PEN Weekly NewsBlast for October 29, 2004

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Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 19:26:40 -0700
Subject: PEN Weekly NewsBlast for October 29, 2004
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School accountability gains that Pennsylvania education officials lauded
resulted from lower standards, not improved performance, according to an
Inquirer analysis. More than twice as many schools would not have made
what the state considers "adequate yearly progress" toward goals set under
the federal No Child Left Behind Act if the rules had not been changed,
reports Dan Hardy. The changes allowed schools with lower graduation
rates, lower standardized test scores, or lower attendance than in
previous years to win passing marks. For example, a 2003 standard
requiring high schools to have graduation rates of 95 percent or to show
improvement was reduced to 80 percent or improvement for 2004.
Pennsylvania was among dozens of states allowed by the U.S. Department of
Education to change the standards. New Jersey, too, was among those
states, but it made relatively few changes. The changes in Pennsylvania
were significant. In 2004, 81 percent of the state's schools met the act's
so-called adequate yearly progress benchmarks using the new standards. But
the Inquirer analysis found that if the same rules used in 2003 had been
used in 2004, the number of schools falling short of the yearly benchmark
would have grown from 566 to 1,164. Instead of 81 percent meeting the
benchmark, just 61 percent would have succeeded. Last year, 63 percent of
schools made the benchmark. Schools not making the benchmark have to adopt
a series of corrective measures; those that don't improve are eventually
subject to sanctions, including possible conversion into charter schools.
In a presidential election year in which the No Child Left Behind law has
drawn fire, some critics contend that the rule changes were part of a U.S.
Department of Education effort to downplay controversy about the law by
softening its impact.

The accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act
(NCLB), coupled with debates over reauthorization of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), have brought increased attention to
special education. But educators differ in how they view this additional
scrutiny. Some fear that NCLB's accountability requirements related to
special education will be impossible to reach. Others see a much-needed
catalyst for improving the education of students with special needs. It is
too early to know which perspective will be most accurate. But one
certainty is that NCLB and plans for IDEA reauthorization are bringing
special and general education closer together than ever before. Over the
years, research has demonstrated that most students with disabilities
learn more when taught the standards-based general education curriculum,
rather than a separate curriculum, as long as these students receive
appropriate supports and accommodations for their special needs. And
legislation has encouraged a trend in recent years toward including more
students with disabilities in general education classes. Nonetheless,
special and general education remain two essentially separate systems. A
variety of forces have kept them apart -- from separate legal mandates and
funding streams to the historical tendency for schools to sort students by
ability. This issue of R&D Alert addresses special education primarily for
an audience of general educators and policymakers. Four interesting
articles highlight how the plight of students with disabilities and other
special needs is increasingly the concern of all educators, not just those
with a particular background in special education, and how increased
collaboration will benefit schools. (Click "view online pdf" at the link

A Washington state school district has banned Halloween parties during the
school day because it says children dressed up as goblins and witches take
time away from learning, officials said. "Our number one priority is
protecting the instructional day," said Puyallup School District
Superintendent Tony Apostle after the district canceled observance of the
October 31 celebration. Apostle said the 20,000-student district, located
about 30 miles south of Seattle, doesn't have enough time in the day as it
is to teach students everything they need to know. District spokeswoman
Karen Hansen said most Puyallup schools haven't had Halloween celebrations
or observations for years. Schools that want to have Halloween parties are
welcome to have them, she said, but only after the school day ends. Other
U.S. schools have banned Halloween festivities because some families don't
celebrate it for religious reasons and others cannot afford costumes.

Why don't reporters tell the good stories about urban public schools? As
board members, learn how you can help deliver the good news about your
school district with this toolkit. "Telling Your Story" provides you with
communication strategies to capture and share the success stories that are
happening in your schools with your students, teachers and principals.
This toolkit is a product of the CUBE Communications Task Force Executive
Group whose mission is to help board members better communicate with their
constituents by developing strategies that build a more positive urban
public school image and garners support in the community.

