Fwd: PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 4, 2005

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  • Date: Tue, 08 Mar 2005 15:28:17 -0500

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Why don't people vote? 50% of all Americans over 65 years old
are functionally illiterate. 60% of the Urban School Children do
not graduate High School of the 40% that do they are only
reading at 4th grade level. Find out more about literacy and
approaches to improving it. Learn how to successfully bridge
from  the Dialect Speakers' home language to the Standard.

Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
Since Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, there has been a
movement to repeal it, writes Lynne Varner. Federal education reform
challenges local control of schools. In her view, NCLB offers stinging
rebukes to educational complacency. Its expectations are strong and
unbending, its consequences admittedly harsh. Parents have been given a
powerful bargaining chip; the ability to transfer from a failing school at
a local district's expense. This challenges two sacred cows at once. The
first is the widespread acceptance of perennially failing schools because,
well, our own children don't go there. The second challenge goes to the
often arrogant manner of educators who ignore parents seen as having few
alternatives. Now it is not only the affluent parents who can wield the
threat of exiting a school. The law isn't just a sharp arrow aimed at
failing urban schools. It also strikes deep into the heart of the suburbs,
where schools with plenty of resources produce high achievers and receive
much acclaim. The secret NCLB will uncover about these schools is their
neglect of so-called average and underachieving students. NCLB doesn't
begin to pay for all that it aims to do. But the funding argument is a
Trojan horse hiding the real battle. More federal money is being directed
to local schools but its form, block grants, challenges the status quo.
The federal law's biggest challenge is shedding its rigidity while
retaining its unwavering push for accountability.

As No Child Left Behind pushes test scores to the fore of schools'
consciousness, educators and policy-makers are increasingly focused on the
achievement gap between African American and Latino students and their
white and Asian peers. But how, exactly, is that gap defined? Test scores
are one indicator. But many educational experts caution against making
them the sole measure, reports Jocelyn Weiner. Graduation and attendance
rates, postsecondary education success, classwork rigor, teacher quality,
discipline and dropout rates, SAT scores and special education placements
all are seen as key factors in understanding the gap. Educators say a
shift in vision is needed to address what they say are the unequal
opportunities at the heart of the achievement gap. "The issue is really
changing the belief system of low expectations," said Russlynn Ali. "We
use poor test results to justify the low expectations we had in the first
place. =85We take kids that have less to begin with and we provide them with
less of everything we know matters most in education and we wonder why we
have a student achievement gap."

Integrate literacy (Language Arts), the arts (music) and
technology into the classroom using Interdisciplinary,
thematic, collaborative Online Curriculum, Readability Tools
Resources about American Dialects.

Several thousand parents, students, teachers, and other school employees
rallied this week at the Minnesota State Capitol, calling for more
education funding from the state. It was probably the largest education
rally at the Capitol in recent years, and it drew more than 175 busloads
of participants. The crowd, many of whom had to stand in the snow, chanted
"No More Excuses!" and "Fund Our Schools!" when prompted by rally
speakers. The rally came at a time when the debate over school funding is
shifting into high gear at the Legislature, reports Norman Draper. Since
this is a budget year, the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty will decide
how much state money schools get for the next two years. Everybody wants
schools to get increased funding this year, it's just a matter of how much
and where it will come from that's creating the differences. The editors
of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune recently published an editorial
entitled, "Funding public education adequately is a moral and civic duty."

More money is needed to fund education on both the state and local levels.
With federal, state and municipal budgets squeezed to the brink -- and
with equally strapped taxpayers unwilling to override local revenue limits
to help schools meet their operating expenses -- parents and education
advocates are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. "The
change has occurred over the last two years, ever since the stock market
and the high-tech industry went bust, and the states found themselves in
tremendous shortfalls," says Arnold Fege, director of public engagement
for the Public Education Network. Overall, states have cut their budgets
by about $65 billion, and Fege estimates that of that total, between $18
billion and $20 billion represent cuts in education. "Almost every public
school district in the country is affected in some way," he says. The
result is that where parents were once raising money for the "extras,"
they are now fund raising for the basics. In some cases, parents are being
asked for the first time to pay fees for school-bus transportation,
after-school programs and school bands. In Oldham County, Ky., reports
Judy Molland, high-school students even pay a $4 rental fee per textbook!
While education advocates applaud the dedication and commitment of so many
parents, they are also concerned about the level of fund raising today.
"Having parents raise money to accomplish their goals is a great activity,
but it=92s not the role of the PTA to take over in this area because the
state isn't doing its job," cautions David Cullen, director of legislation
for the Florida state PTA. He worries that the more parents bear the
burden of paying for public education, the less obligated policy-makers
will feel to appropriate money for public schools.

