PEN Weekly NewsBlast for December 16, 2005

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
We are amazed by your dedication and extraordinary efforts in helping to
improve our public schools, our communities, and our nation. Public
Education Network is continually grateful for the blessing of your
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below to view our online holiday card ... a special thank you for
NewsBlast subscribers!

Wish lists are a useful tool, writes Janet Bodnar, but you shouldn't view
them as the equivalent of a grocery order from youngsters to be delivered
in full. Not only does that steal the spontaneity and surprise from the
holiday, but it also teaches kids they'll be instantly gratified with
whatever they ask for. And that's not a good lesson for a $1,000 holiday
list, especially when it includes items that aren't age appropriate. Kids
expect you to say no. Don't disappoint them. An iPod is a great item to
have teenagers buy on their own, so you can teach them several valuable
lessons about saving and spending money. They learn that being thrifty has
its rewards. To encourage them to save, you could offer to match a portion
of what they set aside. And they learn the satisfaction of buying
something themselves. With their own cash invested in an iPod, there's
less of a chance it'll end up broken or left behind in someone else's car.

Brainy babies, or the next generation of couch potatoes and video-gaming
addicts? A new study funded by Kaiser Family Foundation on interactive
media marketed to infants and preschool children concludes that many video
games, computer-software titles and DVDs advertised as "educational" have
not been proven to increase either the IQ or cognitive abilities of kids.
These games and DVDs, reports Glen Lovell, may be "less effective in
educating very young children" than what they're replacing: one-on-one
time with parents. Critics of the relatively new field of children's
"edutainment," worth billions in annual revenues, argue that these
products, rather than promoting academic achievement, may be "creating
media use" and, therefore, conditioning children to spend more time in
front of TVs and game systems later in life, the study points out. "I tell
these parents they should not use DVDs or video games at all before the
age of three," Dr. Dmitri Christakis said. "I don't want to come off as an
alarmist, but the vast majority of the claims made by these manufacturers
are without basis, and I'm concerned that there could be the possibility
of harm with this very early exposure." According to one concerned parent,
"Computer software can be beneficial, but it's not a substitute for
playtime or sitting in a circle and singing. You need to put a lid on
computer use. We know from our 13-year-old son and personal experience
that interactive media can be addictive."

Cake mixes are fast and so are many computers, writes Dorothy Rich.  But
in her experience, when it comes to education, it is usually not fast and
not easy.  In fact, education is often slow and tedious and many children,
used to the fast pace of their other activities, have trouble getting used
to it. One of her grandsons in kindergarten reported that he does not like
having to sit so long and listen to the teacher's directions in class. He
wishes he were on the playground all day.  He is getting used to school,
and it's not easy. He is just beginning to read and he likes to run around
a lot. Like many children, her grandson needs adult time, not educational
gadgets to engage his interest. Our children need to learn how to wait, to
work on problems, and even how to live with some of them. That's
education, and it's not easy

This academic year, the better part of $1 trillion will be spent on
education in the United States. That's an awful lot of spending,
approaching 10 percent of the overall economy. But what exactly is the
return on all of that money? While the costs are fairly simple to
calculate, the benefits of education are harder to sum up, writes Anna
Bernasek. Much of what a nation wants from its schools has nothing to do
with money. Consider the social and cultural benefits, for instance:
making friends, learning social rules and norms and understanding civic
roles. But some of the most sought-after benefits from education are
economic. Specialized knowledge and technical skills, for example, lead to
higher incomes, greater productivity and generation of valuable ideas.
Those benefits are vital to a nation's growth. Today, many parents have a
gut feeling that education is the way to ensure prosperity for their
children, yet there is surprisingly little certainty about how much
education contributes to the nation's overall wealth. It is largely a
problem of measurement. Alan B. Krueger, an economics professor at
Princeton, says the evidence suggests that, up to a point, an additional
year of schooling is likely to raise an individual's earnings about 10
percent. If economists are right, investing in education is not just part
of the cost of maintaining a functioning democracy, but a source of wealth
creation for all. That means that investing in the education of every
American is in everyone's self-interest.

David S. Berezin, a 40-year-old certified public accountant, can point to
some notable successes from his two hours as a high school teacher. But
his recent experience in a suburban Coral Gables community didn't leave
Mr. Berezin impressed with his skill. And that was the point of the Great
American Teach-a-Thon, reports Bess Keller. The Great American
Teach-a-Thon, an event sponsored by The Education Fund of Miami-Dade, FL,
is designed to make the public more aware of what it takes to have
effective teachers. Teachers helped their substitutes or community
"champions" -- as they were dubbed -- to prepare and give a lesson to
their students. The champions used their time at school as the basis for
fund-raising among family, friends, and associates. Instead of
perpetuating the myth that anyone with passion or specialized knowledge
can teach, the teach-a-thon gave teaching volunteers a chance to say to
everyone they approached for money, "Did you know this is really hard to
do?" The teacher-quality message of the event was encapsulated in three
R's: retain new teachers with support; renew with professional
development; and reward with recognition.

