PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 31, 2006

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  • Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2006 07:56:34 -0400

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
Christian faith speaks to public morality and the ways our nation should
bring justice and compassion into its civic life. This call to justice is
central to needed reform in public education, America?s largest civic
institution, where enormous achievement gaps alert us that some children
have access to excellent education while other children are left behind.
The No Child Left Behind Act is a federal law passed in 2001 that purports
to address educational inequity. Now several years into No Child Left
Behind?s implementation, as its hundreds of sequential regulations have
begun to be triggered, it is becoming clear that the law is leaving behind
more children than it is saving. The children being abandoned are our
nation?s most vulnerable children -- children of color and poor children
in America?s big cities and remote rural areas -- the very children the
law claims it will rescue. The National Council of Churches examines ten
moral concerns in the law?s implementation: (1) Fear that the law will
discredit public education; (2) NCLB doesn't acknowledge different
starting lines nor celebrate individual accomplishments; (3) School
failure can be used to shame children; (4) NCLB requires children in
special education to pass tests designed for children without
disabilities; (5) NCLB requires English language learners to take tests in
English before they learn English: (6) NCLB blames schools and teachers
for challenges neither within their making nor their capacity to change;
(7) Relentless testing obscures the humanities, the arts, and adolescent
development; (8) NCLB operates through sanctions; (9) NCLB exacerbates
racial & economic segregation in metropolitan areas; and (10) NCLB makes
demands on states and school districts without fully funding reforms.

Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and
math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind by reducing
class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students,
eliminating it. Schools from Vermont to California are increasing -- in
some cases tripling -- the class time that low-proficiency students spend
on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002,
requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that
fall short of rising benchmarks. The changes appear to principally affect
schools and students who test below grade level. The intense focus on the
two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice,
reports Sam Dillon, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums
now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art.
A nationwide survey (summarized in the NewsBlast item below) indicates
that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard
procedure in many communities.

The Importance of Play
Research shows the importance of laughter and
play to avoid teenage depression and burn out

If you want to learn about how to play on the net,
this is where to start.  Don't know how to turn on your
computer? Hate this stuff? Is this is totally freakin' you out?
Then You're one of us :-)  Playing around is the key to learning.
relax, you can start here, we take baby steps.

SCHOOL LEADERS REPORT ACHIEVEMENT GAINS BUT A NARROWER CURRICULUM FOCUS The Center of Education Policy has released its fourth annual report on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. "From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act," is a comprehensive analysis of how the law is being implemented by the federal government, states, and school districts. Based on survey information from 50 states and 299 school districts, as well as 38 case studies of school districts, the report provides the most up-to-date information about the law's implementation and shares the opportunities and challenges that it has presented for states and districts. As reported in the New York Times article above, school districts report a narrowing of the curriculum. However, other meaningful findings include: (1) 37 states said that the adequacy of state funds to carry out NCLB duties was a serious or moderate challenge; and (2) For the first time since the survey began the report finds no significant difference in the percentage of high-minority enrollment districts and lower-minority enrollment districts reporting that all their teachers are highly qualified.

The torrent of violence that has swept Baghdad and surrounding provinces
since U.S. forces invaded three years ago, and surged since last month's
attack on a Shiite shrine, has left little unscathed -- even schools. What
were once sanctuaries of learning have become places of fear, undercutting
efforts to rebuild the dilapidated education system left by Saddam
Hussein. Bombs, rockets, mortar and machine-gun fire killed 64 school
children in the four months ending Feb. 28 alone, according to a report by
the Education Ministry. At least 169 teachers and 84 other employees died
in the same period. "We are in a society of insecurity," said Education
Minister Abdul Fallah al-Sudani. "Schools are not excluded from the
suffering of our society." It's unclear why the Dijla school was struck
last October, but mortar rounds are difficult to aim. The school is
located in a religiously mixed neighborhood that is home to a number of
government officials and other prominent Iraqis. But dozens of other
schools were targeted in the weeks before December parliamentary
elections, when their use as polling stations put them on the front line
of insurgents' efforts to derail the vote. More recently, schools have
been caught in the wave of sectarian killing, reports Alexandra Zavis and
Bushra Juhi.

