PEN> PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 21, 2003

  • From: Gleason Sackmann <gleason@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: K12Newsletters <k12newsletters@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 07:14:08 -0600

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From: "Public Education Network" <PEN@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: PEN Weekly NewsBlast <newsblast@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Fri, 21 Mar 2003 00:00:15 -0800
Subject: PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 21, 2003
Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
UNICEF has been working in Iraq since 1952. Half of Iraq's 24.5 million
people are children. Key statistics include: Iraq has one of the world's
worst child mortality rates -- 1 in 8 Iraqi children die before their
fifth birthday. One-quarter of Iraqi children are born underweight.
One-quarter of school-aged children do not go to school. Two-thirds of all
Iraqis are dependent on Government food aid. One-fifth of the population
(five million people) lack access to safe water. UNICEF's preventive
measures include providing high-energy biscuits and therapeutic milk to
400,000 malnourished children in a bid to rapidly improve their
nutritional status. UNICEF has also immunized 500,000 children against
measles, a deadly disease that spreads rapidly among displaced
populations, and it has vaccinated some four million children against
polio, protecting them against the disease and preventing its spread to
nearby countries. UNICEF will rapidly respond with emergency assistance
for children and mothers. UNICEF will lead in the provision of clean water
and sanitation and will also play a major role in children's health,
nutrition, education and protection. To date, UNICEF has pre-positioned
thousands of metric tons of emergency relief supplies, including emergency
health kits, birthing kits, school-in-a-box kits and water purification
units, among other supplies. To learn more or to find out how to help,

The states' most serious fiscal crisis in more than half a century has
worsened to the point that more than a third of the states are moving to
cut millions -- in some cases billions -- of dollars from public school
budgets, an area of spending that most had vowed to protect or even expand
as they pursued the ambitious student achievement goals of President
Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. School officials from more than a dozen
states said in interviews that the reductions would take a toll on student
performance as districts increase class size, pare teacher training
programs and cut services aimed at some, as opposed to all, students --
from remedial tutoring to advanced classes for gifted students. They said
the Bush administration's signature effort to raise the performance of all
students could be in jeopardy if the budget crises persist another year or
two. There is no way to measure the cuts' impact on a national scale
because each state, and ultimately each district, is making its own
tradeoffs. But with 85 percent of district budgets tied up in salaries and
benefits, cuts fall heavily on the other 15 percent -- teacher training,
after-school enrichment, even bathroom cleaning contracts. State and local
officials say many cutbacks work against the goals of the No Child Left
Behind Act. Teacher training is needed to meet the law's requirement that
every class have a "highly qualified teacher" by 2005.

Chick Moorman outlines effective and ineffective strategies for
communicating with children about war and terrorism. The five best? 1)
"What have you been hearing about the war?" 2) "You can watch TV for only
30 minutes, and I want to be present." 3) "What do you suppose it looks
like from the other side?" 4) "I don't know what will happen, but I know
we'll be able to handle it." 5) "I understand how you could feel that
way." The Five Worst: 1) "God is on our side." 2) "We are right and they
are wrong." 3) "There is nothing you can do." 4) "You don't know what
you're talking about." 5) "There is nothing to worry about."

In all the world, the loneliest people must be that handful of men and
women of the Department of Education dispatched by the Bush administration
to wander the country, defending the new No Child Left Behind Act. Talk
about friendless.  Michael Sentance, the department's Northeast
representative, sat before Vermont's joint House-Senate committee on
education not long ago, and sustained two hours of hammering by
Republicans and Democrats alike. You never saw such bipartisan contempt.
He looked miserable, but as he bobbed and weaved through the questions,
this Bush appointee remained polite and understated. "It is an audacious
and challenging piece of legislation," he conceded. "No doubt about it."
No doubt about it. Think of it from Mr. Sentance's point of view. How do
you defend a law that is likely to result in 85 percent of public schools
in America being labeled failing -- based on a single test score?
Audacious, indeed. And how do you defend a law demanding that schools have
100 percent of their children reaching proficiency on state tests in the
next decade, and then provides a fraction of the resources state educators
say is necessary to help the poor, the foreign born, the handicapped meet
those standards? Democrats and Republicans wanted to know. Did Mr.
Sentance really believe, given poverty's daunting effects, that 100
percent of children could pass state exams? "That remains to be seen,"
replied Mr. Sentance. And how do you defend a law that gives the federal
government unprecedented control over "failing" schools -- that tells
local school boards when they must fire their principals and teachers --
even though it pays a small fraction (7 percent) of public education

