PEN Weekly NewsBlast for January 7, 2004

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Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 18:08:14 -0800
Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
A six-year-old child has just seen video of real children being washed out
to sea. A teen sits transfixed watching images of people clinging to
trees, mothers wailing as they discover dead children in an endless line
of unclaimed bodies, and babies crying hysterically for their mothers. At
the dinner table your 5th grader asks, "Can anything like that happen to
us, dad?" How is a parent to respond? What should you say? What should you
do? How do you deal with your child's fears without increasing them? Is it
possible to reassure your child at a time when you, yourself, are
horrified by the images of intense pain and grief you see in the hearts
and on the faces of parents half way around the world? Chick Moorman and
Thomas Haller provide useful tips for answering tough questions and
honoring the feelings of children at:

It is a ritual incantation of American civic discourse that public
education is critical to the future of our country. How, then, can we be
so confused? How can we know if public education is working or not? Part
of the problem is that over the last two decades an intense lobby has
emerged that wants to turn public education over to private industry, make
McStudents of the nation's youth. It has operated a not-so-stealth
campaign to disparage public education and to try to convince Americans
that it isn't working. This campaign has mounted a relentless, mantra-like
vilification of public schools: schools are failing; teachers are lazy;
education bureaucracies are unresponsive; students are being cheated;
America is at risk. Sound familiar? Some of this lobby's motivation is
ideological: they dislike anything that smacks of government control, the
more so if the service is effective, for such examples repudiate the
theological superiority of all things private. Some of its motivation is
directed toward right-wing social engineering: they want to control the
curriculum that future generations of American students must absorb. And
much of it is simply economic: these "prophets of profit" want to get
their hands on the $500+ billion that is spent every year in the U.S. on
public K-12 education. But, writes Robert Freeman, the question of whether
public schools can deliver should no longer be open for debate. The only
question is whether we have the courage to now properly fund public
education so that it can take our children and our society to even higher
levels of achievement. Public education is not only the most important
democratizing institution in America today. It is the foundation of our
economic future as well. It never really went away. But still, it's good
to have it back.

Hundreds of thousands of children are at great risk following the
earthquake and tsunamis that hit coastal areas of six South Asian
countries on December 26.  Please help support UNICEF's emergency relief
efforts. At least a third of those reported dead are children, UNICEF
believes. Some of the hardest-hit populations were the fishing communities
in villages scattered along all the affected coastal areas. Most families
in these areas were already living in poverty -- housed in makeshift huts,
with very low incomes and little financial security -- and this disaster
is expected to increase their vulnerability. UNICEF is providing immediate
relief and delivering emergency supplies from the UNICEF global supply hub
in Copenhagen. Relief flights can be launched at any hour with essential
survival provisions, including: (1) Emergency health supplies and
medicines; (2) Oral rehydration therapies to prevent diarrheal
dehydration; (3) High-protein biscuits to prevent malnutrition; (4) Basic
shelter materials for displaced families; (5) Water purification tablets;
and (6) Longer-term assistance will likely include educational supplies,
additional health supplies and sanitation materials. You can make a secure
donation over the phone by calling: 800-4UNICEF or:

For ideas on youth-led fundraising efforts and resources for parents and
teachers to talk to young people about the tsunami disaster, visit:

Quality Counts 2005, the ninth annual report card on public education in
the 50 states, focuses on changing school finance systems and the growing
push to link funding to student performance. Education Week's study of the
50 states and the District of Columbia finds that 31 states are
considering major changes in how they pay for education or allot money to
school districts. Sixteen states are embroiled in litigation challenging
the school finance systems they now have in place. The report includes
finance snapshots for each state. It also examines how states raise
revenue for education, support their "at risk" students, and compensate
their teachers. The report also highlights the shift in focus from
questions of "equity" to "adequacy," as states begin to explore what it
would cost to meet the education goals spelled out in state constitutions.
The report found that 30 states have had adequacy studies conducted, some
of which are still underway. For this year's report, Education Week
commissioned Bruce D. Baker, a finance expert at the University of Kansas,
to categorize various adequacy methods and their findings across state
studies. Education Week also conducted an in depth analysis of adequacy
studies in three states: Kentucky, Maryland, and New York. As always, the
report grades the states on the health of their education systems based on
indicators related to student achievement; standards, assessments, and
accountability; efforts to improve teacher quality; school climate; and

