PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 10, 2006

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Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2006 20:38:08 -0800

Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast "Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit." ******************************************************** PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE HOTBEDS OF DEMOCRACY Democracies don't materialize out of thin air. They are created -- and maintained and deepened -- by citizens. If citizens are to safeguard civil liberties, elect wise officials, become wise officials themselves, make sense of the news and negotiate public policy with other citizens in an ever more diverse society, "their minds," as Thomas Jefferson said, "need to be improved to a certain degree." Public schools are ideal sites for this work. They are public places, so they possess the essential assets for cultivating democratic citizens: a diverse student body, shared problems and a curriculum. When aimed at democratic ends and supported by democratic means, schools can help children enter the public consciousness needed for citizenship, or what the ancient Greeks called puberty. This includes the habits of reasoning and caring necessary for public life: the cosmopolitan respect, the insistence on fair play, and the knack for forging public policy with others whether one likes them or not. The opposite is what the Greeks called idiocy -- absorption in one's private affairs. Public schools are good places to help young people grow from idiocy to puberty, writes Walter Parker. Schools can't do it alone, to be sure; families and faith communities must do their part. But schools have the key ingredients that make them the most fertile sites in society for this work. Aren't the stakes too high to let the opportunity pass?

When your kid goes to public school, you get no respite from the anxiety
of your decision, writes Whitney Otto. How could she and her husband leave
their child in a system on the verge of cutting its academic year by five
weeks? Or laying off hundreds of teachers, who, in turn, were
contemplating a strike? Or increasing the size of already overcrowded
classes? So, why send their kid to a public school when they've got the
financial wherewithal to yank him out, and all his cousins already attend
private schools?  There's no single reason; it's more a mix of the
profound and the corny, and, as contradictory as it seems, wanting the
best for one?s child. Regardless of economic class, race, gender, sexual
orientation, religion, physical or mental challenges -- all public school
students must share the same buildings, staff and resources. Everyone's
needs must be addressed, even if they can't all be adequately met. No one
is turned away. Otto knows most people define "the best" as a
fancy-schmancy education.  Yet, her son stays in public school because her
family values diverse racial and cultural perspectives, shared social
advancement, and the interconnection and interdependency fostered in the
public school.

That a politicized, fear-based, excuse-prone, top-down culture is
antithetical to sustainable high performance in public education is a
no-brainer. It?s also axiomatic that a culture of trust, openness, and
collaboration -- one built on shared ownership of a compelling vision --
is crucial for sustaining high performance in public schools. What this
means is that, unless an optimal culture for high performance is in place,
"reculturing" must be at the core of educational leadership work, writes
Scott Thompson. Organizational culture and the levers for changing it are
highly contextual. There is no box of neatly arranged tools that can be
used to reculture. But the following reculturing strategies are loaded
with instructive implications for school leaders: (1) Establishing a "no
excuses" philosophy; (2) Developing a widely owned philosophy of teaching
and learning; (3) Building trust and encouraging risk-taking; (4) Shifting
the focus of the central office from monitoring schools for compliance to
active support of schools; (5) Basing decisions on data, not favoritism or
politics; (6) Establishing a system of shared accountability focused on
results; and (7) Fostering a culture of continuous learning.

More than 1,000 Wake County public school students participated this week
in the 23rd annual "Pieces of Gold" at the Progress Energy Center for the
Performing Arts, including 100 visual artists, 894 on-stage performers
representing 31 groups from 29 schools, and 80 students working behind the
scenes. Pieces of Gold is an annual arts extravaganza produced by the Wake
County Public School System and Wake Education Partnership, a local
education fund. Students and teachers work throughout the year to produce
performances that support the curriculum as well as entertain an
enthusiastic audience. For a complete list of Gifts of Gold visual art
award winners and schools performing in Pieces of Gold, please visit:

Students remember more of the advertising than they do the news stories
shown on Channel One, the daily public affairs program shown in 12,000
U.S. schools, a study has found. Students reported buying -- or having
their parents buy -- teen-oriented products advertised on the show,
including fast food and video games, researchers said. Schools that agree
to show Channel One on 90 percent of school days receive free televisions
and satellite dishes, a deal critics say turns students into a captive
audience for advertisers. Nearly 8 million students see the program. "The
benefits of having Channel One in schools seem to have some real costs
that should create an ethical dilemma for schools," said study co-author
Erica Austin. Channel One CEO Judy Harris questioned whether the students'
purchases were influenced exclusively by Channel One ads or by other
advertising and the preferences of their peers.