War has begun with Iraq and the impact on civil society will be
devastating. Michael Gilbert is appalled at the lack of collective action
from the independent and nonprofit sector. Already, our war footing has
displaced billions of dollars from the nonprofit sector to the war
economy. The civil liberties upon which nonprofit organizations depend to
do their work have been massively eroded. The multilateral institutions
through which international NGOs succeed are under attack. The needs for
social, economic, and educational justice work, whether in social service
or social change, are expanding dramatically. And obviously, war itself
will bring great suffering. Where are the editorials from nonprofit
leaders on this issue? What is the position of the Nonprofit Times or the
Chronicle of Philanthropy? What is the position of the major funders, the
Independent Sector, or the dozens of other leadership organizations?
Privately, many individuals are taking action. The staff of some groups
have taken public positions against the war. Of course, there are hundreds
of organizations specifically mobilizing on the issue, the vast majority
of them opposed to the war. But as a sector, we are silent. In this
provocative editorial, Gilbert expresses concern that this collective
silence about the war will do lasting damage to civil society.

According to a recent report by the National Conference of State
Legislatures (NCSL), only 5 percent of the tobacco settlement money
allocated thus far has been spent on smoking prevention and only 3 percent
has gone to programs for children and youth. This is very disappointing
news for youth advocates, who entertained momentary high hopes four years
ago when the Master Settlement Agreement was announced. Where have all the
dollars gone, if they did not underwrite smoking prevention and youth
programs? In its August 2002 analysis, "State Management and Allocation of
Tobacco Settlement Revenue 2002," the NCSL reported that of the $33
billion allocated by state governments over the past three years, the
single biggest expenditure (at 29 percent) was for health services, a
broad category that includes Medicaid, Child Health Insurance Plus,
primary care, rural health, maternal and child health, and treatment of
mental illness. The second largest grouping, at 23 percent, was endowments
and budget reserves ? a category that bears watching in a fiscal
environment characterized by looming deficits in most state coffers. Now
that the tobacco settlement is back in the news across the country, this
seems like an ideal time for youth advocates to call our state legislators
to their duty. With $205 billion available over 25 years, the appropriate
use of tobacco settlement money is a more than legitimate subject of
public debate. Many states have established public commissions and task
forces to recommend how to use the funds. The logic of allocating more of
these funds to youth smoking prevention and youth development programs
seems obvious, yet the voices of youth workers and youth must be loud and
clear if they are to be heard amid the chorus of competing interests.

One of the most important freedoms Americans enjoy is the freedom to
educate their children in the manner they think best. For the past
half-century, the great majority of Americans have chosen to send their
children to their neighborhood public school, an institution that in its
basic outlines has changed remarkably little over the years. As we begin a
new century, however, more and more parents are seeking out alternatives
to the traditional form of schooling familiar to them from their own
childhood. Magnet, charter, private, and even home schools have become the
preferred options for a small but growing number of families. Yet
relatively few of these options are open to the children of low-income
parents. The reality is that choice in education is a function of
purchasing power. Middle and high-income parents enjoy a much wider range
of opportunities to secure a good education for their offspring. Except
where parochial schools are plentiful and affordable, low-income parents
have had no choice but to send their children to a local public school,
regardless of its quality. Read a new magazine created by Public Education
& Business Coalition in Denver, a local education fund, that presents
numerous views on educational alternatives and effective strategies for
improving traditional public schools.

