[ECP] PEN Weekly NewsBlast for November 10, 2006

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

Outcomes of recent elections could affect issues ranging from school
loans to educational technology funding to workforce preparedness and
even reauthorization of the federal education law. Even though
Democrats have seized control of both chambers of Congress, their
agenda could be curtailed by the threat of a veto from President Bush.
Still, many education groups are encouraged by the ascension of what
they viewed as a more favorable climate for education funding on
Capitol Hill. Still, Democratic control of the House -- which will
make Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California the first female House speaker in
U.S. history -- could open the door for changes to the legislative
agenda that might favor schools. Control of the House also means
chairmanships of the various committees will fall to Democrats.
Currently, the ranking Democrat on the influential House
Appropriations Committee is Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, and the
ranking member of House Committee on Education and the Workforce is
Rep. George Miller of California. That could have a significant impact
on the legislative priorities of the House, influencing issues down
the road. When Democrats take control of the Senate, West Virginia
Sen. Robert Byrd is in line to assume chairmanship of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy would
become chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions.
see also: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/11/08/12federal_web.h26.html

2006 saw voters in 14 states decide a wide variety of education policy
issues. Thirteen state elections decided various aspects of school
finance, including authorizing bond sales, increasing taxes, requiring
state funding of schools and changing the management of the state's
public school trust fund. Seven states saw voters decide policies in
other areas, writes Kyle Zinth. These proposals include overturning
legislation mandating school consolidation and banning in-state
college tuition for undocumented immigrants and affirmative action at
state institutions. Selected highlights include: Voters in Michigan
rejected an education funding guarantee, while voters in Nevada
approved a measure requiring the legislature to fund public education
before any other part of the state budget for two years. All districts
in Alabama will be required to have at least 10 mills of property tax
allocated for public education. Two proposals modeled after the "65%
solution" were rejected by voters in Colorado. Voters in Wyoming voted
to create a permanent fund for higher education and equalize school
funding in all districts, while voters in Nebraska approved a measure
to create an early childhood endowment fund. Other Issues: Arizonans
voted to deny in-state tuition and other education services to
undocumented immigrants, and Michigan voters approved a measure
banning affirmative action. Nebraska voters repealed legislation
pertaining to school district consolidation. South Dakota voters
rejected a measure that would have prohibited schools boards from
establishing the start of a regular school term prior to the last day
of August.

The education of our most poor and vulnerable children should be the
centerpiece of a great and diverse America made stronger by equality
and shared prosperity. It has instead become the epitome of public
neglect, perpetuated by a class divide so permeated by race that it
mocks the bedrock principles of the American Promise. These strong
ideas were offered by Bill Moyers, president of the Schumann Center
for Media and Democracy and a veteran journalist, at the recent annual
conference of the Council of the Great City Schools. Not just the kids
suffer, writes Moyers. A nation that devalues poor children also
demeans their teachers. The neglect of urban education -- a capital
moral offense in its own right -- is but a symptom of what is
happening in America. The isolation of our schools, the crumbling of
our infrastructure, and the reckless disregard of our fiscal affairs
signal a retreat from the social compact that made America unique
among nations. According to Moyers, the American Dream has had its
heart cut out, and is on life support. Click below to read his
diagnosis of the problem and his suggestions for turning the tide:

It bothers Jay Mathews that the politicians and campaign consultants
who develop commercials for political candidates promote the same
inaccurate myths about schools, election after election after
election. Their messages distort our thinking about education and make
it harder to raise student achievement. Here are Jay?s seven least
favorite but most common and misleading things politicians say about
schools: (1) A good way to measure the quality of schools in each
state is by average SAT score; (2) It is bad to have programs that
encourage educators to teach to a test; (3) Schools would be better if
they stopped promoting low-achieving students to the next grade; (4)
Lowering class size is always a good idea; (5) It is education policy
and not specific school successes that matter; (6) What schools need
is more money; and (7) Electing new leaders will help fix our schools.

