[ECP] PEN Weekly NewsBlast for December 1, 2006

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

A growing number of local education funds (LEFs) around the country are going far beyond fundraising and boosterism to play significant roles in constructing and driving their districts' improvement agendas. Sometimes called "reform-support organizations," or RSOs, well-known examples have taken root in Boston, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Mobile, Ala. Some focus most on engaging the public; others on conducting research and development for district initiatives. Almost all analyze and report district performance data, reports Jeff Archer. Aside from concentrating on systemwide issues, the common thread is LEFs' relationship to their districts. Often described as "critical friends," the groups are independent enough to point out problems, but they also work closely with school systems to arrive at solutions. Increasingly, experts see such organizations as not just helpful, but essential to sustaining improvement efforts in urban systems, in particular. Strategies left solely to those officially in charge of a district, they argue, can too easily fall prey to politics and leadership turnover. Education-oriented nonprofit organizations have long been part of the urban landscape, of course. The Ford Foundation created Public Education Network, a national network of local education funds in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, "intermediaries" expanded across the country to manage grants from philanthropies for district-based projects. The relationships between district leaders and local reform-support groups can be difficult. For districts, cooperation often means giving outsiders access to information that results in unflattering analyses. Meanwhile, the most active organizations are sometimes accused of wielding too much influence. But those risks are outweighed by the benefits, some superintendents say.

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen heads a nonprofit that wants Congress to shift spending from defense to education. Cohen promotes Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a nonprofit of which he's president, reports Christopher Palmeri. The group's mission is to persuade the government to allocate more of the federal budget from what the organization terms "obsolete Cold War weapons" to social needs such as education and health care for children. Its targets include the $3.2 billion a year Joint Strike Fighter program, the $2.3 billion Virginia-class submarine, and the $7.5 billion spent on missile defense. Cohen says he'd like to see some of what the U.S. spends on its nuclear arsenal directed toward rebuilding schools. "The weapons we have now are 150,000 times more powerful than what we dropped on Hiroshima," he says. "With $10 billion a year you could rebuild every school in the country that needs fixing over the next 12 years."

Public schools are less integrated today than they were in 1970. In the South, many school systems, once segregated by law, have been freed from court oversight and, with the return to neighborhood schools, have reverted to their former state. The percentage of black children attending schools that are mostly minority increased from 66 percent in 1991 to 73 percent in 2003, according to the Harvard Civil Rights Project. Communities trying to do better than this should be celebrated, not sued, writes Ruth Marcus.

The struggle to desegregate America's schools while ensuring equal educational opportunities for students of all races is one of the greatest social challenges the nation has faced over the last half century. This report considers the educational consequences of the considerable racial segregation that remains in schools today and the potential of controlled choice to address them. It begins with an extensive review of research regarding the effects of school integration. Previous research provides relatively strong evidence that desegregation helps minority students reach higher academic achievement and better long-term outcomes such as college attendance and employment. Using test score information required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the study analyzes the effects of segregation in more than 22,000 schools across the country that enroll more than 18 million students. The new information is used to address two basic questions: First, do minority students learn more in integrated schools? Second, would racial integration improve the equity of learning outcomes in general and in the Louisville and Seattle districts that are the subjects of the Court case? The answers to these questions appear to be "yes." Racial integration is a rare case where an educational policy appears to improve educational equity at little financial cost, writes Douglas Harris. After a half-century of court cases and new policies, the nation still finds itself with highly segregated and inequitable schools. The main issue before the Supreme Court, and the nation's citizens, is whether we will continue to accept these inequities or move forward in fulfilling the promise of Brown and the moral and educational imperatives of racial integration.

