PEN NewsBlast 05-26-06

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  • Date: Tue, 30 May 2006 10:38:26 -0400

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"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
May 25, 2006

A national poll from the National School Boards Association finds a
majority of likely voters believe that Congress is out of touch with
the public's expectations when it comes to funding federal education
programs and want Congress to fulfill its funding commitment to
schoolchildren. Further, voters say they will be considering
Congressional members' voting record on education funding when they go
to the polls in November. Nearly three of four likely voters think
Congress is not doing a good job setting spending priorities and needs
to make changes in priorities. And nearly 88 percent of those polled
think that if Congress can spend billions on wasteful pork-barrel
projects, then they can afford to fulfill their promises on funding
federal education programs. There is a significant disconnect between
the current federal investment in education funding and what voters
think is spent and want spent. On average, voters believe that 20
percent of the federal budget is currently spent on K-12 education,
but they want 37 percent of the budget spent on it. Both are a far cry
from the 1.5 percent actually spent on K-12 education. Even Republican
voters want 33 percent of the federal budget spent on education. The
NSBA poll indicates there could be a significant political price for
not restoring the promised education funding. Overall, 59 percent of
voters say that they would be less likely to vote for a member of
Congress who voted against restoring funding. Sixty-one percent of
voters would be more likely to vote for a member of Congress who voted
to restore funding to the authorized and promised levels. This
sentiment cuts across party lines as a majority of Democrats,
Republicans, and Independents were in agreement.

School-business partnerships have been flourishing for more than 30
years. Since the 1970s, partnership programs have evolved from
one-sided "Adopt-a-School" efforts to mutually beneficial partnerships
that provide advantages to both schools and businesses. Partnerships
offer business leaders and their employees an opportunity to
contribute to their community as well as an inside look at today's
schools, which in turn increases their knowledge, understanding and
advocacy for public education. Schools and students benefit from
additional human and financial resources. A partnership between a
school and a business can prove beneficial to both partners if the
right components are in place. The Daniels Fund has researched why
some school partnerships are more effective than others. This report
highlights seven strategies for successful partnerships based on the
findings: (1) Ensure student learning and achievement are the focus of
every partnership; (2) Develop a well-defined and well-managed program
that supports school-based partnerships; (3) Make strategic matches
between schools and businesses that advance a school's improvement
goals; (4) Set clear expectations for schools and businesses; (5)
Provide training for school staff and business employees; (6) Create a
meaningful process for communicating about the program and recognizing
the contributions of business partners; and (7) Regularly monitor and
evaluate each partnership and the overall program.

Polls show education surpassing taxes, crime and affordable housing as
the top concern among voters across Washington, DC. Mayoral contenders
are hearing the same message on the campaign trail from childless
couples worried about property values, business executives struggling
to find qualified workers, and parents frustrated by the poor
condition and academic performance of public schools. Pollsters say
long-standing concern about schools has gained fresh urgency because
of the contrast with other aspects of city life. Crime is down,
municipal services are better, the once-destitute government is flush
with cash and the median home price tops $400,000. But the D.C. school
system still ranks among the worst in the nation, reports Lori
Montgomery. To a growing number of voters, the schools represent an
abdication of responsibility to nearly 60,000 students, the majority
of them black and poor.

The number of immigrants who have entered the country illegally is
estimated at 12 million. At this point it's impossible to say who
among them will be able to earn citizenship and the right to pursue
their American dreams. The country and Congress are bitterly divided
over the issue. But however many people are eventually able to gain
legal status, there is one thing that should be required for all
seeking to make a new life in this country: education. It is a matter
to which Congress has thus far paid little attention. Any new
immigration bill should require that all immigrants 25 or younger,
before qualifying for permanent resident status, graduate from high
school or earn a GED, writes Elias Vlanton. Further, Congress should
provide an accelerated path to citizenship for immigrant students who
attend college or other postsecondary programs: For every year of
postsecondary education, students could receive their citizenship one
year earlier.