Literacy coaching is a growing development in the field of American
education. Like other educational innovations, from charter schools to
enriched after-school programs, literacy coaching is protean, varying from
venue to venue and even described by different terms in various regions of
the country. On the West Coast, writes Barbara Hall, educators work with
an instructional framework known as "reading apprenticeship," while an
East Coast source calls literacy coaches "advisor/mentors." These terms
have evolved over the years, with early studies on the subject often using
the term "reading specialists." While the practice of literacy coaching
continues to make inroads in schools across the nation, even its most
dedicated advocates acknowledge that it can have drawbacks. In studying
literacy coaching at the Boston public schools, for instance, educators
candidly caution that there are sometimes turf battles between coaches and
teachers -- and content teachers, who are deeply invested in the practice
of imparting knowledge about a particular subject area, do not always
welcome the idea of having to teach literacy and comprehension at the same
time. Their feeling, often, is that by the time kids reach the middle
grades, their elementary schools should have already taught them to read
and understand the information in their textbooks. With the added pressure
of having to ensure that students pass required tests -- so that not only
can the student continue his or her educational career but also so that
the school itself doesn't suffer the stigma of being a "failing school" --
literacy is not always the first subject on a middle or high school
teacher's agenda. Ellen Guiney, executive director of the Boston Plan for
Excellence in the Public Schools, a local education fund, admits that the
challenges of developing a literacy coaching program have been many. "With
coaching in the picture, teachers teach in entirely different ways than
they used to... so one key is that we've got to find just the right
teachers to participate." Some 80 percent of Boston's literacy coaches are
former teachers, Guiney reports. She has a number of recommendations for
schools that want to begin inculcating literacy coaching into their
classroom. "I would start small," she counsels. "But don't wait too long
to scale up." She also lists these points to focus on: invest in the
development of professional coaches, work closely with school organizers,
ensure that school leaders buy in, get the incentives right for the coach
and carve out time for the coach and teacher to work together.

What once was a playground taunt has turned out to be true: Girls are
better than boys. Girls have eclipsed boys on state and national tests,
reports Staci Hupp. They are more likely to stay in school and to
graduate, and they demand less special attention than boys, data show.
That marks a dramatic turn from the time when schools were urged to
nurture girls' brains instead of their baking skills. School officials and
experts now fear the effort to pull girls up to an equal footing had an
unintended consequence. "Boys are lagging, and in my view we are seeing
the tip of a very serious national problem," said Judith Kleinfeld, a
psychology professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. A U.S.
Department of Education study last month noted the academic edge that boys
once held has vanished, and "the issue now is that boys seem to be falling
behind," said Education Secretary Rod Paige. "We need to spend some time
researching the problem."

Two District of Columbia gangs continue to clash, swinging baseball bats
and slinging bricks at rivals. Jaws have been broken. Arms slashed. Faces
sprayed with mace, reports Clarence Williams. The gang violence is
familiar to law enforcement officials, but the type of player is not. The
Knockout Honies and the Most Wanted Honeyz are girl gangs, the District's
largest, with about 200 members between them. Girl gangs have been on the
rise for several years in the District and other cities, including
Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, gang experts say. No one has been
killed in girl gang confrontations in the District, but an escalation of
gang-related violence in recent months has officials alarmed about the
possibility, particularly during the city's school holiday break. District
girl gangs are not affiliated with male gangs, as girl gangs are in some
cities, and as far as police know, they are not typically involved in drug
dealing, street robberies or other criminal acts. The gangs tend to pick
only on their rivals, not on others in the community. Ego is a major
motivator, experts said. Most girl gang members in the District do not
seem destined for a life of crime, experts say. Some are honor-roll
students. They band together for camaraderie and protection and sometimes
to explore their sexual identity, members and experts said.

The epidemic of obesity among school children and youth in the United
States threatens to obscure the goal all state education policymakers
share to prepare students for a full and productive future. Consequently,
writes Brenda Welburn, state boards have no choice but to examine their
policies on health and physical education to help reverse the growing
overweight problem. Failure to do so decreases the chances of educating
all children to high standards and amounts to negligence of the duty to
assure that students are prepared to lead healthy lives and make good
decisions once they leave our schools. As the articles in this issue of
the "Standard" clearly show, the statistics demonstrating the extent of
childhood obesity are overwhelming. And because children model the
behavior of their parents, the escalating obesity rate among adults looms
as another indicator that the number of children who are obese will
continue to increase. Without comprehensive intervention and education,
the problem is destined to deteriorate further. The harms associated with
obesity are physical, social, and emotional. The social and emotional
problems often impede classroom adjustment and performance. Changing the
way students eat and exercise is not an easy task, but there are policy
levers available.

The federal "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) education plan fails by its own
standards, according to a "Report Card" issued to mark Saturday's third
anniversary of President George Bush signing the controversial plan into
law. NCLB earned two grades of "F" for failing to stimulate "Real
Improvements in Educational Quality" and discouraging the use of
"High-Quality Assessments" on the scale used by the National Center for
Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). A grade of "D" was awarded for the law's
confusing and contradictory system of school "Accountability" based on the
arbitrary "adequate yearly progress" requirement. Top grade on the Report
Card, an "A-," came in the category "Public Relations" with a comment
noting the Bush Administration's effort "to name and promote the law with
high-sounding rhetoric." The Administration earned a mixed grade of "C"
for "Focusing Attention on Children Left Behind" without providing
adequate resources to close learning gaps. The grades are based on a
detailed analysis of NCLB in FairTest's recent report "Failing Our
Children." FairTest and 32 other education, civil rights and children's
advocacy organizations recently sent Congress a joint statement
recommending more than a dozen changes to overhaul NCLB.