According to the Des Moines Register, the federal No Child Left Behind Act
actually undercuts national interests. Forcing schools to focus so much
attention on students who lag behind will divert resources from their
classmates who promise to become the next generation of leaders and
innovators. This is not elitist thinking. Students struggling with basic
skills should get the help they need. It's not only that the next Albert
Einstein may be among them, but that all youngsters deserve the best
education possible. The thing is, schools don't need Washington to tell
them that. With only so many education dollars to go around, the right
balance must be struck. It is shortsighted for the federal government to
strong-arm local schools to put total effort into an unrealistic mission
-- at the expense of promoting advanced education for talented students.
Schools have nowhere near enough money for the broad math and science
initiative that's needed. The No Child Left Behind Act does have a
requirement for testing in science that takes effect in 2007-08, but it
will be aimed at a minimal level of competency. Failing to encourage
top-level science education could be a dangerous, unintended consequence.
The No Child Left Behind Act could result in a country left behind.

It has long been argued that learning to read, like learning to understand
spoken language, is a natural phenomenon. It has often been suggested that
children will learn to read if they are simply immersed in a literacy-rich
environment and allowed to develop literacy skills in their own way. This
belief that learning to read is a natural process that comes from rich
text experiences is surprisingly prevalent in education despite the fact
that learning to read is about as natural as learning to juggle
blindfolded while riding a unicycle backwards. Simply put, learning to
read is not only unnatural, it is just about the most unnatural thing
humans do. In this article, Sebastian Wren details ten common myths of
reading instruction.

A new 30-page guide from Parent Leadership Associates takes a closer look
at how the new federal law requires schools and districts to involve
parents in the hard work of school improvement. Readers also learn about
six leverage points that parents and community members can use to ensure
every child receives a high-quality education. Order the guide at this
page, where you'll also find PDF links to six useful (and free)
backgrounders, including "What Must a Title I School Do To Promote Parent
Involvement?" and "What if Your Child's School Is 'In Need of
Improvement?'" Parent Leadership Associates is a consultant group working
with communities and educators interested in developing more active,
informed parents.

School administrators, citing lengthy and expensive legal battles, are
voicing support for legislation that would make it easier to fire
teachers. Karen Soehnge of the Texas Association of School Administrators
said under current laws, the decision not to renew a teacher's contract
because of poor performance is cumbersome. "Most teachers have nothing to
fear about this legislation," Soehnge said. "This legislation is not
anti-teacher. It's pro-educator and pro-student." Educators disputed those
claims. If the current laws are followed, schools can get rid of bad
teachers in a matter of days and sometimes without any legal costs, said
Pamela Parker, an attorney with the Association of Texas Professional
Educators. Now, teachers must receive 45 days' notice if their contract is
not renewed, and they are entitled to a hearing and appeals. If the laws
change, pressure at local school districts such as criticism from parents,
administrators or other teachers could lead to a teacher more quickly
losing their job. One observer said it would give schools the ability "to
weed out the few bad apples." Others worry the legislation would allow
districts to fire veteran teachers to save money by hiring younger

George Bush promised to revolutionize public education when he signed the
No Child Left Behind Act last year. But his failure to finance the law
properly has discouraged recession-strapped states from embracing it
fully. His administration has further endangered the reform by emphasizing
peripheral parts of the law that win points from religious conservatives
while ignoring vital provisions. The Department of Education seems more
interested in promoting prayer in the schools -- and giving religious
groups access to federal education dollars -- than in pursuing the most
crucial part of the reform, which is providing every child with a "highly
qualified" teacher by 2006. The federal government took the unusual step
last month of warning schools that get federal aid for the poor that they
could lose that money if they did not permit students to exercise
"constitutionally protected prayer." The Department of Education is
pressing schools to provide tutoring for students in low-performing
schools, but without providing sufficient money. The department is also
pushing a provision that allows students to transfer to other public
schools, a strange priority given that schools are underfinanced and
overcrowded. The administration's decision to starve reform has played
into the hands of those who wish to preserve the mediocre status quo. By
ignoring core issues like teacher quality -- while pandering on religion
-- it could leave the schools weaker than they were when this effort