They're the kids who fall through the cracks, the ones who rarely get
extra attention or tutoring -- who, very often, disappear even from the
statistics. But high school dropouts are getting increasing attention as
groundbreaking studies show how alarming the problem is, reports Amanda
Paulson. Nearly a third of high school students don't graduate on time;
among blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, it's almost half. Now, a
new survey, suggests that the problem, while deep, can be fixed. Most
students don't drop out because they can't do the work. Nearly 90 percent
had passing grades when they left school, according to the survey of
dropouts by Civic Enterprises. Their major reason for opting out? The
classes were too boring.
see also:

The Education Department bent its rules to award grants worth millions of
dollars to handpicked organizations and institutions in 2001 and 2002,
congressional investigators have found. The Government Accountability
Office detailed three cases in which the department made exceptions to
benefit certain applicants. In at least two of those cases, the groups
getting money had ties to the Bush administration, reports Ben Feller. The
GAO also found four other occasions in which grants went to applicants not
recommended by anyone on a three-person panel that reviews proposals, thus
violating agency rules.

Literacy Statistics

HUGE GAP IN FEDERAL & STATE TEST SCORES In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth-graders who took a state reading test were rated proficient or better. But when the same students took a federal test, only 18 percent reached that standard. Such discrepancies are not uncommon. Students from all over the country performed worse on a tough federal test than they did on state exams in reading and math -- raising questions about whether states are setting lower standards. The nation's students do glaringly worse on a tough federal test than they do on state exams in reading and math, raising doubts about how much kids are learning. The number of children who were proficient or better on state exams was often solid, if not lofty, in 2005. States have wide latitude in deciding what proficiency means. But on the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- the gold standard of achievement in the U.S. -- most states don't come close to matching up, a new analysis from The Education Trust shows.

Test Scores

CURRENT STATUS OF MENTAL HEALTH IN SCHOOLS At present, mental health activity is going on in schools with competing agenda vying for the same dwindling resources. Diverse school and community stakeholders are attempting to address complex, multifaceted, and overlapping psychosocial and mental health concerns in highly fragmented and marginalized ways. This has led to inappropriate competition for sparse resources and inadequate results. The bottom line is that limited efficacy seems inevitable as long as the full continuum of necessary programs is unavailable and staff development remains deficient; limited cost effectiveness seems inevitable as long as related interventions are carried out in isolation of each other; limited systemic change is likely as long as the entire enterprise is marginalized in policy and practice. The current state of affairs calls for realigning policy and practice around a unifying and cohesive framework. The report includes specific examples of policies that are moving schools in new directions for providing student/learning supports.

THE DEVOLUTION OF THE HIGH SCHOOL: LEADING FROM BEHIND For the American high school to become a major player in the global market for knowledge, it will have to be reinvented as a system with a structure built for a different kind of learning. In scaling up for this organizational challenge, writes James E. Barry, education will have to think in smaller networked units within a virtual environment. Given the importance of, and quest for knowledge, one fundamental challenge for high school principals is to learn how to organize for virtual learning. It will require two general skills or aptitudes. Principals will need to develop 1) a keen awareness, understanding, and knowledge of organizational goals; and 2) leadership skills to facilitate change within a dynamic institutional environment. School districts will need leaders who can adapt to organizational configurations and methods of learning that don't presently exist.

