PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 17, 2006

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  • Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 11:47:14 -0500

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."

************************************************************** Learn more about the Irish Irish American Vernacular English and the Irish words you think are English. "May your children's children have children." -Irish blessing **************************************************************

HYPOCRISY & STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT Our public education system has three gaps: in opportunity, expectations and outcomes. The "opportunity gap" is obvious -- rich schools have the most experienced teachers, the most up-to-date equipment and facilities, smaller classes and other advantages. The "expectations gap" is real, because some teachers simply do not expect their economically disadvantaged students to be excellent academic achievers -- and, guess what, the kids often live down to those expectations. Given those two gaps, a pronounced "outcomes gap" is inevitable. To focus only on outcomes is self-defeating, writes John Merrow. Even when schools do get those scores up, it's often the result of mind-numbing drill, cuts in PE, art and music, and long classes in "reading readiness" (instead of real reading). A new online video shows what happens when enlightened leadership addresses the first two gaps -- and eliminates them. The school in question is in the hard-scrabble city of Mount Vernon, NY. Against all odds, virtually every student in the school passes the state tests, a feat unheard of in the inner city. For more evidence of our foolishness regarding the Achievement Gap, ask yourself why educators and others aren't wringing their hands over the gap between Whites and Asian Americans? That gap was "only" 30 points in 1981 (513-483), but it's widened to 44 points (580-536) in 2005. That's in math. It's "only" 18 points in English Language Arts. Doesn't that call for more drill for the white kids, and no more recess?

PBS ?? - they only make this available if have ITunes
they should not have done that! ~KE

Those who have studied the origin and development of public schools appear
to be unanimous in concluding that Horace Mann was the most influential
proponent of free, tax-supported schools for every community. Mann is
widely quoted as stating that "the common school is the greatest discovery
ever made by man." He was convinced that by educating in the same school
building, children of all religions, social classes and ethnic
backgrounds, society could dramatically decrease social and political
conflict. In addition, he was committed to the conviction that such
schools would reduce poverty and crime by teaching a common political and
social ideology... Despite Thomas Jefferson's lifelong support of public
education, he was not successful either as a leader in Virginia or as
President of the United States in establishing a system of tax-supported
elementary schools. In fact, despite their belief in the importance of
education, the generation of the founding fathers accomplished little in
providing educational opportunities for the new nation's children. The
Constitution which they wrote and ratified did not mention the word
education and did not delegate the responsibility for establishing schools
to the federal government. Instead, it has been an accepted fact for most
of our history that education was a power that was reserved for the
states. Even so, during the first three decades of the 19th century, state
governments did little in the field of education. The probable reason for
their reluctance to interfere with the pattern of local control, writes
William Hayes, was that schools had been established and governed by local
communities for two hundred years. It would take a generation of strong
and committed leaders to establish the role of state governments in
providing common schools for the children of their state. Foremost in this
group of leaders in the decades of the 1830's and 1840's was Horace Mann
of Massachusetts. Click below to read a free chapter of a new book
exploring Horace Mann and the history of public education in America.

THE WHOLE CHILD IN A FRACTURED WORLD Commissioned by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a new paper by Harold "Bud" Hodgkinson is designed to assist in recasting the definition of a successful learner from one whose achievement is measured solely by academic tests, to one who is knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling. The report documents the "splendid isolation of the U.S. educational system" providing an overview of the complexity, the challenges, and the flaws in measuring efficacy. For example, the U.S. Department of Education contributes only 10 percent of total education spending, but it issues 90 percent of the regulations that schools must follow. Hodgkinson proposes five themes for consideration: (1) Equity. Who gets access and who doesn't? (2) Coordination. Should there be one national standard for student proficiencies, set by the federal government, or a standard for each state? Who decides? (3) Knowledge Integration. How can we develop a common vocabulary for education discourse? (4) Sequence. In regards to learning and teaching, what should happen to people at what moment in their lives? (5) Wholeness. Could schools collaborate with health, school, and community organizations in maximizing potential using a whole child approach? "If decisions about education policy and practice started with 'What works for the child?' how would resources -- time, space, and human -- be arrayed to ensure each child's success?" said Gene Carter. "If the student were truly at the center of the system, would could we achieve?"

