PEN> PEN Weekly NewsBlast for January 31, 2003

  • From: Gleason Sackmann <gleason@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: K12Newsletters <k12newsletters@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:30:15 -0600

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From: "Public Education Network" <PEN@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: PEN Weekly NewsBlast <newsblast@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 18:47:40 -0800
Subject: PEN Weekly NewsBlast for January 31, 2003
Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."

Current school reform efforts are unlikely to lead to large-scale school
improvement unless they combine "top-down structure" with "bottom-up
relationships" with the people most important to student achievement:
parents and communities. Kavitha Mediratta and Norman Fruchter contend
that, "In order to build relationships that overcome layers of suspicion,
cynicism and despair accumulated over decades of disconnect between
schools and communities, concrete steps need to be taken to give all
parents more access, representation, and power." The report proposes a
series of "performance standards" to help schools, districts, and
policymakers evaluate how well they are engaging their most important partners.

One year after President Bush signed the sweeping education bill into law,
states are rolling out ambitious testing programs, improving teacher
quality, developing excruciatingly detailed report cards -- and struggling
to make it all work. Only 12 states are on track to comply with even half
of the major federal requirements, according to a new report from
Education Commission of the States. Though states have a few years to meet
some of the requirements, many were already due. In the first detailed
look at how all 50 states and the District of Columbia are grappling with
the complex law, ECS found that many have a long way to go. As they face
shrinking state budgets, many local lawmakers and education officials are
complaining that the federal government is saddling schools with dozens of
new requirements without providing enough extra money to get the job done.

(The interactive report, which features detailed breakdowns of state
progress on 40 measures, is accessible at

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Cold weather superintendents have a special alliance, solidified by at
least one frenzied winter night of staying up late to watch The Weather
Channel, climbing out of bed at 4 a.m. to decide if the roads are
hazardous enough to cancel school and then spending the day defending
their decision. In this humorous and informative article, Randy Dewar
shares eight common mistakes rookies superintendents commit when the
flurries start to fly.

Jobs for the Future has documented practical answers to the question: How
can communities and school systems take advantage of the breakthrough
possibilities offered by emerging, powerful learning environments inside
and outside of the school building, school day, and school year? At the
very moment when young people need higher levels of skills and credentials
to become economically self sufficient, the fastest-growing segments of
the U.S. population consist of the young people who have been least
well-served by our secondary, postsecondary, and "second chance" education
systems. A new on-line resource from JFF provides educators, policymakers,
and researchers with much-needed information about institutions and
institutional arrangements that are more effective and efficient than the
outmoded, factory-model high school. Based on three years of research,
over 50 profiles, practices, and products are now available at:

The issues and results vary by group, but community organizing for
educational reform has achieved notable accomplishments coast to coast.
The use of community-organizing strategies to reform urban public schools,
particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, has grown
exponentially during the past decade. This movement is challenging
traditional methods of parental involvement -- particularly in
low-performing schools with high staff and leadership turnover,
bureaucratic and dysfunctional cultures, and a lack of adequate support
and guidance from district staffs. In these schools, parents and youth are
not asking for advisory participation; they are demanding that their
schools strive toward higher levels of performance. Such demands are
increasingly based on research and data and they are creating new ways to
partner with educators to create a school climate conducive to learning.
The key to community-driven school reform is that community organizing
creates the social capital necessary to form equal partnerships between
the community and the schools. This enables groups to break through
bureaucratic paralysis and to generate public demand for policies and
resources to eliminate disparities in the education system.

In a new report, Ronald C. Brady draws on the results of previous state
and district efforts to overhaul failing schools to provide a glimpse at
what may be expected from current federal school reform interventions.
Anticipating the uneven and incomplete implementation of the No Child Left
Behind law, the report admits that, "Some children will still need more
than NCLB promises. While ?restructuring? is the final step in NCLB
intervention process, the experience in states and districts over the past
decade indicates that restructuring will not always lead to improved
schools. Reconstitutions and takeovers have resulted in many changes, but
not all of their predicted -- or needed -- improvements. If we know this
now, then we can project that even in those states and districts that
implement the law most aggressively, there will still be children
suffering in failing institutions. We need to consider other, more, and
better options than we have to date concerning how to address these
needs." Since this report was underwritten by the Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation, you can be sure that those "options" include vouchers and not
demands for additional federal funding. The report includes a helpful and
comprehensive matrix of interventions broken down according to the
strength of the required effort: mild, moderate or strong.