Is it the results of a series of year-end tests? Is it the attainment of a
four-year college degree? Whether by chance or by design, the education
system, the public, and our nation?s leaders are saying, success are the
test results and a college degree. Whether or not the test results rise or
fall, student success cannot alone be determined from such results.
Although every educator recognizes the diversities of our children, we are
faced with the dilemmas of accountability in the NCLB era. The current
legislation propels our nation?s schools to treat all students as though
"one size fits all." In this environment, the capacity of our schools to
embrace and reflect the diversity of our children is challenged. For
example, in the era of globalization, the preparedness of America?s
students to work in a technically oriented world is limited with the
devaluing of career and technical education. We must acknowledge that
student success is defined by the individual student and their successful
transitions in pursuit of their diverse interests, goals, and career
objectives. If we choose to reform our nation?s high schools as simply a
precursor to pursuing a four-year college degree, then we will continue to
leave more and more children behind, writes Dr. Mark Elgart.


GETTING STUDENTS READY FOR COLLEGE & CAREERS Not only does your state need more students to graduate from high school -- it needs graduates who are better prepared for college and the workplace. The president of the Southern Regional Education Board warns that more high school students need to take an essential core of courses and asserts that courses once considered college-prep are now necessary for all students in today's economy. The report outlines where 16 southern states stand on graduation requirements, achievement gaps and other key issues. Learn about strategies that could help your state improve readiness rates and reduce the need for remediation in college.

SCHOOLS CAN BECOME TRUE LEARNING COMMUNITIES FOR TEACHERS Nearly two decades of research has taught some powerful lessons about how to design and implement meaningful and effective professional development for teachers. For reform efforts centered on improving student achievement to be successful, teachers need to have the necessary skills, tools, and support. Simply trusting that structural and logistical changes will translate into significant improved learning is wishful thinking. Teachers need concrete, continuous professional development to hone their current skills and learn new ones. And they need to be respectfully treated as adult learners who bring skills and experiences to meet the challenge of increasing student achievement. The research on effective professional development is consistent across many studies. Researchers Willis Hawley and Linda Valli in their synthesis of the professional development literature, find that high-quality teacher development is as follows: (1) Informed by research on teaching and learning and provides a strong foundation in subject content and methods of teaching; (2) Integrated with district goals to improve education, guided by a coherent long-term plan, and driven by disaggregated data on student outcomes; (3) Designed in response to teacher-identified needs and utilizes collaborative problem solving in which colleagues assist one another by discussing dilemmas and challenges; (4) Primarily school-based, provides sufficient time and other resources, and enables teachers to work with colleagues in their school building; (5) Continuous and ongoing, incorporates principles of adult learning, and provides follow-up support for further learning; and (6) Evaluated ultimately on the basis of its impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning.

Standards for Teachers

BREAKING THE FALL: CUSHIONING THE IMPACT OF RURAL DECLINING ENROLLMENT Declining enrollment is quickly becoming a national issue. Demographic projections indicate student enrollment is decreasing in the Northeast and Midwest. And even within other states where there is an overall enrollment rise, decreases frequently occur at the local level. For those rural schools and communities across the country facing declining student enrollment, there are no easy answers. But there are steps policymakers and communities can take to help cushion the negative impact of declining enrollment on schools to ensure that "no child left behind" also means "no place left behind." A new report from the Rural School and Community Trust details 20 policies that provide students in communities experiencing declining enrollment with a high quality education and also buy time for communities to rebound, improve, or adjust to changes in population and revenue. The report also points to changes in other state-level policies, including facility, consolidation, technology, cooperative arrangements, and school choice -- along with district-level policies -- that can make great strides in helping to sustain and improve schools grappling with the effects of persistent declining enrollment.

NEW EFFORT TO REQUIRE PHYSICAL EDUCATION A bill to fight childhood obesity by making physical education mandatory again in Tennessee schools is gaining momentum in the General Assembly. Until 1992, PE was mandatory, reports Lucas Johnson: 30 minutes a day for kindergarten through fourth grade, two hours a week in grades 5-8, and one high school credit. Now, elementary and middle schools require only some physical activity, and high schools have so-called "lifetime wellness" classes -- a combination of health and physical education. But there's no set time or curriculum, said state Sen. Bill Ketron, whose legislation would require at least 150 minutes of weekly physical education from kindergarten to the eighth grade. Sen. Thelma Harper said there's bipartisan support for the idea. "When you look at obesity among children and among citizens, it's not a Democrat or Republican issue, it's a life-threatening issue," said the Nashville Democrat. "It's something that's really important to all of our constituents."

