PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 18, 2005

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  • Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2005 11:38:38 -0500

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Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 23:38:33 -0800
Subject: PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 18, 2005
From: "Public Education Network" <PEN@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
In an open letter to the Bush Administration and congressional leaders,
Public Education Network (PEN) has called on federal officials to
vigorously enforce key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
to avoid undermining public support for the law's objectives. In the
letter -- delivered to President Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education
Margaret Spellings, and key leaders in Congress -- PEN cites a serious
flaw in the law's accountability framework. While schools and students
face stiff sanctions and the stigma of not meeting state performance
targets, the law imposes no consequences on states themselves, regardless
of whether benchmarks are met or whether they fulfill their obligations.
And while public involvement is critical to the long-term success of the
education law, citizens charge that their efforts to get involved in
schools are regularly rebuffed by school leaders and by another crucial
barrier -- the lack of useful information about school performance and
improvement. Over the past nine months, PEN held a series of public
hearings around the country, and conducted an online survey to gauge
Americans' reactions to NCLB. The purpose of these hearings was not to
hear from government leaders or professional educators entrusted to manage
the nation's schools, but to hear from people from every walk of life --
parents, students, civic leaders, service providers, and voters --about
how NCLB has affected their communities, and what is going well or needs
to be improved in the implementation of the law. The report is consistent
with a series of public opinion polls conducted by PEN and other groups
finding that while Americans generally support the law's objectives, the
more they learn about the law the less supportive they feel. In the report
and letter PEN calls on federal officials to take the following steps to
address the public's concerns: Hold states accountable for performance and
for enforcing the law; Enforce the law's information requirements; Enforce
NCLB's parent involvement provisions; Count significant progress toward
AYP; Provide supplemental services before allowing choice, and ensure
quality services; and Keep the Public in the Conversation. To download the
report or view it in an easy-to-read online format, visit:

The question of religion in schools has been a contested issue for some
time, although the nature of the disputes has changed. All sides seem to
agree that proselytizing in the classroom should be strictly forbidden.
But are professions of faith in the classroom coercive and inappropriate?
This week in The New Yorker, Peter Boyer reports on how a lawsuit by a
teacher who claimed he was discriminated against as a Christian caused an
uproar in California. With Matt Dellinger, Boyer discusses the gray area
between church and state. According to this interview, the pendulum is
definitely swinging back toward a greater tolerance of the expression of
faith in the public forum, including in the schoolroom.

The principals and superintendents who run the nation's schools are
unprepared for their jobs by education colleges, where training ranges
from inadequate to appalling. Because they are responsible for hiring
teachers, building community trust and overseeing academics,
administrators have a huge influence over students, said Arthur Levine,
president of Teachers College at Columbia University and the author of the
report. Yet most graduate education programs that train these school
administrators are deeply flawed, suffering from irrelevant curriculum,
low standards, weak faculty and little clinical instruction, he said. Many
programs are doing little more than dishing out higher degrees to teachers
who are trying to qualify for salary increases, Levine said. Groups of
principals, superintendents and education colleges agreed with some
findings, mainly that many graduate programs are disconnected to real-life
school challenges, reports Ben Feller.

The No Child Left Behind law makes ambitious promises to hold all schools
accountable for student achievement and to raise all children to their
grade levels in reading and math. But the law's loopholes allow hundreds
of schools and more than 82,000 struggling Minnesota students to slip
through untouched, a Star Tribune analysis has found. In all, nearly 10
percent of Minnesota's students last year -- and 83 percent of all the
students who scored poorly on state tests -- were overlooked by the law,
reports James Walsh. The Star Tribune's analysis has found numerous ways
in which struggling students are overlooked, including: Their school never
makes the underperforming list; Their school doesn't have enough poor
kids; There aren't enough special-needs or minority kids to count; and
Wiggle room can keep a school off the list.

More African-American families have embraced home schooling in recent
years, making black people one of the fastest-growing segments of home
schoolers. Like charter schools and voucher programs, the home-schooling
movement is fueled by parents fed up with large class sizes, low academic
achievement, peer pressures and the high cost of private education. Local
statistics aren't available, reports Denise Smith Amos, but nationwide,
85,000 black children learned at home in 2003, according to national
education statistics and home-schooling groups. Black students probably
make up about 5 percent of the nation's 2 million home schoolers, says the
National Black Home Educators Resource Association. But other groups say
this estimate is conservative. Home schooling is no longer just the domain
of white, religious conservatives or anti-establishment free-thinkers.
It's become a civil rights movement for black parents trying to take back
their children's education, said Joyce Burges, the group's founder. The
reasons black parents give for learning at home are varied. Some cite
unsafe and inadequate public schools. Others say they've moved into better
school systems in the suburbs, only to find their children still subject
to academic inequities. Public school officials are loathe to criticize
home-schoolers. Yet some teachers' groups and others object to home
schooling, saying there's no oversight. Children are limited by what their
parents know, they say, and home schooling has been used to hide truancy,
child abuse and neglect.