Critics of Florida's high-stakes FCAT exam are lashing out at the state
for hiring thousands of $10-an-hour temporary workers to score tests that
are so critical in determining school grades and student promotions.
"Florida students and their parents need assurance that their tests are
being scored fairly and competently by people actually qualified to grade
them and by people who have actual educational experience," said Senate
Democratic Leader Les Miller, who has called on the state to investigate
the hiring practice. The uproar comes in the wake of a Kelly Services ad
announcing 300 part-time openings in Central Florida for "scoring
evaluators." Duties include "electronically scoring essay-style questions
for grades K through 12 on standardized student achievement tests,"
reports Linda Kleindienst. Those who apply get one week of training under
the guidance of the state education department and CTB/McGraw Hill, which
is under contract to grade the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests
being given this month and next.

A report released today from Mid-continent Research for Education and
Learning (McREL) calls for a new approach to school improvement, one that
balances a prescriptive content approach and a context-driven process
approach. In the coming months, schools and districts across the nation
will potentially face severe sanctions -- including closure, state
takeover, or conversion to charter status -- for failing to make adequate
yearly progress toward meeting the goals of the federal No Child Left
Behind Act. To improve student achievement and avoid such sanctions, the
McREL authors write that educators need to balance the "science" of
effective schooling with the "art" of creating school communities that are
truly focused on creating high achievement for all students. McREL
researchers have captured the "science" of effective schools through a
series of five major research studies that identify school, leadership,
and teacher practices that positively influence student achievement. At
the same time, McREL spent five years working with schools and districts
in Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota to develop and field test a process
that captures the "art" of managing change and identifying the right
school improvement "levers" to pull at the right time. The result of this
effort is Success in Sight, a school improvement process that helps
schools apply seven key principles for improvement.

But for many parents, getting involved at school -- or even fully
supporting their child at home -- is anything but straightforward or easy.
Many work in jobs that offer no flexibility for illness or other family
crisis, let alone the "luxury" of volunteering at school. Others never
finished high school, or had such a miserable K-12 experience that they
feel ill prepared to support their own child. Language differences are
another huge impediment for many parents, writes Roberta Furger. Just like
English speaking tourists flummoxed about the institutions of a far-off
country, immigrant families often feel bewildered by the U.S. public
school system. They don't care any less about their children or value
education less than English speaking parents, but understanding how the
system works, let alone finding a role for themselves in it, is not as
straightforward as marching up to the principal and saying, "Sign me up."
Now the scientific evidence is clear: When parents are involved in school,
students of all backgrounds and income levels do better. When their
parents are involved, kids are more likely to earn higher grades and score
better on standardized tests; they attend school more regularly, have
improved social skills, and are better behaved in school; and they are
more likely to continue their education past high school. The deeper the
partnerships, the greater the opportunities for broad-based and lasting

School districts in Kansas must get parents' written permission before
teaching their children sex education, the state Board of Education has
decided. The board adopted the policy in a 6-4 vote. Up to now, most
Kansas districts had an "opt-out" policy -- they enrolled children in sex
ed unless a parent objected in writing. Only a few other states have such
"opt-in" requirements on sex education, according to the Sexuality
Information and Education Council of the United States, a group that
promotes sex education. Among them: Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Board
members who voted for the new policy said some parents told them they did
not know their children were taking sex education until the classes had
started. "It's about empowering parents. That's the bottom line," said
board chairman Steve Abrams. Critics of the measure said that the children
whose parents won't see a permission form or won't turn it in are the ones
most likely to need the courses. Some also said that the rule may violate
the Kansas Constitution, which gives local school boards broad authority.

In the past five years, nearly 17,000 career-changers have obtained
teaching certification after leaving professions that had nothing to do
with education, reports Cynthia Kopkowski. And, like their more
experienced counterparts, members of this new breed of teachers say they
are motivated by a strong desire to help children. The alternative routes
today's career-switchers take -- which range from comprehensive programs
with extensive clinical practice requirements in some states to
Internet-based testing-only programs in others -- offer individuals with
college degrees a chance to become certified by meeting state
requirements. Teachers are typically able to work as classroom assistants
while they obtain certification. Almost half of those surveyed said they
wouldn't have become teachers if alternate routes didn't exist.
Forty-seven states offer 538 such programs. The popularity of this path to
education isn't likely to fade, especially as school systems grapple with
a projected need for 400,000 new teachers in the next eight years. But it
has also given rise to a greater need to monitor and support those
teachers as they enter classrooms, says the NEA's Donald Washington.

