PEN Weekly NewsBlast for January 6, 2006

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
Over the past two-plus decades, the tradition of local control has been
shaken to its core, beset by a rash of state and federal mandates, battles
over consolidation and choice, and the growth of well-funded national
organizations that have placed schools at the center of the political and
culture wars. And parents, writes Glenn Cook, chafed by the loss of
control, are taking out their frustrations on board members. This constant
friction, played out amid local politics, contributes to the belief that
boards are unable or unwilling to do their job, when in all but isolated
-- and highly publicized -- instances that?s not the case.  Local control
no longer means what it once did. Legislators and public interest groups
use the term to drum up support for a particular issue, but the authority
to make decisions usually rests with state or federal lawmakers. And
school boards are left to implement mandates from above, many of which are
underfunded or not funded at all, further crippling local authority to
decide what?s best for children. The squeeze on local boards shows no
signs of slowing soon. Talk of a national curriculum and national
standards continues, although more in whispers and sound bites than in
policy. The question is: Will outside groups vying for control let school
boards do their job? Not if board members remain complacent or continue to
have ill-defined roles as community leaders, observers say.

As the volume of schools identified as "in need of improvement" ratchets
upward under the idealistic assumptions of the federal No Child Left
Behind Act, the urgency for the state to act intensifies. It is morally
and educationally unsound for authorities publicly to label poor
performance without a plan and the capacity to intervene, writes S. Paul
Reville. Intervention planning is challenging work. There is little
evidence of dramatically successful "turnaround" strategies anywhere in
the country. Policy makers in virtually every state are grappling with the
question of what to do with their failing schools. Conspicuously absent in
the debate on intervention has been the role and voices of teachers and
teacher unions, arguably the front line troops in any "turnaround"
strategy. There seems to be a belief in some policy circles that school
improvement can be accomplished in spite of teachers rather than with
them. Some of the assumptions embedded in the prominent strategies,
management prerogatives, turnaround partners, chartering, and
privatization imply that teachers are the problem rather than part of the
solution, that the source of expertise on fixing school problems is
external rather than internal or that current leadership is highly
competent. Although each of these assumptions is sometimes true, none is
always or typically correct. Teachers and, certainly, unions don't have
all the answers either. They are also sometimes the source of problems,
but it is folly to shape school intervention and turnaround plans without
extensively consulting teachers on policies and practices.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT RULES VOUCHERS UNCONSTITUTIONAL The Florida Supreme Court struck down the state's voucher system that allows some children to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, saying it violates the state constitution's requirement of a uniform system of free public schools. The 5-2 opinion struck down the Opportunity Scholarship Program, championed by Gov. Jeb Bush, which was the nation?s first statewide system of school vouchers. About 700 children statewide are using the program to attend a private or parochial school after transferring from a public school the state considers to be failing. Chief Justice Barbara Pariente, writing for the majority, said the program, "diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools," which are the sole means set out in the state constitution for educating Florida children. Private schools also are not uniform when compared with each other or the public system and they are exempt from many standards imposed by law on public schools, such as mandatory testing, she added.

DOES YOUR DISTRICT OFFICE NEED ITS OWN DEVELOPMENT OFFICE? Over the past few years, budget shortfalls have forced many school boards to make tough decisions about what education programs must go, rather than about what new programs to support. At the same time, these districts are attempting to raise test scores to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act, which often requires the kind of specialized programs they've just cut. Is there any way around this classic Catch 22? In this article, Gary Frye reports on the rise of independent local education foundations and school district development offices to support student needs. Frye outlines the rationale for raising additional funds from non-tax sources. In addition, he highlights his own grantwriting efforts that led to $1.3 million in grants last year alone. In his view, establishing a grant-writing function in a school district is a key strategy for increasing funds dramatically without increasing taxes.

