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Sen. Murray pushes school assistance bill

On Dec. 16, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the Facilitating Outstanding Classrooms Using Size Reduction Act of 2009, a bill aimed at providing states with the resources they need to reduce class sizes across the early grade levels in order to provide students and teachers with an educational environment that encourages maximum student academic growth.

Murray's bill also would put in place evaluation tools to assess the program's effectiveness, her staffers noted in a press release.

"As a mother and former teacher, I have seen first-hand how much better students learn when they are in classes small enough for them to get the personal attention they deserve," Murray said.

Specifically, the FOCUS Act would:

_ Create a grant program to reduce class sizes to 18 students in kindergarten through third grade and beyond. States would receive funding to allocate to local educational agencies to hire new qualified teachers and to create a continuum of small classes for students in the early grades

_ Create a separate authorization for class-size reduction efforts to prevent them from competing with teacher professional development and training funds in Title II of the No Child Left Behind Act

_ Provide districts with the ability to recruit highly qualified teachers to these new classrooms and provide the professional development needed to promote educator retention and implement high-quality instructional practices

_ Increase accurate data, research and resources available nationally on class size

_ Create an evaluation of the class-size reduction program to assess and report on the program's effectiveness.

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