PEN Weekly NewsBlast for February 4, 2005

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  • Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2005 12:43:28 -0500

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
President Bush=92s education centerpiece, NCLB was hailed as a bipartisan
benchmark when it was signed into law three years ago. The legislation has
resulted in the greatest level of federal involvement in education in
history, and its implementation has prompted questions about testing,
accountability, funding, and the future of local school control. As Bush
takes office for his second term, with a Republican-controlled Congress
and a new education secretary in place, American School Board Journal
decided to conduct a virtual roundtable on what the next four years might
hold for education. Managing Editor Glenn Cook posed questions to seven
respected education observers -- with views representing the political and
ideological spectrum -- who responded in writing.

"Progressives who deal with American education on the grassroots level
have long awaited an intelligent, persuasive, and visionary defense of
school choice, " writes Herbert Gintis. A new book edited by Eric Rofes
and Lisa M. Stulberg brings together scholars who both study and actively
participate in school choice reform and charge them to be "bold in their
questioning and assertive in their ambivalence" about this complex,
controversial public issue and to include issues that are underexamined in
the school literature, such as the impact of school choice on race and
class politics and inequalities. The editors argue that charter schools
are playing a powerful role in reviving participation in public education,
expanding opportunities for progressive methods in public school
classrooms, and generating new energy for community-based,
community-controlled school initiatives.

Three commentaries in Education Week examine the rationale behind current
efforts to improve academic achievement in public education. Gerald W.
Bracey argues that only the foolish would think that 13-year-olds' skills
at bubbling in answer sheets would mean much for a nation's well-being.
Eric A. Hanushek presents the traditional view that our economy is doomed
if we don't improve our standing in international comparisons. Anthony P.
Carnevale reports on various reasons why our mediocre school performance
hasn't mattered -- but explains that we will increasingly have to rely on
our homegrown human capital for our competitive edge.

Forget cute bake sales. School districts these days are using
sophisticated ways to raise money to fund teachers and buildings. The
bottle redemption drives are being overrun by "serious" fundraising, and
districts are using this new money to pay for items as varied and
necessary as new teachers and new schools, reports Ron Schachter. Consider
these three recent examples: One New York City elementary school raised
$700,000 to pay for a new library; Detroit is weighing a $200 million
offer from a Michigan philanthropist to establish 15 new charter schools;
and a Silicon Valley school district has raised $300,000 over two years,
primarily to save the jobs of librarians, music teachers and computer lab
aides. This large-scale fundraising, once the exclusive domain of elite
private schools and colleges, is becoming more popular throughout the
country. According to the National Education Association, public schools
from California to New Jersey are using hundreds of thousands of dollars
more in private donations to ward off cuts to staff and facilities. Almost
half of the parents in a 2004 survey by the National PTA and QSP Reader's
Digest said their school was raising money for items usually covered in
their district budget. "Until California is willing to change the way it
funds education, we're going to need private funds," says Les Adelson, the
superintendent of the Moreland School District, which covers San Jose and
Cupertino, Calif. "My job is to make everything work in our district, and
our foundation has been absolutely critical to making it work."

The idea that students are enriched by learning about the heritage and
role of African-Americans is widely accepted among most US educators.
What's now debated is whether such lessons should be confined, some say
"segregated," to one month or, instead, be incorporated into class work
all year long. Earmarking a single month to recognize black achievement,
this camp argues, is not enough in a society built on the contributions of
many racial and ethnic groups. The notion of a dedicated time for black
history instruction dates from 1926, when educator Carter Godwin Woodson
created Negro History Week in a bid to promote a better understanding of
the contributions of blacks. In 1976, Congress changed the week into a
full month. Some school officials, reports E. Jeanne Harnois, argue that
weaving black history, along with other minority contributions, into
lessons throughout the year is better.

The Educational CyberPlayGround provides K-12 interdisciplinary,
multicultural, collaborative, online, thematic curriculum modules
for schools, home schooled, and learning centers. Gain access
to individual curricula and tools. It's easy for beginners to start.

