PEN Weekly NewsBlast for December 9, 2005

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
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What do school social workers do? And how are they different from school
counselors? Susan Miller points out that, "some school social work duties
overlap with the duties of school counselors." But, she says, "unlike
school counselors, school social workers generally do not deal with career
and academic advising. They use their expertise in psychosocial systems to
make sure that a student?s support system is functioning well." In this
article, Susan Black outlines how effective school social workers deal
with a wide range of social, emotional, and academic issues. In one focus
group, many school social workers faulted school leaders for demanding
high test scores but ignoring realities that interfere with kids?
learning. "My school defeats its own purpose," one said, referring to her
principal?s single-minded emphasis on state tests. "He doesn't understand
that reaching out and rescuing kids in crisis would help raise our
school?s overall achievement." A new model of school social work places
new demands upon social workers to work side-by-side with school leaders
to: (1) Improve their school?s culture and climate; (2) Establish and
communicate standards for acceptable school behavior; (3) Design and
promote classroom programs that blend academic and social learning; (4)
Eliminate school barriers to learning, such as tracking and ability
grouping; and (5) Abolish zero tolerance and other policies that
contribute to high dropout rates.  However, a 2004 study shows that most
school social workers don't want to change. They would rather spend more
time on individual and group counseling and less time on consultation with
teachers, administrators, and community agencies.

Once upon a time, being 5 was all about learning your colors and how to
tie your shoes without making a square knot. Today it's more apt to be
about deconstructing sentences, performing not-so-simple addition and
subtraction, and even learning the rudiments of a foreign language. Across
the country, reports Patrik Jonsson, the accountability movement in
education and near obsession with academic excellence is filtering down to
the level of the jungle gym and nap-time rug. School districts are pushing
students to new levels as a growing body of research indicates the
importance of early learning and the demands of a competitive world close
in on the American classroom. To many, the emphasis on academic
performance at very young ages is a positive trend that will boost the
nation's educational system. But others worry it ratchets up the academic
arms race and places too much responsibility on the backs of America's
youngest students, at a time when many still put their coats on inside
out. It's clear that young children have a large capacity for learning --
research shows they learn faster at 5 than any other age -- it's less
certain whether all this early erudition has an impact in later years.

The Importance of Play on Development Fun Learning Games -
play's the thing: research shows learn the importance
of laughter and play to avoid teenage depression and burn out
Fun Learning Games: Play's The Thing
"We are so preoccupied with academic testing that we
are in danger of killing off childhood by treating it as a time for product development.

A new statement, issued by the Alliance for Childhood, condemns the
increasingly academic curriculum in kindergartens and preschools, which is
replacing child-initiated learning through creative play and hands-on
activities.  Experts say many early education policies are based on
"unproven methods" and are "fueled by political pressure." According to
the statement, "Education is not a race where the prize goes to the one
who finishes first." Instead of strengthening the "drive to learn,"
current trends in early education policy and practice heighten pressure
and stress in children's lives, which can contribute to behavioral and
learning problems." The statement expresses strong support for efforts to
establish universal preschool, "provided that preschool programs are based
on well-established knowledge of how children learn and how to lay a
foundation for lifelong learning -- not on educational fads." The group
makes five specific "calls to action": (1) For early education that
emphasizes experiential, hands-on activities, open-ended creative play,
and caring human relationships; (2) For a reversal of the pushing down of
the curriculum that has transformed kindergarten into de facto first
grade; (3) For research on the causes of increased levels of anger,
misbehavior, and school expulsion among young children; (4) For additional
research that examines the long-term impact of different preschool and
kindergarten practices on children from diverse backgrounds; and (5) For
teacher education that emphasizes the full development of the child
including the importance of play, nurtures children's innate love of
learning, and supports teachers' own capacities for creativity, autonomy,
and integrity. "The disappearance of play is a tragedy not yet fully
explored or understood," said Joan Almon, president of the Alliance.
"Research and experience suggest that today's children will not develop as
well cognitively, socially, or emotionally as those whose childhoods were
rich with play."