A parent group is asking the Montgomery County (MD) school board to make
the application process for enrichment programs more equitable for African
American students. Members of African American Parents of Magnet School
Applicants, a group of more than 70 families, asked the board for a
meeting to address their concerns that African American students are
underrepresented in school enrichment programs. Those concerns come from
data provided by the school system that shows African American and
Hispanic students gained admission to middle school enrichment programs at
significantly lower percentages than their white and Asian American
classmates over the last three years, reports Sean Sedam. "As someone who
witnesses this every day, magnet programs don't reflect my community and
I'd like the board to take some actions to address that problem," Kathy
Mettimore, a member of the parent group, told the board.

After 77 percent of Florida schools failed last year under the state's
version of the federal No Child Left Behind law, Education Commissioner
John Winn said he's considering lowering student achievement standards
under that law. The changes would alter standards Florida set for itself
under the federal law, something Gov. Jeb Bush and Winn said they wouldn't
do just a few months ago. Changes are needed because Florida has "such a
high number of schools not making" adequate yearly progress, Winn said at
a state Board of Education meeting in Miami. Nirvi Shah and Cynthia
Kopkowski report that Winn said he wants Florida's plan changed before
this year's calculation of adequate yearly progress.

Of the estimated 39 million people worldwide living with the human
immunodeficiency virus, for which there is no vaccine and no cure, some 70
percent are in sub-Saharan Africa. The loss of parents affects school
enrollment and learning, reports Bess Keller. Families with fewer workers
are less likely to be able to afford the costs of school or be able to
forgo the labor of a child who is enrolled. Sick relatives make further
demands on children, especially girls, who in many African countries
devote hours a day to household tasks. Many extended families are breaking
under the strain of poverty from unemployment and AIDS.  Even where
children's material needs are met, grief and insecurity all too easily
interfere with learning. Meanwhile, the pandemic has sickened and killed
thousands of trained school employees.

Afterschool has taken on a more academic focus in many schools, based on
the notion that the programs offer children more time to hone their skills
and raise their academic achievement -- as well as their test scores. The
nature of afterschool programs -- that they are voluntary, attendance can
be sporadic, and activities are not necessarily geared toward the
development of specific academic skills -- has meant that hard evidence
linking afterschool programs to better test scores is slim. The dearth of
such evidence, writes Andreae Downs, and a 2003 Mathematica study of 21st
Century Community Learning Center programs that showed no academic
achievement gains at all -- was cited by former education secretary Rod
Paige as a reason to cut $400 million in federal afterschool funding in
2004. Congress ultimately held the funding steady, but the findings
nonetheless raised questions for some about whether the government's
investment in afterschool was yielding tangible returns. What seems
clearer from the research, however, is that students' attitudes about
school and various academic-related behaviors, such as turning in homework
and showing up for school regularly, are improved when students regularly
attend a quality afterschool program. This feature in Harvard Education
Letter, highlights one Boston program that looks beyond tutoring and
homework help to build student success.

Everybody says you need to graduate from high school to succeed in life.
But what if you just can't pass your classes? Should you keep trying? Eric
Green is 20 years old and he's still in the 11th grade. He failed 9th
grade once and failed 10th grade three times. He's not sure he'll ever
graduate. In this essay, Green examines factors that have led to his
predicament: lack of confidence, embarrassment at chronic
underperformance, family pathology, uneven effort, and learning

A coalition of business, civic, and education leaders, including urban
school superintendents, called on the governor and state Legislature to
declare a state of emergency and pump nearly $30 million a year into the
worst schools in Massachusetts for the next three years. The coalition
wants the state to target 115 low-performing schools in two dozen school
districts and give each school about $250,000 a year to help raise test
scores in three years, reports Tracy Jan. The schools, which represent 5
percent of the state's public schools, have already been deemed
underperforming by the state or the US Department of Education based on
students' MCAS scores and other factors.

School choice programs are premised on the belief that students benefit
from having a range of learning options.  This is especially true when
at-risk students are able to exit failing schools.  One of the most
contentious school choice policies is inter-district choice, which permits
students to attend schools outside their district of residence.  Heated
debates can erupt as students from low-income and low-performing districts
transfer into higher performing ones.  A new study by Randall Reback
illuminates this controversy by examining how parents identify successful
schools in Minnesota's statewide inter-district choice program and how
districts limit potential transfers.  He determines that districts'
average test scores are stronger predictors of transfer demand than
districts' student socio-economic characteristics or school district
spending levels.  This suggests that parents appear to care more about
educational outcomes than inputs.  Also, he finds that districts constrain
the supply of transfer spaces by citing capacity concerns.  In Minnesota,
a student transfer application can only be rejected if a district does not
have the physical capacity to support additional students, but Reback
argues that claims of limited space mask concerns about potential negative
peer effects.  To some degree the limited space argument may be used to
limit transfers of students from low-income families.

