Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
WHAT THE HEAD START DEBATE MEANS FOR YOUR SCHOOLS
How much kids should be able to learn at 4 years old is at the heart of
the reauthorization debate for Head Start, the federal program that
about 1 million of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable children
prepare for school. The Bush administration's proposal to emphasize
literacy and academic skills in Head Start has raised new questions and
renewed old battles about how young children learn -- and when they
be required to show it on a test. Is this academic jumpstart good for
kids, asks Kathleen Vail? Should 3- and 4-year-olds be held accountable
for their literacy skills? Or is the push for early achievement another
signal that social and emotional development is taking a backseat to
testing? Child advocates and early education professionals offer
conflicting opinions. And caught in the middle of the debate are school
districts whose preschool programs are performing the eternal juggling
between academics and the development of the whole child.
VERY SPECIAL EDUCATION: REVERSE MAINSTREAMING
When parents go searching for a quality preschool, they are advised by
experts to seek a low ratio of children to teachers, a stable and
reasonably well-paid staff that doesn't keep quitting, individualized
teaching and small-group activities. They're also told that the
must help children develop socially and emotionally as well as
intellectually. Most important is a qualified teacher who can do it all
help 4-year-olds become readers, attentive learners and junior
-- and that generally means a teacher who has at least a four-year
In America's patchwork of private, public and community preschools and
care centers, such teachers are the exception rather than the rule. But
all those qualities can currently be found in an unexpected place:
preschool classrooms like Brick Community Primary Learning Center.
is one of the rare school districts in the United States to adopt the
practice of "reverse mainstreaming," which allows districts to meet
federal directives to provide disabled 3- and 4-year-olds with
in the least restrictive possible setting. In each class of 18, 6
are classified as disabled, most with speech delays or other speech
problems. In Brick, in many parts of Connecticut and in more rural
like Kansas, children of typical abilities are placed in these classes
serve as language and behavioral models. In reverse mainstreaming
teachers point out that walkers have an opportunity to develop the
agility that is critical to later school success. "When the typical
children are trying to engage with some of the children with
they're thinking, 'How am I going to play with him, what would he
says Maria Synodi, coordinator of preschool special education for
Connecticut. In this fascinating article, Susan Brenna examines what
these programs so popular among parents whose children have no
POETRY THAT SUSTAINS THE COURAGE TO TEACH
Good teachers come to teaching to answer a summons or to fulfill a
of personal, occupational or spiritual calling. Teachers are drawn to
teaching by a passion for students and learning, and by a belief that
connecting students to potent ideas will yield great things. Teachers
drawn by a sense that they can make a difference in a childs life, in
world, and that engaging in meaningful work will be cause for great
personal fulfillment. A new book from the Center for Teacher Formation,
with an introduction from Parker Palmer and Tom Vander Ark, asked
to write introductions to poems that inspired them and spoke to both
minds and souls. Twenty-two pages of moving teacher comments and
full-length versions of their favorite poems are available for free
download. Print them out and read them in small portions. You will be
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: MYTHS & REALITIES
The No Child Left Behind Act, in its second year, is the most ambitious
federal effort to raise achievement in public schools in 38 years. It
also one of the most complicated education laws passed by Congress,
leading to a host of myths and misinterpretations. Jay Mathews outlines
statements about the law that experts say are heard often but are not
firmly anchored in reality.
LOTTERY IS NOT HELPING EDUCATION AS IT PROCLAIMS
The fact that lottery money is building schools at all is not something
brag about. It is something to be ashamed of, writes Howard Troxler.
