PEN Weekly NewsBlast for May 6, 2005

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  • Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 13:54:14 -0400

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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
"As go the schools, so goes the real estate." This mantra among real
estate brokers has long been a reality for both home-buyers and
home-sellers. But while a good school district has always been a powerful
driver of housing costs in a neighborhood, never before has it been so
easy to know how different districts compare. Between the rise of the
Internet and new laws that require more standardized testing and easier
public access to test results, home-buyers can much more readily compare
public schools, reports Lauren Meade. Housing markets used to be driven by
word of mouth. Parents tended to rely on general reputation when it came
to understanding which schools were performing best. Now parents on the
move are flocking to websites detailing student-performance statistics and
district comparisons. Good schools have always been linked with higher
home prices. But in some medium-size cities, the price difference between
top-scoring and mediocre school districts can exceed $70,000. In some
wealthy suburbs, housing prices increase as much as $250,000 for a house
in a top-notch school district.

This How-To Guide is designed for school officials and business leaders
who are interested in engaging in school-business partnerships.
Partnership programs can encompass a wide variety of activities. They may
involve staff development, curriculum development, policy development,
instructional development, guidance, mentoring, tutoring, incentives and
awards, or they may provide material and financial resources. Though the
types of partnership activities can vary, the common goal of virtually all
school-business partnerships is to improve the academic, social or
physical well-being of students. This Guide is the result of extensive
research and personal interviews with individuals who have experience
creating, implementing and evaluating successful partnerships. Whether you
are already engaged in partnerships, or are embarking on your first
partnership, this Guide can provide valuable insight on effective
strategies. Please note that these guidelines are not intended to serve as
an exact prescription, but rather to provide a framework within which to
build a partnership that fits your unique needs. Since the vast majority
of partnerships are initiated by schools, a number of the guidelines are
written with the school perspective in mind.

A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put
armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school.
All over a giant burrito. Someone called authorities last week after
seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior
High, in Clovis, NM. The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious
item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole,
lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white
T-shirt. "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," school Principal Diana
Russell said.

A white child born in Westport has excellent odds of getting a good
education. More than 81 percent of Westport's white fourth graders had
reached the state's goal in reading on the Connecticut Mastery Test in
2004, a solid showing that was actually down from the last few years. The
prospects for a black child born in Bridgeport, just a few miles up
Interstate 95, aren't nearly so good. Less than 20 percent of black fourth
graders in the city met the state's goals last year, reports Avi Salzman.
The numbers are impossible to ignore, particularly for parents of children
enrolled in public schools in Bridgeport and other cities. Some people are
worried the state hasn't been paying attention. The state's achievement
gap has made it vulnerable to criticism. Even those who said they have
concerns about No Child Left Behind -- its heavy emphasis on testing, its
failure to address some of the underlying causes of the achievement gap --
agree that the state has not made nearly enough progress since it began
testing in 1984. "The belief system that says blacks can't learn must
change," said Eric J. Cooper, who advises schools through the National
Urban Alliance for Effective Education.

The more school officials tell the news, honestly, as to what's going on
behind school doors and on school property, the more information will
disseminate throughout the community, gaining trust and in turn, making it
easier to pass bonds, build new schools, and even sell homes to families.
In the latest issue of "District Administration" magazine, Angela
Pascopella outlines how good public relations can alleviate community
fears, help support long-term projects, and boost local property values.

Gov. Mark Sanford's plan to give tax credits to parents who send their
children to private schools died on the floor of the State House of
Representatives. With no discussion, the House voted 60-53 to kill the
bill that had been debated by educators, parents groups, clergy and civil
rights groups outside the Statehouse for months. What had been expected to
take hours of wrangling and arguments was over in 11 minutes. The original
bill called for a statewide program of tax credits for private school
tuition. It would have given tax breaks to parents transferring their
children from public schools. The credit could have been used to pay
tuition at independent schools, for home-schooling or to transfer to other
public schools. "People in this chamber said we support public schools and
we don't need an alternative school system," said Rep. John Scott,
D-Columbia. According to Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, the "issue is dead
for today, but it will be back." And "it will continue to come back unless
we elect a new leader" in the governor's office.

For most kids at most schools, there's little danger of wearing out the
gym shoes. Leslie Lytle, an epidemiology professor at the University of
Minnesota, studies childhood obesity. Decades ago, she said, it was common
for students to have daily gym classes. Today, just 8 percent of U.S.
schools provide phy ed daily. Elementary students are averaging less than
two hours of gym time a week; older kids, even less. The statistics are
sobering, reports James Walsh. More of our children are obese. Fewer kids
are physically active. Yet schools, constrained by tightening finances and
rising pressure to boost math and reading scores, are giving students less
time for physical education. But some Twin Cities schools, through
creativity or just plain determination, are bucking the sedentary trend.
At some, phy-ed teachers are launching afternoon walking or bicycling
clubs; at others, classroom teachers use silly games to get bodies in
motion. Some chase outside funding to build state-of-the-art fitness
centers to coax kids off the couch. "I believe physical activity is so
integral to what we do," said principal Jud Haynie. Her school is using
state and federal grants and a coming International Baccalaureate magnet
program to boost its phy-ed and fitness offerings. "Your mind isn't
receptive to information and to learning unless you're taking care of your

Some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat in today's culture wars takes
place in the public schools. As part of an NPR-wide series on Christianity
and the public square, Barbara Bradley Hagerty examines the fight over
health class in Maryland's Montgomery County. Some parents worry about a
"homosexual agenda" and secular humanism taking hold in public schools and
seek a greater emphasis on abstinence education. On the other side of the
aisle, parents are concerned about intolerance, religious indoctrination,
unneeded exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and protecting student