Over the past decade, controversies surrounding students' sexual
orientation and gender identity have become increasingly common in K-12
schools. Often it falls to school administrators and school boards to
manage the conflicts that arise in areas of curriculum, student clubs,
dress codes, and harassment. This publication provides practical guidance
on schools' legal rights and responsibilities with respect to students,
programs, and curriculum. Specific court decisions that have provided
clarity in this arena are cited in endnotes. Complaints about alleged
harassment based on sexual orientation should be handled just like any
other harassment complaints. All complaints or other information
suggesting that harassment may be occurring should be investigated
thoroughly and promptly by a trained investigator. No allegations about
potential harassment should be ignored because the charge seems improbable
or because the behavior seems unlikely to recur or is perceived as a
harmless rite of passage.

Many health officials say the tide of obesity in rural communities is
rising faster than anywhere else. And new research appears to back them
up, dispelling a long-held belief that in farm communities and other rural
towns, heavy chores, wide expanses of land and fresh air make leaner,
stronger bodies. "Whatever the situation was, rural areas are leading the
way now ... they're ahead of the curve," said Michael Meit, director of
the University of Pittsburgh Center for Rural Health Practice.
"Something's happened." Researchers are not ready to point a finger at any
one culprit for rural obesity, but they have some theories. For one thing,
with fewer family farms and more mechanization, children are not burning
many calories, but they're still eating high-calorie meals. The only other
place where researchers are finding obesity rates similar to rural America
is in the poorest, most troubled urban neighborhoods, suggesting that
poverty may be the overriding cause.


Healthy Kids are physical - get them jumping.

The Historic Electronic Online Archive of Children's Folksongs
A Public Folklore Project built by the children of the United States.
Sounds Like FUN - Sounds Interesting!
Ed Techs can help teachers and children - it's easy.
Integrate Literacy, Music, and Technology into the classroom.


Many of us have heard or read that a father's involvement in his child's
education results in increased academic achievement for the child. In this
article, author and researcher Linda Nielsen outlines the advantages girls
receive as a result of strong father-daughter bonds. In addition to
academic success, such bonds positively influence a daughter's self-esteem
and sense of ambition. Nielsen suggests ways to strengthen the
father-daughter relationship and provides quizzes to build awareness of
this special bond.

In past generations, child care during school breaks wasn't such a big
deal. Stay-at-home mothers watched the kids or packed them up for
vacations if the fathers could get time off. But as it has become more
difficult for parents, often both working, to coordinate vacation
schedules, many families must find a surrogate for school. For the kids,
instead of traveling or loafing, spring vacation often means signing up
for programs that can be as regimented as school itself. In recent years,
spring break camps that cost between $70 and several hundred dollars have
proliferated to help fill the gap, reports Tara Bahrampour. When money is
tight or kids are camp-resistant, parents try other solutions: taking the
kids to work, leaving them with relatives or swapping with other parents.

Talk about lactose intolerance. Jeff Ferguson knows all about it.
Ferguson is the innovative high school chemistry teacher from Johnston
County who will forever be known as the milkman after leading an
experiment in which students drank milk until they puked. Unfortunately,
Ferguson remains the unemployed milkman, thanks to his ill-fated, and
perhaps ill-advised, attempt at creativity, reports Ruth Sheehan.
Ferguson told the kids in advance and asked those who wanted to
participate to bring in $3 for a gallon of milk. Some kids did not
participate. Most drank a few glasses and gave up. A handful drank more
until they threw up -- providing a memorable example of a system becoming
overwhelmed when its pH balance got out of whack. Ferguson used the
experiment as a teaching moment in more ways than one, reminding the kids
that alcohol has a similar effect on the system -- only with milk there's
no danger of alcohol poisoning. Apparently one or more of the parents
weren't impressed and Ferguson was suspended from teaching.