Of great concern to society is whether experiences in the early grades of
school can close the gap between students of varying demographic,
experiential, and developmental backgrounds. In this commentary, Bridget
K. Hamre and Robert C. Pianta present the results of a recent study
providing evidence that for kindergarten children at risk of problems in
first grade, the instructional and emotional aspects of interactions with
their teacher and instructors appeared to help close the achievement gap.

School nurses, still alive and well, help their charges stay that way. But
now, they're also dealing with a bewildering array of chronic illnesses
and counseling issues. The dramatic increase in chronic illnesses,
behavior disorders, and learning disabilities has not only complicated the
jobs of nurses in schools fortunate enough to have one, the deluge has
also raised troubling questions about the care of students in schools --
and there are plenty -- with no health professional on site. "The school
nurse used to be all Band-Aids and iodine," says Michael Venutolo,
supervisor of athletics and school nurses for the Jersey City School
District. "Now, it's a multitask office. Every one of my nurses is like a
mother, father, confessor -- and, in most instances, they're the primary
health care provider for the students in our district." The National
Association of School Nurses estimates that only 40,000 health
professionals practice in the nation's schools. As Fran Smith reports,
there are not enough nurses looking after the 54 million children in
elementary, middle, and high schools.

From an ableist perspective, the devaluation of disability results in
societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child
to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell
independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids
as opposed to other disabled kids, etc. In short, in the eyes of many
educators and society, it is preferable for disabled students to do things
in the same manner as nondisabled kids, writes Thomas Hehir. Certainly,
given a world that has not been designed with the disabled in mind, being
able to perform in a manner that is similar to that of nondisabled
children gives disabled children distinct advantages. Narratives of
disabled people and their parents are replete with examples of how
changing disability became the focus of their young lives and how such a
focus denied them the opportunities taken for granted by nondisabled
people. These narratives speak to the deep cultural prejudices against
disability that they had to endure from an early age -- that disability
was negative and tragic and that "overcoming" disability was the only
valued result. ." In this article, Hehir highlights ableist practices
through a discussion of the history of and research pertaining to the
education of deaf students, students who are blind or visually impaired,
and students with learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia. He asserts
that "the pervasiveness of . . . ableist assumptions in the education of
children with disabilities not only reinforces prevailing prejudices
against disability but may very well contribute to low levels of
educational attainment and employment." In conclusion, Hehir offers six
detailed proposals for beginning to address and overturn ableist

New experiments that compare chimp and child behavior yield evidence that
humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not
the best way to learn. We don't appreciate just how automatically we rely
on imitation, because usually it serves us so well, writes Carl Zimmer.

The tension surrounding a brief exchange in Spanish in a high school hall
-- an informal chat that resulted in a student suspension -- reflects a
broader national debate over the language Americans should speak amid a
wave of Hispanic immigration. The suspension of Zach Rubio has become the
talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows.
The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that
speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Conflicts are
bursting out nationwide over bilingual education, "English-only" laws,
Spanish-language publications and advertising, and other linguistic
collisions. Language concerns have been a key aspect of the growing
political movement to reduce immigration, reports T.R. Reid. Some
advocates of an English-only policy in U.S. schools say that it is
particularly important for students from immigrant families to use the
nation's dominant language. Hispanic groups generally agree with that, but
they emphasize the value of a multilingual citizenry. "A fully bilingual
young man like Zach Rubio should be considered an asset to the community,"
said Janet Murguia, national president of La Raza.

If you support the notion that publicly run, publicly controlled, public
education is the imperfect, yet essential, public business that may be our
best institutional tool for realizing a democratic republic in America,
then you are likely to find plenty to disagree with in Chris Whittle's
vision (or is it a nightmare?) for turning schools into companies,
companies that are to be paid for with tax dollars. With $400 billion
annually at stake, the public schools are, by far, the juiciest prize for
a new type of corporate welfare known as the EMO (education management
organization). Those, on the other hand, who favor a privatized education
solution to all that is wrong, or imagined wrong, with American schools,
will likely find Chris Whittle's new book "Crash Course: Imagining a
Better Future for Public Education" a ground-breaking piece of wishful
thinking. Professor Jim Horn offers fiery opinion in this provocative book
review including this salvo, "I suggest that we pay him off now, before he
and his compatriots in the reform industry are given a free hand by the
current regime of corporate socialists to destroy a civic treasure that
took almost 200 years to build, while charging us handsomely for the
demolition in the meantime."