Mostly, we don?t question the necessity of school in our lives. As
Americans, we have profound, passionate beliefs in the power of
education to transform lives. While many would say our current focus
on educational attainment -- now more than ever measured by
performance on standardized tests, high school graduation rates, and
other ?objective? means -- is an essential new lifeway in a
competitive global economic climate, there are also real personal
costs for many in being a part of an education system for so long and
so unrelentingly. From its increasingly rigid definitions of learning
as testable product, to its assumptions about human ability and the
moral value attached to grades, to an ambivalent, often negative,
culture toward children -- casually, almost informally, school sends
toxic messages to many of its most ordinary, average pupils. Children
and young adults are enormously vulnerable in this system, writes
Kirsten Olson. Although it seems like a contradiction -- who can say
that more schooling could be a bad thing? -- many students find
themselves deeply wounded by schooling. The gifts of education, as
rich and important as they may be, have also left painful
psychological and spiritual lacerations that are raw and unhealed. Why
do schools wound? At the link below, Olson presents three essential
dilemmas that must be examined and explored to prevent schooling from
fracturing what many people feel are their deepest strengths: their
creativity, their humanity, and their capacity to imagine.

Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC), a Denver-based local
education fund, just published a new position paper on accountability,
?From Surviving to Thriving: Strategies for Success in a High-Stakes
Accountability System.? In it PEBC takes stock of Colorado?s
accountability system and its effect on classroom practice and student
achievement; and they call upon policy makers to objectively assess
this system and make the necessary changes to ensure that the hard
work taking place in classrooms across Colorado -- especially in the
most challenged schools -- results in academic achievement for all
students. The paper is enhanced with reflections on testing and its
effects on classroom practice by four distinguished lab teachers.

The federal government is telling several New York school districts
that girls' sporting events should have cheerleaders, too. The
Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has concluded that
school districts violated the law by having cheerleaders only at boys'
basketball, baseball and softball games, and not at girls' games.
Investigators interviewed school administrators and athletes in
response to a complaint filed early this year by a Binghamton-area
parent. The superintendent of the Vestal Central School District says
the federal agency expressed concerns about the amount of promotion
girls' sports received compared to the boys' program. He says from now
on, cheerleaders will be required to perform at an equal number of
girls' and boys' games. The complaint focused on the Southern Tier
Athletic Conference, which includes 20 school districts.

How does the No Child Left Behind Act hold schools accountable for
students who move from one school to another? Dallas Morning News
columnist Josh Benton draws our attention to a little known fact:
students who change schools after the end of October are not included
in schools? test scores.  Significant numbers of students are not
counted as a result; in some cases, up to 20% of students are excluded
from schools? test scores.  These students are more likely to be poor,
minority, and special education students.  If teachers know that some
kids can be safely ignored -- given all the test pressures they
already deal with -- some are going to redirect their attention
elsewhere. Is Texas' testing system designed to give struggling kids
the attention they need? Or is it designed to make the adults look
good? The current system, Benton concludes, leaves too much room for
some kids to be ignored.

The Walton Family Foundation,
established by Wal-Mart Founder Sam Walton, is the second-largest
donor to K-12 education. While the Walton Family Foundation's
education work is best known for supporting vouchers, the foundation
also has played a significant role in building and shaping the future
of the charter school movement in the United States. A new Education
Sector report by Bryan C. Hassel and Thomas Toch illustrates the
various Walton Family Foundation investments in the charter school
movement, connecting the dots between the foundation and individual
charter schools, charter management organizations, support
organizations, advocacy groups and research and information efforts.
The report describes the roots of the foundation's involvement in the
charter school movement, in the late John Walton's support for school
choice, and discuss how the foundation's approach to funding charter
school activities represents a new breed of "muscular" philanthropists
that actively seek, and sometimes help to create, opportunities for
investments in line with their priorities.

Many children insist that the moon produces its own light, and that
Earth?s changing shadow causes the moon?s phases. And many believe
summer is hot when Earth travels close to the sun, and winter is cold
when Earth travels far away from the sun. (In case you?ve forgotten,
the moon reflects light from the sun, and the moon?s phases are its
visible sunlit portion. The tilt of Earth?s axis causes seasonal
changes; in the northern hemisphere, the North Pole points toward the
sun in summer and away from the sun in winter.) It isn?t just
astronomy that gives kids trouble, report Susan Black. Can science
teachers change students? misconceptions? The answer is yes, but only
if teachers are competent, patient, and willing to do more than cover
the curriculum and coach students on test questions. Thomas Carpenter
says the best way to improve science teaching and learning involves
training teachers to understand scientific concepts, practicing
scientific inquiry the way real scientists investigate problems,
confronting their own scientific reasoning and misconceptions, and
generating and demonstrating scientific understanding.

Who is Teaching Science in K12 Schools?