School districts desperate to plug budget holes are turning their buses
into billboards for soft drinks, credit unions and car dealerships.
Advertisements have popped up on buses in Arizona and Massachusetts. New
ones are set to appear in Michigan and Colorado. Dozens more districts
from Florida to Pennsylvania may join them. "This will spread across the
nation, because there's so much money that will come into schools as a
result of doing this," says Daniel Shearer, director of transportation at
the Scottsdale Unified School District. The Arizona city just outside
Phoenix began displaying ads on the sides of its buses last December.
Advertisers include real estate agencies, a local toy store and an
ambulance company. The district anticipates the ads will bring in $300,000
this year and up to $900,000 in a few years. But some consumer groups and
parents are alarmed. They say America's children -- already bombarded by
ads -- shouldn't become captive audiences on their way to and from school.
"It teaches children that ? they're for sale," says Gary Ruskin, executive
director of the consumer group Commercial Alert. "They're just a bunch of
sardines packed in a bus being sold to an advertiser." Such arguments
haven't swayed many districts, reports Emily Bazar.

HONK IF YOU ADORE MY CHILDREN TOO! A certain amount of bragging has long been considered a right of parenthood. It mixes delight in a child's success with a dash of pride that one cannot help but feel as a parent. But when bragging becomes competitive, making parents feel as if they are being drawn into a game of one-upmanship, it takes on a sinister air, writes Stephanie Rosenbloom. For a generation of successful upper-middle-class parents deeply involved in their children's development, filial pride can easily go overboard. Competitive bragging has become a new social sport, with a vast field of play that includes practically any public place, from the office coffee cart to the supermarket checkout line. The puffery is so inescapable, it has inspired a backlash: anti-brag bumper stickers, shirts and pins with slogans like "My kid sells term papers to your honor student."

Quality Counts 2006, released by Education Week, examines the progress
that states have made on a core set of policy indicators related to
standards-based reform. The report finds that state efforts to devise
standards, tests, and accountability systems in education are positively
related with gains on NAEP reading and math tests in grades 4 and 8 from
1996 to 2005. But the report found a negative relationship between state
implementation of policies related to teacher quality and gains in math
and reading scores. "After a decade of tracking state policy efforts in
education, our results are at once heartening and sobering," said Virginia
B. Edwards. "They're heartening because when looked at over more than a
decade, student achievement has gotten better, particularly in mathematics
and particularly for low-income and minority students." She added, "An
increasing number of states also have embraced a standards-based-education
framework, with some of the earliest and most ardent adopters of
standards-based accountability systems making some of the most progress in
student achievement. But improvements still have not come far or fast

White parents are putting their kids into private schools or moving to
areas where the public schools are whiter, less Asian and less demanding.
Where sports and music also are emphasized, and educators value, as one
parent put it, "the whole child.'' Where whites once ran because they felt
they were superior to their new neighbors, they are apparently running now
because they feel they are not quite as good, writes Leonard Pitts, Jr.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter Suein Hwang, white parents are
pulling their kids out of elite public high schools, schools known for
sending graduates to the nation's top colleges. They are doing this
because the schools are too academically rigorous, too narrowly focused on
such subjects as math and science. Too Asian. The irony speaks for itself.

THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF NARNIA A much-anticipated movie, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe" will undoubtedly introduce (and reintroduce) millions of children to the wonderful world of Narnia. Still, Josh Golin fears the film is more likely to inspire trips to the mall, rather than imaginative play. At a time when childhood obesity is a major public health problem, through product tie-ins, the film is promoting junk food. At a time when child development experts are concerned about the commercialization of play, a slew of Narnia-themed toys will accompany the film's release. Children play less creatively with toys based on media programs. Because these toys come with established characters and storylines, children are unlikely to use them to create their own world. In short, the lesson that Disney is teaching through its Chronicles of Narnia promotions is the exact opposite of what Golin?s teacher taught twenty-five years ago -- that Narnia is a magical outdoor place and entry is free using the power of your imagination. According to Disney, entry to Narnia is purchased at supermarkets, toy stores and malls. That's the bad news. The good news is that the commercialization of Narnia offers an excellent starting point for a discussion about the impact of marketing on children.