Unimaginable outcomes for the most vulnerable students require imaginable
leadership, writes Rosa A. Smith. If school leaders believe they are in
the business of saving lives versus simply managing a big organization
involved in teaching and learning and keeping board members happy, they
would be totally different leaders. If leaders believe their job is to
save Johnny=92s life, then under their watch: Johnny will not routinely and
disproportionately arrive at kindergarten lacking social and educational
school readiness; Johnny will not routinely and disproportionately attend
the schools with the least resources; Johnny will not be routinely and
disproportionately taught by teachers who are least qualified to create a
positive learning environment for students most vulnerable to school
failure; Johnny will not routinely and disproportionately be placed in
special education classes; Johnny will not routinely and
disproportionately be suspended, expelled or arrested in schools for
discipline acts that principals and staff should manage;  and Johnny will
not routinely and disproportionately be assigned to the lowest level of
courses. These are unimaginable times for about 60 percent of black boys
who fail to graduate from high school. Their current realities scream out
for imagined, skillful, committed and courageous leaders -- often found at
the school level but not yet found often enough at the district and board
leadership levels.

Sally Prince rarely zips coats or ties shoes. And if her Princess Anne
(VA) Elementary students don't have a pencil, Prince can't help them,
either. "How are you going to solve that problem?" she asks them. Parents
want Prince to hug their children, to make sure they are safe. But Prince
has other priorities. She has less than 2=BD hours each day with her
kindergartners and there=92s little time for these interruptions. "Learning
isn't all the time fun. Sometimes it=92s plain hard work," Prince said.
"Some people say 'This isn't important. This is only kindergarten. They're
only 5 years old.=92" At kindergarten orientation, Prince promises that all
of her students will be reading by Christmas. Before the end of the first
semester, more than a third are reading better than mid year
first-graders. Many write stories in loose paragraphs. Some are even
filing book reports. In a solemn voice, 67-year-old Sally Prince talks
about data-driven, standards-driven, expectation-driven learning. She
repeats in a stern tone that first grade is hard. Her principal calls her
a revolutionary. Welcome to the future of kindergarten, writes Mike Gruss.

With record numbers of students signing up for a free federal tutoring
program but not attending the classes, test-preparation companies are
offering such incentives as tickets to sporting events, MP3 players, and
$100 Visa gift cards just for showing up. The program, known as
Supplemental Educational Services, was created by the federal No Child
Left Behind Act to provide tutoring to poor children at high-needs schools
that have failed to accomplish "adequate yearly progress" for two
consecutive years. In the past, the city Department of Education conducted
the tutoring itself, but, starting this school year, private test
preparation companies and community groups took over. The companies get
paid only if students actually show up, reports Julia Levy. And they're
not showing up. Attendance is hovering between 50% and 75% of those who
enroll, according to education officials -- and the 66,000 students who
have enrolled represent barely one-fourth of those eligible for the free
extra help.

Utah won't boycott President Bush's education policy. But, under a new
bill that asserts local control in public schools, it might very well defy
federal provisions that crimp state coffers or conflict with state
priorities. Republican Rep. Margaret Dayton's House Bill 135 is the 2005
version of last year's high-profile measure to opt out of the federal No
Child Left Behind [NCLB] law and forfeit the $106 million that comes with
it. Utah led a multistate mutiny against the law, reports Ronnie Lynn,
citing its cost and unprecedented Washington intrusion into state affairs.
  Instead of boycotting the law, HB135 asserts that federal education
policies take a back seat to state control -- and may even be ignored if
they require state dollars. "We can't be expected to fill in the financial
blanks, and we shouldn't have to be dealing with federal regulations,"
Dayton said. "We have to take our state issues back into our own hands."