In the past five months, three major reports have been released showing
that charter schools performed more poorly than public schools on the same
tests. The most recent of them, issued by the U.S. Department of
Education, presented a re-analysis of data from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress comparing outcomes for charter and public school
students on these national exams. It echoed the NAEP findings released in
August by the American Federation of Teachers. Yet another report,
released reluctantly by the Education Department this fall, looked at
state exam data in five states and came to the same conclusion. What are
we to make of this? Proponents of charter schools say that we don't have
enough data and that the schools have not existed long enough to be
judged. Opponents say three strikes and you're out. According to Amy
Stuart Wells, there are important public policy lessons to be learned from
a reform movement that was promoted as the answer to a failing public
school system, and that cannot, 14 years later, keep pace with that
system. As a researcher who has studied charter school reform in six
states, she believes we should not interpret the recent reports as an
indictment of individual charter schools. Rather, they should alert
policymakers to the hazards of building an educational reform movement on
top of untested rhetoric about market forces and public schools.

What has happened to common sense in this era of No Child Left Behind?
What makes anyone believe that talking louder makes a deaf man hear?
Albert Einstein reputedly defined insanity as doing the same thing over
and over and expecting different results. Yet that is what some see
happening in elementary schools today. In response to high-stakes testing
and higher standards for even the most challenging students, schools have
responded by talking louder. They haven't changed the way they teach.
Instead, they push more papers in front of the kids, keep them off the
playground, and take away music and art. In Florida, they make kids repeat
third grade if they can't keep up (an estimated 43,000 failed in 2003) and
send them to summer reading "camps" to cram in a little more knowledge.
Everything we know about human nature and child development should tell us
to pause. Children need time to play and time to develop at a natural
pace. Every parent knows that not all infants learn to walk by age 1 and
talk by age 2. Neither do all first-graders learn to read at the stroke of
midnight on their sixth birthday. Young children need security and
encouragement, not pressure and humiliation if they can't keep up. Yet at
the same time, there is a legitimate need for rigorous academic standards,
high expectations, and reliable assessments to gauge each child's progress
so that he or she is not left behind. The stakes are indeed high. Children
of the 21st century absolutely need much higher literacy and mathematical
skills than their grandparents. The world has been transformed through
technology and global competition. So how do you lay a foundation for
solid academic skills without killing childhood? Sarah Butzin, the founder
of the Institute for School Innovation, proposes "triangulated learning"
as a way to give children time to play and develop, even as they pursue
high standards.

Union officials and teachers in Detroit reacted with anger and disbelief
in response to reports that some teachers found layoff notices among the
holiday greetings in their mailboxes on Christmas Eve. The layoffs, which
affect 372 Detroit Public Schools teachers, will be effective Feb. 25,
after students take the MEAP tests. When school begins after February's
winter break, the teachers, who are assigned to subjects that don't have
teacher shortages, will be gone, according to the notices. The cuts are
expected to save the district about $8 million and are in response to
declining enrollment, reports Chastity Pratt. The district lost 9,300
students this fall, said district spokesman Ken Coleman. While teachers
are reeling from the layoff notices, officials estimate that the district
could lose as many as 5,800 more students by February. The cuts come just
days before the Dec. 31 deadline that the state superintendent set for the
district to come up with 2-year and 5-year deficit-reduction plans for
what experts have called the most gruesome urban school budget crisis in
the nation. The district has to figure out how to cover a $48-million
deficit from last year in addition to a $150-million shortfall for this
year. About 5,400 of the district's 21,000 jobs could be cut and as many
as 40 schools closed.

Do we ever stop craving the approval of our teachers? In this heartwarming
article, Sam Swope reflects on the influence of two key teachers whose
magic led Swope to pursue a teaching career.

Stanley Pogrow shares a decade's worth of experience in developing an
approach to teaching math to upper-elementary and middle school students
that simultaneously increases basic skills, improves problem solving,
raises test scores, and sparks student interest in math. Supermath
represents a new curricular approach that combines the best of traditional
and progressive techniques in a data-driven balance that enhances both. It
shows that it is possible to design a progressive approach that can
substantially raise test scores while also transforming how teachers and
students come to view the process and value of learning mathematics. If it
can be done in mathematics, Pogrow writes, it can probably be done in
other content areas. What we need are more creative, powerful, and
synergistic forms of curricula.

