ECP PEN Weekly NewsBlast for October 27, 2006

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Improving literacy through arts education and advocacy by providing
collaborative and interdisciplinary resources for understanding world
culture and our national culture.



Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."

Halloween is a cherished tradition but the excitement of the night can
cause children to forget to be careful. There is no real "trick" to
making Halloween a real treat for the entire family. The major dangers
are not from witches or spirits but rather from falls and
pedestrian/car crashes. Both children and adults need to think about
safety on this annual day of make-believe. Find numerous common-sense
tips and reminders for motorists, parents, candy eaters, and costume makers.

The American public education system is facing multiple challenges
that are unique in its history, and its ability to respond will depend
on greater public involvement and understanding than has been evident
to date. One significant challenge arises from increased competition
from abroad. The second challenge grows out of our promise to deliver
education fairly, or to live with the grave consequences of persistent
gaps in student achievement. A third challenge to public education is
maintaining the momentum behind the improvements that have been made
so far. A major obstacle grows out of the crosstalk that public
leaders, educators, communities, and families engage in so frequently.
These groups -- often on completely different wavelengths -- are
unable to communicate, making very different assumptions about how
well schools work now, and how much change schools need, writes
Deborah Wadsworth. Top-down campaigns, in which the mission is to
persuade people to adopt a preconceived agenda without genuine input,
cannot build the relationships required to address the kinds of
problems we're facing. Addressing these deeply human issues requires
genuine give-and-take among people inside and outside schools.
Education leaders and policymakers need to engage with a broad cross
section of the community, including regular folks who are not already
strongly involved in school activities, to set overall goals and
establish priorities for change. Giving people alternatives to
consider helps them learn about trade-offs that must be faced and
helps reduce simplistic thinking and the tendency to reach for easy
answers. Most importantly, a carefully thought-out engagement process
allows people with very different starting points to talk effectively
and productively about issues.

A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his
parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars
targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child
Left Behind Act. With investments from his parents, George H.W. and
Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning
has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to
market internationally. At least 13 U.S. school districts have used
federal funds available through the president's signature education
reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable
learning centers at $3,800 apiece. Most of Ignite's business has been
obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding.
Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product. In
addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have
helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by
the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based Unification
Church, has peppered classrooms throughout Virginia with Ignite's
products under a $1-million grant. Oil companies and Middle East
interests with long political ties to the Bush family have made
similar bequests. Aramco Services Co., an arm of the Saudi-owned oil
company, has donated Ignite products to schools, as have Apache Corp.,
BP and Shell Oil Co. Neil Bush said he is a businessman who does not
attempt to exert political influence, and he called The Times'
inquiries about his venture -- made just before the election --
"entirely political."

Public Education Network (PEN) invites you to register to attend PEN?s
2006 annual conference, November 12-14, in Washington, DC. Join the
debate on transformation in public education and discover how
community-based strategies can strengthen teaching, close the
achievement gap, and build public involvement in large-scale school
system reform. Keynote presenters include: Madeleine Albright, the
first female U.S. Secretary of State and a bestselling author; Diane
Ravitch Research Professor of Education at New York University, senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and a senior
fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and Geoffrey
Canada, named one of "America?s Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World
Report and an expert on issues concerning violence, children and
community redevelopment. For more information about the conference and
to register, visit:

School exams may be detested by students everywhere, but in this state
at the forefront of the testing and accountability movement in the
United States, the backlash against them has become far broader, and
politically potent. The role of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment
Test, or FCAT, has become central to the race to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush
(R), with polls showing a growing discontent over the exams, which he
has championed and which are used to determine many aspects of the
school system, including teacher pay, budgets and who flunks third
grade. Republican Charlie Crist is offering to push forward with the
testing regime, but Democrat Jim Davis has condemned what he calls its
"punitive" nature, arguing that exam pressures have transformed
schools into "dreary test-taking factories." This election season may
be the first in which the growing use of high-stakes school testing,
embodied in the No Child Left Behind legislation, has reached this
level of political prominence, reports Peter Whoriskey. A similar exam
revolt has become a key issue in the race for governor in Texas,
another state in the vanguard of the testing movement, and the issue
has roiled the Ohio gubernatorial contest as well.