As states clip education budgets to cope with falling tax revenues and
rising deficits, residents across the country are devising ingenious ways
to save schools. In one Colorado community confronting a gaping $13.8
million budget shortfall, parents and students are helping out by donating
crayons and hawking T-shirts. Some students are even soliciting donations
on their website These types of money collections are
hardly unique. In many school districts across the U.S., students,
parents, and community organizations are addressing serious fundraising

At the heart of the new education law is its promise of a "highly
qualified" teacher in every public school classroom by 2006. According to
Reg Weaver, this is an extremely ambitious goal, given the nearly 200,000
noncertified teachers now concentrated mostly in schools serving poor,
minority, and immigrant children. Yet the Administration has proposed
cutting funding for teacher quality programs. How can this be? If you want
to discover the difference between superb public schools and struggling
public schools, follow the money. For example, Connecticut spends nearly
50 percent more per student than Mississippi.  Guess which state has a
proven record of excellent public schools?  The Bush Administration
promised major new funding to give high-poverty schools a fighting chance
to meet the higher academic standards required by the law. Now, however,
Washington is proposing to back away from this commitment. The
Administration has proposed what amounts to a zero-percent solution: no
new funding. Congress has been instructed to freeze overall federal
education spending at last year's levels. Funding for the new federal law,
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, would actually be cut by $90
million.  Forty education programs -- including dropout prevention, school
counselors, and rural education -- would be eliminated.

Throughout the millennia, students of all ages in China have had to endure
the miseries of learning by rote. Teachers have stifled creativity in the
pursuit of the accumulation of facts, and parents have forced children to
spend mind-numbing hours cramming for exams. But for the past year, the
government has been experimenting with what could amount to revolutionary
changes in China's classrooms. The aim is to make education more pleasant,
more useful and, above all, to challenge students to think for themselves.

At the end of school bus runs in the St. Paul (MN) public schools, drivers
are required to walk to the back of the bus, checking for sleeping
students. To make the exercise a little more tangible, those drivers also
hang an "empty" sign in the bus' rear window, letting employees at the bus
garage know the vehicle has been checked. While the procedure is a
no-brainer, two recent incidents involving Twin Cities-area preschoolers
being left behind on cold buses show that drivers sometimes neglect that
crucial check. "It's something that everybody in transportation has
nightmares over," said Harold Turnquist, transportation director for St.
Paul Public Schools, which was not involved in either incident. School bus
drivers in Minnesota need to have background checks, drug tests and
medical exams completed before they're hired. But finding a fail-safe
method for making sure they always check their buses for sleeping kids
remains a challenge.

All the talk about America's short supply of teachers misses the point,
says a privately funded group dedicated to improving teaching in the
country's schools. The real problem is keeping teachers in the classroom.
Increasingly states are lowering standards, scrapping training and
ignoring laws in favor of stopgap hiring. Because the teacher staffing
problem has been defined the wrong way, the solutions have been wrong,
too. The National Commission on Teaching and America?s Future (NCTAF) aims
to change the debate as federal and state leaders seek ways to swell
teaching ranks and improve academic achievement. Their new report outlines
three strategies: organizing every school for teaching and learning
success; insisting on quality teacher preparation, program accreditation,
and licensure; and developing rewarding career paths for teachers.

Many schools are trying innovative ways of attending to student and
faculty health needs. Strained budgets, insufficient numbers of nurses and
increasingly complex student health problems are forcing schools and
districts to embark on community partnerships, demand additional services
from existing staff and explore supplementary sources of dollars to
finance nurses or other health workers.  In the absence of regular nurses,
school officials must find ways to administer Ritalin and other
prescription drugs, help students use asthma inhalers, monitor diabetics?
sugar intake, identify depression or other mental health problems and care
for children who have no health insurance.

How does one measure the growth of intellect, imagination, and aspiration?
How does one measure curiosity, self-confidence, and hope? Peter Cookson
asks, "Why would we believe that educational potential could be captured
by a standardized test?" He fears that the current test frenzy will create
a dumber, not a smarter America. According to Cookson, "By reducing
education to a numbers game, the standardizers and the testers will ensure
that very little goes on in America's classrooms except test preparation.
Instead of curing illiteracy, we will deprive children of the one thing
that makes reading compelling: curiosity. Instead of rousing minds to
life, we will be putting our children to sleep at the very time when the
future depends on their intellectual strength and flexibility."

For almost 2 decades, a chorus of education and government organizations
has decried the disgraceful condition of America?s schools. Numerous
concerned groups have documented a shocking backlog of deferred
maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers? Report Card on
America?s Infrastructure gave school infrastructure a grade of D minus in
2001. With a body of emerging research establishing the role of the
physical environment of schools in student success, adequate and equitable
funding of school infrastructure takes on new urgency. What can be done to
improve the condition of America?s schools? According to this article,
local school districts and state and national organizations must continue
to press policy makers at all levels to place funding of school
infrastructure on the same plane as that of operating costs.

