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Benz-driving babysitters

BABYSITTING HAS BECOME BIG business for some top administrators in local Head Start programs. Federal officials are investigating reports that administrators of the federal program for low-income preschoolers have collected six-figure salaries.

In San Antonio, local director Blanche Russ-Glover reportedly collects an annual salary of $205,640, while other administrators working for her make more than $100,000. In Kansas City, another Head Start director, Dwayne Crompton, was paid $250,000 in 2002, down from more than $300,000 the previous year. Head Start money was also helping Mr. Crompton pay the lease on his Mercedes-Benz. Meanwhile Head Start teachers make an average of $20,700 a year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked Mr. Crompton's Head Start project to return more than $800,000 in misused federal funds. Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) of the House education committee have also asked HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson for a list of salaries of the 25 highest paid Head Start administrators.

"While it is expected that a portion of Head Start funds support staff salaries and other administrative expenses, the majority of congressional appropriations are intended to finance the preparation of low-income children for school," wrote Reps. Boehner and Castle in a letter to Mr. Thompson.

Head Start is a $6 billion federal program, currently up for reauthorization by Congress. Accountability is one of the themes Republicans have emphasized as they rewrite the 40-year-old law. c

Report Card

"The study of religious holidays may be included in elementary and secondary curricula as opportunities for teaching about religions. Such study serves the academic goals of educating students about history and cultures as well as about the traditions of particular religions in a pluralistic society." So say the National Education Association, The American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of School Administrators and 14 other organizations, reports Gateways to Better Education this Thanksgiving. c

President Bush has tapped Gene Hickok to fill the No. 2 position at the U.S. Department of Education, vacant since the departure of deputy secretary Bill Hansen in July. Mr. Hickok was appointed undersecretary of education in 2001. Prior to joining the Bush administration, Mr. Hickok was Pennsylvania secretary of education. c

NAEP time

These Naep results represent a turning of the corner," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, applauding the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math results released last month. "I am particularly pleased to see that the achievement gap is starting to close-that is welcome news."

Fourth- and eighth-grade math scores on the national survey of student achievement were the highest since 1990, with a growing proportion of students scoring at or above the proficient level according to NAEP's benchmarks (below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced). This year, 77 percent of fourth-grade students scored at or above basic, while 32 percent scored at or above proficient. At the eighth-grade level, 68 percent of students scored at or above basic, while 29 percent scored at or above proficient.

In both fourth and eighth grade, the gap narrowed between the average scores of white students and their minority peers. The percentage of black students scoring at the proficient level remained extremely low, however-10 percent in the fourth grade and 7 percent in the eighth grade, compared to 43 percent and 37 percent, respectively, among white students.

Simultaneously released NAEP reading results showed no significant change since 1992 for fourth-graders and a very slight gain since 1992 for eighth-graders. NAEP is administered to a representative cross-section of students across the country, numbering under 200,000 at each grade level sampled.

Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer Marshall