Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
POLITICIANS FAILING TO ADDRESS EDUCATION
Jay Mathews thinks this would be a big year for our most prominent
politicians to discuss how to fix our schools. We have the largest
effort in history, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, putting annual
tests into all public schools and requiring regular improvement in
scores. We are having spirited arguments between teachers,
parents, students and even a few columnists over the vital point -- do
need to insist that our schools focus on measurable gains in
with regular testing, or is it better to improve teacher training and
salaries and let the professionals do their jobs without so much
kibitzing. According to Mathews, many Democratic candidates complain
what they consider the lack of adequate funding for No Child Left
but they don't seem to believe it is important to tell voters if they
think the act itself is a good idea or not. Why does the education
get so little attention from politicians?
EDUCATION DISPARITIES WORSE THAN SEGREGATION
Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education for the Bill and
Gates Foundation, urged the 600 participants at the Wake Education
Partnership's annual meeting to work at improving the graduation rates
minority students. He implored educators not to have lower expectations
for minority students, which he said leads to an inadequate education.
"We're losing half the African-American and Hispanic students," Vander
said. "Think of what that means in a generation or two generations from
now. We have rising incarceration rates, declining voting rates and
stagnating family incomes. Do you think there is any link between
Vander Ark also was critical of schools in which many white students
in advanced classes, while minority students are in basic courses.
need to stop treating students differently based on their race, family
income and where they live. "When you walk in the hallways of some high
schools, you see something worse than segregation," he said.
INEQUALITY RULES TODAY'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Vouchers, charter schools and other school-choice programs might not
America's schools any more segregated and unequal than they are today,
according to a new study. The reason? Today's public schools are
of inequality. "Alert and aggressive parents already work the
to get the best for their children," said Paul Hill, co-author of the
study in this month's journal Education Policy Analysis Archives. In
Hill and co-author Kacey Guin argue that the kind of parental jockeying
for favors that takes place under school-choice programs is at least
"transparent" than the hidden special treatment routinely secured by
and connected parents in most public school systems. The authors said
warning often levied about school-choice programs -- that they might --
increase racial segregation and inequality -- is overhyped.
CAN ALL CHILDREN LEARN?
What are we to make of the claim that all children can learn, asks
Doyle. Is it just one more slogan, been there done that? As an
statement it is either means too much or too little. Of course all
children can learn, but the tough questions are what can they learn,
can they learn it, and what format is best suited to learning. Does
really believe that all children can learn to play the violin? Japans
Suzuki did though few could ever play well enough to perform
masterpiece, the Violin Concerto in D major. Neither can all children
master differential equations or read Shakespeare fluently. But thats
point. All children can learn something, most can learn a good deal
(certainly more than most do now) and some can learn to very high
indeed. But if children have differential abilities it is nonetheless
that in the global economy all children must be educated to high
if not differential equations at least algebra and plane geometry.
are institutions that emphasize talent and ability as the keys to
success, not effort. Only in athletics does effort really count, and
talent tells too. But Americans now recognize they we ask too little of
ourselves and know it is time to redress the balance.
Obstacles that keep parents from getting involved in their children's
schools include a lack of transportation, economic problems, cultural
differences, and administrative resistance. Others include feelings of
intimidation, low educational levels, a lack of after-school care, and
evening work shifts. Drawing up lists of obstacles to involvement is
of the first assignments for trainees in the Commonwealth Institute for
Parent Leadership, writes Linda Jacobson. The intensive, three-weekend
program is designed to equip Kentucky parents with detailed knowledge
about the state's school accountability system and give them the
confidence to ask school officials tough questions about student
performance. The institute's curriculum goes well beyond preaching
involvement. A project of the Prichard Committee for Academic
the institute shows parents how to delve into the mounds of data on
own schools and use that information to set priorities among many
that need attention. Since the institute began in 1997, more than 1,100
parents have been trained. What sets this program apart from most
workshops aimed at parents is that each graduate of the institute is
expected to commit to planning and executing a project that addresses
area of weakness in his or her school or district.
GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL CAN BE EXPENSIVE
How much does 12th grade cost? School officials in the Sacramento
say seniors can easily rack up $1,500 and more in expenses between
September and graduation day in the spring. And that's just for
school-related events and merchandise, reports Sandy Louey. It doesn't
count the cost of college applications, which average around $50 each,
visits to university campuses. Students see their senior year as a rite
passage, and many of them -- and their parents -- believe buying a
ring (average cost: $250) or attending the senior ball (average cost:
$689) goes hand in hand with graduation and growing up. It's also
something of a wake-up call for many parents. With college costs
nearly $13,000 a year for public universities and about $27,700 for
private, it's no wonder that Pamela Mari, vice principal at Davis
High School, calls the final year of high school "a preview of coming
attractions." Because senior-year expenses can escalate quickly, many
school officials try to give cost estimates as early as possible so
families can plan ahead. Parent-teacher groups sometimes offer help,
senior class raises funds through T-shirt sales, car washes and other
ventures, and some students take part-time jobs just to pay for all the
EVALUATING COMMUNITY-BASED INITIATIVES
The Fall 2003 issue of "The Evaluation Exchange" periodical is now
available on the Harvard Family Research Project website. The latest
addresses the evolving nature of evaluating community-based
It explores lessons learned during the past decade of community
and their implications. Experienced and insightful authors investigate
critical issues surfacing in the community-building arena, including:
innovative approaches can we take to capture the breadth and complexity
community-based initiatives? How should we address the need for greater
scientific rigor in our evaluations? How can evaluators and funders
on the self-assessment techniques that community-based organizations
already have in place?
2003 PUBLIC EDUCATION NETWORK ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Join community leaders, educators and policy makers from across the
country at the Fairmont Hotel for an exploration of the history, role
practices of intermediary organizations and their relationship to
democracy and public education. Expand your understanding of
intermediaries and their role in American society, and build your
knowledge, skills and capacity to work with and in intermediary
organizations. For more information and to register online for the full
PORTLAND SCHOOLS SEEK ADVICE
Schools today are facing a host of unprecedented mandates for increased
accountability from both federal and state governments, writes Portland
(ME) school superintendent, Mary Jo OConnor. This is the good news --
burdensome as these mandates may seem -- because it forces schools to
assure that every learner meets with success. Our school system must be
responsive to the research on how learning occurs - this new "science
learning." Doing so will help assure that all of our students meet the
standards required by the new federal No Child Left Behind law and
own Learning Results. Portland's public schools are embarking on an
initiative this fall aimed at helping our entire community face the
century challenge of educating a wonderfully diverse student body to
high standards in a time of increasing fiscal constraints and ever
changing technology. This initiative will be our first attempt at
an ongoing system for public engagement. The project, called Schools
Portland's Future, will harness the creativity of people from all parts
the community, including business leaders, senior citizens, parents,
students and other residents.
3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS WEEK TO FOCUS ON FAMILIES!
Family members play significant roles in the education of children and
youth. A growing amount of studies show that when family members talk
their children about schooling, participate with school personnel, and
support their children's efforts those students achieve more, attend
regularly, and are more motivated and engaged as learners. At the same
time, we also know that many urban schools struggle to get parents to
to meetings and events. Schools may be unwelcoming and/or intimidating
many parents, especially those whose primary language is other than
English, are working hard to raise their income level out of poverty,
who may feel shy about developing relationships with teachers. To help
schools and communities plan events and activities for December 1-5,
the National Institute is offering an updated Celebration Kit
publications that outline the benefits of inclusive schools, suggested
readings for children and adults, celebration ideas and lesson plans,
materials to use in promoting the Week. The 2003 Kit also includes
"Fostering Effective Family-School Linkages for Inclusive Schools,"
is filled with classroom and school celebration ideas that honor the
diverse heritages and cultures of the nation's children and suggestions
for improving family-school partnerships.
TALKING ABOUT LEARNING DISABILITIES
Now more than ever, it is imperative that parents work with their
representatives to make sure that the voices of children and adults
learning disabilities (LD) are heard in Washington, D.C. and at the
and local level. To help further these advocacy efforts, National
for Learning Disabilities has developed this LD Advocates Guide. The LD
Advocates Guide seeks to explain how best to engage policymakers and
media on issues affecting the LD community. In addition to this
step-by-step guidance, the Guide also provides a primer on key issues
affecting the fields of learning disabilities and special education.