Blame for the achievement gap -- overtly in some quarters and perhaps
subconsciously in many more -- falls on an idea that has been floating
around for 20 years: Black students underperform academically because
they fear being accused of "acting white." The idea was once put
forward as an actual educational theory, coined by two educational
researchers in 1986 and embraced by the public. Erin McNamara Horvat,
an associate professor of urban education at Temple, wants to give it
a rest. "Part of its allure is that it has a ring of truth," says
Horvat. "Any parent knows that kids want to be like their peers." So,
for some black kids, fear of "acting white" may indeed cause their low
grades. "However, it's also an attractive explanation because it lets
us off the hook. We don't have to worry that thousands of kids aren't
getting what they need. We can say, 'They're not achieving because
they don't try.' "

If you've got an active intelligent, high energy, "ants in the pants"
type of child, watch out! Your child is in danger of being
misdiagnosed by school officials and by medical physicians as having
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). "Don't let this
happen to your child!" says author and educator Elaine Ely, Ph.D. "You
don't want to let school officials require your child to be placed on
a daily regimen of psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin." Dr. Ely, a
certified teacher with over 24 years experience with middle school
students, is part of an ever expanding group of educators, who believe
that most of the ADHD classified students aren't sick with a real
mental illness at all. Instead, they are "Advanced Creative Thinkers".
Dr. Ely and an ever-increasing number of educators are extremely
concerned about the lack of a clear distinction between the bright,
rambunctious, even boisterous children who behave as advanced creative
thinkers, and those who get misdiagnosed with ADHD. Dr. Ely believes
that parents, educational professionals and the medical community have
to learn to recognize that there are real differences between mental
diseases with a real biological and chemical basis, and normal
behavior of bright, healthy and energetic children. "Advanced Creative
Thinkers (ACT) are being victimized," said Dr. Ely. "They are
academically overlooked, emotionally and socially stunted, physically
misdiagnosed with ADHD mostly by teachers who simply don't want high
energy children in their classes." Dr. Ely says there are simple and
reliable tests that can help you determine if your child has creative
gifts. She has developed an informal inventory of 12 questions that
can be used to evaluate whether a child has advanced creative thinking
skills. Read the book's introduction for free at:

The first nationwide science test administered in five years shows
that achievement among high school seniors has declined across the
past decade, even as scores in science rose among fourth graders and
held steady among eighth graders, reported the Education Department.
The drop in science proficiency appeared to reflect a broader trend,
in which some academic gains made in elementary grades and middle
school have been seen to fade during the high school years. The
science results came from the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, a comprehensive examination administered in 2005 by a branch
of the Department of Education to hundreds of thousands of students in
all 50 states. The science test, which was administered during the
first months of 2005, covered the earth, physical and life sciences,
writes Sam Dillon. Some teachers blamed the decreasing amount of time
devoted to science in schools, in part because of the No Child Left
Behind Law, whose requirements for annual testing in reading and math
during the elementary grades have led many schools to decrease the
time spent on science or to abandon its teaching altogether.

You might think the last thing school districts would want is to bring
religion into the classroom. Better to play it safe, and avoid
lawsuits and angry parents by limiting any mention of faith to the
private sphere. But school officials in Modesto, in Northern
California, decided not to play it safe. In 2000, the religiously
diverse community took a risk and, in an almost unheard-of undertaking
for a public school district, offered a required course on world
religions and religious liberty for ninth-graders. Bringing religious
beliefs out into the open increased students' respect for religious
liberty for two reasons. First, students not only emerged from the
course far more knowledgeable about world religions, they also were
able to apply the knowledge practically. Second, students learned that
major faiths shared common moral values. Students did not become
relativists or converts. They were no more likely to disbelieve the
truth of their own religious traditions after taking the course.

Love notes, underwear, cologne, a live rooster, and a dead owl are
among the treasured items students have smuggled into class -- and
that teachers have taken away. At the link below you can take a look
at some of these weird keepsakes. Also, you can listen to three
teachers describe their wackiest finds.

For an organization that began as the National Congress of Mothers, it
probably comes as no surprise that the PTA for decades has been
dominated by women. Throughout its 109-year history, women have been
at the helm of the National PTA, and they have been the backbone of
its local and regional associations. But slowly, men are taking PTA
leadership posts at school, district, state and national levels,
reports Helen Gao. So many more men are attending PTA conventions that
women can no longer take over men's restrooms to avoid long lines.
Today, nearly 1 million of the PTA's 6.5 million members nationwide
are men. The transformation comes as the organization is also trying
to reach out to minorities, immigrants and non-traditional families
headed by grandparents and single parents.