FIDGETING IN CLASSROOM MAY HELP STUDENTS BURN CALORIES The fidgety boys and girls in Phil Rynearson's classroom get up and move around whenever they want, and that's just fine with him. In fact, stretching, swaying and even balancing on big wobbly exercise balls are the point of this experimental classroom. The goal is to see if getting children to move even a little can help combat childhood obesity, reports Chris Williams. As an added perk, there's some splashy technology, too -- laptop computers, a wireless network and iPods. The data aren't in yet. But anecdotally, Rynearson and Superintendent Jerry Williams say the fourth- and fifth-graders are more focused on the curriculum than their peers in a comparison group in an ordinary classroom. And there are fewer distractions than in the traditional setup -- where a lot of time is spent trying to get children to sit still.

Recess - Jump Rope - Healthy Kids vs. Fat Kids

Technology and Jump Rope - Record It.

WHERE WE LEARN: URBAN SCHOOL CLIMATE REPORT Students cannot learn well and are not likely to behave well in difficult school environments. Good student development and academic learning are inextricably linked. Students care about where they learn. They spend the better part of most days in class or on the playground, so they care very much about what it feels like to be at school. Is the school safe and clean? Can they trust their teachers? And do teachers believe in and respect them? These feelings influence how students feel about themselves -- how confident they are, what they think of themselves as learners, and what kind of future they see. School climate is the learning environment created through the interaction of human relationships, physical setting, and psychological atmosphere. Researchers and educators agree that school climate influences students, teachers, and staff members and affects student achievement. Yet many school improvement initiatives primarily address school structure and procedures and virtually ignore school climate. These initiatives may be prompted by concern over inadequate scores on state tests or national assessments or driven by a desire to improve on an already positive performance. Despite this focus on academic achievement, however, factors embedded in a school?s functioning that directly influence performance may be overshadowed in these reform initiatives, finds a new report from the National School Boards Association's Council of Urban Boards of Education.

More than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President
Bush's No Child Left Behind law, according to preliminary state-by-state
statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education. At least 24,470
U.S. public schools, or 27 percent of the national total, did not meet the
federal requirement for "adequate yearly progress" in 2004-2005. The
percentage of failing schools rose by one point from the previous school
year, reports Paul Basken. Under the 2002 law, schools that do not make
sufficient academic progress face penalties including the eventual
replacement of their administrators and teachers. The results raise doubts
about whether the law is working and its results are fairly calculated,
said Michael Petrilli. "Most people thought that at this point in the law,
we'd be seeing these numbers go way, way up" as standards toughen.

No where to go but down - that's the plan.

INVOKING FEDERAL LAW, MARYLAND TAKES OVER BALTIMORE SCHOOLS Invoking the federal No Child Left Behind Law, the Maryland State school board voted today to take control of four Baltimore high schools with chronically low achievement and strip the city of Baltimore from direct operation of seven more middle schools. In approving the request of state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, a longtime supporter of the school standard movement, the board took the most drastic remedy provided for under No Child Left Behind, one reserved for schools that have failed to show sufficient progress for at least six years. It was the first time that a state had moved to take over schools under the federal law, reports Diana Jean Schemo.

Four bags of marijuana tumbled out when a 10-year-old took off his hat,
and two more fell as he entered his classroom. Three fifth graders took
turns holding a bag containing a half ounce of marijuana, and the student
who brought the drug to school had $920 in his pocket. And when a
10-year-old was searched for a knife after he threatened to stab another
student, school officials found suspected cocaine. These are just a few of
the reported cases of 59 Philadelphia School District students from
kindergarten through sixth grade involving drugs or alcohol since
September 2004, reports Martha Goodall. And, the district now
acknowledges, the problem involving young students is growing. Newly
released district data show 33 of these cases were reported this academic
year, compared with 26 for all of 2004-05.