When United States Congress reauthorizes the "No Child Left Behind" bill
in 2007, educators, parents and students would like to see some changes.
They made that clear at a recent public hearing in Ohio on the law,
reports Sue Hagan. The business, civic and community leaders, along with
parents and students who served as panelists reinforced the sense that the
public supports the four-year-old law itself and its goal of holding
schools and teachers accountable for student learning. And some praised
the law for forcing educators to work harder to teach every student. But
they have problems with its consequences and uneven execution. Panelists
also said: (1) Teaching "to the test" gets in the way of creative
instruction and impedes learning; (2) Struggling schools need more
resources, both through federal funding and from business and community
organizations; (3) Greater weight should be given to individual student
progress; (4) High-stakes testing should be replaced by diagnostic tests
that show students' strengths and weaknesses; (5) School administrators
should make schools more inviting to parents, to better meet the parental
involvement section of NCLB; (6) Students and parents themselves should be
held accountable for their work and actions, rather than placing all
responsibility on schools and districts; (7) Standards should remain high,
but more help should be given to help students meet standards; and (8)
Funding should be available to increase early literacy. Sponsored by the
Public Education Network and the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks
Foundation, the hearing was one of ten being held around the country.

The December 2005 issue of "School Administrator" features three
noteworthy articles. The lead article cites school personnel as the most
valuable untapped local source of knowledge and discusses how to maintain
effective knowledge management systems in school districts. Jerry Bracey
outlines 10 keys to achieve the goal of "The Ready School." His
common-sense approach dictates that we not only prepare children for
school, but honestly examine how ready our schools are for children.
"Preparing Teachers for Children in Poverty" highlights strategies for
helping teachers understand the extra demands and burdens faced by
children and families in poverty.

Parents are no longer just chipping in; they are subsidizing the most
fundamental aspects of their children's public education. As state budgets
shrink, parents are stepping in to pay, out of pocket, for everything from
"extras" -- which in tight times can mean anything from toilet paper to
art classes -- to teacher salaries and core curriculum needs. It's not
cheap, reports Janelle Brown. The Las Lomitas Educational Foundation, for
example, suggests that parents donate $1,100 per child per year -- and
most comply. "It's like an assessment," says parent Kim Marshall. "But,
look, I love to give, because basically I'm giving to my child. The budget
at school is so small, and you want to help."  Anna Weselak, president of
the National PTA says, "It is amazing the things schools are asking for?
Supplies for art classes, musical instruments, band uniforms, school
furnishings -- carpeting! Draperies for stages, janitorial supplies. The
list goes on." The creep of subsidization tends to start with escalating
"fees" for things that were once free. Aspects of public education earlier
generations took for granted are considered exceptional, and money to fund
those subjects has evaporated as states wrestle with financial crises.
Although the purview of educational foundations changes from district to
district, the majority of the 5,000 such organizations in the United
States are set up to raise money from parents, alumni, and the local
community and funnel it directly to school coffers. They raise anywhere
from $500 to, in one case, $20 million annually. Even where parents have
the capacity for open-ended giving, it is worth asking whether it?s a good
idea to encourage such behavior. When parents take the pressure off school
bank accounts by opening their wallets, they may also, in effect, be
easing the pressure on federal and state legislators to solve budgeting
crises. "Raising money one time, you get a great response, but doing it
year after year for something that we are supposed to be getting from our
government? It?s not sustainable," says Weselak. "When parents and local
citizens subsidize public education, it ceases to be public education.

Helping young people develop a lifelong Christian worldview is an
appealing mission for schools according to an increasing number of parents
and their children. Schools that are run by evangelical Christians have
been growing in number, total enrollment, and proportion of the private
school market, according to data collected by the National Center for
Education Statistics. Evangelical Christians generally are distinguished
by their emphasis on the necessity of making an adult commitment to Jesus
Christ and of actively striving to convert others to faith in him. In
addition to the ability to openly worship, Evangelical Christians are
increasingly dissatisfied with public schools, reports Mary Ann Zehr.
Controversies about the teaching of evolution and sex education play into
the discontent. "Public schools have to be very inclusive," says political
scientist, John C. Green. "The kinds of values taught might be considered
the lowest common denominator. That?s not to say they're bad values, but
most evangelicals would like a more encompassing set of values to be
taught." Christian schools are popular, surmises Mary Bonzo, a math
teacher, because "[people] have an inborn hunger for God, and when that
was all removed from the public schools, there was a vacuum." U.S. Marine
Lt. Col. Doug Diehl, whose four children attend Fredericksburg Christian
Schools, characterizes those schools as teaching "the truth," which he
believes public schools are hindered from doing because of court rulings
reflecting a strict interpretation of separation of church and state. Some
Christian parents criticize what they view as moral relativism in public
schools and embrace stricter codes of conduct relating to dress codes,
interaction among boys and girls, drug and alcohol use, and bans on
children enrolled by gay parents.