Americans are facing an increasingly stark choice: is the nation really committed to guaranteeing that all of the country's students will succeed to the same high level? And if so, how hard are we willing to work, and what resources are we willing to commit, to achieve that goal? A public school that enrolls mostly well-off white kids has a 1 in 4 chance of earning consistently high test scores, reports Paul Tough. A school with mostly poor minority kids has a 1 in 300 chance. Despite those long odds, the last decade -- and especially the last few years -- has seen the creation of dozens, even hundreds, of schools across the country dedicated to precisely that mission: delivering consistently high results with a population that generally achieves consistently low results. The schools that have taken on this mission most aggressively tend to be charter schools. These schools are, in the end, a counterintuitive combination of touchy-feely idealism and intense discipline. The evidence is now overwhelming that if you take an average low-income child and put him into an average American public school, he will almost certainly come out poorly educated. What the small but growing number of successful schools demonstrate is that the public-school system accomplishes that result because we have built it that way. We could also decide to create a different system, one that educates most (if not all) poor minority students to high levels of achievement. It is not yet entirely clear what that system might look like -- it might include not only KIPP-like structures and practices but also high-quality early-childhood education, as well as incentives to bring the best teachers to the worst schools -- but what is clear is that it is within reach.

53 public schools have reopened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, another 52 buildings appear to have been largely untouched for more than 14 months, with a handful of other state-run campuses either ready for use or under renovation. What's more, inside -- amid the blight caused by water, looters, and open doors and windows -- lay a treasure-trove of untouched, and apparently undamaged, school equipment, including copiers, computers, and box upon box of new or slightly used textbooks, some still in shrink-wrap. Ten schools visited by The Times-Picayune late last month were left wide open and largely unsecured, their upper floors still filled with supplies easily worth millions of dollars -- all of which school officials plan to throw in the garbage. That's because state school officials and FEMA fear the supplies may be contaminated with mold or spores, leaving students susceptible to infection and the system open to lawsuits, officials said. Though some environmental experts say such fears are justified, reports Steve Ritea, others call them a severe overreaction. "This is a case, I think, of the loss of common sense," said Joan W. Bennett, a professor of plant biology and pathology who left Tulane after Katrina for a job at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "I think they're acting more from a fear of lawsuits than they are from scientific reason."

Milwaukee police officers will be assigned for the first time to full-time duty inside city public schools under an agreement between police and Milwaukee Public Schools leaders. The effort to improve school safety will begin small -- with two pairs of officers in the spring semester, which begins in late January -- but all involved hope that it will grow by next fall, provided that money can be found to do that. Mayor Tom Barrett said the pilot efforts to have police work as "resource officers" in schools should help curb school violence and are a step in the right direction. "Students, staff, parents and the community all want kids to feel safe going to school and want the schools to be safe," Barrett said in an interview. An opinion poll shows strong public support for safety measures, reports Alan J. Borsuk. Asked what services were important for MPS to provide, city residents in the poll put three things connected to safety at the top of the list. The services -- violence prevention, drug and alcohol use prevention, and improved safety and discipline -- were each rated as "extremely important" by more than 80% of all people surveyed.

American democracy is at risk because civic education has been downplayed amid a decade's-long push for more testing and accountability in reading, math, and science, according to a new study released by the National Association of State Boards of Education. Schools need to re-emphasize citizenship as a fundamental mission of public education, the study concludes, and state boards of education must promote civic learning to prepare students for their responsibilities as engaged citizens. The lack of civic instruction among students has resulted in lackluster levels of awareness about the basic functions of domestic government and a dangerous ignorance about international affairs that could have profound implications for the nation in today's global society, concludes the report. "Promoting civic engagement in our schools and among our students is fundamental to preserving our traditional American values of self-government and our leadership among nations. It is that personal connection to an individual's community that creates, nourishes, and renews the soul of civil society," said James Carnigan, chairman of the report committee and chairman of the Maine State Board of Education. The report recommends that state boards of education transform the culture of schools and re-emphasize civic education in the standards-based reform movement. The topics of government, history, law, and democracy need to be incorporated into a state's core academic standards. Schools should be encouraged to offer students service-learning opportunities and other experiential learning activities. State boards of education are also urged to align pre- and in-service requirements for teachers with the goals of civic learning.