Phildelphia - Literacy Stats are pathetic

At a time when many policymakers and business leaders are clamoring for
American children to take up the languages of Asia and the Middle East to
help buttress the United States? international competitiveness and
national security, the policies and resources are as much of a mismatch as
the languages that are being taught. More than 90 percent of the nation?s
secondary schools offer Spanish courses, serving nearly 5 million
students, based on a 2000 survey. That may not be so surprising a
statistic, given the country?s rapidly growing population of
Spanish-speakers and the demand in the public and private sectors for
professionals who can communicate in that language. Far fewer schools
offer French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian, in descending order.
But only 1 percent give students the option of learning Chinese -- 20,000
students, more or less -- and far fewer have Arabic classes, reports
Kathleen Kennedy Manzo. At this point, few public schools are up to the
task of teaching those languages, or any language, to the level of
proficiency experts say is needed. The languages considered most critical
to the nation?s economic and security interests are also among the hardest
to learn and the least commonly taught, largely because they are "tone"
languages, which require learning different pitches for similar words. And
few models, materials, or teachers on which to build new offerings are

During a year of unprecedented attention to and demands for reform of the
nation?s urban public high schools, a new poll from Carnegie Corporation
of New York suggests a path that commands broad and deep support from
Americans.  The national survey found that more than two in three adults
(68 percent) say that the best way to improve public education is to
concentrate on the district as a whole and improve the entire system of
high schools in a community.  Only 26 percent say the best way is to fix
one high school at a time.  While high school reform has garnered
significant attention in the past several years, most reform efforts
follow a one-school-at-a-time model.  The findings from Carnegie
Corporation of New York?s survey demonstrate that the majority of
Americans want their school districts to improve all high schools
simultaneously.  The poll also points to the urgent need for reform.
Nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) say that at least "some" of
the urban public high schools in their city are failing to properly
educate students.  Other key findings include: (1)  Nine in 10 Americans
(91 percent) agree that every public high school should be as good as the
community?s very best; (2) More than nine in 10 Americans (92 percent)
agree that successful high school reform must include changes in how the
school district manages its high schools; and (3) More than four in five
Americans (85 percent) say the larger community outside of the school
district should play an important role in improving the quality of
education offered by urban high schools.

School uniforms, long a staple in Catholic schools and foreign classrooms,
have emerged in the past decade as the most visible emblem of America's
educational reform movement. In 1996, only 3 percent of public schools
required uniforms, said U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim
Bradshaw. Now, nearly a quarter of public schools in the nation have some
type of uniform, according to sociologist David Brunsma, author of "The
School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education."
Followers of the fad include schools in Philadelphia, Miami and
Charleston, S.C., and now several Bay Area districts, though California
law allows parents to opt out. Pittsburg and West Contra Costa school
districts will require uniforms starting in the fall after several years
of running voluntary programs. Parents and principals credit the clothes
for everything from thwarting violence to closing the divide between rich
and poor. A recent study shows that uniforms bumped up graduation rates in
Ohio by 11 percent, reports Shirley Dang. Critics such as Brunsma counter
that uniforms merely mask serious problems -- gangs, drug use, poor test
scores -- that can't be whisked away with a collared shirt. Brunsma also
argues that mandatory uniforms are unfairly required at schools with large
numbers of poor and minority students.

Learn about School Uniform Policies, Benefits of School Uniforms,
Dress Codes, Culture, Sexual and Social Politics, Fashion and
Slumming it on the Educational CyberPlayGround?.

THE CASE FOR A KNOWLEDGE-RICH CURRICULUM CORE FOR ALL CHILDREN Why have 4th grade reading scores been steadily rising while 8th grade reading comprehension scores have been stagnant? E.D. Hirsch in the new issue of "American Educator" offers a compelling answer. It?s because we don't systematically teach the knowledge and vocabulary that are essential to higher-level reading comprehension. Hirsch argues that it?s possible to identify the knowledge that is most critical for later reading comprehension and that, because knowledge and vocabulary grow exponentially, it?s imperative that schools start to systematically teach this material at the earliest grades. This means rethinking the early grades language arts curriculum -- and considering the need for a common curriculum core for elementary students. Such a core would occupy about 50 percent of curricular time, leaving plenty of room for teachers, schools, and districts to select additional material -- but such a core would assure that all elementary students, regardless of neighborhood, school, or teacher, were exposed to the knowledge and vocabulary that would most aid their future comprehension. Also in this issue is a tour of several "virtual museums" -- beautiful, user-friendly websites mounted by great museums that allow teachers to bring museums? collections right into the classroom.