The fairest way to decide how much money a school receives is to allocate
funds on a weighted per pupil basis, and then along with the money,
provide the decision making power so that the principal in partnership
with the local school council can determine each schools=92 needs. The Cross
City Campaign for Urban School Reform, writes Diana Nelson, has learned
three important lessons from studying how districts across North American
provide resources to their schools: 1) Funding should be based on student
need; 2) People closest to the students are in the best position to decide
how to use those funds to support school improvement efforts; and 3)
central office services should be market driven. If the Chicago Public
Schools were to adopt a weighted per pupil allocation system, and devolve
the authority to the schools for purchasing decisions, central office
departments would be placed in competition with external vendors.
Principals could purchase services from either the central office OR
elsewhere. Two enormous bonuses occur -- according to the districts that
have done this. First of all, the district central office shrinks because
if no one is buying their services, they go out of business: it=92s the
American way. And/or the central office really shapes up, becoming more
effective and more efficient in order to compete in this brave new world
of choice.

By the time they enter high school, students begin to show many signs of
maturity. Cutting back on an old childhood standard, the peanut butter
sandwich, is a newfound sign uncovered by a University of Georgia survey
of school-age children. "Surprisingly, we found that middle school
students are more likely to eat peanut butter sandwiches and tend to
consume them more frequently than elementary school students," said
Stanley Fletcher, an agricultural economist with the UGA College of
Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "And high school students avoid
them." Fletcher doesn't know why high school students turn away from
peanut butter sandwiches. "It could be that high school students, in a
transition period from teenagers to adults, begin to adopt the dietary
style of adults," he said.  "They start cutting back on candy and on
peanut butter, too." The UGA study found that economic status also
influences how many peanut butter sandwiches Georgia students eat.
Students from counties of higher per capita income were found to eat fewer
sandwiches and eat them less often. Of the students surveyed, 82 percent
eat school-prepared lunches. Of those, the study found that 41 percent
like the taste of school-prepared peanut butter sandwiches. The survey
showed that students who buy school lunches eat fewer peanut butter
sandwiches than those who bring lunches from home. "School lunches usually
offer more choices than home-prepared lunches," Fletcher said. "But the
students who like the taste of school-prepared peanut butter sandwiches
were found to eat them more often."

Students in the Berkeley school district aren't getting written homework
assignments because teachers are refusing to grade work on their own time
after two years without a pay raise. So far, a black history event had to
be canceled and parents had to staff a middle-school science fair because
teachers are sticking strictly to the hours they're contracted to work.
"Teachers do a lot with a little. All of a sudden, a lot of things that
they do are just gone. It's demoralizing," said Rachel Baker, who has a
son in kindergarten. Teachers say they don't want to stop volunteering
their time. "It's hard," said Judith Bodenhauser, a high school math
teacher. "I have stacks of papers I haven't graded. Parents want to talk
to me; I don't call them back." The action was organized by the Berkeley
Federation of Teachers, which wants a cost-of-living increase next year.
District Superintendent Michele Lawrence expressed sympathy for the
teachers but said there isn't money for raises. She blamed Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger for not providing as much money to education as promised.

Everyone Needs Security Information

It's free and it checks your computer to see if you're
vulnerable and/or have been infected by a virus or Trojan Horse.