Half of the children in Afghanistan still do not go to school despite a 500 per cent increase in enrollments in the last six years. With the establishment of democracy, the main symbol of national regeneration lay in the dream of educating every child -- boy and girl. However, there remain many obstacles to achieving this dream. Household contributions to education are steep and deter new entrants. Those in schools are faced with inadequate educational materials, textbooks, and teachers. Budget allocation and spending in the education sector by various stakeholders remain largely uncoordinated and opaque. This briefing paper outlines some of the key concerns, and proposes a plan for not only increased funding, but also reforming budget allocation and planning within the Ministry of Education and among other actors in the education sector.

Did you know that despite all the criticisms leveled from coast to coast about K-12 public schools, most parents report being very satisfied with their child's school? Did you know that distance education courses are offered at more than half the country's two- and four-year postsecondary institutions? These and other statistics are in the 2006 Condition of Education report published by the U.S. Department of Education, reports Valerie Strauss. Each year, the department collects reams of data and statistically paints a portrait of where U.S. education stands. Between 1972 and 2004, the percentage of racial or ethnic minority students enrolled in the nation's public schools increased from 22 to 43 percent, primarily because of growth in Hispanic enrollment. In 2004, Hispanic students made up 19 percent of public school enrollment, up from 6 percent in 1972. The distribution of minority students in public schools differed across regions of the country. For example, minority public school enrollment in 2004 exceeded white enrollment in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming), 57 percent to 43 percent. The number of children ages 5 to 17 who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled between 1979 and 2004, from 3.8 million to 9.9 million. Total expenditures per student increased 23 percent in constant dollars, from $7,847 to $9,630 between the 1995-96 and 2002-03 school years. In 2002-03, total per-student expenditures were highest in low-poverty districts ($10,768), next highest in high-poverty districts ($10,191) and lowest in middle-poverty districts ($8,839).

Democratic Congressional leaders are pledging new legislation to make college more affordable, just as many students are struggling more than ever to pay for their schooling. Federal grants and subsidized loans are covering less of the tuition bill, with Pell Grants, for example, now covering only about a third of the average costs at a four-year public school, compared to 57 percent in 1985-86. EPI economist Joydeep Roy reviews College Board data to examine how Pell Grants, one of the largest sources of federal help for low-income college students, have not kept up with college prices at four-year public and private colleges over the last 20 years. Roy also looks at the increasing percentage of student loans borrowed through banks and other private institutions, which often carry higher interest rates than subsidized Stafford loans and can be difficult to acquire for poor and minority students.

It sounds like a class on character education: empowering students to be leaders and teach other students in a supportive atmosphere. But it's not character education. Surprisingly, it is break dancing class in a Seattle afterschool program. Here students learn new dance moves while developing self-confidence and leadership skills. One student reported that the break dancing class has made him "want to go to school." The break dance program is one of several arts programs featured in the arts section of the Afterschool Training Toolkit developed by the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning. This online toolkit provides professional development to staff in afterschool programs and is developed around promising practices in afterschool programs that help boost student success. You can view the toolkit at the link below. In addition to video clips of exemplary afterschool arts programs, the toolkit includes lesson plans, research and resources for embedding academic content in afterschool activities, and suggestions for discussion and interdisciplinary connections.

Music Makes You Smarter

Do you need resources that will  help your teachers use  art and
technology using, dance, folktales, geometry, digital photography,
poetry, story telling, video production, writing, cartoons, and more.

Opportunities for school choice in the United States have expanded since the 1990s. This report uses data from the National Household Surveys Program (NHES) to present trends that focus on the use of and users of public schools (assigned and chosen), private schools (church- and non church-related), and homeschoolers between 1993 and 2003. The percentage of students enrolled in their assigned public school decreased from 80 percent to 74 percent between 1993 and 2003, while this decrease was nearly offset by an increase in chosen public school enrollment from 11 to 15 percent between 1993 and 2003. During this same time period, enrollment in church-related private schools remained stable at 8 percent and enrollment in non church-related private schools increased from 1.6 to 2.4 percent. This report also presents data on parental perceptions of public school choice availability and associations between the public and private school types children were enrolled in and parental satisfaction with and involvement in the schools. About one-half of all students have parents who reported that public school choice was available in their community, with one-quarter of students attending assigned public schools having parents who considered enrolling them in a school other than the one they were currently attending, while 17 percent of all students and 27 percent of Black students attended a school other than their parent's first-choice school. Generally, there were no parental involvement differences detected between students enrolled in assigned and chosen public schools. Parents of students in private schools reported more direct involvement in their children's schools than parents of students enrolled in other types of schools.