Kindergarten, which is German for "children's garden," is serious stuff
these days. With half-day programs giving way to full days in state after
state, the curriculum once saved for first grade has been pushed down to
5- and 6-year-olds. Nearly 98 percent of youngsters in the United States
attend kindergarten, 60 percent of them in full-day programs, according to
the U.S. Census Bureau. Once focused heavily on a child's social and
emotional development, kindergarten is now a largely academic experience
-- sometimes with math drills and daily homework and worksheets. In many
schools, reports Valerie Strauss, time for music, art, recess and games
has withered. Kindergarten also has become a political battleground, as
lawmakers, educators and parents argue over what should be taught. Ready
or not, kids are expected to do more in kindergarten now than just a few
years ago, and many educators say that makes sense in many ways. But many
educators worry that too many children are no longer being allowed to be
children. What has been lost is much of the focus on socio-emotional
development that provided the foundations in behavioral training for
school and life," said Jill Fox, associate professor of teacher education
at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Education. Though children
are more savvy today than 20 years ago, their development patterns haven't
changed fundamentally, educators say, and they need to be taught the same
social skills -- how to cooperate, for example -- that their parents
learned in kindergarten.

Many schools consistently struggle to address critical teacher working
conditions. Teachers report feeling isolated in their classrooms, needing
more basic materials to do their jobs, feeling inundated with work,
lacking input into the design and organization of schools, and facing
minimal prospects for career advancement and professional growth. Such
conditions are closely related to difficulties in recruiting and retaining
teachers, but oftentimes overlooked as school reform strategies. This
resource-laden website developed by the Southeast Center for Teaching
Quality (with support from BellSouth) was created as part of a working
conditions project in North Carolina. But it's a major "find" for anyone
interested in strategies to address persistent problems in schools that
block teacher effectiveness and student achievement. The topics include
time, leadership, empowerment, professional development and facilities.
The resources are organized around five key recommendations based on the
Center's extensive research. And you'll find separate resources for
teachers, principals, district offices, policymakers and community

Annette S. Eskind, Chairman of the Nashville Public Education Foundation,
announced that the Foundation is establishing a $1,000,000 endowed fund at
Peabody College of Vanderbilt University that will create a permanent
collaborative relationship between Peabody, Vanderbilt, and the Metro
Nashville Public Schools to help meet the professional development needs
of teachers and principals.  "The gift from the Foundation reflects our
belief that ongoing, researched-based professional development for
teachers and principals in Metro Schools is essential to providing quality
education for children in our public schools," said Mrs. Eskind. "The
Nashville Public Education Foundation is a public, non-profit (501c3)
organization entirely independent of the school system.

Nationwide, schools are turning to incentives in the face of the federal
No Child Left Behind education law that requires every school to report
truancy figures. Attendance is a factor that helps determine whether
schools go on the ''needs improvement" list, which can force them to let
students transfer and lose some government funding. At Trimble Tech High
School in Fort Worth, Texas, attendance jumped nearly three percentage
points last year to 94.7 percent after officials announced eligible
students could win a 2001 Ford Mustang. It's one of several car giveaway
programs at Fort Worth high schools. In Kansas City, Mo., officials say
incentives roughly doubled enrollment in summer school. Students who
didn't miss a day received a prepaid Visa card worth $125. Alfie Kohn, a
Massachusetts-based former teacher and author who lectures nationally on
the dangers of rewards, says that when teachers are "dangling goodies" in
front of kids, the kids are less inspired. "The intrinsic motivation to
learn, read, or even show up tends to decline when kids are bribed to do
what the adults want," he said. Rather, Kohn said, children should be
provided engaging courses and be given more choice about what they are
learning. Monty Neill, executive director of the Center for Fair & Open
Testing in Cambridge, argues that schools are so focused on improving test
scores, and punishing those who don't make the cut, that students are

