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Education Week reported on June 8th:

House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

“This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.

Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”

This should come as no surprise given the recent questions about how the DoED administered the Reading First program. Surrounded by questions of improper ethics and outright fraud when it came to forcing DIBLES on school districts large and small, draining much needed funds away from the classroom, the bipartisan support of this spending cut makes a great deal of sense.

The DoED, like other embattled Bush administration departments, is keeping a stiff upper lip claiming no ethical violations and that the Democrats are undermining the ability of the urban poor to learn. What they forget is that this legislation will most likely leave the committee with full bipartisan support. Republicans as well as Democrats have simply had enough of this scandal ridden White House. Of course, it is easy to take a stand when those directly effected by that stand are not voters.

Where is this kind of bipartisanship when it comes to the blatantly political Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales? But that is for another post…

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It is about time!

It is also clear from the comments of Tony Fratto and Henry Paulson that the Bush White House continues to exist in a state of denial. While it has been the traditional role of the President of the United States to appoint the President of the World Bank, there is a strong movement to reexamine that practice or, at the very least, curtail the cronyism practiced by this White House.

Reuters included the following international reaction to Wolfowitz’ resignation:

BERNICE ROMERO, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR OF OXFAM INTERNATIONAL

“Wolfowitz’s resignation shows that even the office of the president has to play by the rules. The U.S. and other rich countries must now show that they are serious about good governance by allowing the next head of the Bank to be appointed based on merit through an open, accountable process.”

DANIEL MITTLER, GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ADVISOR

“Cronyism has led to Wolfowitz’s downfall, but the credentials needed in the next president to clean up the World Bank must not only be personal integrity, but above all expertise in sustainable development.”

Perhaps the time has come for a fair and transparent process for the selection of the next president of the World Bank. Perhaps the rest of the world will not be governed by the hubris of the Bush White House. We in the United States must only suffer 613 more days of this administration. Good Riddance.

Now Bush only has to deal with the scandals at Justice and the Department of Education, and, oh yes, the potential indictment of his closest adviser, Karl Rove.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, under fire for arranging a pay and promotion agreement for his companion, who was employed by the bank, announced on Thursday he will resign effective June 30.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN TONY FRATTO
“Paul Wolfowitz is a good man who is passionate about the plight of poor people in the world. We would have preferred that he stay at the Bank, but the president reluctantly accepts his decision.”
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL
“Mr. Wolfowitz’s actions have impeded the ability of the World Bank to carry out its critical mission of alleviating global poverty. His resignation will help to restore the integrity and credibility of the World Bank, both of which are central to the bank carrying out its mission.”
U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY HENRY PAULSON
I intend to move quickly to help the President identify a nominee to lead the World Bank going forward.

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Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.

If, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, the number of federal prosecutors suggested for dismissal was closer to 26 than the mere 8 that were fired, did Attorney General Gonzales lie to Congress when he testified under oath that the effort was limited to the 8 that were fired since June?

Why would the Justice Department withhold documents from the public if they were telling the truth on this matter? Does the Bush administration have so little respect for the democratic process that they simply do whatever they see fit?

I would argue that the Bush White House understands executive power as being more or less without limits, subject to little more than fiat which places the administration and all of its power outside the realm of responsibility to the governed. This is the very arrogance that inspired Thomas Jefferson (cribbing extensively from John Locke) to write–“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

When the king acts outside the bounds of civility and against the best interests of the governed it is within the bounds of politics to sever the ties that bind one to the sovereign.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson begins his list of grievances against George III with the following words: “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

In this scandal ridden White House, George II “has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. ” His support for AG Gonzales, Karl, Rove, Paul Wolfowitz and Margaret Spellings at the DoED, each a Bush appointee and each deeply mired in scandal that are not in any meaningful way “he most wholesome and necessary for the public good,” smacks of an arrogance that is beyond all reason.

William Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of Richard III:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
gave no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

I think they fit in George W. Bush’s mouth as well.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
WASHINGTON —
The Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials have previously acknowledged, with at least 26 prosecutors suggested for termination between February 2005 and December 2006, according to sources familiar with documents withheld from the public.
Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.
In fact, Gonzales’ former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, recommended more than two dozen U.S. attorneys for termination, according to lists compiled by him and his colleagues, the sources said.
They amounted to more than a quarter of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys. At least 13 of those known to have been targeted are still in their posts.
When shown the lists of firing candidates late Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer
said they “show how amok this process was.”