DIALECT SPEAKERS AND LINGUISTICS Find Resources for African American Black Vernacular, Creole, Patois, A pidgin is a new language which develops in situations where speakers of different languages need to communicate but don't share a common language. <>

Stigmatized and Standardized Varieties in the Classroom:
Interference or Separation? What is among the most serious social
problems that our country faces? The failure of inner-city schools
to teach children to read.

Why don't people vote? 50% of all Americans over 65 years old
are functionally illiterate.
60% of the Urban School Children do not graduate High School
of the 40% that do they are only reading at 4th grade level.
Find out more about literacy and approaches to improving it.
Learn how to successfully bridge from  the Dialect Speakers'
home language to the Standard.

INFLUENCE OF TEACHER APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL ON STUDENT BEHAVIOR How do the ways in which teachers express approval and disapproval of student actions bring about change in individual and group behaviors? The latest ASCD ResearchBrief highlights a study in which researchers designed a short-term program to help teachers examine their own use of praise and disapproval in the classroom and supplemented this information with a brief training presentation on managing student behavior. Relationships play a key role in classroom management and discipline. The way in which teachers interact with individual students -- as well as with groups of students and the entire class - -helps define acceptable (and unacceptable) academic and social behaviors, as well as desired learning outcomes. When reacting verbally to students, teachers may use a variety of management techniques, including praising desired behaviors, expressing disapproval of undesirable behaviors, or even ignoring student behaviors. Although historically many teachers have worked to control student outcomes by expressing disapproval for unacceptable actions, recent research has focused on the benefits of praising good behavior rather than focusing on unacceptable behavior. Expression of disapproval may have a short-term effect on student behaviors, but praise appears to have a longer-term effect and to be more generally effective at influencing student actions.

TRUTH IN CLASS SIZE Public school pupils in Georgia will have fewer classmates in English, math, science and social studies under Gov. Sonny Perdue's "Truth in Class Size Act," which has won final approval. But some of them will probably be taught by less-experienced teachers in classroom trailers. For years, Perdue delayed a plan for smaller classes started under former Gov. Roy Barnes, citing tight budgets. Now rich with revenue and running for re-election, the Republican leader is cutting pupil-to-teacher ratios next school year. Maximum class sizes will dip two to four students in core elementary and middle school subjects. Starting in August, kindergartners will attend classes with 18 to 20 students and fourth- through eighth-graders will be assigned to classes with no more than 28. Under Perdue's "truth" rules, every class must be at or below the maximums with exceptions granted only in limited cases. If one extra pupil enters a school, a principal will have to hire a new teacher, find a new room and break up other classes to form a new roster, even in the middle of the school year, reports Bridget Gutierrez. Education experts say smaller settings improve student discipline and learning. But costs in terms of teachers, trailers and taxes could be great. Other states, such as California, struggled to find enough qualified teachers when they reduced class size. Some schools were forced to hire educators without full credentials.

America is raising a nation of sleep-deprived kids, with only 20 percent
getting the recommended nine hours of shut-eye on school nights and more
than one in four reporting dozing off in class. Many are arriving late to
school because of oversleeping and others are driving drowsy, according to
a new poll by the National Sleep Foundation. "In the competition between
the natural tendency to stay up late and early school start times, a
teen's sleep is what loses out," said Jodi Mindell. Nearly all the
youngsters -- 97 percent -- had at least one electronic device in their
bedroom. These include televisions, computers, phones or music devices.
Adolescents with four or more such devices in their bedrooms are much more
likely than their peers to get insufficient sleep, the foundation
reported. Newborns sleep 16 to 18 hours a day; children in preschool sleep
between 10 and 12 hours a day; school-age children and teenagers should
get at least nine hours of sleep a day. Adults should get seven to eight
hours of sleep each day, reports Randolph Schmid.

OUCH! Multitasking Myth Busted - hurts my head!