Responsive Classroom is a program that addresses young people's social and
emotional needs as well as their academic needs. And the social and
emotional aspect of education, says Hudson Public Schools Superintendent
Sheldon Berman, "is an essential and central element" of districtwide
reform. "A school system has to create an environment where learning is a
positive experience and the climate in the school is such that it supports
children taking risks, feeling safe, feeling accepted," Berman says. He
adds that the instructional program and social and emotional initiatives
are "mutually beneficial and necessary." A 1998 survey of Hudson parents
confirms the importance of programs that address students' social and
emotional needs, both for behavioral and academic results. The survey
found that parents believe that safety and a caring environment, fair
treatment, and responsiveness of the faculty to parents' concerns are the
top indicators of the success of a school system. Challenging academics
came in fourth. Read more about the Responsive Classroom program and how
it impacts student achievement.

A little praise can be a huge motivator for students. When one student?s
scores increased dramatically, his teacher, Max Fischer, sent him a
congratulatory postcard with a brief note of encouragement. "No teacher
has ever written a note of encouragement to my son," the student?s mother
said. "He?s never been a good student, especially in social studies. His
previous teachers seemed to concentrate on his faults. I just wanted to
thank you. It means a lot to him and me." The poignancy of her comments
still grips Fischer. The fact of the matter is that this particular
student had never been more than a D student in social studies. But
Fischer has always had a philosophy of building up students with praise --
when warranted. The dramatic improvement, albeit not earth-shattering by
many standards, indicated to Fischer that this young man could achieve at
a higher level and was making a serious attempt to do so. Written notes of
praise are designed to applaud and motivate students. Read Max Fischer?s
reflections about the power of written praise to raise student
achievement. Included: Six reasons to put praise for students in writing.

Rarely do administrators consciously choose to procrastinate, reports Rick
DuFour. More typically they delay and defer in the belief that there is
one more prerequisite that must be fulfilled before they can begin to
implement the concept under consideration. Three qualifications often used
to justify inaction are the need for greater buy-in, more training, and
stronger relationships. DuFour is more convinced than ever that leaders of
effective professional learning communities are action-oriented. They turn
aspirations into action and visions into reality. Not only do they act,
they are unwilling to tolerate inaction. They recognize that learning
always occurs in a context of taking action, and they value engagement and
experience as the most effective of teachers. Even seemingly chaotic
activity is preferred to orderly, passive inaction. The Chinese proverb
advises that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The journey to improve a school will not truly begin until its leaders are
willing to take that first step -- to move beyond discussion and study and
insist that the school and those within it begin to act in new ways.

According to a study released recently by the National Board on
Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College, teachers are
shifting their instruction to focus on what is tested.  The report, titled
"Perceived Effects of State-Mandated Testing Programs on Teaching and
Learning," is the summary of findings from a two-year study.  It suggests
that the "teaching the test" mentality is greatest in elementary schools
(due to the grades 3-8 focus of NCLB testing) and in states where
high-stakes testing is already in place.  The study found that in those
high stakes schools and states, teachers used test results more than any
other group to plan instruction (60 percent) and to select instructional
materials (50 percent).  Eight in 10 teachers in high-stakes states
reported spending an increased amount of time on tested subjects, while
decreasing instruction time spent on non-tested subjects.

Early childhood development programs are rarely portrayed as economic
development initiatives, and a new report concludes that type of thinking
is a mistake. Such programs, if they appear at all, are at the bottom of
the economic development lists for state and local governments. They
should be at the top. Most of the numerous projects and initiatives that
state and local governments fund in the name of creating new private
businesses and new jobs result in few public benefits. In contrast,
studies find that well-focused investments in early childhood development
yield high public as well as private returns.