People intuitively recognize the importance of self-esteem to their
psychological health, so it isn't particularly remarkable that most of us
try to protect and enhance it in ourselves whenever possible. What is
remarkable is that attention to self-esteem has become a communal concern,
at least for Americans, who see a favorable opinion of oneself as the
central psychological source from which all manner of positive outcomes
spring. The corollary, that low self-esteem lies at the root of individual
and thus societal problems and dysfunctions, has sustained an ambitious
social agenda for decades. Indeed, campaigns to raise people's sense of
self-worth abound. Yet surprisingly, according to a co-authored article in
Scientific American, research shows that such efforts are of little value
in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior. Some
findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower
subsequent academic performance.

Much of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent State of the State speech was
standard fare for such legislative addresses. But there was a disturbing
undertone of hostility toward public education. At one level, the governor
had the usual bromides: Improve school and teacher accountability for
classroom performance, reward outstanding teachers financially and do more
to help struggling schools. And, he said, all this could be done with no
new taxes. But after making a proposal reasonable on its face, Perry would
follow it up with a kick at public education. For example, he called for
more detailed disclosure by school districts of how much of their costs go
to classrooms and how much to administration. But then he added that
taxpayers "deserve to know how much is spent on administration and how
much they are paying for lobbyists and lawyers who seek to extract even
more tax dollars from their pockets." The governor favors "school choice"
-- diverting some public education funds to private schools. Many dislike
the idea, but it's worthy of debate. But the governor again attacked
public education, saying of parents, "They deserve better than to leave
their fate in the hands of a local monopoly that is slow to change without
the benefit of competition." And, he added, "Every child is entitled to a
public education, but public education is not entitled to every child." A
casual listener could be forgiven for not knowing that the Texas
Constitution declares that it "shall be the duty of the Legislature of the
State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and
maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." And the
Constitution says it's the governor duty to make sure the laws --
including those regarding public education -- are "faithfully executed."
If that system is screwed up, it's Perry and the Legislature's job to fix
it -- not campaign against it as though they have nothing to do with its
present state of affairs.

Back in the day, kids used to live to dig out a few inches of snow. It was
easy cash. Grab a shovel and make the morning rounds in the neighborhood
with your buddies.  For a dollar a pop, we'd clear a driveway, even an
entire sidewalk. Maybe I just live in the wrong town now, writes
Christopher Cox, but in the seven winters I've endured in the Metrowest
snowbelt, not one enterprising kid has ever knocked on my door and offered
to shovel out my driveway for a price. "Their lives are so structured that
any kind of spur-of-the-moment experience, especially a neighborhood
experience, has been taken away,"' said psychologist William Pollack.
"They don't have a sense of free time and neighborhood and safety to
explore and do things on their own." Perhaps it's just parental concern
about child safety. No one seems to allow their kids out to canvass the
neighborhood except at Halloween or the annual Scout cookie or popcorn
drives.  Cox would prefer not to think that it's severe entitlement issues
or too much time playing video games. Look around. A lot of the chores
that kids used to do have been appropriated by adults. Grownups now
deliver the morning newspapers or mow the lawns.

Significant educational change must be driven by a consistent
organizational philosophy, a set of unwavering beliefs among school and
community leaders that maximizes learning opportunities for pupils,
enriches curricula, promotes quality teaching and school leadership and
works to engage all students. Each politician who wishes to speak about
public education must first provide proof of his or her having made
meaningful visits to public school classrooms for observations and
conversations with teachers, administrators, parents and students. It's
time for policy-makers to touch base with reality, writes Joe Batory.
There has been too much lip service paid to public education by government
in recent years. It's time to move beyond simplistic standardized testing
programs as panaceas for public schools.