Getting kids off to school in the morning with a tummy full of healthy
food will do wonders for their health. And a well-balanced breakfast
can even help children achieve good grades, because food stabilizes
blood sugar levels, which in turn increases brain function --
including the classroom-critical, too-often-elusive attention span.
Click the website below to learn a few easy ways to give your children
a healthy head start each day.

New national data show school bus-related accidents send 17,000 U.S.
children to emergency rooms each year, more than double the number in
previous estimates that only included crashes. Nearly one-fourth of
the accidents occur when children are boarding or leaving school
buses, while crashes account for 42 percent, the new research shows.
Slips and falls on buses, getting jostled when buses stop or turn
suddenly, and injuries from roughhousing are among other ways kids get
hurt on school buses, the data found. Injuries range from cuts and
sprains to broken bones, but most are not life-threatening and don't
require hospitalization. And while the numbers are higher than
previously reported, they represent a small fraction of the 23.5
million children who travel on school buses nationwide each year, the
researchers said. The researchers said the results provide a strong
argument for requiring safety belts on school buses, something
industry groups say is unnecessary and is more than many school
districts can afford.

A decade ago proponents seeking to put an end to affirmative action
argued that a vote for Proposition 209 was a vote for fairness.  They
claimed their initiative was a way to correct social inequalities and
foster equal opportunity.  However, the ?Removing the Roadblocks?
report provides research that explains how and why ending affirmative
action has produced neither the ?results? nor the opportunities that
were promised. The executive summary shows the representation of
Latino, African American, and American Indian students in the
University of California (UC), and particularly at the UC?s most
selective campuses, has decreased, even as these groups make up a
larger share of California high school graduates.  California?s
Latino, African American, and American Indian students have not
received the ?the tools to compete.? This report reviews the record of
low college participation and college eligibility among African
American, Latino, and American Indian students, and it examines the
K-12 school conditions that contribute to these inequalities. It
concludes with a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for
removing roadblocks that unfairly impede the educational progress of
Latino, African American, and American Indian students. These are not
?pie in the sky? proposals. Rather they are strategies that have been
tried in other states, as well as in California districts and schools.

As school administrators wrestle with the deeply controversial issues
of educating America's youth ? evolution versus creationism, metal
detectors on campus, standardized testing ? one topic has really put
them in the public hot seat: the schoolyard game of tag. The issue
made national headlines recently when Willett Elementary School in
Attleboro, Mass., officially banned the venerable skinner of knees,
inspiring considerable derision in editorials and online discussion
boards. (Schools in South Carolina, Wyoming and Washington have
instituted similar bans.) The topic is so no-win that school
officials, admittedly busy with loftier issues, are reluctant to
discuss it. But the reality is that schools across the United States
have been quietly discouraging tag for years, reports Janet Cromley.
Any discussion of it elicits a flinch response because this simple
schoolyard game is at the nexus of three competing interests: giving
kids freedom to play (what many teachers and kids want), keeping them
safe from harm on large, unruly playgrounds (what concerned parents
want) and avoiding band-aid-related depositions (what all
administrators want). The game can bring out aggression in some kids
and lead to confrontation. Today's campuses are often paved with
blacktop, not cushioned with grass; and schools have had to cut back
on supervisory aides because of funding problems. Some believe the
socializing benefits of tag outweigh the dangers of lawsuits. "Tag is
about learning how to compete in a fair and laughing joyous way," says
Andrew Rakos. "There's an element of being safe, of avoiding trouble,
strategy. You learn about how to deal with disagreements and how to
find solutions. And of course you learn about your personal space and
about speed and control of your body."

How to encourage Play

A majority of the San Francisco Board of Education is poised to end
the district's 90-year relationship with the U.S. military and its
widely popular Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, with a vote
expected next week. Four board members oppose the program on two
grounds: the military's stance on gays and the desire to keep the
armed forces out of public schools. "I don't think the military should
be involved in civilian life," said board member Dan Kelly, a
self-described pacifist who served two years in prison for resisting
the Vietnam draft. "I know that children, the students, like the
program," Kelly said. "I know they enjoy it. That doesn't necessarily
mean it's doing a good thing for them." The program costs nearly $1.6
million per year, reports Jill Tucker. The military pays $586,000, or
half the salaries of 15 instructors -- all of whom are retired
military personnel rather than certified teachers. The district pays
the other half of salaries and $394,000 in benefits. Most critics
acknowledge that the JROTC helps reduce dropouts. Students learn
leadership and problem-solving skills, first aid, money management,
geography, civics and how to be a team player, among other topics --
some of which they learn in other required classes. Opponents say all
that can be done without the military.