Also see Drop Out or Pushed Out

Dropping out of high school is motivated by a variety of factors and
many of them have little to do with school or homework. The only way
at-risk youth will remain in school and earn their diploma is if their
communities make a concerted effort to help them. Learning to Finish
is a new campaign launched by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change
that seeks to address the dropout problem in communities ready to meet
this challenge as a community-wide concern. The Pew Partnership for
Civic Change has also published a dropout discussion guide titled
"Learning to Finish: The School Dropout Crisis." Here the case is made
for a community-wide approach to solving the dropout problem and the
five elements that should serve as the core of any community-wide
dropout effort. According to Dr. Suzanne Morse, "For the one million
or so kids who drop out each year, the prospects are dire. For the
communities in which they live, the dropout rate is very bad news
indeed. Each year, the toll of lost wages, taxes, and productivity
that can be attributed to dropouts comes to more than $200 billion for
the nation as whole. That does not take into account the fact that
more than two-thirds of the inmates in state prisons are school
dropouts or that it is a turnkey issue for poverty, poorer health, and
more limited prospects for the children of dropouts. It is a vicious
cycle that must be broken."

RECORD SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION SPENDING AND DISPARITY "Growth and Disparity: A Decade of U.S. Public School Construction 1995-2004," is a new study that finds that the nation's school districts spent more than $300 billion for hard bricks and mortar costs to build and renovate schools, but when counting all costs related to construction -- land, fees, furnishings, and interest payments -- the total for school construction approached $600 billion. But despite this massive investment in public infrastructure, many of the nation's children are still in crowded and substandard buildings. This report shows that the schools with the greatest need, primarily those in high-poverty and predominantly minority school districts, have seen the least investment. Further, the money spent on schools in low-income communities was more likely to go to basic health and safety needs such as asbestos removal or roof replacement rather than educational enhancements. The No Child Left Behind Act, which is silent on school facilities, should identify the quality of school buildings as a critical factor in closing the achievement gap. Greater attention needs to be paid to what is happening and who is benefiting from massive school construction spending. /10-24-2006/0004458369&EDATE=

California voters have approved major statewide education bonds in all
but one election year during the past decade at a cost of more than
$37 billion. Combined with scores of local school bonds passed during
the same time, California voters since 1996 have authorized $95
billion in borrowing for school construction -- more than in the
previous 50 years combined. As Californians this fall confront another
mega education bond issue -- Proposition 1D -- polls show voters are
becoming wary of the continued borrowing. If approved, the bond
measure would push the total for school construction borrowing in
California to well over $100 billion during the past decade, before
interest payments. Despite its size, reports Aaron Davis, Prop. 1D
would provide only a fraction of the money state officials say is
needed to keep pace with California's projected classroom needs. It
would account for about a quarter of the state's school construction
needs for the next decade, according to long-term bond plans of the
Schwarzenegger administration. California does not set aside money in
its annual budget to build schools or provide substantive repairs.
That forces local districts to rely almost entirely on bond money for
everything from air conditioners and leaky roofs to refurbished
classrooms. Even some education advocates say logic would dictate
there's a better way to fund schools than always going back to the
ballot. "It's crazy we have to fund schools like this," said Dennis
Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco.

The Corzine administration said "thanks, but no thanks" to federal
abstinence education money, saying new rules will not let teachers
talk about contraception. Teachers also must say sex within marriage
is the "expected standard of human sexual activity." A letter
yesterday by state health and education officials to the federal
government says the strings attached to the money contradict the
state's own sex education and AIDS education programs. The state has
taken the money, about $800,000 each year, since 199, reports Carol
Ann Campbell. But state officials said new federal rules give them far
less flexibility in creating such programs than in past years. "Some
of the elements required are inconsistent and violate our own
educational standards," said Health Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs. New
Jersey is the fourth state so far to reject the abstinence education
money, after California, Pennsylvania and Maine.

