standards and inadequate data, and a lack of education research and development. The report suggests that a more national approach to education would help solve many of these problems and calls for the establishment of national standards as well as an increase in the federal government’s share of education funding from approximately 9% to 25%–30%, with a portion of this increased investment going toward funding for education research. Principal’s Policy Blog, 3/24/08
Related Item: Members are invited to comment on the adoption of NASSP's position statement on national standards by April 30, 2008.

Spellings Announces Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program
In response to continued criticism and calls for reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and its one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced a new "differentiated accountability" pilot program at a press conference on March 18. According to the Department of Education’s Web site, "differentiated accountability will allow states to vary the intensity and type of interventions to match the academic reasons that lead to a school's identification." The pilot program is limited to 10 state slots, with preference given to states that have at least 20% of their Title I schools identified for improvement, and that "combine innovation with a rigorous approach to reform." Principal’s Policy Blog, 3/18/08

Reauthorize NCLB Now
If Congress does not reauthorize NCLB, it will not simply go away. Rather, school leaders will be stuck with this flawed legislation for several more years. Contact your representative and encourage him or her to support an NCLB reauthorization that incorporates
proposed improvements in 2008.

House and Senate Focus on Middle Level and High School Reform
In mid-March, the House and Senate passed their respective budget resolutions for FY 2009. The House resolution provides an increase of $7.1 billion over President Bush’s budget request for education and workforce training, as well as social services. Included in this increase is a deficit-neutral tax credit for school construction and renovation bonds. Prior to adoption of the Senate resolution (that calls for $5.4 billion over the president’s budget request), an NASSP-supported amendment was offered to create a deficit-neutral reserve fund targeting middle school completion, high school dropouts, and preparing high school students for postsecondary education and the workforce. Principal’s Policy Blog, 3/18/08

In the States

New Program to Help the Families of Failing Students
The District of Columbia has launched a new pilot program—D.C. START—to uncover the root of students' academic failures. Formed in cooperation with 17 D.C. agencies, the program aims to help students in "all areas of life" and will offer in-home substance-abuse counseling, solutions for public-aid problems, and other programs for students' troubled families, as necessary. Washington Post, 3/19/08

"Step Up!" to recognize and celebrate your student leaders during National Student Leadership Week (April 13–19, 2008). Visit www.nasc.us for suggested activities and to print posters, recognition certificates, and locker signs.

Chicago Plans to Launch Public Boarding Schools
Chicago Public Schools may soon open boarding schools for homeless and troubled youth. Under the city's proposal, the first pilot residential program could open by fall 2009, and district officials hope to launch as many as six schools in the following years. Chicago school officials are still working through details of the plan, and it's not clear whether the schools would be run by the district, outside agencies, or some combination of the two. The proposal puts Chicago at the forefront of urban school reform, as cities struggle to raise the academic achievement of students hindered by dysfunctional homes; poverty; and other significant, out-of-school obstacles. Chicago Tribune, 3/14/08

Florida County Sued Over Low Graduation Rate
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued educators in Palm Beach County, FL, on behalf of parents and children for its "shamefully low" graduation rate. The class-action lawsuit claims that the county has failed to provide students with a high-quality education as guaranteed under the state constitution. The lawsuit contends that at least one in three Palm Beach County students don't graduate on time, worse than state and national averages. It also cites a "significant disparity" between the local graduation rates of White students and their Black and Hispanic peers. Sun-Sentinel, 3/19/08

Other News and Events

Call for Manuscripts
Passing "the big test" isn't enough to show that students are learning. Principal Leadership seeks manuscripts that describe other assessments and demonstrations that have been successful in engaging students so they truly understand and retain what they learn. Deadline for submissions is May 12, 2008. Guidelines and the PL editorial calendar are available at www.nassp.org/pl_guidelines.

Former Student Athletes for Hire
The College Recruitment Team (CRT) is pairing schools with graduating and former college student-athlete education majors. Administrators are encouraged to post teaching or administrative positions that are well suited to the skill set a former collegiate student athlete would bring to the table. Visit www.ncaagrads.com to post your openings.

ING Unsung Heroes Award
The ING Unsung Heroes awards program recognizes innovative and progressive thinking in education. Full-time teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, and classified staff members with effective projects that improve student learning at an accredited K–12 public or private school are eligible to win awards up to $25,000. Apply by April 30, 2008.