The odds of getting a fully certified teacher in an Ohio charter school
are about the same as winning a coin flip. About 45 percent of the
teachers in the state's nearly 250 charter schools lack full state
certification, according to Ohio Department of Education figures. Many of
those teachers instead hold long-term substitute credentials, state
records show.  That's a sharp contrast to traditional public schools,
where nearly 98 percent of classroom teachers in core subjects are fully
certified. The reason for the certification gap: A loophole in the federal
No Child Left Behind law allows teachers in charter schools to be held to
a different standard from their colleagues in traditional public schools.
And in Ohio, that standard does not include full certification. "Something
needs to be done about that," said State Board of Education member Sam
Schloemer of Cincinnati. "The intention of charter schools was to offer an
alternative to regular public schools, not something less."  Researchers
agree that having a qualified teacher is crucial to a student's success,
reports Scott Stephens. Research also shows that giving poor and minority
children qualified teachers dramatically closes the achievement gap
between them and their more affluent peers. But researchers don't always
agree on what makes a teacher "highly qualified," especially in charter
schools designed to provide alternative ways to teach and learn.

We know that children can learn. Many teachers are getting impressive
results and eliminating the achievement gap in schools and classrooms
across the country. Research confirms that teachers are the single most
important factor in raising student achievement. Students arrive in the
classroom with many different backgrounds and experiences, each bringing
its own set of opportunities and challenges. Highly qualified teachers can
maximize every child's potential to meet high academic standards. Teachers
are key to fulfilling the promise of No Child Left Behind. The U.S
Department of Education has a whole set of new activities to support
quality teachers, including lesson plans, online videos, free summer
workshops and a host of e-learning opportunities on how to improve student

Among the many buzzwords swarming around education reform, "evidence-based
practice" has become one of the hottest. Spurred in part by No Child Left
Behind -- with its more than one hundred references to research and
evidence -- and, in part, by efforts by the business community and others
to help infuse educational decisions with data, schools and school systems
are quickly lining up to demonstrate how their curricular and spending
decisions reflect evidence about what works and what's needed. To a great
extent, this trend is a positive one, writes Robert Rothman. Educators
will admit that many decisions have been based more on history (the way
schools have always worked) and on politics (the wishes of a favored
constituency) than on evidence. And with budgets tight, administrators are
eager to show that schools are producing results. Yet, like many concepts,
"evidence-based practice" can mean many different things, and the way it
is interpreted and applied can determine whether it represents a real
change in the way schools operate or just another fad. The notion of
evidence-based practice implied in No Child Left Behind is a limited one.
The law is producing reams of data, but nearly all of it is
standardized-test data that cannot sufficiently inform decisions about
programs and practices. While it is useful to know whether certain groups
of students are performing less well than others in mathematics, it is
also important to know what the classrooms are teaching so that schools
can know what to change. In addition, the law's emphasis on knowing "what
works" is based on a limited model of research that assumes that a program
that works in one school will work in any school. The type of randomized
trials the law holds up as the "gold standard" for education research,
similar to the kind of studies used in medical research, say little about
how to implement an innovation. The latest issue of Voices in Urban
Education, from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, focuses on
evidence-based practice. It provides four perspectives on the use of
evidence to improve education at the district and state levels and offers
provocative ideas about what counts as evidence and ways evidence can
inform practice.

Are your school districts trying to teach to the state standards?
Find out what standards there are for teachers and administrators.
Who sets the standards and how to improve achievement.

Schools may be too polite to tell you, but we're not. Knowing what really
drives people crazy is the first step in building a better relationship,
writes Bryan Taylor. Here=92s what teachers and principals have told us
behind closed doors. There=92s a bit of each of these characters in all of
us. Rate yourself to find which is your temptation -- or compare with your
partner to start a fun conversation! Then try an antidote to get more from
your child=92s school without burning bridges. Click below to find out if
you are: Forgetful Fred; Behind Your Back Brenda; Busy Bea; In-Denial
Deirdra ;Demanding Dan; or AWOL Alice.

There's an ethical debate coming your way. It's based on the following
facts: (1) Better teaching causes more learning; (2) Experienced teachers
are usually better than inexperienced teachers; (3) The gap in student
achievement explained by race and class is large; (4) Leaders across the
political spectrum, including teacher union leaders, agree that this gap
is unacceptable and must be reduced; (5) Districts have had limited
success using incentives to convince their best teachers to teach in
high-poverty schools; (6) seniority provisions in union contracts
generally forbid districts from assigning experienced teachers to
high-poverty schools; and (7) Some districts now want to require their
best teachers to teach in high-poverty schools. Rob McMahon and Doug
Tuthill reviewed these facts with some key union and district leaders, and
then asked this question: Is it ethical for teachers to refuse to teach in
high-poverty schools? The authors integrated their responses into a
fictional exchange between a local union president and a district