Federal lawmakers they are willing to make the No Child Left Behind
law more flexible, but warned there won't be a lot of extra federal
money to help pay for it. And don't expect the law to go away, members
of the House Education & the Workforce Committee said as they kicked
off a series of hearings in preparation for renewing the sweeping
education law next year. Since it was passed in 2001, teachers,
parents and state education officials have complained about various
aspects of the law, which requires schools to meet goals for student
performance or face a variety of penalties. Representative Howard
"Buck" McKeon, a California Republican who chairs the House committee
said he's willing to listen to the complaints, but he's more
interested in how to solve any problems. Democrats have long
complained that the law has not been fully funded, while Republicans
argue that federal spending on education has increased significantly
since the law was passed. Representative George Miller of California,
the education committee's top Democrat, said funding will be a
critical issue as Congress works to renew the law. "Where is education
on the priority list of this government?" Miller asked. The House
narrowly passed a 2007 budget early Thursday that calls for cutting
federal spending on education by more than $5 billion, about 7
percent. Both McKeon and Miller said the committee plans to review the
entire law before reauthorizing it, hearing from critics and
supporters alike. However, Miller said, it would be a waste of time
for critics to argue that the law should be scrapped.

What do an electrician, construction worker and plumber have in common
with college freshmen? According to a study recently published by ACT
they all need comparable reading and math skills to succeed. The new
report, "Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different?"
compared 476,000 high school juniors' results from 2001 to 2004 on two
exams: the ACT college admissions test and WorkKeys, an assessment of
employability skills. ACT determined that similar reading and math
skills are required to pass first-year college courses as are needed
to succeed in entry-level "family wage" jobs.

A new issue brief by Kristie Kauerz, published by the New America
Foundation Education Policy Program, argues that alignment of
standards, curriculum and assessment from Prekindergarten through
Third Grade can reduce fade-out and improve academic achievement. The
brief discusses three types of curriculum alignment: horizontal,
vertical and temporal. For PK-3 initiatives to expand, Kauerz believes
the federal government must support states' and local school
districts' efforts. She recommends that the federal government convene
a National PK-3 Commission to establish common strategies and goals
for federal PK and primary education programs. For alignment at the
state level, she calls for federal government support of state PK-16
Councils to create the infrastructure needed to encourage school
districts to implement PK-3. For alignment at the local level, she
calls for the dedication of new Title I funds to support PK-3 efforts.

Salaries of School Administrators go to new heights

Public schools are suffering from both an image problem and a decline
in funding. Michael J. Manafo believes that they should take a page
from the private schools' book and consider some proven techniques for
image enhancement and institutional advancement. Strategies he
promotes include: (1) Move beyond event fund-raising into
institutional advancement; (2) Create a dynamic school website; (3)
Carefully consider, define, and refine your brand; (4) Publish a
multipurpose viewbook; (5) Work to integrate the school and community;
(6) Cultivate local linkages and partnerships; (7) Create a strong
alumni base; (8) Define what you are raising money for; (9) Solicit
major gifts and endowments; (10) Invest in technology; (11) Learn from
your competition; (12) Start at the beginning and develop a realistic
action plan; (13) Hit the ground learning, not running. Information
from all constituencies is crucial to placing important issues in
their proper context; (14) Develop a realistic action plan based on
input from your constituencies: weigh your priorities, go back to your
constituencies for feedback, and seek consensus on where to actually
begin the change process; (15) Implement with care and be prepared to
be flexible, to compromise, and to refine your proposals; (16)
Evaluate your outcomes, and make the results public; and (17)
Celebrate success, recognize good work, and learn from your mistakes.

Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education
U.S. GAO  of Special Investigations
Military and the University Complex
University CEO's Salary INFORMATION
Cyberliberties at the top 50 universities in the United States.
WHO OWNS K-12 IP Online Content?

