PEN Weekly NewsBlast for April 14, 2006

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  • Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 10:56:34 -0400

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

Regardless of our roles in society, each of us will be affected by what
happens in the field of education in the coming decades. The knowledge
gained, the work habits developed, and even the moral values learned by
today?s students in our schools will, for every American, at least
partially determine the future efficacy of our health care system, affect
our place as a country in the world market place, and influence the level
of safety and security we will experience individually and collectively in
the coming decades.  A new paper by Kenneth R. Stevenson presents both
possibilities and critical issues related to what the future holds for the
field of education and the facilities that house it.  Will schools as
physical places disappear by 2055, and be replaced by virtual schools?
Some parents fear that their child will come to physical harm at school,
but they also fear that the values and beliefs that may be taught at
school to their child will be in direct conflict with their own. Others
see growing signs of "cocooning" even within apparently homogeneous
communities as evidenced by the increasing number of gated neighborhoods,
and housing developments catering to very specific groups, such as
retirees. Others point to the numerous pieces of legislation introduced
federally and/or in various states and municipalities to limit immigration
and restrict who has access to public services including schools. Unless
schools come to be seen as integral to the lives of those without children
in school, tax dollars will slowly but surely dry up for public education.
Policymakers and community leaders must encourage and expect the
educational enterprise to broaden its mission so that places called
schools are viewed as community centers. Such centers would provide
traditional educational experiences, but also would serve as neighborhood
hubs for preventive health care, recreational/social activities, meals for
the elderly and needy, development of avocational interests, and retooling
for new job opportunities. From an educational facilities perspective, if
schools can be made to be true neighborhood community centers, the
likelihood the general public will support taxing itself for new schools
and/or renovation of existing ones will be enhanced greatly.

Imagine that two-thirds of the packages FedEx absolutely positively
promises to deliver by tomorrow morning never arrive. Imagine that
one-quarter of all new iPods can't play music recorded after 1999. Imagine
that Gap advertises to the masses but sells its clothes only to rich
customers. Now you have imagined the business equivalent of the U.S.
system of public education. Despite being the wealthiest country on Earth,
America maintains a public education system in which 30 percent of high
school students don't graduate, one out of every four reads below basic
grade levels, and, compared to students from more affluent backgrounds,
few of their low-income counterparts are adequately prepared for college.
Read the full text of "Risky Business," by James Daly, which details how
business leaders are scrambling to push for change in our public education

A large majority of Americans (89%) think the high school dropout rate in
the U.S. is an "extremely serious" or "somewhat serious" problem,
according to a TIME/The Oprah Winfrey Show poll. The coverage sprung from
a recent report that details the dropout epidemic: almost one-third of
public high school students drop out in America -- and nearly one-half of
all African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans fail to graduate
from public high school with their class. The report, "The Silent
Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts," was funded by The Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation.
"I'm delighted to be working on this story with
Oprah, since we both agree that a poorly educated America is an America
without a rich future," says TIME Managing Editor Jim Kelly. According to
the joint poll: (1) If the public were grading U.S. public schools, about
3-in-5 (61%) would give them a grade of a "C" or less; (2) Six-in-ten
Americans (64%) think we are spending too little money on public schools;
(3) More than two-thirds (78%) think that lowering academic standards
would be "not very effective" or "not at all effective" in keeping kids in
school; (4) To increase the number of children graduating from high
school, almost half of respondents (45%) feel it would be a "very
effective" or "somewhat effective" measure to penalize the parents of
students who don't finish high school.,9171,1183359,00.html

University PH.D's have collaborated with publishers and government
over the past 100 years and they have been in charge all this time -
we have done it their way all this time and this what "they" have delivered . . .

A SECOND LOOK AT COMPULSORY EDUCATION In medicine, "iatrogenic" is the word used when treatment worsens a condition. Examples of this iatrogenic phenomenon in education include certain aspects of policies and practices like achievement-level tracking, the assignment of homework, the standards movement, and compulsory education. Because of its universality, compulsory education is perhaps the greatest mischief-maker, writes Dennis L. Evans. Certainly, there is little dispute that education is a virtuous endeavor, and that it is essential both for individual development and, collectively, for our democratic society?s stability. Given such unanimity of support, it is understandable that we have defined engagement in education as a compelling state interest, and thus have made it mandatory for our children. But compulsory schooling has little to do with education. We can bring children to the schoolhouse, but that does not mean that education is occurring. Indeed, recent figures suggest that only 68 percent of 9th graders will graduate in four years. Observers contend that many of these apparent dropouts eventually will obtain a high school diploma, and thus the statistic is not as dismal as it might appear. Regardless, we do know with certainty that many high-school-age students are simply not engaged with school-site education. In reality, they are dropouts who are still in school.

