Wednesday, July 01, 2009





The Supremes had a big week, handing down three very important education-related decisions. Policy workers and district decision-makers will want to understand these rulings, but that's going to take some work since clear standards for enforcement were not included in the rulings. More lawsuits will inevitably follow as schools try to work out exactly what they're supposed to do.


Forest Grove School Dist. v. T. A.


In this historic 6-3 ruling, the Court held that school districts could be sued and held liable for the costs of private school tuition even when not informed of a parents' decision to transfer their child to a private school, and even when the parents had previously agreed with the district's determination that the child was ineligible for special education services under IDEA.


Court decision:


An amicus brief was submitted by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDE). Although its arguments were not upheld by the Court, the brief describes critical issues and consequences that may assist in complying with the ruling.




Safford Unified Sch. Dist. #1 v. Redding


The Court ruled 8-1 that a strip search of a 13-year-old girl that yielded two ibuprofen tablets violated her Fourth Amendment rights, but also found that the school administrators who authorized the search could not be held personally liable in this particular case.


Court decision:


Horne v. Flores


In a complicated 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that factual and legal changes (such as No Child Left Behind interventions and district-level programming changes) that have occurred after a Court order concerning a state's funding plan for English Language Learners (ELL) entitle the state to argue for relief from order. The case involves nuanced arguments concerning federalism, states' rights, diversity, and individual civil rights. The Court was sharply split in this case, and Justice Breyer took the uncommon step of reading his detailed and vigorous dissent aloud.


Court decision:


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Some of the top folks at the Florida Department of Education have left recently, including:


·Cornelia Orr, the FDOE Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Assessment, to accept a position as the new executive director for the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which is responsible for setting NAEP policies and standards.

·Pam Stewart, the FDOE Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality, to accept a position as assistant superintendent of curriculum and learning in the School District of St. Johns County.

·Iris Wilson, the FDOE Deputy Chancellor for Student Achievement

·Yeteva Hightower, the FDOE Chief of the Bureau of Personnel Management


St. Petersburg Times


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Two new online resources bring the awesomeness right to your desktop. You've really got to give these a try. They are potentially game-changing tools for those of you with a real interest in truly competitive grantseeking, program evaluation, needs assessment, bargaining, and demographic analysis and forecasting. Many of you are already familiar with the extraordinary data tools that have long been available from NCES, and so I'm making sure you are aware of two more very special tools for those very special toolboxes.


WOLFRAM ALPHA is a brand-new search engine/calculator/aggregator service that allows you to make natural language requests and get beautiful, documented results. I can't stop playing with it. To see what it can do, look at the galleries and examples online. For a quick check, try entering something like "unemployment rate lee county" and you'll get a glimpse of what's possible. (Also: The possibilities for improving the educational usefulness of homework may be considerably increased by this service.) (Corrected link)


DATA.GOV is a new federal clearinghouse site for all kinds of crunchable data. There is so much here that it's dizzying, but you'll soon get the hang of it. The nice thing about this new site is that you can download raw data files for your own analysis in Excel or SPSS or you can use their online widgets and data extraction tools to get to exactly what you want.


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Andy Allan, a science teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, California, maintains a personal Web site at as a private endeavor. He has created what he calls an online "educational jargon generator" that randomly strings together some of the awful educationese we sometimes speak to each other. (Example: "enhance mission-critical synergies.") It's a tongue-in-cheek jab, of course, at how educators sometimes mangle the English language, especially in committee-written documents such as grant proposals and reports. You'll be dismayed at how many of the random phrases actually sound like something you might see in your inbox. It's all in fun, but the lesson is a good one: plain language is best.


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1. Total cost of required Florida teacher certification exams if taken today: $150


2. Total cost of required exams beginning September 1: $480


3. Percentage of schools failing to make AYP in Florida this year, based on Florida's FCAT test: 77%


4. Percentage of schools failing to make AYP in Wisconsin this year, based on Wisconsin's WKCE test: 5%


5. Percentage difference in average 2007 4th grade mathematics scores between these states, based on the national NAEP test: 0.8%


6. Percentage difference in average 2007 4th grade reading scores between these states, based on the national NAEP test: 0.4%


7. Percentage difference in average 2007 8th grade mathematics scores between these states, based on the national NAEP test: 3.1%


8. Percentage difference in average 2007 8th grade reading scores between these states, based on the national NAEP test: 1.5%





1, 2: St. Petersburg Times


3. Florida DOE


4. Wisconsin DOE


5, 6, 7, 8. NCES


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