Stephen Budiasnsky never actually dreaded all the school band and chorus
concerts he attended as far as the quality of the performers' efforts
goes. Learning to play or sing is impossible without some squeaks or
screeches or rhythms that occasionally wander away for a stroll on the
erratic side, and he=92s always been genuinely impressed by how well the
kids do. No, the problem is not how they play. It's what they play. He was
not prepared for the extent to which such new and original works of great
mediocrity have completely supplanted the real music -- classical, folk,
Sousa marches, American popular music, Scott Joplin rags, Broadway show
tunes -- that was once a staple of the American school music curriculum. A
bit of what is driving the dominance of all this pseudo-music are
education-theory mandates that music education "connect" with other parts
of the curriculum (this probably explains those elementary-school songs
about recycling and self-esteem); a bit comes, too, from pressures for
parent-pleasing or competition-judge-pleasing pieces that are showy and
give the illusion of being more advanced than they are. But the result is
a terrible confusion of ends and means.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has ordered his budget director to withhold nearly $27
million that Indiana schools had counted on this spring as part of his
promise to balance the state budget. According to Staci Hupp and Jon
Murray, the unprecedented move angered school leaders and fueled tensions
with House Republicans, who believe the governor not only shortchanged
schools but also overstepped his authority.

The way many high-school students see it, government censorship of
newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected
free speech. It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to
many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a new
study of high-school attitudes. The original amendment to the Constitution
is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising
citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. Yet, when
told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three
high-school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees.
Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish
freely without government approval of stories. "These results are not only
disturbing; they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter III of the John S.
and James L. Knight Foundation, the $1 million study's sponsor. "Ignorance
about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future."
  The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders,
the study says. When asked whether people should be allowed to express
unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school
principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did. The results
reflected indifference, with nearly three in four students saying they
took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know how they felt about
it. It was also clear that many students do not understand what is
protected by the Bill of Rights. Three in four students said flag burning
is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can
restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.

This report offers educators and policymakers a user-friendly, timely
summary of more than a dozen key issues facing middle and high schools,
such as literacy and reading, English language learners, violence and
bullying, and transition. This report can help to meet the urgent need
felt by education decision-makers to find approaches that significantly
raise student achievement and improve other student outcomes. It
recognizes the unique challenges of educating middle or high school
students, while at the same time providing support for approaches that
address their academic and non-academic needs in a comprehensive manner.

This short article was written by an art teacher but contains insight and
hard-won wisdom useful to any teacher who wants to unleash "the creativity
gene." The resource spotter who alerted us to this interesting piece says,
"As I read through these nine creativity killers it occurred to me that my
old enemy 'time' was responsible for me succumbing to many of these
killers. Because of this I feel like I need to fast-track or rush the
process." See if you agree.

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

"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.

"Information on Grants for School Health Programs & Services"

The Grantionary is a list of grant-related terms and their definitions.

GrantsAlert is a website that helps nonprofits, especially those involved
in education, secure the funds they need to continue their important work.

"Grant Writing Tips"
SchoolGrants has compiled an excellent set of grant writing tips for those
that need help in developing grant proposals.

FastWEB is the largest online scholarship search available, with 600,000
scholarships representing over one billion in scholarship dollars. It
provides students with accurate, regularly updated information on
scholarships, grants, and fellowships suited to their goals and
qualifications, all at no cost to the student. Students should be advised
that FastWEB collects and sells student information (such as name,
address, e-mail address, date of birth, gender, and country of
citizenship) collected through their site.

"Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)"
More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make
hundreds of federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to
find. The result of that work is the FREE website.

"eSchool News School Funding Center"
Information on up-to-the-minute grant programs, funding sources, and
technology funding.

"Philanthropy News Digest"
Philanthropy News Digest, a weekly news service of the Foundation Center,
is a compendium, in digest form, of philanthropy-related articles and
features culled from print and electronic media outlets nationwide.

"School Grants"
A collection of resources and tips to help K-12 educators apply for and
obtain special grants for a variety of projects.

"A teacher who is attempting to teach, without inspiring the pupil with a
desire to learn, is hammering on a cold iron."
-Horace Mann (educational reformer), 1796-1859
=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3DPEN NewsBlast=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D
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reform and school fundraising resources. The PEN NewsBlast is the property
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