Many educators and advocates for history education have been critical of
the Bush Administration and the U.S. Department of Education for turning
their backs on history education. Some believe that the No Child Left
Behind law, with its focus on reading and math, is pushing history out of
the curriculum. At the link below is the text of a recent speech given by
Michael J. Petrilli, Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary in the U.S.
Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement. He argues
that policymakers can react to concerns about curriculum narrowing in
three ways: (1) Get rid of NCLB; (2) Amend NCLB to require testing in
history; (3) Find ways for NCLB and history education to get along.
Petrilli spends most of the speech explaining why option #1 is a bad idea.
He then submits that #2 is going to be a long shot, since "more testing"
is not an argument many folks are likely to support right now in
Washington, DC. At the end, he offers a few -- admittedly thin -- ideas
about how to address #3. This speech was meant to be provocative, and to
start a conversation. The author welcomes your ideas about how we can
maintain history education in the age of NCLB at: michael.petrilli@xxxxxxx

The President's "No Child Left Behind Act" provides up to 2 billion
dollars for after-school tutoring.  Millions of students in chronically
failing schools can now attend programs offered by education companies
like Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Sylvan Learning Centers. Supporters of
the law say it brings to low income students the kind of quality services
that parents in well-to-do suburbs rely on for their children.  But if
it's such a great opportunity then why, in some school districts, can't
companies find any students to tutor among the thousands eligible?  This
report uncovers the hostile tactics used to shut-out tutoring companies,
but some may be equally troubled by the low quality of service some
companies provide.

A new wave of outspoken billionaires -- many of them public-school alumni
-- is changing the way philanthropists fund educational endeavors, with
more aggressively tracking test scores and directly taking on the
educational establishment, reports Greg Toppo. Researchers tracking this
kind of philanthropy over the past decade say the new benefactors are less
likely to hand out mega-donations and let the system take over. Instead,
they insist that schools improve test scores and in many cases overhaul
basic functions, says Richard Lee Colvin, director of the Hechinger
Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University's Teachers
College. "The new actors are bringing some new strategies," he says.
Researchers report that the new strategies include rethinking how
superintendents and school boards are trained and giving millions to poor
students to attend private and charter schools -- an effort to bring
competition into public systems. But all charitable donations, "from the
bake sale to the Gates Foundation," amount to only about $1.5 billion,
says researcher Jay Greene who gathered the statistics. He found that
philanthropic contributions pale in comparison with the estimated $440
billion that taxpayers spend each year.

States are spending millions of dollars to build powerful new
data-management systems to help them keep up with the reporting
requirements and student-achievement goals of the federal No Child Left
Behind Act, according to EDUCATION WEEK's eighth annual report on school
technology. States and school districts are spending millions of dollars
to build online student-data systems that will offer teachers what
policymakers hope will be the information needed to craft clear-cut
strategies for raising achievement. Today's growing emphasis on
data-management technologies is overshadowing the priorities of past
years, when states and schools focused on putting better instructional
technologies -- such as personal computers and learning software -- into
classrooms. Underlying the trend is a major philosophical shift in the
White House concerning the role of technology in education. During the
Clinton administration, federal leaders largely viewed technology as a way
to open new educational horizons. Now, under the current administration
and the demands of the education law championed by President Bush, the
emphasis is on technology as a tool for analyzing achievement data. At the
same time, continuing budget deficits in many states are forcing them to
focus their technology spending more narrowly. This report includes
in-depth articles on issues surrounding technology spending, state
profiles, and the first-ever ranking of state technology leaders.

In 10th grade, Jessica Baptiste joined the Air Force Junior Reserve
Officers' Training Corps, a military program, mainly because she liked the
JROTC uniform. She thought she would look so cute in the dark blue jacket
and pants, black Oxford shoes and shiny insignia. But she also joined
because JROTC was one of the programs in her high school that really stood
out as something special. JROTC made her happy to be in a place with so
much discipline, after the lack of discipline she usually saw all around.
JROTC class met every day just like any other class. She learned all kinds
of things, like the history of flight, the aerospace jobs in the military,
how to buy a house and apply for college, how to handle stress, how to
administer first aid, and how to survive in the woods. She also did a lot
of public speaking in JROTC class, which helped build her confidence.
Despite numerous positive aspects of the JROTC program, Baptiste ended up
feeling greatly frustrated with the limited options offered to her to help
her attend college. She believes that with different types of resources
and support, her strengths could have been pushed in a different direction
that the military.

A new report praises 20 governors who proposed increases to their states'
pre-kindergarten programs.  The report contrasts these leaders with other
governors who are trailing national trends toward providing high-quality,
voluntary pre-k. "We focus on governors because their leadership is
critical to the success of pre-k across the country," said Libby Doggett,
executive director of Pre-K Now. "Our report shows that more work remains
to be done to increase funding for high quality pre-k.  But more and more
governors understand the importance of providing children an early start
in education -- and they are backing up their rhetoric with funding."
Additionally, the report found that the trend toward increased funding for
pre-k enjoys the support of Democratic and Republican governors alike and
despite overwhelming budget deficits; governors in Connecticut, Illinois
and Washington found a way to propose increases to pre-k totaling more
than $44 million. In 2004, 11 governors proposed increases to their
state's pre-k program for FY05. That number has risen to 20 governors in

Parents would certainly deny it, but Canadian researchers have made a
startling assertion: parents take better care of pretty children than they
do ugly ones.


"Classrooms are powerful places. They can be the sites of numbing boredom
and degradation or of growth and connection. In my own educational
history, I have known them as both."
-Mike Rose (educator/author), "Possible Lives"

===========PEN NewsBlast==========

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


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