Local officials all over the country are doling out tax subsidies to
corporations left and right, and it's hurting public schools to the tune
of billions of dollars each year. That's the conclusion of a new 50-state
study by the National Education Association and Good Jobs First. Two key
types of local property tax subsidies are allowing big business to delay
or skip paying taxes for several years, taking needed funds out of the
pockets of public schools in at least two-thirds of the states.
Furthermore, the report said, subsidies often are shrouded from public
scrutiny and granted with little or no input from elected school board
officials. And the tax breaks are rarely evaluated for their promised
effectiveness in promoting local economic development.

According to Michael Gilbert, Internet fundraising is reinforcing a form
of fundraising that is anything but balanced. He acknowledges that the
widespread ability of nonprofits to accept credit card transactions online
is a useful service. But it is very dangerous to use the Internet only for
prospecting and transacting. Gilbert advocates for a deeper, more
deliberate approach to fundraising where nonprofits genuinely cultivate
their relationships and use e-mail to personalize appeals and demonstrate
gratitude. As a result, asking for money "?will become easier because,
like plucking a ripe fruit, a well cultivated donor hardly has to be
touched in order to give. Furthermore, the ask will become about much more
than money. Sometimes it will be about volunteering or about activism or
about education. The greater levels of rich enrollment will also lead, as
all the research indicates, to greater giving."

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

"Arts@Work Grant Program"
The NEA Foundation Arts@Work grant program encourages public secondary
school arts specialists to collaborate with technology savvy educators and
the business community to develop examples of technology-integrated arts
curricula that meet high standards for student achievement.  The grant
amount is $5,000 and up to 12 grants will be awarded.  Grant funds may be
used for hardware, software, consultants, release time, or other costs
directly related to the development of standards-based curriculum that
integrates the arts and technology.  Application deadline: March 3, 2003.
"BellSouth Foundation Opportunity Grants"
The BellSouth Foundation is currently accepting online concept papers for
its 2003 Opportunity Grants program.  Opportunity grants are available for
unsolicited proposals that may not fit within the parameters of a specific
BellSouth Foundation initiative, but that appear likely to add value to
the Foundation's work within that priority area.  Opportunity grants are
available in four priority areas: leadership, teacher quality,
college-going minorities, and technology.  Grants are awarded once a year
and requests should not exceed $75,000.  Application deadline: March 21,

"Service Learning Awards"
The State Farm Good Neighbor Service-Learning Award enables youth and
educators to bring positive benefits of service learning to more young
people.  This grant is for both young people ages 5-25 and teachers to
implement service-learning projects for National Youth Service Day 2003,
April 11-13th.  Fifty grants of $500 each will be available to young
people and fifty grants of $1,500 will be available to teachers (to engage
classes). Application deadline: February 28, 2003.

"American Youth Policy Forum Fellowship"
The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) announces the inauguration of the
Howard Howe II Fellowship to be awarded each year to a promising young
scholar or scholar-practitioner.  The Fellow will carry out a
self-designed project on significant issues in youth policy, practice,
research or program evaluation, focusing particularly on disadvantaged
youth.  The Fellowship is supported under a grant from the Ford
Foundation.  The first Fellowship will be available for work commencing in
the summer or fall of 2003.  Proposal deadline: March 1, 2003.
"The SBC Foundation"
The SBC Foundation has announced the opening of its 2003 SBC Excelerator
competitive technology grants program.  Now in its second year, SBC
Excelerator will provide $9 million in competitive grants to help
nonprofits fully integrate technology into their ongoing operations and
community outreach.  The program will fund projects that build the
technology infrastructure of nonprofits, enabling them to increase their
organizational effectiveness and/or service capability in areas such as
Internet access, data networking, online outreach, staff technology
capacity, and pooled technology resources.  Grants will range from $2,500
to $25,000 and are for one year in length. Collaborations by two or more
organizations will be considered for grants up to $50,000 for one year.
Application deadline: April 22, 2003.

"School Funding Services Grant of the Week"
Each week School Funding Services, a division of New American Schools,
features a new grant on their website.  This week they highlight the
Inspiration Software Inspired Teacher Awards.

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.
"Fundsnet Online Services"
A comprehensive website dedicated to providing nonprofit organizations,
colleges, and Universities with information on financial resources
available on the Internet.

"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 2003 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 include programs and competitions the Department
has previously announced, as well as those it plans to announce at a later
date.  Note: This document is advisory only and is not an official
application notice of the Department of Education.

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

"Philanthropy News Digest-K-12 Funding Opportunities"
K-12 Funding opportunities with links to grantseeking for teachers,
learning technology, and more.

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


"Legislators should be thinking about common-sense reforms like reducing
class sizes, strengthening teacher quality, and improving parental
involvement, and not ways to divert public tax dollars away from public
-Ralph Neas (president, People for the American Way)

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