New York Life Foundation supported the efforts of three local education
funds (LEFs) in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Tampa to work closely with
four high schools to create library media centers that are true centers of
teaching and learning. These reborn media centers foster a school culture
that values and promotes high levels of adolescent literacy. According to
New York Life Foundation's vision, library media centers begin this
process by providing students with access to a wide range of
high-interest, developmentally appropriate fiction and non-fiction reading
materials. But beyond providing new materials, at this revamped webpage,
Public Education Network presents tools and resources that assist schools
and communities in: (1) Updating library collections; (2) Utilizing modern
technology; (3) Redesigning the school media center; (4) Encouraging
collaboration between teachers and library media specialist; and (5)
Engaging parents and the community in revitalization efforts. Tools for
planning, assessment, and research are also available.

This report on the 2003-2004 Private School Universe Survey presents data
on private schools in the United States with grades kindergarten through
twelve by selected characteristics such as school size, school level,
religious orientation, association membership, geographic region,
community type, and program emphasis. The number of teachers and students
are reported by the same categories and the number of students is reported
by grade level. In the fall of 2003, there were 28,384 private schools in
the United States, enrolling 5,122,772 students, and employing 425,238 FTE
teachers. Private school students represented approximately 10 percent of
the total elementary and secondary enrollment in the United States in

At a time when music education budgets are in constant peril, even the
unabashedly shallow Top 40 machinery of "American Idol" makes some
teachers cry for an encore. The smash Fox show -- known for crowning newly
minted pop stars as well as for the critiques offered by the snarky Mr.
Cowell -- is a cultural touchstone, for better and worse. "Idol"-ization
has renewed enthusiasm for music education at the grass-roots level. And
while some of that newfound demand may be old-fashioned stargazing, it
also opens a new vista for students to behold. A vista, that is, filled
with educators ready to share the wonders of sheet music, hitting notes
high and low, and the answers to assorted other magical musical mysteries.
Money, of course, is as important in the music education debate as
inspiration is, writes Erik Spanberg. As many parents, teachers, and
students already know, arts and music programs are among the first cuts
made by cash-strapped school districts. These cuts continue despite public
entreaties and cascades of studies noting the benefits of students who
participate in music programs: better discipline, better performances in
math and science, and so on. So even if "American Idol" spurs a bit of
interest as well as a spark in junior-high talent shows, it won't soon be
putting any money into education -- or ushering in new curriculums.

The National Anthem Project, undertaken by a group of the nation's music
teachers, says most Americans have largely forgotten the words to the
national anthem and the story behind the song. A Harris poll of 2,200 men
and women conducted for the group found that 61 percent did not know all
the words. For example, when asked what follows "whose broad stripes and
bright stars," more people than not tended to mistakenly place phrases
like "were so gallantly streaming" (34 percent) or "gave proof through the
night" (19 percent). The National Anthem Project is touring the country
with a singular mission: to reteach a nation its anthem. Michael Wilson
reports that the effort is much like the way the song first spread, state
by state, though this time it has corporate sponsors.

National Children's Folksong Repository
YOU can personally help capture all the lost songs not just the National Anthem.

FIGHTING OBESITY IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS Increases in childhood obesity pose a serious health threat. With today's obese children falling victim to diseases that once afflicted only adults, obesity is not only taking a toll on their overall health but also threatening ultimately to shorten their life span. The increase in obesity is also an economic issue. Estimates of the costs of treating obese children are relatively small but rising rapidly, and the costs of treating adult obesity-related health problems rival the costs of smoking. Preventing obesity in childhood must be the centerpiece of plans to reduce both the health and economic costs of obesity. This policy brief outlines a number of strategies aimed at preventing childhood obesity including: (1) Involve both children and parents in obesity-prevention programs; (2) Improve nutritional and physical activity standards within schools; (3) Limit children's exposure to advertising; and (4) Improve preventive care and treatment for obesity and related conditions.

Without regular opportunities to consider, observe, and analyze best
practice and receive helpful, nonevaluative feedback, how likely are
teachers to engage in continual professional improvement? Not very, say
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in this important Educational Leadership
article (March 2006). "Indeed, teachers can be remarkably thin-skinned
when someone questions their methods or decisions, and many of us resist
seeking or receiving feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and
supervisors. When students fail to learn, some teachers end up blaming the
students, without an honest investigation of where student fault ends and
teacher responsibility begins." The co-authors of Understanding by Design
and related works propose a "Learning Bill of Rights" -- standards and
structures that "serve as criteria for safeguarding a learning-centered
mission in which teachers regularly engage in peer review and
self-assessment as part of their jobs."