Health and Fat Kids

MODEL GUIDELINES FOR HEALTH & WELLNESS The school setting can play a major role in children?s health and nutrition habits, either through the examples provided by teachers and other adults, the food available in the school cafeteria or other areas on campus, or through exposure to behaviors of teachers and other students. This printable pamphlet includes guidelines developed to assist school districts as they create policies for their schools that address the requirements in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. The guidelines allow school districts flexibility in designing policies to meet the unique school characteristics within their own district, including school size, multicultural populations, rural versus urban schools, language differences, financial issues, and other community variants.

RACIAL JUSTICE & EQUITY: CHALLENGES FOR THE AMERICAN SOUTH The ethical concept of equity is not unfamiliar to the South, but it is infrequently a topic for discussion, or action. Equity is the recognition that people's needs differ and that it is necessary to respond to their needs differently. The needs of some people are greater than others and to meet these needs adequately, disproportionate responses are necessary. This is particularly true when needs arise from unjust circumstances or those over which people have no control, writes Hayes Mizell. In this essay, he examines how foundations can change the prevailing paradigm that the inequities of the rural South are an unfortunate legacy of a plantation past. There are abundant opportunities for action ranging, for example, from economic micro enterprise to staffing substantive local literacy campaigns and evaluating their results, to fostering civic engagement. There is potential to support community organizing and advocacy within and across counties of persistent poverty to assist African Americans, Hispanics, and poor Whites in framing issues of concern to them and developing their leadership to communicate and advance those issues more effectively.

Plantation Past to Present

A new study discusses the findings of an 18-year follow-up of low birth
weight infants, some who were provided with early preschool and others who
did not participate.  The study finds that the children who did receive
early education, particularly the "heavier" low birth weight group had
better academic and behavioral outcomes (i.e. less risky behaviors) as
their lives progressed than their peers who did not. This has important
implications for education and health policy, given the positive outcomes
measured over the years. In terms of public health priorities, the results
strengthen the case for greater investment in early education for pre-term

Child Development Timeline and Baby Development Chart from 1 month to 5 years

TEACHER PAY REFORM CHALLENGES STATES Paying teachers based on talent and student performance instead of seniority is gaining traction in the states thanks to support from governors and new federal incentives to tie teacher pay to student achievement. Minnesota and Florida are at the forefront of the movement, reports Kavan Peterson. Minnesota inaugurated the nation's most sweeping teacher pay changes last fall, and Florida announced last month that all schools must begin compensating the state's top-performing teachers by next year under a system based on student test scores. Governors in at least five states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Mississippi) are pushing for similar changes, arguing that this will attract higher quality educators and reward the ones who get better results in the classroom or take-on tough assignments. It's a "dirty little secret" in the education community that the lowest-performing schools in the nation are staffed by the least-experienced personnel, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told governors recently. "We need to be better and smarter about getting our most gifted and talented professionals teaching in our most challenging environments," she said.

Evolution and Intelligent Design

One of the latest educational reform fads is to give mayors power over the
city?s school district, on the premise that it?s more effective to hold a
single person accountable than a board of locally elected citizens. But
does the strategy actually work? What does the experience of a number of
U.S. cities teach us, and would it work in California? What do communities
give up in the exchange? Staff writer Brian Taylor explores the answers in
"Controlling Interests: Politicians vie for power over urban schools,"
which appears in the spring issue of California Schools magazine.

Dress Codes

Suzy Elliott launched a new reading incentive program designed to
encourage Indiana fifth and sixth grade students to read more quality
children?s literature. Each month a different goal is set for how many
Young Hoosier books need to be read to qualify for the drawing. In
addition to reading the specified number of books, a student must pass the
Reading Counts quiz on that book. Once the student reads and passes the
quizzes on the selected books, his or her name is entered into a drawing
for the lunch.  The reward for the winners is a limousine ride, donated by
Indianapolis Coach, to a sponsoring local restaurant. "I think the limo
will be great, but reading a great story was the real prize," said Lara
Hoaglan, a 5th grade student.