Thirty-six years ago, the South Carolina General Assembly enacted
legislation that consolidated the eight small school districts in
Charleston County into one large one. The pre-consolidation districts and
boards were left in place and called "constituent" districts and boards.
Constituent boards were given a short list of powers. Among them were the
employment and assignment of teachers, the establishment of attendance
lines, the transfer of students, school bus safety, and the interview and
recommendation of candidates for principal. Interestingly, they were given
neither a budget nor control over resources. In the process, the
superintendent was left on the sidelines, hat in hand, waiting for
permission from the School District Board of Trustees to do his job.
Despite the reasons, good or bad, for adopting this governance scheme,
according to Jon Butzon, executive director of the Charleston Education
Network, a local education fund, the schoolchildren of Charleston County
have paid the price ever since. In this article, he offers support for a
new law that will increase school accountability.

More U.S. high school students plan to go to college than ever before, but
many are being set up to fail, according to the findings of six years of
research by the Bridge Project at Stanford University. The research
provides the first national yardstick that identifies many barriers facing
low-income and many ethnic groups in preparing successfully for college.
In addition, the research has surveyed high school students and their
parents, and identifies significant misunderstandings about what students
need to know to succeed in college. According to the research, these
barriers and mixed messages can be traced to the wide chasm that currently
exists between K-12 and postsecondary education systems. "Our K-12 and
college systems currently move in separate orbits," said Michael Kirst,
professor at Stanford University. "It's the students who are left behind.
And primarily, it's the students at broad-access institutions who fare the

Thirty years ago, America was a very different place for children with
disabilities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, as many as 1
million children with learning, physical or other disabilities were then
excluded from our educational system. In 1975, the passage of a federal
law dramatically changed this situation for the better. The Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a "free appropriate
public education" to every child with a disability. The commitment made
through IDEA has enabled millions of children to receive the special
assistance they need, opening doors that were once closed to young people
with disabilities. While funding and other important issues in special
education remain the subject of intense debate, IDEA has left a legacy of
hope and opportunity for millions of Americans. Read about Florida?s McKay
program, which some observers believe will use school vouchers to shatter
this legacy and shortchange the needs of students with disabilities.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Houston Republican, came under fire last week
for suggesting that the Lone Star state's commitment to providing all
Texas children with a quality education is a concept from communist
Russia, or, to use her words, "straight out of the pit of hell."
Specifically, The El Paso Times reported that after a hearing of the House
Border Affairs Committee, of which she is a member, Riddle said: "Where
did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free
medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes
straight out of the pit of hell."

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

"Microsoft Software Donation Program"
In an effort to help nonprofits efficiency and results, TechSoup, the
nonprofit technology website, announced that it is working with Microsoft
Corp. to launch a newly enhanced Microsoft Software Donation Program.
Microsoft will continue to partner with TechSoup to deliver even more
donated products to organizations across the U.S. Nonprofits will work
directly with TechSoup when requesting software. Organizations can use
technology planning resources on TechSoup and they can review and order
products online.  Customer service professionals are on call via Web,
e-mail or phone to answer any questions and eligible organizations can
make one donation request per 2-year period.

"Early Reading First Program"
The Department of Education is now inviting applications under the Early
Reading First (ERF) program.  Part of President Bush's "Good Start, Grow
Smart" initiative, ERF is designed to transform existing early education
programs into centers of excellence that provide high-quality, early
education to young children, especially those from low-income homes.
Specifically, the program strives to prepare young children to enter
kindergarten with the necessary language, cognitive, and early reading
skills to prevent reading difficulties and ensure school success.
Pre-applications, from eligible school districts and community
organizations, are due by April 11.

"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
Department of Commerce's Technology Opportunities Program.

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.

"Have you ever really had a teacher?  One who saw you as a raw but
precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud
shine? If you are lucky enough to find your way to such teachers, you will
always find your way back."
-Mitch Albom (journalist/author), "Tuesdays with Morrie"

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