At a time when many schools are being pushed to narrow their focus and
concentrate on core academic subjects like reading and mathematics,
afterschool programs are being pulled in a dozen different directions.
Program directors wrestle with a range of questions as they try to meet
the diverse needs of funders, parents, and the young people they serve.
Should afterschool time be an extension of school, focused on tutoring and
homework help? Or a break from school, focused on sports, fitness, arts,
and hobbies? Should programs reinforce traditional academic skills or
provide a chance for more open-ended explorations? Should activities be
supervised by experienced teachers or qualified youth workers trained to
take a broad view of youth development? Is the goal to improve students'
performance in school, to foster positive relationships with peers and
adults, or simply to keep kids safe and out of trouble? Once thought of as
just a time period, afterschool today has evolved into a movement -- and
it is a movement at a crossroads. A new issue of Mosaic from Education
Development Center, Inc., (EDC) "Afterschool Time," features a roundtable
discussion among leaders in the afterschool movement. Panelists discuss
the relationship between school and afterschool as well as issues of
programming and staff development, research and evaluation.

This report reviews the current research and literature on out-of-school
time (OST) programs especially with regard to their effectiveness;
explores the range of OST programs and activities as employed by the
various youth-serving sectors; considers the untapped possibilities of OST
programs to meet the needs of young people, including academic
enhancement, career and college preparation, leadership development, and
civic engagement; and provides policy guidance on how to support and
sustain high quality OST programs as part of a system of supports for
older youth.

Workers with basic job skills will be more in demand in Wyoming than those
with skills associated with advanced education, according to a state
study. The finding by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research and
Planning Division suggests that a "brain drain" of young people who have
acquired a higher education will continue since most of the jobs being
created in the state are in the fast-growing natural resources and mining,
and construction industries. The mining and construction industries
typically don't require more than a high school education, but do require
a heavy emphasis of on-the-job training, the study said. Senior Research
Analyst Sylvia Jones, author of the study, said personal skills needed for
most of the jobs being created are of a basic variety, such as reading,
listening and comprehension.

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

"High School Journalism Contest"
The Report it Now High School Journalism Contest invites high school
students to submit stories written for school newspapers or created for
broadcast on school television or radio station. Stories should be well
researched and about an issue important to the contestant, school or
community. Maximum Award: $1,000. Eligibility: High School Students in the
United States. Deadline: March 31, 2006.

"Awards for Innovative Social Studies Education Projects"
National Council for the Social Studies honors annually the outstanding
performance of teachers, researchers, and other worthy individuals and
programs, and has encouraged unique and innovative social studies
education projects through its award and grant programs. Maximum Award:
$2,500. Eligibility: Social studies teachers for grades K-6, 5-8, and 7-12
who teach social studies regularly and systematically in elementary school
settings, and at least half time in middle/junior high and high school
settings; NCSS membership required. Deadline: April 1, 2006.

"Bringing Together Two Schools from Different Countries to Solve a Global
The National Association of Independent Schools invites participation in
Challenge 20/20, a program that brings together two schools: one from the
United States and one from outside of the United States. Teacher-student
teams from both schools work together throughout the fall 2006 school
semester to come up with a solution to a global problem. Eligibility: All
U.S. schools, elementary and secondary, public or private. Deadline: April
15, 2006.

"College Prep Program for High School Juniors"
Questbridge, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving high-achieving
low-income students resources during the college application process, is
accepting applications for its College Prep Program for High School
Juniors. Maximum Award: full scholarship to summer program, coverage of
expenses for college travel visits, SAT prep course and material, and a
new laptop computer. Eligibility: Qualified low-income High School
Juniors. Deadline: May 15, 2006.

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

"(N)early two-thirds of Americans believe a family of four needs at least
$40,000 per year to make ends meet -- far exceeding the federal
government's poverty designation of $19,806 annually. Americans also are
clear about priorities for their local elected officials: Nine of 10
Americans say it's important for local elected officials to help people
who struggle to make ends meet, and almost 70 percent say they would be
likely to pay more in taxes if they knew the funds would help people in
their communities."
-New Survey from Northwest Area Foundation

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

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