WHEN LEARNING COUNTS: RETHINKING LICENSES FOR SCHOOL LEADERS States use licenses to control who becomes a principal, but do these licenses encompass the knowledge and skills those principals need to promote student learning? "When Learning Counts" examines the licensure content for principals in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and finds that licensing requirements are misaligned with today?s ambitions for school leaders and vary widely state to state. These findings highlight a missed opportunity. Licensing can play a valuable role in developing school leaders and securing the principals that schools need, but today?s licenses fall short. To guide policymakers as they restructure principal licenses, this report, underwritten with support from The Wallace Foundation, presents a policy framework, entitled "Licensing-Plus," to promote student learning. Licensing-Plus raises the prospect that school principals will be upstanding, educated, qualified, administratively competent, on target, possessed of the right know-how, and able to handle their job in any school or district that beckons; that is, it raises the prospect that principals will match what reasonable citizens might demand in school leaders.

Bowling is hot in high schools, belying its stereotype as a pastime of
beer leagues and smoky alleys. In fact, for boys and girls, no varsity
sport is growing faster, reports Ben Feller. Bowling posted the most gains
in 2004-05, in both the number of players and the number of schools adding
teams, according to the National Federation of State High School
Associations. Football remains the king of sports among boys, with more
than 1 million high school players. For girls, the top sport is
basketball, with more than 450,000 joining each season. By comparison,
bowling has just under 40,000 boys and girls combined. Yet 16 states now
recognize bowling as a varsity sport, a fourfold increase since 1999. And
most other states have club-level bowling or plan to start bowling soon.
Beyond becoming more accessible, bowling is growing more acceptable --
even cool.

In a climate dominated by raising academic achievement and increasing the
number of students prepared for college, it is easy to lose sight of a
second important objective of high school -- preparing students for
lasting success in the world of work. Well-conceived vocational education
-- or career and technical education, as it is now usually called -- not
only can directly improve students? labor market prospects but also may
help foster deeper understanding of academics. Once considered by many to
be primarily a program for students not going to college and therefore
focused mainly on preparing students for entry-level occupations,
vocational education has been undergoing a major transformation over the
past decade or so. In many high schools, secretarial and clerical programs
have given way to communications and graphic design, computer
applications, finance academies and advanced marketing and distribution.
Information technology, emphasizing systems design, networking and
sophisticated computer modeling, can be found in a growing number of high
schools. In some schools, carpentry, electricity and plumbing are now part
of broader programs in construction technology that introduce students to
entrepreneurship, computer-assisted drafting and design, architecture,
environmental regulation and public policy. In still others, robotics,
digital electronics, hydraulics and a host of other technical subjects
central to engineering and advanced manufacturing have replaced
traditional programs in machining and sheet metal. And in some districts,
completely redesigned health programs, once limited to nursing assistance
or licensed vocational nursing, are the focus for magnet schools and
career academies devoted to biomedical and health sciences. In this
article, Gary Hochlander asks: What are the distinguishing features of
these new programs in career and technical education? What are some key
considerations high schools need to take into account to implement
challenging, comprehensive programs as part of their high school
curriculum? And if new programs are adopted, what evidence do we have that
they are likely to work?

WONDERING WITH CHILDREN: THE IMPORTANCE OF OBSERVATION Children are sometimes spontaneous, sometimes reserved; joyful now, sad later; friendly and reserved; competent and naive; talkative and quiet. To be childlike is to experience an almost unpredictable array of discoveries, emotions, and levels of energy. Young, preschool children are unique and complex and thus often difficult to comprehend. And they do not readily engage us in dialogue in order to explain the reasons for their caprice as they explore the world that surrounds them. Yet, as teachers, it is important for us to know our children deeply, to flow with their currents, and to extend their nascent theories about how the world works. Given the delightful yet often enigmatic characteristics of young children, George Forman & Ellen Hall learned decades ago that in order to comprehend children we must begin by observing them as they play. But what do we see as we observe, and how do we use our observations to enhance our effectiveness as teachers? We can learn at least five attributes of our children when we observe them closely: (1) Their interests and preferences; (2) Their levels of cognitive and social development; (3) Their strategies for creating desired effects; (4) Their skills and accomplishments; and (5) Their personalities and temperaments. Each of the preceding objectives for observing is relevant if we desire to learn about children and thus improve the quality of our teaching.