Harry and Rosemary Wong tell the story of journalist Christina Asquith,
who became an "emergency teacher" in inner-city Philadelphia and lived to
write about it in a just-published book titled "The Emergency Teacher."
The Wongs, who befriended Asquith and co-wrote articles with her,
including the first chapter of her book in this recent column at the link
below. Asquith's experience raises serious questions about the notion that
alternative rapid-entry teacher recruitment programs are a meaningful
solution to teaching quality issues in our nation's hard-to-staff schools.

At the same time there is increasing interest in proving and promoting the
concept of nurturing the "whole child," a smaller movement is afoot that
is pushing us to worry equally about how we want our school leaders to
"be," as well as what we want them to "know" and "do."  Betty Hale and her
colleagues refer to this phenomenon as the need to prepare and support
"whole leaders." What is it about the "whole" that makes learning and/or
leading much more than the sum of its parts?  In terms of educating
children, as Nel Noddings has written, the "whole child" refers not just
to traditional academic skills (the 3 Rs, for example) but also to the
idea that schools must help imbue in students "the physical, moral,
social, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic" fabric of society. Preparing
and supporting whole leaders may offer a new way to understand and respond
to the balancing act(s) that accompany the role of school leader.

|---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
"Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship"
Horace Mann Corporation and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have
partnered to form the Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship, a program
designed to help educators study the life and legacy of America's 16th
president. The program features a five-day institute at the new library in
June and July, 2006. Maximum Award: $1,000 each to cover expenses for
their trip to the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois,
to participate in programs created by the ALPL Foundation. Eligibility:
full-time educators teaching kindergarten through 12th grade in the U.S.
Deadline: March 4, 2006.

"Coming Up Taller Awards" The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and reward outstanding after-school and out-of-school arts and humanities programs for underserved children and youth. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: Programs initiated by museums, libraries, performing arts organizations, universities, colleges, arts centers, community service organizations, schools, businesses, and eligible government entities. Deadline: January 30, 2006.

"Christopher Columbus Awards Program"
The Christopher Columbus Awards Program combines science and technology
with community problem-solving. Students work in teams with the help of an
adult coach to identify an issue they care about and, using science and
technology, work with experts, conduct research, and put their ideas to
the test to develop an innovative solution. Maximum Award: $25,000 and an
all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World to attend the program's
National Championship Week. Eligibility: middle-school-age (sixth,
seventh, and eighth grade) children; teams do not need to be affiliated
with a school to enter. Deadline: February 13, 2006.

"CiviConnections Program"
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) CiviConnections program
links local historical inquiry with community service-learning activities
nationwide in 3rd-12th grade classrooms. CiviConnections projects during
the 2006/07 school year will focus on: Poverty, Health Care,
Discrimination, or the Environment. Maximum Award: $7,500. Eligibility:
teams of three teachers from grades 3-12 in the same public school
district with membership in NCSS or agreeing to join if selected; must
partner with at least one local community agency and meet certain other
requirements (see website). Deadline:  February 24, 2006.

"U.S. Dept. of Education Talent Search Program"
This program helps to identify qualified youths with potential for
education at the postsecondary level and encourage them to complete
secondary school and undertake a program of postsecondary education.
Maximum Award: $220,000-$3,600,000. Eligibility: Institutions of higher
education; public or private agencies or organizations; combinations of
institutions, agencies, and organizations; and secondary schools under
exceptional circumstances, such as if there is no institution, agency, or
organization capable of carrying out a Talent Search (TS) project in the
proposed target area. Deadline: January 6, 2006.

"Grants for In-school Music Projects" The Mockingbird Foundation is offering grants for in-school music projects that promote creative expression through music, encouraging applications associated with diverse or unusual musical styles, genres, forms, and philosophies. Maximum Award: $5,000. Eligibility: non-profit organizations, public schools. Deadline: February 1, 2006.

"Toyota International Teacher Program"
This program allows participants to explore Japan's education, culture,
environment and technology, and examine how these affect industry and
society in Japan today. Maximum Award: a fully funded 10-day, study tour
of Japan. Eligibility: classroom teachers (grades 9-12) from Colorado,
Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan Missouri, Nebraska,
Ohio and Tennessee. Deadline: January 9, 2006.

"Youth Service America and Disney are offering the Disney Minnie Grants"
This grant program is designed for youth across the globe to engage them
to implement service projects on National & Global Youth Service Day,
April 21-23, 2006. Maximum Award: $500. Eligibility: youth (ages 5-14), or
teachers, schools and organizations that oversee them. Deadline: January
13, 2006.