For some years, eighth grade teachers at Wellwood Middle School in
Manlius, New York, have challenged their students to go through a
"rite of passage" by creating memorials around significant persons or
events. One intent, obviously, is to help the rising ninth graders
focus some attention on what it means to live a memorable life. The
project requires students to: Select a person or event deserving of
remembrance; explore the facts surrounding the person or event;
publicize facts and anecdotes in an original paper; design and create
a tangible memorial, and present the work through a formal speech. If
you think this might be a good idea for your school, you'll find all
you need to know at these pages on the Wellwood website, including
examples of student work:

Schools are faced with tough decisions all the time: if and when to
advance a struggling student, what to do with the somewhat gifted, how
to arrange teachers' schedules to accommodate teacher needs and still
serve student learning needs at the same time. Chris O'Neal has worked
with lots of districts, and observes that few of them take the time to
sit down and really, concretely look inward. By creating some
short-term, concrete goals, schools are able to quickly see schoolwide
achievement, which helps foster a sense of commitment to reach
longer-term goals. Click the link below to view a sample school
improvement plan grid.

"Learning From Small-Scale Experimental Evaluations of After School
Programs" reviews the evaluation strategies and findings from
rigorous, experimental studies that are smaller or more local in scope
than the national evaluations usually featured. Although they are
often overlooked, these evaluations can provide valuable information
for practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and others about
investing in, conducting, and evaluating after school programs.

While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires all students to be
"proficient" in math and reading by 2014, the precedent-setting 2002
federal law also allows each state to determine its own level of
proficiency. It's an odd discordance at best. It has led to the
bizarre situation in which some states achieve handsome proficiency
results by grading their students against low standards, while other
states suffer poor proficiency ratings only because they have high
standards. "We are not evaluating state tests, nor are we grading
states on the performance of their students," explain Paul Peterson
and Rick Hess.  "We are checking for 'truth in advertising,'
investigating whether state-announced proficiency levels mean what
they say." This year, they assessed a total of 48 states, including 9
new ones.  In the good news category, a handful of states have kept
their standards rigorous for a second consecutive year, each assessing
their own performance on a particularly tough curve. The bad news is
that some states that had been in good standing are letting their
standards slide. In the "cream puff" category, states with already low
standards have done nothing to raise them. To learn your state's grade
and how it was graded, go to:

************************************************************** Assessment / Testing

Graduation Rates

Retention - Who Will benefit?
Resources and Advice For New Teachers
Retention And Social Promotion


"The Big Read Program"
The Big Read Program, an initiative of the National Endowment for the
Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services,
will engage libraries and other community and school partners across
the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and
enlightenment. The program is designed to revitalize the role of
literature in American popular culture and bring the transformative
power of literature into the lives of its citizens. Maximum Award:
$10,000-$20,000. Eligibility: 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or
division of state, local, or tribal government that possesses a
demonstrated capacity to plan and implement a well-planned,
well-attended, community-wide event with a diverse range of
programming. Deadline: Phase One -- September 12, 2006; Phase Two --
February 01, 2007.

"Verizon Foundation Literacy Grants"
Verizon Foundation is now accepting proposals from eligible
institutions for Literacy Grants. Maximum Award: $5,000-$10,000.
Eligibility: elementary and secondary schools (public and private)
that are registered with the National Center for Education Statistics
(NCES). Deadline: November 30, 2006.

"Connecting Mathematics to Other Subject Areas Grants"
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Connecting Mathematics to
Other Subject Areas Grants will be awarded to create senior high
classroom materials or lessons connecting mathematics to other fields.
Maximum Award: $3,000. Eligibility: The applicant must be a current
member of NCTM and currently teach mathematics in grades 9-12 at least
50 percent of the school day. Deadline: November 3, 2006.

"Grants for Formal K-12 Education"
RGK Foundation awards grants within education to programs that focus
on formal K-12 education (particularly mathematics, science and
reading), teacher development, literacy, and higher education. Maximum
Award: $25,000. Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations. Deadline: N/ A.

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


Grants for Women, Grants for Women & Girls
Business Plan Resources for Women,

Government Funding Resources Education Grants,
Scholarships & Loans, State Agency Phone Numbers for
Student Financial Aid, Federal Department of
Education Technology Grants, Arts


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

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