This commentary by Lynn Sutton suggests that a poorly administered
filtering program can seriously hinder student Internet research in a high
school library media center and cause significant frustration in students.
Communication among students, teachers, librarians, and technology
administrators is critically important to minimize the negative effects of
Internet filters. Feedback needs to be continually sought from users of
the technology. Sutton?s findings indicate that filters used in high
school media centers block legitimate, constitutionally-protected speech.
Overblocking needs to be kept to a bare minimum, with a disabling
mechanism that is readily available, timely and effective. School
districts need to exercise extreme caution that there is no content
filtering based on viewpoint. In districts where a digital divide exists,
school leaders need to recognize the role of the library in ensuring equal
access to information.

|---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
"Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest"
The Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest is expanding its prize
categories to include honoring the teacher of the nation?s best
handwriting student. Maximum Award (for student): a new computer system
and Zaner-Bloser handwriting software; (for teacher): a trip for two to
Boston. Eligibility: students grades 1-8 whose school uses Zaner-Bloser
Handwriting. Deadline: Mar 1, 2006.

"National Teach-In celebration of National Youth Service Day and National
Law Day"
Youth for Justice, the national coordinated law- related education (LRE)
consortium funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention of the United States Department of Justice, invites 100 middle
and high school classes across the United States to teach others about the
fundamental ideas of American democracy through the Third Annual National
Teach-In celebration of National Youth Service Day and National Law Day.
Maximum Award: $200. Eligibility: middle school and high school classes.
Deadline: January 31, 2006.

"Unsung Heroes Awards Program"
The ING Unsung Heroes awards program recognizes innovative and progressive
thinking in education through monetary awards. Maximum Award: $25,000 to
Grand Prize Winner. Eligibility: full-time educators, teachers,
principals, paraprofessionals, or classified staff members with effective
projects that improve student learning at an accredited K-12 public or
private school. Deadline: May 1, 2006.

"Youth Service America and Disney Offer 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

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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 fishery 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.

"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.

"The Purpose Prize: $100,000 for Five Innovators Over 60"
As the first of 77 million baby boomers turn 60, Civic Ventures, a
nonprofit organization working to help America achieve the greatest return
on experience, announces The Purpose Prize -- five $100,000 investments in
Americans over 60 whose creativity, talent and experience is transforming
the way our nation addresses critical social problems, including
education.  The Purpose Prize is for those "with the passion, smarts, and
experience to discover new opportunities, create new programs, or find
inventive ways to make lasting social change."  Sixty semi-finalists ("60
at 60") will also receive national recognition for their work.  To
nominate someone or apply yourself, click below. Deadline: February 28,

"New Leaders for New Schools Seek Candidates to Become Urban School
New Leaders for New Schools is currently accepting applications for
candidates who meet our 10 selection criteria (see website) and want to
lead change for children in low income communities by becoming urban
public school principals.  Candidates should have  a record of success in
leading adults, an expertise in K-12 teaching and learning, a relentless
drive to lead an excellent urban school, and most importantly, an
unyielding belief in the potential of every child to achieve academically
at high levels. Eligibility: a minimum of 2-3 years of successful K-12
instruction experience; a teaching certificate preferred. Deadline: March
1, 2006.

"Recognizing a Teacher Who Overcomes Adversity"
Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation Freida J. Riley Teacher Award
annually recognizes an American teacher who overcomes adversity or makes
an enormous sacrifice in order to positively impact students. It is given
in honor of teacher Freida J. Riley who died of Hodgkin's disease at the
age of 31. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: full-time teachers (grades
K-12), in any accredited U.S. public, private, or charter school.
Deadline: March 1, 2006.

"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.

"Grants for Service-Learning Projects" Learn and Serve America, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, has released a Notice of funding Opportunity for grant funds to support school-based, community-based, higher education, and tribal and U.S. territory service-learning projects. The grant competition is to promote the development and sustainability of high-quality community-based service-learning programs in youth-serving community organizations across the nation. Maximum Award: Varies. Eligibility: K-12 schools, colleges, volunteer centers, faith-based organizations. Deadline: March 7, 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 2006 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.

"In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat
children as adults, and adults as children.  The options of children are
thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively
constricted.  The result is unruly children and childish adults."
-Thomas Szasz (psychiatrist)

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

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