"State Farm Charitable Contributions to Teacher Excellence Programs"
The State Farm Companies Foundation makes charitable contributions to
teacher excellence programs that improve teacher quality, service-learning
programs that integrate core classroom curriculum with service to the
community, and programs that incorporate the Baldrige criteria (for
information, see website) into education systems to improve overall
effectiveness. Maximum Award: Varies. Eligibility: nonprofit, tax-exempt
organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code,
Canadian charitable organizations, and educational institutions. Deadline:
January 15, 2006.

"American Library Association & NEH"
The "We the People Bookshelf" program encourages young people to read and
understand great literature while exploring themes in American history.
Public and school (K-12) libraries are invited to apply to be among the
1,000 libraries selected to receive free books. Deadline: January 17, 2006

"National School and Business Partnerships Award"
The National School and Business Partnerships Award supports and
recognizes the efforts of schools and businesses that partner to improve
the academic, social or physical well-being of students. Maximum Award:
$10,000. Eligibility: Partnerships involving kindergarten through 12th
grade public schools and/or school districts and businesses. Deadline:
January 30, 2006.

"NEA Fine Arts Grants"
On behalf of the National Education Association (NEA), The NEA Foundation
offers NEA Fine Arts grants to NEA members. Available to elementary
(grades K-6) school art specialists through local NEA affiliates, the
grants allow fine arts educators to create and implement programs that
promote learning among students at risk of school failure. Deadline:
February 1, 2006.

"The NEA Foundation"
Grants are provided for the purpose of engaging in high-quality
professional development or implementing project-based learning and
break-the-mold innovations that raise student achievement. Maximum Award:
$5,000. Eligibility: public school teachers, public school education
support professionals, and faculty and staff in public higher education
institutions. Deadline: February 1, 2006.

"Youth Nutrition & Fitness Grant Program"
General Mills Foundation Champions Youth Nutrition and Fitness grant
program to encourage communities in the United States to improve the
eating and physical activity patterns of young people, ages 2-20. Grants
will be awarded to nonprofit organizations and agencies working with
communities that demonstrate the greatest need and likelihood of
sustainable impact on young people's nutrition and activity levels through
innovative programs. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: community-based
groups. Deadline: February 1, 2006.

"MathMovesU Grants and Scholarships Program"
Raytheon Company has launched the MathMovesU Grants and Scholarships
Program to reward real-life "Math Heroes" for their dedication to
improving math education and their inspiration of participation in math.
Maximum Award: $2,500. Eligibility: full-time teachers currently employed
and teaching a mathematics curriculum at a middle school or high school in
the U.S. Deadline: February 15, 2006.

"Stimulating Interest in Careers in Fisheries Science and Management"
The Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program is designed to stimulate
interest in careers in fisheries science and management among groups
underrepresented in the fisheries professions, including minorities and
women. Students (Grades 10-12) spend 8 weeks in the summer working
alongside their mentor who is a fisheries professional in their local
community. Maximum Award: Participants receive a $3,000 scholarship paid
out in 6 installments over the summer months. Eligibility: all sophomore,
junior, and senior high school students regardless of race, creed, or
gender. Because the principal goal of the program is to increase diversity
within the fisheries professions, preference will be given to qualified
women and minority applicants. Deadline: February 15, 2006.

"Civic Connections Program"
National Council for the Social Studies Civic Connections Program links
local history inquiry with community service-learning activities. Teachers
will develop and adapt these activities based on their students' interests
and abilities, the needs or problems in the local community, and their
local social studies curriculum requirements. Maximum Award: $7500.
Eligibility: teams of three 3rd-12th grade teachers; members of the
National Council for the Social Studies (or agree to join if application
is accepted) and must partner with at least one local community agency.
Deadline: February 26, 2006.

"Nickelodeon Announces Giveaway Program to Encourage Healthy Play"
Children's television network Nickelodeon will distribute more than $1
million from September 2005 to June 2006. The "Let's Just Play" Giveaway
offers kids around the United States the opportunity to take action and
enter for a chance to improve their school or community program's fitness
resources. Maximum Award: $5000. Eligibility: Kids (6-15 years of age),
partnering with teachers and other community-based leaders. Deadline:
rolling, until May 31, 2006.

"Show Me the Money: Tips & Resources for Successful Grant Writing"
Many educators have found that outside funding, in the form of grants,
allows them to provide their students with educational experiences and
materials their own districts can't afford. Learn how they get those
grants -- and how you can get one too. Included: Practical tips to help
first-time grant writers get the grants they need.

"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 2005 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 includes previously announced programs and
competitions, as well as those planned for announcement at a later date.
Note: This document is advisory only and is not an official application
notice of the Department of Education. They expect to provide regular
updates to this document.

"The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An
efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty."
-Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005), elected official/public servant/peace

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

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