Teaching Intelligent Design vs Evolution in the classroom. Is
intelligent design religion or science? See page 1 and 2

Cause Communications' Communications Toolkit -- A guide to navigating
communications for the nonprofit world is a comprehensive resource
offering practical information in virtually every area of
communications -- from how to develop and budget a communications plan
to what tools you need to help raise awareness and funds. The toolkit
is practical and easy-to-use, making it a must-have guide for
nonprofit newbies, veterans, and anyone in between seeking to
revolutionize communications with strategic marketing, advertising,
branding, media relations, event planning and more. Tips, templates
and strategy outlines are based on more than 25 years of experience
from the professionals at Cause Communications, and on information
from national qualitative and quantitative audits of what nonprofits
need in the area of communications. The book was made possible by
support from The Annenberg Foundation, The California Endowment, The
James Irvine Foundation and The Marguerite Casey Foundation.

When historians present important dates in the timeline of Mobile, the
year 2001 should be among them, writes Kris Kurtenbach. This may seem
a grandiose statement in a history that goes back to 1702, when Jean
Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville established Fort Louis de la Mobile.
But 2001 should be included as a key year that symbolizes a watershed
in how people in the community supported and related to their public
school system.  The year 2001 changed -- maybe forever -- the
relationship of Mobilians to their schools. That year, Mobile County
(AL) citizens turned the tides of expectations, beliefs and support in
a school system that had been historically under-funded and
under-valued.  They voted for the first bond referendum in more than
40 years. They gave voice to their concerns and aspirations for the
schools that led to the Yes We Can Agreement that is now being
reconfirmed in community conversations across the county. The progress
being made in Mobile County public schools is real. It is also a
historic opportunity. The core of the issue is leadership. Smart
decisions by the school board are needed to sustain this progress. A
clearly expressed sentiment in the community says that the school
board will be held accountable for continuing to maintain the
leadership to sustain the progress being made. If letting the current
superintendent go is the school board's decision, then board members
need to be prepared to identify and support leadership that can remain
focused on the progress being made. All of the eyes on Mobile County
public schools -- whether they are watching from across town, across
the bay or across the country -- see that leadership is the key to
sustaining recent gains. And no one wants to see the schools return to
pre-2001 conditions.

Your fourth-grader is galloping through Lois Lowry's utopian novel
"The Giver," and you marvel at her reading speed. Stop marveling. Most
likely she has little idea what the book actually means. In many
classrooms around the country, teachers are emphasizing, and
periodically testing, students' reading fluency, the current buzzword
in reading instruction. The problem is that speed isn't the only
element to fluency, educators said. Key elements are also accuracy and
expressiveness, writes Valerie Strauss. It is a complicated process
teaching students to recognize enough words and read at a consistent
rate so they can spend their time concentrating on meaning rather than
decoding, educators said. And when tackling a book such as "The
Giver," one that deals with a boy's discovery that his utopian world
comes at the expense of the stifling of intellectual and emotional
freedom, meaning is critical. A combination of politics, insufficient
teacher development and an inherent difficulty in capturing all
aspects of fluency have led to questionable instruction practices,
according to Richard Allington. Many students are asked by teachers to
reread the same passages over and over -- often with constant
interruptions from the teacher. And some struggling readers are given
books -- including textbooks -- that are above their reading level and
soon become a source of frustration. As a result, some kids are
motivated to read only to beat a test clock.

In the closing weeks of the fall campaign, the Bush administration is
handing out money for teachers who raise student test scores, the
first federal effort to reward classroom performance with bonuses. The
16 grants total $42 million and cover many states. The government has
announced only the first grants, $5.5 million for Ohio, where
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was making the presentation
Monday. The department will release the remaining grants in the coming
weeks, falling right before the Nov. 7 elections in which a reeling
Republican Party is eager for good news. In Ohio in particular, the
GOP could trumpet the news of money for the state education
department. The $5.5 million will be shared by schools in Cleveland,
Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. Sen. Mike DeWine, (R-Ohio), is
trailing his Democratic rival. Also, Democrats have led for weeks in
two House seats long in Republican hands, and party officials talk of
capturing two or three more seats. Such gains could help the Democrats
take over the House. The Education Department says the election had no
bearing on the timing. The grant application process began in May, and
the review was done in the early fall, officials said. Congress
approved the program last year.