Teachers call it the "December dilemma." Holiday decorations appear in the
classrooms, and choruses and bands prepare for their annual winter
concerts. Educators then must wrestle with a question that has grown
thornier in recent years: How much of the music and decorations can have a
religious theme? Can the chorus sing "Silent Night?" Can the Christmas
tree have a star? Can there be a creche or a Menorah? From a legal
standpoint, reports Anne Ryman, the guidelines are fairly clear: It's OK
to have religious motifs if they're for educational purposes. But the
details can get tricky. And that has given rise to a patchwork of
approaches across Arizona and the rest of the nation. It also has
generated lawsuits in some states and caused parents and advocacy groups
to press for changes. Schools can avoid problems if they respect all
religions and not single out or promote one.

Nearly four years after the No Child Left Behind Act took effect, the
nation's urban school districts have shown little benefit from the law,
which mandated annual reading and mathematics tests for all students in
grades 3 through 8. According to the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, often referred to as the "Nation's Report Card," over the last
two years most fourth- and eighth-graders in 11 city school districts made
very modest progress in reading and math. And most continue to perform
well below the national average, reports Claudio Sanchez. But the most
worrisome trend is that the achievement gap between white and minority
students has stayed the same and may even be widening. That's bad news for
the Bush administration, which has insisted the gap has been closing under
the No Child Left Behind Act.

This report, which analyzes recently approved state NCLB accountability
plan amendments, finds that states are continuing to find new ways to
calculate adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind
Act in order to raise the number of schools and districts that meet the
law?s student achievement targets. The report acknowledges that many of
the changes are necessary adjustments made in response to states?
difficulties in administering the law, but calls on states and the U.S.
Department of Education to be more transparent about the approaches used
to calculate AYP. States must fully and clearly explain their rationales
for requesting changes to accountability plans, and once changes are
approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), they should be
explained in such a way that the public understands how AYP is determined.
At the federal level, the report calls on ED to more systematically and
promptly publicize its decisions about what types of changes to state
accountability plans are and are not acceptable, and why. The current
process of granting changes does not help state officials learn from other
states' experiences, nor does it help them or the public understand how ED
is interpreting the intent of the law.

A new report from National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)
summarizes NCEO's tenth survey of state directors of special education.
The report offers a snapshot of the new initiatives, trends,
accomplishments, and emerging issues as states document the academic
achievement of students with disabilities during standards-based reform.
For the first time in the 14 years NCEO has been collecting data, NCEO
reports that the number of students with disabilities achieving
proficiency on state accountability tests is increasing. Most states now
have at least three years of trend data and enough evaluation data to be
able to attribute increased proficiency to several positive efforts by
schools and districts. At least half of the states credited the positive
trends to the following six factors: (1) Clearly communicated
participation policy; (2) Better alignment of Individual Education Plans
(IEPs) with standards; (3)  Improved professional development; (4)
Development and provision of accommodation guidelines and training; (5)
Increased access to standards-based instruction; and (6) Improved data
collection. All states report documenting accommodations use on test day.
Updates on alternate assessments show continued evolution in various
aspects, from the approach itself, to the content, setting of standards,
and the scoring criteria that are used. Forty-five states offer an
alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards.

The new issue of "American Educator" remembers Sandra Feldman for her for
her commitment to improving education, especially for poor and minority
children, and her strong belief that "education work is union work." This
issue also has articles on spelling, praise, and child soldiers. Noted
literacy researcher Louisa Moats explains how learning to spell supports
learning to read -- both rely on much of the same underlying knowledge,
such as the relationships between letters and sounds. She also provides
five principles that make English spelling more regular and predictable
than commonly believed and suggests content for spelling instruction from
kindergarten through seventh grade. Daniel Willingham sorts through the
research on praise to offer guidelines on the most constructive (and
destructive) ways to motivate students. And P.W. Singer helps us to
understand the tragic -- but often hidden-reality of modern warfare: the
widespread use of child soldiers.

Spelling: build the bridge from the home language to the standard
Motivation to Learn

STUDY RATES 22 WIDELY USED COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL REFORM MODELS A new guide using strict scientific criteria to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of 22 widely adopted comprehensive elementary school reform models rates 15 as "limited" to "moderately strong" in demonstrating positive effects on student achievement. Collectively, the reform models reviewed serve thousands of mostly high-poverty, low-performing schools nationwide. The review includes such well known models as Success for All, Accelerated Schools, Core Knowledge, America?s Choice, Direct Instruction, School Renaissance, and the School Development Program. Of the models studied, Direct Instruction (Full Immersion Model), based in Eugene, Ore., and Success for All, located in Baltimore, MD., received the strongest ratings.