Government Funding Resources Education Grants,
Scholarships & Loans, State Agency Phone Numbers for
Student Financial Aid, Business Plan Resources for Women,
Federal Department of Education Technology Grants
ARTS, Grants for Women, Grants for Women & Girls

Religion in the public schools has always been a contentious issue.
Federal and state Constitutions originally trumped debates over religion
in public schools by strictly forbidding its promotion.  Paradoxically,
the facilities and resources of traditional public schools can be used for
religious purposes unrelated to school activities.  Now, charter schools
may challenge traditional agreements relied on to separate church from
state.  J. Shelton Baxter examines this issue by looking at charter school
law in the state of California.  California law explicitly prohibits state
charter schools from supporting religion in any form, which may lead to
legal challenges.  Some charter school supporters have argued that
increased autonomy should mean charter schools are free to follow any
mission, even those of a religious nature.  Anecdotal evidence suggests
that many charter schools are founded by faith-based homeschoolers,
located in religious buildings and aided financially by religious
connections.  Baxter finds that California=92s charter school law can be
challenged on two fronts.  First, the current exclusion of religion in all
forms, even the use of facilities and resources by outside religious
organizations, is inconsistent with accepted public school actions.
Second, California law may conflict with previous Federal judicial
decisions.  The solution may be to make charter school regulations mirror
those of traditional public schools.  Whether this would stifle the
innovation that drives the popularity of charter reform remains unknown.

Evolution Vs. Unintelligent Design

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, children file into the tiny classrooms at
Victory Academy, where teachers lead lessons in math, reading and foreign
languages. However, on Mondays and Wednesdays, reports Patti Ghezzi, those
classrooms are empty. The school's 48 students are taught at home. Victory
Academy, a Catholic school in Mableton, is one of at least a half-dozen
schools in metro Atlanta blending home schooling and private education.
Several more such schools are in the planning stages. Kids and parents say
the arrangement affords them the best of home schooling and a more
structured school. Georgia's home schooled population has doubled since
1996. Last year, more than 34,000 children were taught at home -- about 2
percent of the state's student population. That figure doesn't include
home schooled students whose parents don't register with the local school
board. It's unclear how many home schooled students are attending some
sort of school part time. For some parents who don't like public schools,
"hybrid" schools like Victory offer a more affordable alternative than
traditional private academies. Because Victory is open only two days a
week, tuition ranges from $1,700 to $3,400 a year, less than half the cost
of most private schools. On Fridays, children can participate in an
optional arts program. Organizers believe the "hybrid" concept could open
up home schooling to many families who want to try it but are intimidated
by the prospect of developing lesson plans for each child and covering
everything a child needs to know. Pam Palmer, a home schooling mother of
five, needed help with her children's high school courses, especially lab
sciences. "I don't want a fetal pig on my kitchen table," she said.

Homeschool the kids

A study examining the effects of 'high stakes' graduation tests on SAT and
graduation rates finds that states that require such tests had lower
graduation rates and lower SAT scores than other states. The impact of
high stakes tests on students' motivation to stay in school and on the
teaching of critical thinking skills are discussed in the study.

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

"MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts Education Project "
The National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts has launched a major
new national initiative - the MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts
Education Project - to improve teaching and learning in the arts by
advancing sustainable partnerships between community schools of the arts
and public schools.  Through the project, the Guild will award grants of
up to $15,000 to support exemplary CSA-public school partnerships during
the 2005-2006 school year.  Additional information and grant application
guidelines are available at:

"Horace Mann Scholarship Program for Educators"
The Horace Mann Companies is offering $30,000 in scholarships for public
and private school educators to take college courses. Maximum Award:
$500-$5,000. Eligibility: Educators must be employed by a U.S. public or
private school district or U.S. public or private college/university at
the time of application and at the time the scholarship is awarded, and
must have at least two years teaching experience. Program is not open to
residents of Hawaii, New Jersey and New York. Deadline: May 14, 2005.