In 2007, Congress will begin the process of reauthorizing NCLB for
another five years. In light of the coming debates, the arts education
community is currently working to gather support and develop requests
to members of Congress in order to ensure high-quality, ongoing K­12
arts education for America's students. This website outlines the
successes, challenges and ways advocates are making a difference for
the arts in our nation?s public schools. It includes background,
research, easy advocacy tactics and more relating to arts education
and No Child Left Behind.

Although Chinese is still a relatively rare offering, schools are
adding the language to their curriculum and teaching it to younger
students in an effort to prepare them for the changing global
marketplace. Enrollment in Chinese language classes at Minnesota
public schools increased from 762 students during the 2003-04 school
year to 1,233 last year, according to the Minnesota Department of
Education. Despite the growth, reports Megan Boldt, enrollment in
Chinese classes is a fraction of what it is for languages like Spanish
that are more established in schools. There were 117,780 students
taking Spanish in Minnesota last year, for example. "The interest and
excitement has grown exponentially," said Daniel Bittman, the agency's
director of education licensing and teacher quality. "We really want
to make these opportunities available to all students in an equitable fashion."

Kids increasingly are spending their free time blogging and chatting
on social networking websites, and school administrators aren't
enthusiastic. School boards across the country already have blocked
sites such as MySpace and Facebook on school computers. But school
districts now are reaching into students' home computers, severely
punishing and even expelling students for what they write on those
sites from home. "Some courts have said that speech which is done on
school computers is clearly within the domain of the administration to
set reasonable standards for. Some have said if it's off-site, then
the students are fully protected. Some have said if it can be read by
people on the school premises, then it comes within the jurisdiction
of the school board," says Tom Clarke, a San Francisco attorney who
works on First Amendment questions. "Those are the three crazy
standards that currently exist." School and First Amendment experts
are unsure how many school districts have implemented such policies.
But the confusion over how far school boards can go has left many
students caught off guard when they are punished, reports Alan Gomez.

Classroom Management, Discipline, Student Free Speech Rights

|--------------- NEW GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|

"Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Award"
The International Reading Association Regie Routman Teacher
Recognition Award honors an outstanding elementary teacher of reading
and language arts dedicated to improving teaching and learning through
reflective writing about his or her teaching and learning process.
Maximum Award: $1,000. Eligibility: regular classroom elementary
teachers of reading and language arts grades K-6; must be IRA members.
Deadline: November 1, 2006.

"National Schools of Character Awards Program"
The 2007 National Schools of Character Awards Program names public and
private schools and districts (K-12) as National Schools of Character
(NSOC) for their outstanding work in character education. The program
honors recipients, showcases their work, and helps them to inspire and
lead others. Maximum Award: $20,000. Eligibility: schools engaged in
character education for a minimum of three full years, starting no
later than December 2003, and having a minimum of 175 students;
districts engaged in character education for a minimum of four full
years, starting no later than December 2002. Deadline: December 4, 2006.

"Books Across America Library Books Awards"
The 2007 NEA's Books Across America Library Books Awards will bring
the gift of reading to students affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita,
and Wilma.  Maximum Award: $5000. Eligibility: practicing preK-12
teachers or education support professionals in public schools in
Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas.  Deadline: December
14, 2006.

"Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award"
The Astronauts Memorial Foundation Alan Shepard Technology in
Education Award rewards excellence in the development and delivery of
technology programs in the classroom with students or in the
professional development of teachers in the school or district.
Maximum Award: recognition at the awards ceremony at the 23rd National
Space Symposium. Eligibility: K-12 educators and district-level
personnel in the field of Educational Technology. Deadline: January 31, 2007.

For a detailed listing of EXISTING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES (updated each
week), visit:


"The education of our children is a task that is too large for any one
group of people. The entire community must get involved."
-Barbara Bush (former First Lady of the United States)

"Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence: wealth without
work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character,
commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without
sacrifice, politics without principle."
-Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Howie Schaffer
Public Outreach Director
Public Education Network
601 Thirteenth Street, NW #710S
Washington, DC 20005

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