- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

NCLB panel to hold hearing at Howard

On Wednesday at Howard University, the Aspen Institute’s independent Commission on No Child Left Behind will launch the first in a new series of hearings. In its 2007 signature report, the commission recommended, among other things, a move toward common standards and that states be provided with incentives to track teacher effectiveness.

The forum at Howard will focus on fixing chronically low-performing schools.

The other public hearings will be held in communities across the nation during the next four months.

“President Obama and the Congress have made a commitment to the core elements of our report — including improving teacher effectiveness, standards and assessments, graduation rates, data capabilities and low-performing schools — and the nation’s governors have pledged to address them,” said commission co-chair and former Gov. Roy E. Barnes of Georgia. “We must reaffirm our national commitment to closing the achievement gap and improving the academic success of all children. As we move closer to reauthorization of the law, it is important to take a fresh look at our recommendations to ensure they have kept pace with research, practice and policy that has developed during the past two and a half years.”

Co-chair Tommy G. Thompson, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said he hopes the panel’s next recommendations will be a catalyst for serious school reform.

“Beyond NCLB’s bold recommendations are becoming more widely supported, and their core principles are at the heart of the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requirements. Momentum is building among the states to develop and adopt high-quality common standards and tests, and states have made dramatic progress in developing data systems,” said Mr. Thompson. “We no longer have to ask what the essential components of a reform bill are; we have to ask how to get them done. We hope that the new [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] will reflect our forthcoming recommendations and be a catalyst for expanding the kinds of serious reforms called for in the ARRA’s Race to the Top Fund, and ultimately, better results for all children.”

Parents wonder who’s minding the college students?

Parents want colleges and universities to keep more watchful eyes on their children. They are concerned about drinking and fraternity and sorority goings-on,and a recent survey even shows that some parents don’t think colleges and universities keep students safe.

According to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, 46 percent of American adults believe institutions of higher learning do not do enough to monitor student behavior. The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Aug. 12-13 and released Aug. 18.

Thirty percent say schools do enough monitoring of their students, while another 24 percent are undecided.

Also, 42 percent of parents with children living at home say colleges aren’t doing enough, while 48 percent of adults with no children living at home agree.

What’s more, 50 percent of women say colleges are not doing enough to monitor student behavior, compared with 41 percent of men.

Fifty-five percent think colleges and universities should be held responsible for underage drinking in dormitories and on-campus housing. Only 36 percent disagree.

And when it comes to frats and sororities, 64 percent think schools should be responsible for those groups.

UVa. begins search for new president

The University of Virginia has impaneled a 19-member Special Committee on the Nomination of a President to find a successor to longtime President John T. Casteen III.

Mr. Casteen, 65, who has led the university since August 1990, will step down Aug. 1.

“It might be the most important thing a lot of us have ever done in our lives,” said Gordon F. Rainey Jr., former rector of the university and a member of the search committee. “This is very important - and it’s important to get it done right.”

The University of Virginia recently tied with the University of California, Los Angeles, as the nation’s No. 2 public university in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of America’s Best Colleges.

Remember Robert Bobb?

Robert Bobb had a pretty tough go of things when he served as president of the D.C. Board of Education a few years a back, and it’s not exactly smooth sailing in Detroit.

Mr. Bobb, who also served as D.C. city administrator from 2003 to 2006, was hired in January by Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm as emergency financial manager of Detroit Public Schools. Like school systems in other big cities, Detroit chronically overspent its budget (seven years in a row) and its enrollment has steadily declined. The school buildings were in pretty bad shape, too.

Meanwhile, officials failed to make personnel cuts or close schools.

Enter Mr. Bobb. As things stand, Mr. Bobb is wrestling with a $259 million deficit. He has told 1,700 workers that they face being laid off and that the doors to 29 schools will be shuttered.

He also wants the teachers union to make $45 million in concessions. The union said no. On Wednesday, both sides averted a strike that would have spelled chaos on Sept. 8, the first day of school.

Mr. Bobb and the unions agreed to extend to Oct. 31 the current contract, which expired over the summer.

Parents are breathing a sigh of relief.

• Compiled from wire reports

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