"2005 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education"
Since 1988, the prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education has
been annually awarded to three individuals who have had an unusually
positive impact in the field of education.  Past honorees include former
First Lady Barbara Bush and former Governor James Hunt, as well as former
U.S. secretaries of education, university presidents, principals,
superintendents and educators from across the country.  Prize recipients
are selected by a distinguished Board of Judges who review eligible
nominations.  Recipients are honored at a dinner in New York City and
receive a $25,000 prize.  Only individuals who are presently committed to
the cause of education are eligible for nomination.  Institutions, boards,
organizations or other groups are not.  Individuals may be nominated in
the areas of early childhood education, teacher professional development
and high school reform, for example. Completed nomination forms must be
received by March 11, 2005.  Honorees will be announced on September 28,
2005. For those without computer access, please call 212-512-6113.
Nomination forms can be downloaded from:

"American Honda Foundation"
The American Honda Foundation makes grants to K-12 schools, colleges,
universities, trade schools, and other youth-focused nonprofit
organizations for programs that benefit youth and scientific education.
Maximum Award: $10,000 -$100,000. Eligibility: Schools and youth-focused
nonprofit organizations. Deadline: Grant applications are accepted four
times per year: Nov. 1, Feb. 1, May 1, and Aug. 1.

"Assisting At-Risk Youth"
The Home Depot Foundation gives cash and materials to help provide young
people with safe places to play and learn, leadership programs that teach
skills through community engagement, and job readiness training. Maximum
Award: Up to $25,000 Eligibility: Schools and districts. Deadline:
Applications are considered four times a year.

"Show Me the Money: Tips & Resources for Successful Grant Writing"
Many educators have found that outside funding, in the form of grants,
allows them to provide their students with educational experiences and
materials their own districts can't afford. Learn how they get those
grants -- and how you can get one too. Included: Practical tips to help
first-time grant writers get the grants they need.

"Department of Education Forecast of Funding"
This document lists virtually all programs and competitions under which
the Department of Education has invited or expects to invite applications
for new awards for FY 2005 and provides actual or estimated deadline dates
for the transmittal of applications under these programs. The lists are in
the form of charts -- organized according to the Department's principal
program offices -- and includes previously announced programs and
competitions, as well as those planned for announcement at a later date.
Note: This document is advisory only and is not an official application
notice of the Department of Education. They expect to provide regular
updates to this document.

"Information on Grants for School Health Programs & Services"

The Grantionary is a list of grant-related terms and their definitions.

GrantsAlert is a website that helps nonprofits, especially those involved
in education, secure the funds they need to continue their important work.

"Grant Writing Tips"
SchoolGrants has compiled an excellent set of grant writing tips for those
that need help in developing grant proposals.

FastWEB is the largest online scholarship search available, with 600,000
scholarships representing over one billion in scholarship dollars. It
provides students with accurate, regularly updated information on
scholarships, grants, and fellowships suited to their goals and
qualifications, all at no cost to the student. Students should be advised
that FastWEB collects and sells student information (such as name,
address, e-mail address, date of birth, gender, and country of
citizenship) collected through their site.

"Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)"
More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make
hundreds of federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to
find. The result of that work is the FREE website.

"eSchool News School Funding Center"
Information on up-to-the-minute grant programs, funding sources, and
technology funding.

"Philanthropy News Digest"
Philanthropy News Digest, a weekly news service of the Foundation Center,
is a compendium, in digest form, of philanthropy-related articles and
features culled from print and electronic media outlets nationwide.

"School Grants"
A collection of resources and tips to help K-12 educators apply for and
obtain special grants for a variety of projects.

"All schools for miles and miles around
Must take a special test,
To see who's learning such and such --
To see which school's the best.
If our small school does not do well,
Then it will be torn down,
And you will have to go to school
In dreary Flobbertown."
-Jack Prelutsky (poet)

=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3DPEN NewsBlast=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D
The PEN Weekly NewsBlast is a free e-mail newsletter featuring school
reform and school fundraising resources. The PEN NewsBlast is the property
of the Public Education Network, a national association of 90 local
education funds working to improve public school quality in low-income
communities nationwide.

There are currently 47,230 subscribers to the PEN Weekly NewsBlast. Please
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PEN Weekly NewsBlast, send a note to:

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Public Education Network
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Washington, DC 20005


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