The 9-year-old Met School, in Providence, RI, defies convention, with no
letter grades, no required classes, and "advisors" instead of teachers who
work with the same small group of students for four consecutive years.
Instead of taking tests, the 580 students present "exhibitions" of their
work, reports Elizabeth Mehren. With 100% of its seniors accepted each
year to college, the Met's "one student at a time" approach to learning
has caught the attention of educators around the country. The success of
the school also prompted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a
nationwide network of similar schools known as the Big Picture. Awards of
about $15 million made the Big Picture Company "our largest alternative
school grantee," said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for
the Gates Foundation. "There simply are kids that are wired differently or
have had different life experiences. They need schools that are highly
individualized and highly supportive," Vander Ark said. "The Met certainly
is both. We take people there just to blow apart their preconceptions of
how a school ought to work." Among the 18 Big Picture campuses established
in the last two years are schools in Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento and
rural El Dorado, Calif. Dennis Littky, founder of the Met School and
co-director of the Big Picture Company, said a school in Santa Monica also
was under discussion. The conventional U.S. high school, Littky said, is
little more than an early 20th century assembly line. "The word most kids
use when they talk about high school is 'boring,' " Littky said.  "What a

The majority of New York City's nearly 1,000 middle and elementary schools
have not had formal interschool athletic play for two decades, reports
Bill Pennington. That is about to change, leaders of the city's Department
of Education say. They intend to create a new framework for competitive
athletics in middle and elementary schools, and they hope the city will be
at the forefront of an athletics renaissance, offering more supervision
and, in some cases, financing for teams. The teams and the formal
competition disappeared in the wake of the city's fiscal crisis of the
1970's, a whitewash of a system that had once sponsored citywide leagues
in sports like soccer, track and field, baseball and basketball. But the
desire to play, and to compete, is hard to arrest. Over the years, the
vacuum left by the budget cuts has been filled by myriad community groups,
ad hoc organizations, corporate partners, parents and teachers who have
formed hundreds of teams. This bred an unsanctioned sports network in
elementary and middle schools that has operated largely under the radar of
the city's Department of Education, even though the games are played in
city schools, endorsed by local school officials and frequently
supplemented by other city-financed services. This vast subculture, a
confusing quilt of advocates directing after-school activities as diverse
as tennis and tai chi, has existed for years, mostly unsupervised by the
city's education administrators. "There hasn't been oversight and
accountability in this area for many, many years," said Lori Benson, who
was hired last year as the Department of Education's director of fitness
and physical education.

There are roughly 1 million people in the nation's classrooms -- who are
not teachers -- who strive for breakthrough moments with students. They
are teacher's aides, a job that's become such a major part of instruction
that Congress is ordering aides to prove their quality and experience --
just as teachers must. Since the 1950s, when aides were recruited for
clerical work, their role has become a hybrid of teaching and lesson
planning along with supervising the playground and cafeteria. Often
assigned to help students with disabilities and limited-English learners,
reports Ben Feller, aides also have quietly gained a big presence in
mainstream classes. They work with students individually and in groups,
reinforce the teacher's lessons and help keep class in order. Three
decades ago, schools used to have 35 teachers for every teacher's aide.
The ratio is now lower than 5-to-1, as the number of full-time and
part-time aides has almost doubled. Yet aides still lack clear identity,
right down to the various names they go by, including paraprofessional and
paraeducator. Walk into some classrooms and it is not obvious which
instructor is in the lead role and which one likely does not have a
teaching degree. "There's little understanding about the level of
intricacy of the work that they do," Tish Olshefski, a paraprofessional
expert at the American Federation of Teachers, said about instructional
aides. "There is this misconception that all they do is shuffle papers."

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

"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 include programs and competitions we have
previously announced, as well as those they plan to announce 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 significant piece of accountability must come from within each of us.
Each of us must ask, "What promises have I made to people? What claims can
I make about my work? Does it have integrity? What about my organization?
Is it truly and consistently serving the public good -- and if not, why
not?" Asking such fundamental questions helps nonprofit leaders to focus
on what they can realistically achieve in their work. It reminds them of
their responsibility to the communities they serve. And it's a powerful
way to reveal an organization's capacity to create change and encourage
each member of the organization to examine his or her own personal
capacity. Ultimately, we are all in the business of change. But what are
the implications of accounting for ourselves? I believe there are four
important factors about which we must be forever conscious: the rhythms of
community life; definitions of progress versus success; notions of time;
and legacy. Of course, there are other factors. But these four affect
every change effort, even though they may sometimes be forgotten or hidden
among more common measures of accountability. When we are aware of these
factors, we invariably make our efforts more sustainable because we become
more accountable -- to both our community and ourselves."
-Richard C. Harwood, "Accountability and the Sustainable Nonprofit"

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