A nonprofit education organization, the Portland Schools Foundation, is
the single largest contributor in the campaign to retain Multnomah County,
Oregon's three-year local income tax. So why is an organization dedicated
to improving city schools in a political fight? That's what it has always
done, reports Steven Carter. The foundation has been campaigning for
schools since 1996, when it helped raise $10.6 million for Portland
schools and organized 30,000 people to march for public education. "Our
involvement in advocating for adequate and stable funding for public
education goes back to Day One and the march," said J.S. May, a Portland
life insurance executive who heads the foundation board. The foundation
has donated $90,000 to defeat Measure 26-64, which would kill the
temporary county income tax after one year of its scheduled three-year
life. Cynthia Guyer, foundation director, says the organization has
budgeted $150,000 to fight the repeal.  The tax, which passed last year
with foundation help, provides about $67 million annually to eight county
school districts. Oregon has about 40 school district foundations that
raise money for everything from sports to textbooks to teachers. The
Beaverton Education Foundation is considered the oldest. With a budget of
about $350,000 a year, it provides grants for teachers, after-school
programs and parent clubs. Two years ago, it took its first step into
politics, donating to the campaign for a school tax levy. The Portland
foundation, however, is more political. It operates independent of the
school district. Its initial goal was to provide grants and programs aimed
at closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

A growing number of high school athletic programs have taken on the
trappings of university-level sports, warns a new report by the National
Association of State Boards of Education warns. The trend threatens to
undermine high schools' academic missions, reports John Gehring. The
problems that have plagued college athletics are now becoming more
frequent at the high school and even the middle school level, the report
says, citing "unscrupulous agents, mercenary coaches, questionable
recruiting practices, and extravagant benefits bestowed upon players."
"These practices compromise the school's educational mission and undermine
the public's confidence in the education system,'' it says. "While
colleges have taken steps to address these issues over the past two
decades, there has been little discussion or even acknowledgment among
state education policymakers of the increasingly troubling situation."

Hispanic population growth will be a major factor shaping the American
experience in the next quarter century, given the rate of growth and the
size of this demographic group. Hispanics are now the largest minority,
and by the year 2025, a quarter of the nation's youth between the ages of
5 and 18 will be Hispanic. Some of the biggest barriers to greater
Hispanic involvement in public schools rest in common misperceptions about
this rapidly growing population. Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in
Education and senior fellow at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington,
D.C., dispels three common myths about Hispanics and public education at:

The Pathways to College Network has created a systematic, research-based
resource to help schools and college outreach programs increase the number
of students preparing for postsecondary education.  The toolbox helps
educators: (1) Learn about what works from research and examples; (2)
Assess their present situations and plan change; (3) Access resources for
implementing their plans; and (3) Monitor progress toward achieving their
goal of college-ready high school graduates. This toolbox helps state and
school district leaders implement initiatives to make the college-prep
curriculum the standard program of study for all students.  The toolbox
offers separate paths for principals, counselors and college outreach
practitioners.  Each section provides a user's guide, presentations,
checklists, inventories and assessment tools to create awareness, assess
the current situation, develop a plan for improvement, implement a plan
and evaluate success.

While national attention has been riveted on the accountability provisions
of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), few in the education community have
focused on what matters most to ensure that all students make adequate
yearly progress -- a high-quality teacher. Research tells us what
educators have long known: teaching quality is the essential component to
raising student achievement. The critical question is whether NCLB and its
"highly qualified" teacher provisions -- in statute, nonregulatory
guidance, state reaction, and, most importantly, implementation in
classrooms throughout the country -- will lead to the recruitment,
retention, and continued support of quality teachers. According to Scott
Emerick, Eric Hirsch, and Barnett Berry, NCLB holds the promise to address
longtime barriers that have hampered efforts to recruit and retain
teachers, especially in schools serving poor and minority students. The
law's highly qualified requirements correctly target schools serving the
most disadvantaged students, first by requiring states to ensure that poor
and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children
by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers. The federal focus
on highly qualified teachers also has the potential to drive new state and
local actions. This focus has prompted universities to prepare teachers
more effectively, school districts to create more effective professional
development programs, local administrators to implement new recruitment
and retention strategies, and teachers to think and act differently with
regard to their own profession. Unfortunately, this promise remains
unfulfilled. NCLB's narrow emphasis on content knowledge has driven states
to lower standards for teachers. Additionally, the lack of sufficient
financial and technical assistance leaves districts, on which successful
implementation hinges, struggling to meet the law's requirements. This
brief highlights three major findings from SECTQ's teacher surveys and
interviews with more than 160 educators and makes recommendations for
federal, state, and local efforts that will ensure we have not only a
highly qualified teacher, but also high-quality teaching in every
classroom every day.