Tens of thousands of people waved American and Mexican flags in dozens of
U.S. cities demanding to become legalized U.S. citizens. Reminiscent of
the 60s civil rights movement for Blacks, 2006 seems to be a pivotal
turning point year for Hispanics, who have not surpassed Blacks as the
largest "minority", a term that is quickly becoming an oxymoron as some
projections show that the Hispanic population will pass Whites by 2050 --
without mass legalization of immigrants -- and much sooner if the
floodgates of legalization open to our Southern neighbors. Montgomery
County (MD) public school Superintendent Jerry D. Weast made a
controversial decision to grant students community service credit for
attending immigration demonstrations.  Defending the decision, schools
spokesman Brian Edwards retorted, "This is nothing new. Advocacy is
allowed." But in the superheated atmosphere surrounding the immigration
debate, the decision is drawing sharp criticism from many quarters. School
system offices were flooded with angry phone calls as word of its
authorization of credits was heralded on Talk Shows. Maryland students are
required to put in 60 hours of community service to graduate from high
school. They are allowed to include work for political campaigns and
various activist activities -- including the immigration protests, which
took place during the school system's spring break and students will be
required to have a sponsoring organization verify their attendance.

"EduDance, Classrooms In Motion," is a fledgling program in which students
meet physical education requirements through ballroom dancing.  Two
fifth-grade classes at Boulder Oaks Elementary School in Alpine, CA,
participate in EduDance, which began this school year and could eventually
reach other schools in the county, said Anne Krantz, the program's founder
and coordinator.  The concept has caught on with students, teachers and
parents since its inception in September. Suddenly, students know music
and moves that would make their parents -- and grandparents -- nostalgic.
Students learn six dances throughout the year, reports Sharon Heilbrunn --
fox trot, waltz, tango, rumba, cha-cha and swing.  "The tango is my
favorite because I know it well and I like the music," said Cody Kennel,
11. "It flows perfectly." Permanent partners were assigned in the
beginning of the year based on height and personality compatibility.
Students were shy at first, Krantz said, but they have really opened up.

THE RIGHT SIZE SCHOOL Can schools be too small to provide adequate curriculum and instruction? When Paul Abramson, a consultant who advises school districts on facilities and planning, asked that question, he found that small high schools are likely to offer fewer courses than large ones. In English, for example, students in large high schools might elect courses on 19th-century British novels, Shakespeare, and African-American writers. In small high schools, students are likely to be limited to a grade-level sequence labeled English I, II, III, and IV. Even so, reports Susan Black, small schools can provide an enriched curriculum on par, or nearly on par, with large schools. The critical factor is not the number of courses -- it?s how principals and teachers organize and manage instruction. Small high schools, even those with as few as 100 students, can provide rigorous courses and offer students choices, Abramson contends, but "only if they change the relationship between teachers and students and take advantage of their size to do things differently."

Who would have guessed 4 years ago -- when the bloom was on the NCLB rose
-- that it would today need spirited defenders, people who see beyond the
partisan rhetoric? As it turns out, because NCLB set its sights so high it
now needs all the friends it can get -- and not policy wonks but
practitioners who know whereof they speak. Paul L. Kimmelman?s latest book
is "an attempt to be a useful guide for understanding how NCLB became a
law and, most important, building organizational capacity to implement
school improvement to comply with it." He focuses on building
organizational capacity to avoid repeating mistakes of the past and to
help educators understand the process of reform "to prevent more policy
mandates in the future." To do so, he encourages practitioners to
"recognize the importance of acquiring, managing, and implementing
knowledge to inform decision making." This is a tall order, particularly
when many educators are notoriously averse to data-driven decision making.
 Read the forward by Denis Doyle and sample chapters at:

A new study from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
has found that professional development for teachers can have a positive
impact on student achievement if it: (1) is sustained over time; (2)
focuses on specific content areas or instructional strategies; (3)
supports the collective learning of most, if not all, teachers in a
school; (4) aligns with school and teacher goals; and (5) provides
opportunities for teachers to practice and apply new knowledge. McREL
researchers also found, however, that in general, teacher professional
development does not reflect these characteristics. As a result, it has
had mixed results in improving student achievement. McREL recommends that
those responsible for planning professional development ensure that
teacher training focuses on particular areas of teacher and student needs.
In addition, schools and districts should carefully scrutinize
professional development programs to ensure that they are based on
rigorous research and employ effective strategies for improving teacher
and student performance.