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Alleged conflict of interest charges now swarm around the DoED’s sponsorship and use of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS serves as the flagship assessment instrument for the billion dollar a year Reading First program administered by the DoED.In addition to significant charges of not properly screening consultants, many of whom had financial ties to DIBLES, the DoED appears to have promoted the use of DIBELS over any other early literacy indicator.

Furthermore, DIBELS does not appear to be a good indicator of whether or not children understand what they read. DIBELS also tends to be biased in favor of children that come from literacy-rich environments according to Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erickson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development.

One study found:

That DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency scores did predict performance on the TerraNova, a standardized achievement test, although students’ performance on DIBELS accounted for less than 20 percent of the variability in those scores. The study also found that students scored poorly on their ability to retell stories they had read, suggesting the tests may be sending a message that reading rapidly is more important than reading for comprehension.

So it seems than not only is there a significant scandal brewing surrounding the use and implementation of the DIBELS instrument, it also seems that the administration that insists on research based teaching and learning eschews research when it comes to promoting their pals and their profits. The emperor has no clothes.

clipped from www.edweek.org
Although teachers in the Moriarty, N.M., public schools report positive experiences with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the assessments have generated a lot of controversy nationally.
The assessment tool, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, is now approved for use under the federal Reading First program in 45 states to monitor student progress on reading fluency and other measures.
But a contentious hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee probed allegations that the widespread use of DIBELS may stem, in part, from inappropriate promotion of the tests by federal officials as part of the rollout of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program.
A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, released in March, suggested that a federal contractor did not appropriately screen consultants, some of whom had financial ties to DIBELS, for conflicts of interest.

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David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, both well respected educational researchers, claim that NCLB is causing substantial harm to children, to schools, to teachers and to administrators of those schools that has the chilling effect of placing the Nation at Risk.

Limiting their remarks to only the high-stakes testing requirements of NCLB, Berliner and Nichols said:

The stakes are high when students’ standardized-test performance results in grade retention or failure to graduate from high school. The stakes are high when teachers and administrators can lose their jobs or, conversely, receive large bonuses for student scores, or when humiliation or praise for teachers and schools occurs in the press as a result of test scores. This federal law requires such high-stakes testing in all states.

More than 30 years ago, the eminent social scientist Donald T. Campbell warned about the perils of measuring effectiveness via a single, highly consequential indicator: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking,” he said, “the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” High-stakes testing is exactly the kind of process Campbell worried about, since important judgments about student, teacher, and school effectiveness often are based on a single test score. This exaggerated reliance on scores for making judgments creates conditions that promote corruption and distortion. In fact, the overvaluation of this single indicator of school success often compromises the validity of the test scores themselves. Thus, the scores we end up praising and condemning in the press and our legislatures are actually untrustworthy, perhaps even worthless.

Campbell’s law is ubiquitous, and shows up in many human endeavors. Businesses, for example, regularly become corrupt as particular indicators are deemed important in judging success or failure. If stock prices are the indicator of a company’s success, for example, then companies like Enron, Qwest, Adelphia, and WorldCom manipulate that indicator to make sure they look good. Lives and companies are destroyed as a result. That particular indicator of business success became untrustworthy as both it and the people who worked with it were corrupted.

Similarly, when the number of criminal cases closed is the indicator chosen to judge the success of a police department, two things generally happen: More trials are brought against people who may be innocent or, with a promise of lighter sentences, deals are made with accused criminals to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

When the indicators of success and failure in a profession take on too much value, they invariably are corrupted. Those of us in the academic world know that when researchers are judged primarily by their publication records, they have occasionally fabricated or manipulated data. This is just another instance of Campbell’s law in action.