Over the past two years, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL)
worked with the Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University (LSS)
to build and support a new leadership network, the "School Leadership
Learning Community" (SLLC).  It is comprised of the first 24 grantees the
U.S. Department of Education chose to implement professional development
programs for principals in high-need districts.  The SLLC Network convened
several times for to share lessons learned, challenges, strategies, and
promising practices.  These meetings produced three quality publications
containing insights about preparing and supporting school leaders:  (1)
Preparing Leaders for Rural Schools: Practice and Policy Considerations;
(2) Preparing and Supporting Diverse, Culturally Competent Leaders:
Practice and Policy Considerations; (3) and Preparing and Supporting
School Leaders: The Importance of Assessment and Evaluation.  Copies of
the briefs are available either by download for free at the link below:

New indicators from the National Science Board (NSB) provide a broad base
of quantitative information on science, mathematics, and engineering
education at all levels; the scientific and engineering workforce; U.S.
and international research, development, and competitiveness in high
technology; and public attitudes on the understanding of science and
engineering. Concern about the relationship of science and mathematics
achievement to American global competitiveness, work-force preparation,
and development of an educated citizenry continues to fuel efforts to
improve student performance in those areas. This report examines U.S.
students' mathematics and science achievement; compares it with that of
their international peers; and highlights developments, trends, and
conditions influencing the quality of U.S. elementary and secondary
mathematics and science education.

Hundreds of students walked out of California high schools, jumping school
fences when necessary, to protest legislation that would criminalize
illegal immigrants. The students were speaking out against legislation
being considered by the U.S. Senate that would make illegal immigration,
currently a civil offense, a felony. The U.S. House has already passed a
version, reports Gretchen Hoffman. Under the bill, HR 4437, employers
would be required to verify Social Security numbers with the Department of
Homeland Security, and local police would be reimbursed for detaining
illegal immigrants. They were among tens of thousands of students who
walked out of schools in California and other states. In Los Angeles, some
protesters walked along the busy Harbor (110) Freeway. On California's
Cesar Chavez Day, at least 22,000 students walked out of Los Angeles
district schools from the San Fernando Valley to Pacific Palisades, said
Monica Carazo, a spokeswoman for the district with 728,000 students. More
than 1,000 students rallied at Los Angeles City Hall. Police blocked off
streets as principals and security guards walked along with students who
were chanting for justice and carrying posters of Mexican-American labor
activist Cesar Chavez. Students said they were demonstrating for
immigration reform and to preserve their opportunities to continue their
education in the United States, regardless of their families' legal

Adapted from a workshop at the Migration Policy Institute, this
presentation presents charts and data on school-age immigrant children.
Brief commentary on each chart summarizes the take-away findings. The
share of students in Kindergarten through 12th grade with a foreign-born
parent tripled from 6 percent to 19 percent in 2000. It is estimated that
by 2010, children of immigrants will represent over one-quarter of the
student population.

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

"Student/Newspaper Partnership Grants"
The Newspaper Association of America Foundation will award
Student/Newspaper Partnership grants to help establish, sustain or revive
student newspapers that form partnerships with professional newspapers.
Grant funds may be used to fund newspaper production, technology purchase
and staff and adviser training. Maximum Award: $2,500. Eligibility: High
school and junior high school teachers and administrators and
representatives from newspapers or universities may apply. Deadline: April
30, 2006.

"Presidential Freedom Scholarships"
The Presidential Freedom Scholarships promote student service and civic
engagement and honor outstanding service to the community. Maximum Award:
$1000. Eligibility: High School Juniors and Seniors with 100 hours of
public service. Deadline: May 12, 2006.

"The National Council for the Social Studies Award for Global
The National Council for the Social Studies Award for Global
Understanding, given in honor of James Becker, recognizes annually a
social studies educator (or a team of educators) who has made notable
contributions in helping social studies students increase their
understanding of the world. Maximum Award: $2000. Eligibility: Social
studies educators who are affecting the global understanding of P-12
students; NCSS membership required. Deadline: May 15, 2006.

"NEA Innovation Grants to Support Professional Collaboration"
NEA Innovation grants support collaborative efforts by two or more
colleagues to develop and implement creative project-based learning that
results in high student achievement. Maximum Award: $5000. Eligibility:
public school teachers K-12. Deadline: June 1, 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


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

"Too often, criticism of public schools fails to reflect our present
societal complexity. At a moment when childhood poverty is shamefully
wide-spread, when many families are under constant stress, when schools
are often limited by lack of funds or resources, criticism of the public
schools often ignores an essential truth: we cannot believe that we can
improve public schools by concentrating on the schools alone. They alone
can neither cause nor cure the problems we face. In this context, we must
address with prayerful determination the issues of race and class, which
threaten both public education and democracy in America."
-National Council of Churches Policy Statement, November 11, 1999

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

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