lottery was promised to the people of Florida as a way to "enhance"
education. Every dollar, we were told in the 1986 campaign, was
to be an extra bonus, gravy for the kids of Florida, on top of what we
were already spending. Instead, here is the truth: Education is worse
in Florida since the lottery began. Education got almost 61 percent of
Florida's general revenue in 1986-87, the year the voters approved the
lottery. Today, it is getting only 53 percent. The lottery provided the
Legislature an excuse to take away from education. While lottery
came in the front door, the Legislature took away dollars out the back
door. Besides the loss of budget share, the Florida Lottery has a
secondary bad effect - it has added to voter reluctance to support
ways of increasing school funding. There is a widespread voter
misperception that the lottery has somehow "solved" education in
Just the opposite. Lottery dollars represent only a small fraction of
Florida's total school budget. But you wouldn't know it from the
own advertising, which relentlessly talks about how much ticket sales
"help education." The lottery's Web site says its mission is "to inform
the public about the significance of lottery funding to the state's
overall system of public education." If that were really true, then
is what the lottery's advertising would say: "Listen up, Florida! We're
glad you're buying lottery tickets. But no matter what you think,
revenues are still only a drop in the bucket of what Florida's schools
BEYOND THE ROCK AND THE HARD PLACE
Educators must stop lamenting the challenges of accountability and
making improvements, writes Craig Jerald of The Education Trust. As the
accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind begin to take full
effect this fall, many teachers and administrators feel caught between
rock and a hard place. The rock in this hostile terrain is the
hit-or-miss system of education that we have relied on until now. Most
often, decisions about what to teach in each grade are left up to
many of which pass the choice on to individual classroom teachers. The
result is an uneven hodgepodge of instructional aims and subject
with content and expectations varying sharply from classroom to
and from school to school. Real accountability for results demands a
systematic approach to instruction. Good teaching will always depend on
individual classroom teachers, but responsibility for it cannot be left
to individual classroom teachers. Schools and districts need to do
share. To overcome the problem of scattershot content and unequal
expectations, teachers need a common, coherent, and specific curriculum
telling them what students should have learned at the end of each grade
level and at key checkpoints along the way. Simply asking teachers to
"align your instruction with state standards" is not enough. Few
have been trained to develop curriculum, and fewer still are alignment
specialists. Although it is conceivable that schools could take on this
responsibility, the more practical and fail-safe approach places it in
hands of the district. In this article, Jerald explores several
for helping to increase a culture of accountability and problem
THE SEVEN DISCIPLINES FOR STRENGTHENING INSTRUCTION
Politicians and media pundits tell us that America's schools are
and need "reforming." The implication is that educators once knew how
educate all students to higher standards and have just gotten lazy or
forgetful. But after 20 years of reform efforts that have yielded few
improvements, it is becoming clear that the overwhelming majority of
school and district leaders do not know how to help teachers better
prepare all students for the higher learning standards now required for
future learning, work, and citizenship in a "knowledge society." And so
the real challenge in schools today is not just to get more students to
pass more tests, but to create new knowledge about how to improve the
level of instruction for all students. According to Tony Wagner, more
testing, alone, will not improve teaching. We must understand clearly
of the elements of a more systemic approach to strengthening teaching
every classroom. In this Education Week commentary, Wagner outlines a
brief blueprint for reform.
EQUITY OR EXCLUSION
Policymakers and schools administrators have several basic choices in
to approach meeting the goals of improved school environment and better
student performance. This largely comes down to the choice between the
carrot and the stick - policies that revolve around punishment versus
investment in the types of educational offerings that tend to captivate
students. Simply put, they can spend scarce education dollars on metal
detectors or on books; on new suspension centers or on science labs; on
burgeoning number of seemingly inappropriate special education
or on extracurricular offerings. A new study from the National Center
Communities and Schools at Fordham University asked: What is the
relationship between school resources and student behavior? Are
that consistently relate to student behavior distributed equitably
race and poverty lines? The study found four broad findings about New
York Citys public schools: (1) Some education resources are associated
with positive behavior regardless of variation in race and poverty
schools; (2) The Department of Education distributes these resources
inequitably in terms of the racial makeup and poverty concentration of
school enrollments; (3)System wide, student behavior and administrative
actions against students vary greatly along race and poverty lines. The
study includes several recommendations for remedies to address
in resource distribution that occur along race and poverty lines
NATIONAL REPORT CARD: MATH SCORES UP, READING HOLDS STEADY
From understanding algebra to analyzing data, the nation's
and eighth-graders are getting better at math, new test scores show.
Still, more than two out of three students still don't know as much as
they should about math, according to government standards. In reading,
meanwhile, the performance of students in grades four and eight largely
held steady over the past year, following a trend in which math gains
been more pervasive. Just as with math, more than two-thirds of
tested in reading did not achieve at the level test organizers say is
goal -- "proficient," which means having a demonstrated ability to
understand challenging subject matter and apply it to real-world
situations. The 2003 scores, based on representative samples of
come from the test considered to be the nation's report card: the
Assessment of Educational Progress. A marker of progress over time, it
shows math scores are clearly moving in the right direction.
HAZING IN SCHOOLS GROWS YOUNGER & MORE VIOLENT
Poking fun at underclassmen has long been a high-school staple, but a
recent rash of hazing incidents suggests the induction process may have
gone from teasing to torment. Whether it's a case of teenage girls
feces dumped on them or allegations that football players sodomized
teammates at training camp, the foray into extracurricular activities
become alarmingly dangerous. According to Amy C. Sims, the reactions of
parents and school staffers vary as widely as the acts themselves. One
reason for the apparent abundance of hazing is that few parents take
stands against it until incidents turn violent, said Rita Saucier, an
anti-hazing activist. Reluctance to provide information is reflected in
the lack of statistics on hazing practices. The last major study on
was conducted in 2000 by Alfred University, which found more than 1.5
million U.S. high school students -- or 48 percent of students who were
members of school groups -- were subjected to hazing each year. Nearly
who were hazed were subjected to humiliation, the study found.
AGGRESSION AT SCHOOL: THE EFFECT OF SCHOOL-RELATED ALCOHOL USE
School-related alcohol use is a large but understudied problem in
schools. An investigation by Kristin V. Finn and Michael R. Frone
factors related to aggression at school, particularly the role of
use. School aggression was higher among students who were male,
rebellious, had a weak sense of school identification, low academic
achievement, and engaged in alcohol use during the school day. General
alcohol use was not related to school aggression beyond the effect of
school-related alcohol use. Schools that encourage school involvement
alcohol resistance may help prevent problems of student aggression.