The skills tests that most public school teachers must pass to get a job
are poor predictors of whether they'll actually be good teachers -- and in
some cases may even keep good ones from entering the classroom, new
research suggests. A pair of long-term studies challenge longstanding
policies in 48 states that require teachers to pass standardized exams to
get jobs, reports Greg Toppo. In one, Marc Claude-Charles Colitti of
Michigan State University examined data going back to 1960 and found
teachers' scores had almost no correlation to principals' evaluations of
their classroom performance. "How smart a teacher is doesn't necessarily
tell us that they're a good teacher," he says. Teachers' SAT or ACT
college entrance exam scores, or even their own scores on fifth-grade
skills tests when they were children, would be as accurate at telling
whether they'll be good teachers, he says. Before 1983, only three states
required teachers to pass general-knowledge tests. By 1999, 39 states had
such requirements. By the time President Bush's No Child Left Behind law,
with its requirements for "highly qualified teachers," passed in 2002, 48
states required the tests. Teachers, schools and states now spend an
estimated $50 million to $100 million on such exams. But University of
Washington researcher Dan Goldhaber warns that passing a general-knowledge
or even a specific-subject-matter test isn't a silver bullet. "This is by
no means a guarantee that you're getting the right people in and keeping
the right people out."

Beginning teachers are more likely to remain in the profession if they are
satisfied with the principal's leadership and school climate, according to
a new Duke University study. Many school districts focus on mentoring
programs and salary hikes to keep teachers. While those should be part of
a comprehensive effort to retain well-qualified teachers, this new study
by Susan Wynn shows that principal leadership and school climate deserve
more attention in local school district efforts.

Students in urban school districts have made steady gains on state tests
in the past four years, in many cases outpacing their states' average
rates of improvement, a Council of the Great City Schools study concludes.
The report found that in big-city school districts, students improved
faster in mathematics than they did in reading, and that 4th graders
posted bigger gains than did 8th graders. The group's sixth annual urban
report card says that the proportion of 4th graders scoring at or above
proficiency in math increased by 14 percentage points from 2002 to 2005 --
from 44.5% of those students to 58.5%. On reading, reports Catherine
Gewertz, the proportion at or above proficient rose from 43.3% to 54.4%.
Among 8th graders, 36.1% scored at or above proficient in reading in 2002,
and that proportion rose to 39.7% in 2005. In math, 37.3% of students
scored at that level in 2002, rising to 45.7%, last year. The report also
shows preliminary results suggesting that the districts studied are
narrowing racial and ethnic gaps in state test performance -- at times, at
rates faster than for their states overall.

Researchers have generally believed that teachers are better than parents
at evaluating the behavior of school children, because teachers have a
bigger group of children for comparison. A University of Virginia study,
however, shows that parents are better at assessing their child's
emotional states, while teachers are better at rating bad behaviors. The
results emphasize the importance of teachers and parents working together
in the child's best interest.

A new report by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest
national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S.,
examines the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on students who
are English language learners (ELLs).  The report concludes that, while
the law has not been implemented adequately and many states try to bypass
the law by exempting ELLs from test score and student outcome reports,
NCLB holds considerable promise for closing the achievement gap between
ELLs and other students.  The issue brief provides analysis and
recommendations that can serve as a road map for policy-makers and school
administrators for improving NCLB?s effectiveness for ELLs.  Nearly half
(45%) of the 8.8 million Latino students enrolled in U.S. public schools
are ELL students.  Nationally, 79% of limited-English-proficient students
are Spanish-speaking.

Although school districts are the primary supplier of education services,
they do not always have independent authority to set spending levels or
raise revenues. The ability to set expenditure levels depends in part on
the taxing authority of school districts. School districts in 36 states
are designated independent, meaning they may generate their own revenues,
usually by setting property tax rates. In the other states, some school
districts are dependent on a city, town, or county to raise revenues. For
example, most school districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode
Island are city or town dependent, while districts in Maryland and North
Carolina are primarily dependent on counties. Other states have a mix of
both dependent and independent school districts, with dependent school
districts generally found in larger cities. Most dependent school
districts are on the East Coast. Districts have increasingly been
dependent on state aid for funding. This one-page tax analyses, written by
Sonya Hoo, Sheila Murray, and Kim Rueben, looks at changes in school
financing by type of school district.