Education commentator Jay Greene contends that teachers work 7.3 hours a
day for a total of 36.5 hours a week. This includes about 6 hours of
direct instruction and 1-2 hours of planning daily, and it is, he argues,
an ample amount of time to complete all tasks expected of teachers. Where
in the world does Greene get these numbers? Bill Ferriter offers another
set of figures totaling 73.75 working hours each week.

In a surge of interest across the US, older Americans are bringing their
experience to public classrooms, and kids are responding. With needs in
both age groups, this trend has tremendous potential. Studies show mutual
benefits for both students and seniors. In Baltimore, for example,
Experience Corps has been training older people to help urban, public
elementary schools improve student literacy and behavior -- areas
identified by principals as unmet needs. The seniors put in a minimum of
15 hours a week over three or four days, working one-on-one with students
or with small groups selected by teachers. The volunteers receive a
stipend of $150 to $200 a month for expenses.  In a recent study,
researchers noted improvements in well-being: a greater drop in the use of
canes, fewer falls, and much less TV watching compared to the control
group. And the participants felt satisfied reading with kids, helping them
select books or solve disputes -- 80 percent returned to the program. The
kids also showed gains. Third-grade children in the program had
significantly higher reading scores than their peers in the control
schools, and far fewer misbehavior referrals to the principal's office.
Not all teachers are keen to have outsiders in their classrooms, but the
vast majority of teachers in both groups liked the idea of help in the

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

"Fellowships to Study the Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln"
Horace Mann and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
(ALPLM) are offering fellowships to study the life and legacy of our 16th
president. Maximum Award: $1,000 fellowship, featuring a five-day
institute in June and July, 2006 at the ALPLM in Springfield, Illinois.
Eligibility: full-time teachers K ­12 at a public or private school in the
United States. Deadline: March 19, 2006.

"Grant for Geographic Literacy" The National Council for the Social Studies Grant for Geographic Literacy is awarded in order to promote geography education in the schools; to enhance the geographic literacy of students at the classroom, district, or statewide level; and to encourage the integration of geography into the social studies curriculum/classroom. Maximum Award: $2,500. Deadline: Postmarked by March 21, 2006

"Hands-on Environmental Projects for Children and Youth"
Captain Planet Foundation Education Grants fund and support hands-on
environmental projects for children and youth that encourage innovative
programs and empower children and youth around the world to work
individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their
neighborhoods and communities. Maximum Award: $2,500. Eligibility:
Nonprofit organizations and schools. Deadline: March 31, 2006.


Grants for Women, Grants for Women & Girls
Business Plan Resources for Women,

Government Funding Resources Education Grants,
Scholarships & Loans, State Agency Phone Numbers for
Student Financial Aid, Federal Department of
Education Technology Grants,  ARTS



"Proposals for Afterschool Randomized Controlled Trials" The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning at Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in Austin, Texas has issued a Request for Proposals for Afterschool Randomized Controlled Trials. SEDL will support a small number of randomized controlled studies that can stand individually or collectively as rigorous evidence in the debate about student achievement benefits of Afterschool interventions. SEDL is looking for candidates with high quality afterschool programs that have already established relationships with communities and experienced evaluators to conduct such studies June 1, 2006 through August 31, 2008. Deadline: April 6, 2006.

For a detailed listing of EXISTING GRANT OPPORTUNITIES (updated each
week), visit:

"School corruption takes many forms, but it falls into three main
categories: cheating and deceit, waste and mismanagement, and fraud and
stealing... Once there is a decay of values and ethics, complacency
usually follows and this really 'whams' the school resources that are
wasted through mismanagement. Waste and mismanagement is not normally
viewed as a form of corruption, but it is. Whether waste and mismanagement
is purposeful or due to incompetence makes no difference because either
can be controlled and corrected. Since it is preventable and correctable,
such failure to get the 'best from each buck' is an act of corruption."
-Armand A. Fusco (author), "School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and
the Public Trust"

===========PEN NewsBlast==========
Howie Schaffer
Public Outreach Director
Public Education Network
601 Thirteenth Street, NW #710S
Washington, DC 20005

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