SHARED FACILITIES: YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS AND SCHOOLS
Declining resources for education and human services has led to the
for more cost-effective ways to support children and families. The
school building boom nationwide offers groups the chance to rethink how
work with and at schools to support the learning and development of the
nation's youth. Supporting the idea of schools as centers for the whole
community, joint-use agreements can make the best use of school
in many neighborhoods. Jane Quinn of the Children's Aid Society
sound argument for such "joint-use" arrangements in this Youth Today
THE HERO'S SCHOOL JOURNEY
"The Hero's Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve
Learning" by John L. Brown and Cerylle A. Moffett can be read online in
its entirety. It begins: "This is a book about hope. It affirms the
of personal and collective responsibility to enact heroic changes in
schools. Through a shared vision, purpose, and inquiry--and using the
collective wisdom of myth, legend, and metaphor from around the world
we can find the inspiration and courage to face the challenges inherent
transforming schools into authentic learning organizations." Each
includes "reflection checkpoints" that can serve as a study guide.
HALLOWEEN CANDY A TRICKY TREAT FOR SCHOOLS
The candy battle is waged every Halloween, when kids want to dig into
their hoard, and parents worried about their children's weight and
want at least to slow them down. Some area nutritionists and school
officials are working to promote alternatives to Halloween candy.
try to teach moderation. But everyone acknowledges that
time makes it more difficult to sell children on healthy lifestyles,
writes Judith Forman. "It's a lot of work," said Linda Davenport, an
outpatient dietician at Caritas Norwood Hospital. "If you get too
restrictive, they tend to hide food or snack secretly." Davenport runs
Shapedown, an adolescent weight management program for children. During
two-month sessions, her young patients and their parents spend two
week exercising, discussing nutrition, and considering behavioral
Davenport also reviews strategies to tackle situations -- ranging from
pizza parties to Halloween -- where there is a temptation to overeat.
"Most of the [Halloween] feeding frenzy is in the first few days and
it will settle down," she said. Davenport encourages parents to be good
role models and to communicate with their children to avoid a
candy-centered power struggle.
"CRAM SCHOOLS" ON THE RISE
For children of Asian descent growing up in and around New York City,
schools are a part of life. Starting in the third grade and continuing
through high school, hundreds of students drag themselves to these
tutoring classes, long a tradition in the Far East, day after day,
school, on weekends and over the summer, reports Michael Luo. The goal?
The schools' signs, dotting storefronts in Flushing, Queens, and other
communities with large populations of Asian immigrants, clearly state
their ambitions: "Ivy Prep," "Harvard Academy," "Best Academy." Now,
growing numbers of non-Asian parents are enrolling their children in
schools, hoping to emulate the educational successes associated with
WE CARE, THEREFORE THEY LEARN
Closing the achievement gap begins with teacher encouragement, says
researcher Ronald Ferguson in this Journal of Staff Development
(September 2003). Ferguson describes findings from a survey of 40,000
middle and high school students which revealed few class or race
differences in how students viewed the importance of their school work.
Through the Minority Student Achievement Network, Ferguson and others
spreading the word that teachers who provide both emotional support and
"instrumental assistance" can help black and Latino students close
academic gaps. (225k PDF file)
GOOD MANNERS MATTER IN OREGON SCHOOL
A manners movement started sweeping across the nation a few years ago,
reports Shirley Dang. The reason is simple, educators say: Good
shows respect, which in turn wards off violence and leaves more time
learning. The benefits of teaching manners extend beyond the classroom.
