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Legislative Announcements Listed in Past Issues

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Department Awards $34.6 Million Contract to Develop and Operate World's Largest Education Database
The U.S. Department of Education awarded a 5-year, $34.6 million contract to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of Rockville, MD, along with its subcontractors, to develop and operate a new database system for the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

New Initiative: Teachers to Listen, Learn, Share Practices to Improve Student Achievement
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige recently announced a new initiative to engage some of the nation’s best teachers and education experts in sharing techniques for raising student achievement with other teachers from across the country. The Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative will also keep teachers informed of the latest strategies and research on educational practices that work. The Initiative will feature teacher roundtables, summer workshops, a research-to-practice summit, and teacher e-mail updates.

New Policy for Calculating Participation Rates Under No Child Left Behind
The Bush administration is easing the restrictions of its “No Child Left Behind” education law in the area of testing. The 2001 law requires schools to get participation from at least 95% of students in math and reading testing, as well as at least 95% participation from all major subgroups of students, such as minority students or students with disabilities. Under the new policy, as long as schools average a 95% participation rate among students over two or three years, they'll meet the law. A school that tested only 94% of students one year, for example, could make the mark if it tested 96% of students the year before. The option would apply both to a school's overall population and to any of its major groups of students.

Social Security Administration: Strategic Workplace Planning Needed to Address Human Capital Challenges Facing the Disability Determination Services
The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees and fully funds primarily state-operated Disability Determination Services (DDS’s) that determine whether applicants are eligible for disability benefits. The disability examiners employed by the DDSs play a key role in determining benefit eligibility. This report examines the challenges the DDSs face today in retaining and recruiting examiners and enhancing their expertise, the extent to which the DDSs engage in workforce planning and encounter obstacles in doing so, and the extent to which SSA is addressing present and future human capital challenges in the DDSs. Available in PDF (98 pages).

Charting the Course: States Decide Major Provisions Under No Child Left Behind
As evidenced by the diversity among the approved state accountability plans and state-consolidated applications, states have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular No Child Left Behind (NCLB) provisions, according to a new press release from the U.S. Department of Education. Presented as a checklist of items, states considered many issues when designing accountability systems, providing options for parents and defining highly qualified teachers. The list outlines almost 40 separate issues under the control and responsibility of state and local education agencies. Helpful examples of how individual states have complied with NCLB are outlined along with expanded definitions of key provisions of the law.

Commissioner Barnhart Presents Her Approach to Improving the Disability Determination Process
In a briefing, Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart outlined several planned approaches to improve the SSA Disability Determination. She envisions that the system will reduce the time SSA takes to make a disability determination, address the question of why people with obvious disabilities cannot get a decision immediately, and also address the question of why individuals would want to go back to work after going through such an arduous process to receive benefits. Changes could be made through regulation, which means that this might be accomplished in a two year time period. She proposes to hire additional workers to improve the quality throughout the system (lower caseloads), and include vocational specialists as part of the determination process. The Commissioner also will hold regular briefings with disability organizations to ensure input and advice through these changes.

Paige Announces Appointments to National Assessment Governing Board
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that eight individuals have been appointed to four-year terms on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), the independent board that creates policies for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "the Nation's Report Card."

Paige Announces New No Child Left Behind Provision Giving Schools Increased Flexibility While Ensuring All Children Count, Including Those With Disabilities
Secretary of Education Paige announced a new provision of No Child Left Behind that will give local school districts greater flexibility in meeting the act's requirements for students with disabilities.

Paige Outlines No Child Left Behind Act's Provisions for English Language Learners
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Deputy Under Secretary of Education Maria Hernandez Ferrier kicked off the department's second annual summit on English language acquisition by unveiling a new initiative to help parents play a more active role in their child's education. "Ten Key Benefits for Parents of English Language Learners" is a summary of the No Child Left Behind Act's most important provisions that affect the nation's approximately five million English language learners. The department's goal is to provide a copy of the document to all parents so that they can fully understand and benefit from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Assistant Secretary Pasternack Resigns
Robert H. Pasternack has resigned, effective January 2, as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, a post he has held since August 2001. In a letter to President Bush, Dr. Pasternack said he feels he "can continue to serve children with disabilities and their families in the private sector while at the same time trying my best to achieve the educational goals that you have set for our country."

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