Mining for kids: Children can't opt out of Pentagon recruitment database

Student photographers in South Carolina and Baltimore documented
deplorable conditions in their schools, from exposed electrical wires
to creeping mold. But will anyone take notice?  These school images,
all captured by student photographers, tell a tale of decay and
disrepair -- conditions that a South Carolina judge ruled in December
2005 to have no detriment on the education of the 132,000 affected
rural students (in Abbeville County School District v. the State of
South Carolina). While ?not optimum or ideal,? he wrote, they meet the
standard for safe and adequate. School leaders and other concerned
citizens disagreed. To dramatize the weakness of the judge?s decision,
advocates handed disposable cameras to students and gave them the
discretion to photograph whatever they wanted. The result, writes
Alexandra R. Moses, is an exhibit called ?But What About Us? Student
Photographs from the Corridor of Shame,? consisting of 60 photos taken
last spring inside rural schools along South Carolina?s Interstate 95
corridor. In May 2006, the exhibit was unveiled at the South Carolina
state house to get lawmakers? attention. Advocates contend that many
years of underfunding have made South Carolina?s decrepit rural
schools inappropriate and even dangerous learning environments for
students. A nonprofit organization in Washington, Critical Exposure
(www.criticalexposure.org), spearheaded the project, which has a
mission similar to that of ?Corridor of Shame.? Critical Exposure
teaches students photography to help them tell the stories of their
schools, with a goal of bringing about public education reform.

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

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

?Award for Outstanding Contributions to American Education?
The Education Commission of the States James Bryant Conant Award
recognizes an individual for outstanding contributions to American
education.  Nominations are now being accepted. Deadline: November 28, 2006.

?Grants to Recruit and Educate the Next Generation of Librarians?
The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program supports efforts to
recruit and educate the next generation of librarians and the faculty
who will prepare them for careers in library science. It also supports
grants for research related to library education and library staffing
needs, curriculum development, and continuing education and training.
Maximum Award: $1,000,000. Eligibility: All types of libraries, except
federal and for-profit libraries, may apply. Eligible libraries
include public, school, academic, special, private (not-for-profit),
archives, library agencies, library consortia, and library
associations. Institutions of higher education, including public and
not-for-profit universities and colleges, also are eligible. Deadline:
December 15, 2006.

?Cable in the Classroom?s Leaders in Learning Awards?
This program recognizes teachers, administrators and community leaders
who are helping to improve and transform education for children in and
out of school, creating 21st Century learning environments children
need to succeed in the world that awaits them. Maximum Award: $3,000.
Eligibility: teachers, administrators, and community leaders.
Deadline: December 15, 2006.

?Public School Service Award?
The International Reading Association John Chorlton Manning Public
School Service Award encourages and supports the improvement of public
education by recognizing the importance of integrating teacher
preparation, professional development, and related research with the
work of public schools, classrooms, teachers, and students. Maximum
Award: $10,000. Eligibility: College- and university-based teacher
educators with a record of effective preparation of reading teachers
and graduate students. Deadline: December 15, 2006.

?NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grants?
This grant program provides opportunities for teachers, education
support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff to
engage in high-quality professional development and lead their
colleagues in professional growth. Maximum Award: $2,000 for
individuals; $5,000 for groups engaged in collegial study.
Eligibility: U.S. practicing K-12 public school teachers, education
support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff at
public colleges and universities. Deadline: February 1, 2007.

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

?Teachers now are expected to staff the permanent emergency rooms of
our country?s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to
compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do.
Like our soldiers in Iraq, they are sent into urban combat zones, on
impossible missions, under inhospitable conditions, and then abandoned
by politicians and policy makers who have already cut and run, leaving
teachers on their own?The neglect of urban education  --  a capital
moral offense in its own right -- is but a symptom of what is
happening in America. We are retreating from our social compact all
down the line.?
-Bill Moyers (author/journalist) ?America 101?

"Most public schools are -- at best -- nothing but expensive
babysitting arrangements, helpfully keeping hoodlums off the streets
during daylight hours. At worst, they are criminal training labs,
where teachers sexually abuse the children between drinking binges and
acts of grand larceny."
-Ann Coulter (author/political commentator)

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

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