"Teaching character education in this fashion -- teaching manners,
teaching how to behave -- is essential not only for the children
personally and individually, but it is also good for society," said Tom
Harduar, president of the National Association of Elementary School
Principals. "Quite often, you can avoid violence by treating each other
with some respect," Harduar said. Well-behaved children also seem more
approachable, making them more likely to get help from parent
Politeness keeps classes running smoothly, critical in crammed
"The teacher will spend more time on academic issues, rather than
behavioral ones," he said. Ten or 20 years ago, people expected parents
teach proper behavior, and many parents balked at schools infringing on
what was considered a family's duty, said June Million, spokesperson
GROUPING GIFTED STUDENTS
Can gifted students receive effective instruction in the regular
classroom? Lisa Benson, a classroom teacher, observes that in her
experience, gifted students quickly become frustrated in mixed-ability
classes, especially those gifted students who exhibit a high degree of
creativity. Further, she believes that the typical large classroom
the necessary resources to serve all students well. Do most researchers
agree with this practitioner's assessment? John Holloways reviews
research on ability grouping in classrooms and concludes that schools
many options for meeting the needs of gifted students in both
and mixed-ability grouping arrangements. Despite challenges presented
various configurations, each school must decide on the best
for its high-ability students on the basis of its own student
organizational structure, staff expertise, and school culture.
|---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
"Student TECH CORPS Program"
TECH CORPS, a national non-profit that brings valuable technology
resources and volunteers into schools, is pleased to announce an
opportunity for middle schools across the country to apply for a grant
receive a fully-funded Student TECH CORPS program. Student TECH CORPS
delivers core technology training and certification to middle school
students, then harnesses their knowledge to power a Student-Run Help
to provide valuable technical support to their school. Through a
competitive grant made possible through a collaboration between Dell
TECH CORPS, two middle schools will be selected to receive: Basic
technology training, testing and certification for their students, and
training, software and procedures needed for implementing a Student-Run
Help Desk in their school. All applications must be received by 5:00pm
(EST), December 15, 2003. Winners will be announced on January 9th,
Note: Judging will be at the sole discretion on TECH CORPS and will
be influenced by the Sponsor.
"Dollar General Community Grants"
Dollar Generals community grants program provides support for
organizations committed to the advancement of literacy, drop out
prevention and character education. Dollar General believes these three
focus areas work together to address some of the greatest challenges
needs of students within their 27 state market area. Application
December 5, 2003.
The Libri Foundation is a nationwide non-profit organization that
new, quality, hardcover children's books to small, rural public
in the United States through its Books for Children program. For many
children in rural areas, the local public library is often their
source of reading material. Many rural schools either have no library
the library is inadequate to meet the needs of the students. At a time
when more and more children and their parents and teachers are using
public library, these same libraries are facing increasing financial
hardships and are unable to buy the books their young readers need.
the Foundation provides up to $1,050 for childrens books based on a
two-to-one match requirement from the local community. Application
deadline: November 15, 2003.
The Grantionary is a list of grant-related terms and their definitions.
GrantsAlert is a website that helps nonprofits, especially those
in education, secure the funds they need to continue their important
"Grant Writing Tips"
SchoolGrants has compiled an excellent set of grant writing tips for
that need help in developing grant proposals.
FastWEB is the largest online scholarship search available, with
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
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
find. The result of that work is the FREE website.
"Fundsnet Online Services"
A comprehensive website dedicated to providing nonprofit organizations,
colleges, and Universities with information on financial resources
available on the Internet.
"eSchool News School Funding Center"
Information on up-to-the-minute grant programs, funding sources, and
"Philanthropy News Digest"
Philanthropy News Digest, a weekly news service of the Foundation
is a compendium, in digest form, of philanthropy-related articles and
features culled from print and electronic media outlets nationwide.
A collection of resources and tips to help K-12 educators apply for and
obtain special grants for a variety of projects.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Since becoming law in January 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has
the debate about public education primarily about student performance
standardized tests and has forced state governments to struggle with
lack of monetary support and investments needed to support the new
law. But, the narrow focus on academic achievement has left unanswered
bigger questions: What is the role of a school in the community? How do
define an excellent school? Are there measures in place, other than
scores, that gauge how students are performing? Are children coming to
school ready to learn? Are children safe in their homes, communities
schools? Are children getting an adequate level of nourishment, so they
can learn in the classroom? Do children and their families have access
quality health care and social services? Unless these most basic needs
met, it is hard to expect increased test scores and a high return on
educational dollar. Community members can and should insist that the
needs of children in their community are being met."
-Wendy D. Puriefoy, president, Public Education Network
The PEN Weekly NewsBlast is a free e-mail newsletter featuring school
reform and school fundraising resources. The PEN NewsBlast is the
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