As teachers and administrators face rising demands to improve student
performance, they see new challenges coming to the classroom in the form
of personal technology -- like some iPods that can play video as well as
audio. A survey of more than 70 public and private high schools in the
Indianapolis metro area showed that most do not allow electronics of any
kind to be used during the school day. Rather than trying to beat it,
reports Lisa Renze-Rhodes, some educators are joining the hand-held
technology boom, allowing certain personal electronics to come to class.

protect your children's hearing from all those
electronic things they use.

MOST K-12 STATE SCIENCE STANDARDS DON'T MAKE THE GRADE "The State of State Science Standards 2005" -- the first comprehensive study of science academic standards conducted since 2000 -- appraised the quality of each state?s K-12 science standards as they are rushing to meet the No Child Left Behind Act?s mandate for testing in this critical subject. The results are mixed. Nearly half of the fifty states surveyed received grades of "D" or "F" in a new review of statewide academic standards for primary-secondary school science. Every state received a letter grade based on how well its standards met a set of rigorous criteria, including: (1) Do the standards contain clear and fair expectations by grade level for students? (2) Are the standards organized in a sensible way, both showing logical progression from grade to grade and easily navigated so teachers, parents, and the public can understand? (3) Is there an appropriate amount of science content, and if so, do the standards outline the best approach to share that content? (4) Are the expectations outlined specific enough, yet set high aims that will equip students with the science skills they need for college? (5) Are the standards appropriately serious, or do they incorporate pseudo-scientific fads or politics?

Teaching Intelligent Design vs Evolution in the classroom.
Is intelligent design religion or science?

Columnist Barbara Miner says the research shows there's no guarantee of
quality in Milwaukee's voucher schools. "No matter how severe one's
criticisms of the Milwaukee Public Schools, nothing is as abysmal as the
conditions at some voucher schools," she writes in the Fall issue of
"Rethinking Schools." While Catholic and Lutheran schools in the voucher
system maintain a level of quality, new independent or "free-market"
schools often have the most problems. Examples include schools in cramped
storefronts, unqualified teachers, and in the worst cases, few books or
school materials. Milwaukee's vouchers schools numbered 155 with almost
15,000 students at the end of the 2004-05 school year. Having received
almost half a billion dollars in taxpayer's money since the program
started in 1990, vouchers schools remain exempt from most of the
guidelines that public schools must follow. Nor are they required to
release data on test scores or student progress. As noted in a series of
articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in June, "The lack of research
and data is stunning,"

Teacher quality will always be at the heart of education policy and
reform. Policymakers who want to influence student achievement know that
teachers are where the "rubber hits the road." The latest EDPolicy Update
examines how teachers have been the focus of several new developments this
month, including changes to the teacher-quality timeline under No Child
Left Behind (NCLB), new pay plans in Colorado and Texas, and a recent bill
proposed in the U.S. Senate to bring new flexibility to NCLB.

SMACK YOUR CHILD TO MAKE HER SLEEP? My, how parental advice has changed in 80 years! Is your toddler a fussy eater? Then starve him for 24 hours and he will soon eat anything. Your baby won't sleep through the night? Simple: smack her until she stops crying. These examples of childcare advice may well seem bizarre, if not abhorrent, now but at one time they were accepted wisdom and printed in the parental advice columns. In this head-scratching article, Alexandra Frean highlights tips from the past including how to encourage a full head of hair, how to prevent allergies, and how to stop ugly mouth breathing.,,172-1910604,00.html

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

"Help in Improving School District Websites"
SchoolSpan Better Web Site Grants for school districts looking to turn
their websites from obsolete pages to meaningful public relations tools
with technology applications. Maximum Award: $5,000-$20,000. Eligibility:
K-12 districts nationwide. Deadline: December 15, 2005.

"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.

"U.S. Dept. of Labor Selected Demonstration Project for High-Risk Youth
and Adults"
This project provides for high quality learning, developing leadership
skills among youth, and preparing both youth and adults for entry into
employment, re-employment (for those who have had prior employment),
further education or training, and long-term follow-up services to promote
employment retention and career advancement. Maximum Award:
$500,000-$1,000,000. Eligibility: State or local public agencies, and
public and private non-profit organizations demonstrating an ability to
work with the target population for this solicitation, "high-risk" youth
and adults. Deadline: February 04, 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.

"Americans spend $8 billion on Christmas decorations, almost 4 times what
they give to protect animals and the environment? 52% of individual giving
goes to religious institutions. Schools get 7%."
-Clara Jeffery (journalist), "Are Americans Charitable? Or Chintzy?"

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


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