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

"Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes for Excellence in International
The Goldman Sachs Foundation and Asia Society are seeking applicants for
the 2005 Prizes for Excellence in International Education.  Five prizes of
$25,000 each annually recognize schools, higher education institutions,
states, and media/technology organizations that are working to "put the
world into world-class education." The Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes
were created in 2003 to raise awareness of the growing importance of other
world regions to U.S. economic prosperity and social well-being, and to
promote international knowledge and skills in American schools.
Applications are due May 10 for higher education institutions, states, and
media/technology, and May 17 for elementary, middle and high schools. Full
eligibility and application instructions, along with information on past
winners, are now available at:

"Pinnacle Awards for Innovation"
Every year the Association of School Business Officials International
presents the Pinnacle Award to four individuals who have created
outstanding practices, proposals, or publications that enhance school
business management.  Pinnacle of Achievement recipients receive a cash
prize, a crystal pinnacle award, and recognition at ASBO's Annual Meeting
and Exhibits in Boston, MA, October 21-24, 2005.  The recipient of the
highest honor, the Pinnacle of Excellence, also receives $5,000 worth of
furniture for his or her school district.  The Pinnacle Awards program is
sponsored by Virco Mfg. Corporation.  Applications are now being accepted
through May 1, 2005.

"What Does Your Neighborhood Mean To You? National Neighborhood Day Short
Film Contest"
To promote National Neighborhood Day's mission and vision, they are
hosting a short film contest for both professional and amateur filmmakers
to illustrate, through a 5-minute or less film, what their neighborhood
means to them. This call for entries in the National Neighborhood Day
Short Film Contest is open to K-12 students and adults. There is no entry
fee for the Youth Category and the Grand Prize is $2000.  The deadline for
entries is June 1, 2005.  For contest rules, entry form or to download a
poster with further information for K-12 students, visit:

"U.S. Dept. of Education Children With Disabilities Program"
This grant program is designed to promote academic achievement and
improves results for children with disabilities by supporting technical
assistance, model demonstration projects, dissemination of useful
information, and implementation activities that are supported by
scientifically based research. Maximum Award: $800,000-$1,100,000.
Eligibility: State educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies
(LEAs), public charter schools that are LEAs under State law. Deadline:
April 22, 2005

"U.S. Dept. of Education Steppingstones of Technology Innovation Program"
This grant program is designed to: (1) Improve results for children with
disabilities by promoting the
development, demonstration, and use of technology, (2) support educational
media services activities designed to be of educational value in the
classroom setting to children with disabilities, and (3) provide support
for captioning and video description that is appropriate for use in the
classroom setting. Maximum Award: $100,000-$200,000  Eligibility: State
educational agencies (SEAs); local educational agencies (LEAs); public
charter schools that are LEAs under State law. Deadline: May 06, 2005

"Adopt-A-Classroom Grants"
Teachers who register at the Adopt-a-Classroom website can be adopted by
an individual, a business, or a foundation. Maximum Award: $500.
Eligibility: Teachers at public schools established prior to August 15,
2001. Deadline: Ongoing.

"National Dairy Council 3-A-Day of Dairy Nutrition Education Grants"
This grant program is designed to address America's low calcium intake and
support the philosophy of the nutrition-based marketing and consumer
education program, "3-A-Day of Dairy," and to help empower kids to be
advocates for healthy eating, including three servings of dairy a day, and
an active lifestyle, which contribute to a healthy weight.  Maximum Award:
$5,000. Eligibility: Individuals and organizations. Please note
California, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are not participating in the
2005 grant program. Deadline: May 13, 2005.

"Successful Fundraisers Don't Just Ask for Money"
Successful fundraising is not about asking for money. In fundraising, as
in business, money follows great ideas. Too often, in the day-to-day
search for funds, fundraisers forget or take for granted the underlying
idea that inspired their purpose or project, focusing only on asking for
money. Too often, having repeated their message again and again, they
assume potential donors already know how worthy their cause is. They
forget to connect the dots, to make a riveting case.

"Show Me the Money: Tips & Resources for Successful Grant Writing"
Many educators have found that outside funding, in the form of grants,
allows them to provide their students with educational experiences and
materials their own districts can't afford. Learn how they get those
grants -- and how you can get one too. Included: Practical tips to help
first-time grant writers get the grants they need.

"Department of Education Forecast of Funding"
This document lists virtually all programs and competitions under which
the Department of Education has invited or expects to invite applications
for new awards for FY 2005 and provides actual or estimated deadline dates
for the transmittal of applications under these programs. The lists are in
the form of charts -- organized according to the Department's principal
program offices -- and includes previously announced programs and
competitions, as well as those planned for announcement at a later date.
Note: This document is advisory only and is not an official application
notice of the Department of Education. They expect to provide regular
updates to this document.

"Information on Grants for School Health Programs & Services"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its
sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions.
Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they
feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on
them as quality in education.  The logic of the school-mind is that it is
better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from
economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one
genuine enthusiasm.  But quality in education entails learning about
something in depth.  Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange
adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each
other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.
Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and
education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning. Behind
the patchwork quilt of school sequences, and the school obsession with
facts and theories, the age-old human search lies well concealed."
-John Taylor Gatto (teacher/author), "The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher"

Howie Schaffer
Media Director
Public Education Network
601 Thirteenth Street, NW #710S
Washington, DC 20005


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