Many students in the Metro Washington, DC region are suffering from academic split personalities. Driven by the federal No Child Left Behind law and tougher state diploma standards, the testing blitz has left these students in a curious limbo: They pass their classes with B's and C's yet fail the state exams, reports Ian Shapira. These cases surface frequently, with one local high school reporting, for example, that a quarter of students in beginning algebra passed the course but failed the state test. The discrepancies have emerged amid fierce debate over the role of testing in public education. Supporters of the federal law say standardized exams are the best way to raise academic standards and the only way to hold schools accountable for results. Critics complain that time spent on test preparation saps classroom creativity and that test scores are just one indicator among many of student achievement. Students and teachers offer an array of explanations for why test scores sometimes fail to match up with grades. Some students don't take the exams seriously. Some freeze up. Still others trip over unfamiliar language. And teachers sometimes are not prepped in what the exams cover, especially when the tests are new. Occasionally, some school officials suspect, classes aren't rigorous enough to prepare students adequately. Whatever the reason, the fact that some bright students struggle on state exams upends the perception that only the worst students fail them.


Whether you're job hunting or not, it's always valuable to see how your salary stacks up against the national averages. According to the Educational Research Service, the national average salary for superintendents is just over $134,000, up about 43 percent from a decade ago. Average salaries for central office managers range from about $72,000 for subject area supervisors to $122,000 for deputy superintendents, reports J.D. Solomon. Who in K-12 administration deserves the biggest salary adjustment? According to Bruce Hunter, from the American Association of School Administrators., "No one puts in more time than a superintendent, but high school principals come close. They put in long, hard hours. They're dealing with high stakes academic issues and tough social issues. Plus, they've got to worry whether the football team is winning or if the kids misbehaved at the basketball game."

K12 Administrators

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

Education Grants, Scholarships and Loans

"Improving Afterschool Neighborhood Improvement Efforts"
Ameriquest Mortgage Company Create Your Legacy grant program encourages young people to develop projects to improve their after-school program and neighborhood. Maximum Award: $15,000. Eligibility: after-school programs with 501(c)(3) status offering youth services that emphasize leadership training, mentoring, community service, academic enrichment, or the arts. Deadline: January 15, 2007.

"Getting Girls to Increase Exercise and Physical Activity"
Women's Sports Foundation GoGirlGo! Ambassador Team Awards inspire teams to help fight the disturbing physical and psychological health risks affecting America's inactive youth. Teams must lead their own team project that will get girls in their communities physically active and submit a detailed essay or a VHS, DVD or CD-ROM telling about the project. Maximum Award: $2,500. Eligibility: School, amateur, community and/or nonprofit affiliated teams whose members are female, enrolled in 9th-12th grade and residents of the United States. Deadline: February 16, 2007.

"Startup Funds for Educational Websites"
The Institute for Interactive Journalism and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation New Voices Community News Grants help fund the start-up of 40 micro-local, news projects and support them with two educational Web sites. Maximum Award: $17,000. Eligibility: 501(c) 3 organizations and education institutions, including civic groups, community organizations, public broadcasters, schools, colleges and universities. Deadline: February 20, 2007.

"Rewarding Humanities Programs in School Libraries"
The American Library Association Public Programs Office and the American Association of School Librarians Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming recognizes a school library that has conducted an exemplary program or program series in the humanities. Maximum Award: $4000. Eligibility: elementary or middle school (public or private) libraries, or any school library program that serves children in any combination of grades K-8, that have conducted a humanities program or program series during the previous school year. Deadline: February 28, 2007.

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

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

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