Many local school groups are forming independent parent-teacher groups to
avoid having to send away dues, which can total as much as $6.75 per
member, to the national and state Parent-Teacher Associations. PTA
officials say if parents focus only on their local schools, there will be
no national organization to advocate for public education funding.

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

"Youth Recovery and Resilience Grants"
The American Red Cross September 11 Recovery Grants Program is issuing a
Request for Applications in the area of Youth Recovery and Resilience.
This funding is available to support mental health services and resiliency
programs for children directly impacted or personally exposed to the
events of 9/11; training or support for the caring adults in their lives;
and collaborations or partnerships among services providers and
specialized centers capable of providing professional support for the
detection and treatment of children and youth affected by traumatic
experiences. Program guidelines and application instructions can be
accessed at:

"Leadership for Changing a World Awards"
This program seeks nominations of community leaders across the country who
are successfully tackling tough social problems. Seventeen outstanding
social justice leaders and leadership teams who are not broadly known
beyond their immediate community or field will receive awards of $100,000
to advance their work, plus $15,000 for learning activities that will
support their efforts.  The program seeks to encourage a public dialogue
that recognizes a wide variety of leaders and leadership models as
authentic and important to social progress.  To this end, the program
includes a major, multi-year research initiative and numerous forums to
bring awardees together with other leaders to share experiences, address
specific challenges, and explore opportunities for collaboration.
"Leadership for a Changing World" is a program of the Ford Foundation, in
partnership with the Washington-based Advocacy Institute and the Robert F.
Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
Nominations will be accepted by the Advocacy Institute through January 7,
2005. Leaders must be nominated by someone who is well acquainted with
their work and can attest to their qualifications.

"ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards"
The ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards are granted annually to
encourage talented young jazz composers. Applicants must be citizens or
permanent residents of the United States who have not reached their 30th
birthday by December 31st. Applicants must submit a completed application
form (available via the link below); the notated score of one composition;
biographical information listing prior music studies, background and
experience. Applicants must also submit a cassette or CD of the
composition submitted, if available. This program was initiated in 2002
with support from the Joseph and Rosalie Meyer Fund. Application deadline:
December 1, 2004.

"DisneyHand Minnie Grants"
Disney and Youth Service America want youth to get involved in community
service. Grants of $500 each are available to engage young people between
the ages of 5 and 14 to plan and carry out service projects for National
and Global Youth Service Day 2005 that respond to community needs.
Projects are encouraged and welcomed where children and youth work with
adults (parents, coaches, teachers, youth leaders etc.). By working with
their family, school, friends, and neighbors youth can solve community

"Schools of Distinction Awards"
Intel Corporation and Scholastic Inc. are offering several million dollars
in awards and prize money to schools that "demonstrate excellence for
implementing innovative programs that support positive educational
outcomes." One elementary-level school and one secondary-level school
winner will be chosen in each of the following ten categories: Academic
Achievement; Literary Achievement; Mathematics Achievement; Science
Achievement; Technology Excellence; Technology Innovation; Leadership
Excellence; Professional Development; Teamwork (Internal); Collaboration
(External). There's also a "Best of the Best" category that includes an
additional $15,000 prize. Application deadline to enter is December 1,

"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 2004 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 include programs and competitions we have
previously announced, as well as those they plan to announce 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.

"The academy is increasingly reluctant to acknowledge distinctions in
merit. This plague of indecision is yielding larger numbers of
co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians and often puts students in the dark
about how they really stack up against their peers. Grade inflation hasn't
helped. 'We're all different' has somehow morphed, within the protective
confines of the ivory tower, into 'we're all equally good.'"
-Editorial, "Rankings That Rankle," Wall Street Journal. Friday, August
27, 2004

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