We have documented hundreds of examples of the ways in which high-stakes testing corrupts American education in a new book, Collateral Damage. Using Campbell’s law as a framework, we found examples of administrators and teachers who have cheated on standardized tests. Educators, acting just like other humans do, manipulate the indicators used to judge their success or failure when their reputations, employment, or significant salary bonuses are related to those indicators.

clipped from www.edweek.org
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush claimed success for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “Students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap,” he said
But, as with Iraq, a substantial body of evidence challenges his claim.
We believe that this federal law, now in its sixth year, puts American public school students in serious jeopardy. Extensive reviews of empirical and theoretical work, along with conversations with hundreds of educators across the country, have convinced us that if Congress does not act in this session to fundamentally transform the law’s accountability provision, young people and their educators will suffer serious and long-term consequences.
We note in passing that only people who have no contact with children could write legislation demanding that every child reach a high level of performance in three subjects, thereby denying that individual differences exist.

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While the DoED is praising the outcomes of Reading First through an internally funded study, the House Education and Labor Committee is investigating potentially criminal behavior at the DoED surrounding Reading First.

Rep. Miller scolded Mr. Doherty at one point.

“Was your mantra, ‘Mistakes were made’?” Rep. Miller said. “You don’t get to override the law because you’re turning the law into a program.”

Mr. Doherty responded: “We thought then, and we think now, we did abide by the law.”

The hearing was the first of two that are expected in Congress in the wake of reports by the Education Department inspector general and the Government Accountability Office that found federal officials had mismanaged the program.

“We found that the department obscured the requirements of the statute by inappropriately including or excluding standards in the application criteria,” Mr. Higgins told the committee.

Ms. Lewis noted that one of the consultants providing assistance during the grant-review process had financial ties to the assessment, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS. Kentucky was asked to revise its Reading First grant proposal three times.

“We were repeatedly advised to replace our current assessment tool with DIBELS,” Ms. Lewis said.

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the education committee, has introduced legislation that would require the Education Department and its contractors to screen Reading First peer reviewers for potential conflicts of interest, among other provisions.

Rep. McKeon was much less hostile to the witnesses connected to the Reading First program than Mr. Miller and some of the other committee Democrats.

“I want to thank you for your service,” he said. “I’ve been here almost 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot of people get crucified, and I’m really getting sick of it.”

But after hearing some four hours of testimony about alleged missteps and wrongdoing in the implementation of the federal program, Rep. Miller said he would consider making his own request for a criminal investigation.

“I think this process was cooked from the very beginning,” he said.

clipped from www.edweek.org

“We found that the department obscured the requirements of the statute by inappropriately including or excluding standards in the application criteria,” Mr. Higgins told the committee.
The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education has referred some of the information gathered in a lengthy audit of the Reading First program to federal law-enforcement officials for further investigation, he said during a lengthy and contentious hearing today before the House Education and Labor Committee.
The former director of the Reading First program denied in the April 20 congressional hearing that there were conflicts of interest in the implementation of the $1 billion-a-year federal initiative. He also denied that he and other officials and consultants had overstepped their authority in directing states and school districts on the curriculum materials and assessments that would meet the strict requirements of the grants awarded under the program.

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So now the testing craze has reached the level of higher education. My goodness, perhaps we should demand a test for those that serve the nation, make them accountable for their performance by reducing that performance to a test score at the end of each and every year they serve in office. I think it should be the same test we ask graduating high school students to take (The SAT or the ACT). If they don’t score in the top quartile then they need to be removed from office and placed in tutored classrooms until they can pass at the arbitrary level set by some external bogyman. How long do you think that would last?But, schools and their clients are powerless. Do what I say or I’ll withhold federal funds! Wow, some choice Margret Spellings offers up to colleges and universities. Comply or else. Some democracy we live in.

clipped from www.ed.gov
Washington, D.C. — To help keep America competitive and provide students and families with more information and more affordable access to higher education, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced her plans to improve the U.S. higher education system, based on the recommendations in the final report of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Secretary Spellings made the announcement during remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
In an effort to increase transparency and accountability, Secretary Spellings plans to provide matching funds to colleges, universities and states that collect and publicly report student learning outcomes. She will also convene members of the accrediting community this November to move toward measures that place more emphasis on learning and less on inputs. These proposals will improve higher education’s performance and the ability to measure that performance.

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