At the root of many school funding disputes is the decision by most
states, including South Carolina, to use mostly local property taxes to
pay for schools. That system works in prosperous areas of the South where
property values and tax receipts have increased significantly in recent
years, providing money to expand and modernize schools. But rural areas
that have lost population and jobs are left with aging buildings and
equipment and are losing their best teachers to better-paying districts.
Local dependence on property taxes for school funding is harming poor,
largely Black rural areas in South Carolina and throughout the "so-called
Black Belt ? from Texas to Virginia."  To reform the system, much now
rides on the actions of the courts and state lawmakers.

INCREASE SCHOOL HOLDING POWER: INFORM, CONNECT & ACT National media -- from the Oprah Winfrey Show to Time magazine - are spotlighting the national crisis of students dropping out of school. Since 1986 when Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) conducted Texas? first statewide study of high school dropouts, Texas schools have lost over 2 million students. That?s like losing a student every four minutes. Schools lose almost half of their Hispanic students, close to half of African American students, and one in five White students. Together, schools, parents, students and policymakers can make a difference in strengthening school holding power. Schools must have the capacity to prepare every student for graduation and college. We must ensure: (1) All students are valued; (2) There is at least one educator in a student?s life who is totally committed to the success of that student; (3) Students, parents and teachers are provided extensive, consistent support in ways that allow students to learn, teachers to teach and parents to be meaningfully involved. Band-Aid solutions are not enough. We must secure: (4) Equity and excellence in schools to contribute to individual and collective growth, long-term stability and advancement; (5) Statewide credible counts of student dropouts, shared accountability and evidence of measurable improvement; and (6) Institution-based solutions that embrace family and community participation and draw on the strengths and contributions that students and their families bring. Click below for a one-page alert that outlines the scope of the problem and what is needed to help schools hold on to their students. It includes links to resources for communities, families and educators as well as media.

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

"Target Store Grants for Arts, Reading, and Family Violence Prevention"
Target Store Grants support local giving in the categories of Arts,
Reading, and Family Violence Prevention. The program awards Reading grants
to schools, libraries, and nonprofit organizations, supporting programs
such as weekend book clubs, after-school reading programs, and events
encouraging family reading time. Arts grants are given to programs that
bring the arts to schools or make it affordable for families to
participate in cultural experiences, such as school touring programs,
field trips to the theater or symphony, or artist residencies and
workshops in schools. Family Violence Prevention grants support groups
working to make individual homes and entire communities safer, such as
child abuse counseling programs and shelters. Maximum Award: $3000.
Eligibility: nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status, schools, or
units of government. Deadline: May 31, 2006.

"Hope for Education Essay Contest 2006"
In the Samsung and Microsoft "Hope for Education Essay Contest 2006,"
entrants can win Samsung Electronics and Microsoft Educational Software
for their school. Maximum Award: $200,000 of Samsung electronics and
Microsoft educational software. Eligibility: legal residents of the fifty
United States and the District of Columbia. Minors must obtain parental or
guardian?s consent. Deadline: June 30, 2006.

"Grants for Early Childhood Education" The A.L. Mailman Foundation Grants funds projects of national or regional import in the early childhood field. Maximum Award: $25,000. Eligibility: 501(c)(3) organizations. The Foundation does not consider proposals to support locally focused, direct service projects of organizations such as child care centers, schools, and professional education programs. Deadline: May 15, 2006.

"Grants for Youth with Disabilities"
The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation awards Grants for Youth with
Disabilities. The Foundation is dedicated to helping young Americans with
disabilities maximize their potential and full participation in society.
The Foundation supports organizations and projects within its mission that
address important needs, have broad scope and impact, and demonstrate
potential for replication at other sites. A major program emphasis is
inclusion: enabling young people with disabilities to have full access to
educational, vocational and recreational opportunities and to participate
alongside their non-disabled peers. Maximum Award: Varies. Eligibility:
U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organizations. Deadline: June 01, 2006.

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

"We agree that math and reading skills are important for citizens. So is
the study of history, the ability to create a reasoned argument, the arts,
research skills, the list goes on. An education system, a system of public
schools, must not narrow itself to the lowest common denominator of
improving test scores in the so-called basics if it is to be worthy of the
democracy it serves. Rather, it must cultivate in all our children the
habits of heart and mind that make democratic life possible. Anything less
is a betrayal of our commitment to be a nation of, for, and by the
-George Wood (director), The Forum for Education & Democracy

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

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