PLACE-BASED TEACHING IN A TIME OF NCLB
No Child Left Behind doesn't answer the essential question teachers
to ask. Why, asks Michael L. Umphrey, in a nation of unprecedented
material abundance, are growing numbers of children suffering from
depression, addiction, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other spiritual
behavioral problems? And are there things we in the schools can do
it? Umphreys solution is to create education-centered communities.
we turn to young people and tell them that we need them, we offer them
what they really do need: not a ticket to compete in the rat race of
individual success, but an invitation to be a member of a good
a chance to do meaningful work, a place to be someone who matters. When
teachers think of their work as place making, we begin to see all sorts
ways that people and organizations can be invited into better
When the adults in a community are working together, teenagers seldom
lost. They make the transition to adulthood smoothly. The fact that we
face large problems leads to the easy but mistaken conclusion that we
therefore need large solutions. Our troubles may be widespread, but
are mostly caused by small acts by individuals, and they will be fixed
same way. In this article, Umphrey writes, "I don't want to oppose the
act. I want to ignore it by transcending it, by doing far more than it
would dare require. A good school with an exciting pedagogy that
students with the joy of discovery and creation has little to fear from
Child Left Behind. We are facing larger problems than one federal
He also outlines five activities for creating place-based learning
PURPOSE DRIVEN SCHOOLS
Purpose is paramount to the existence of organizations, institutions,
people. This quintessential subject is artfully addressed by Rick
book, The Purpose Driven Life. Warren notes that all people are driven
something, regardless of whether they are cognizant of it or not. He
argues that drive (understood as ones guiding, controlling, directing
force) is inextricably linked to ones purpose. Purpose-driven
is the unwavering notion that without purpose a school would not exist,
least effectively. Rick DuFour, author of "Professional Learning
Communities at Work," views a schools purpose as one of four pillars
which success is built. A school must establish why it exists (purpose)
before it can define what it believes, how it behaves, and what it does
first. If a school does not clearly articulate a meaningful purpose, it
cannot be sure what it is providing in terms of an educational
or if it is cultivating young minds prepared to grapple with the
complexities and dilemmas of living in the twenty-first century.
to Brooke ODrobinak, in the new issue of HeadFirst, writes that too
schools resemble large systems that are little more that a
of disconnected programs and activities that don't link to a central,
guiding purpose. And despite the recent craze for vision statements and
school improvement plans, many schools are driven by unconscious
that ultimately are harmful to students.
NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
In this Education World article, seventh grade history teacher Max
describes his year of living dangerously -- the year he sought National
Board Certification. "From the time I received 'The Box' in early
September to the wake-up call that I needed major help in December to
mind-numbing examination in May, earning my National Board
was the most challenging teaching exercise that I have ever undertaken.
Simultaneously, it was the most rewarding." Share this encouraging
with colleagues who are considering "living dangerously!"
SPOTLIGHT ON SMALL SCHOOLS
A new education website, funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates
is now online. The spotlight for the site's debut is on small schools.
Future topics include Race and Education, Standardized Testing, and
Literature for Young Readers. Features include excerpts from books,
currently, an interview with Thomas Toch author of "High Schools on a
Human Scale: How Small Schools Can Transform American Education." The
also contains links to model small schools and other resources.
THE COLLEGE TRACK
A new national, media-driven initiative to help break down barriers to
college for underserved youth, especially low-income students who would
the first in their family to go to college has been launched by
Media. More information can be found at:
|---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
"NEA Foundation Innovation Grants"
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) funds
of grants each year -- up to $5,000 per project -- to public educators.
All practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades K-12, education
support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff at public
colleges and universities are encouraged to apply. Innovation Grants
break-the-mold innovations that significantly improve achievement for
underserved learners. Application deadline: February 1, 2004.
"Breakthrough High Schools: Call For Nominations"
Breakthrough High Schools is a unique project by the National
of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) featuring schools with high
minority and high poverty populations. These schools have demonstrated
significant student achievement, as well as high graduation and college
admission rates. NASSP seeks additional nominations for successful
high-poverty schools that meet the Project's 50-50-90-90 criteria: The
student population consists of at least 50% minority students and 50%
qualify for free and reduced-price meals; at least 90% of the students
both graduate and are accepted into college.
"Scholastic's Kids Are Authors Contest"
Kids Are Authors is an annual competition sponsored by Scholastic, Inc.
and open to students in grades K-8. Students use their reading,
and artistic skills to create their own books. Under the guidance of a
project coordinator, children work in teams of three or more students
write and illustrate their own book. Scholastic Book Fairs will publish
the winning books and distribute them at Book Fairs throughout the
country. Entry deadline: March 15, 2004.
"Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching"
Do you know a great K-6 math or science teacher? Nominate him or her to
receive Presidential Recognition. The National Science Foundation is
looking for outstanding K-6 math or science teachers for the 2004
Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The awards are sponsored by the White House and administered by the
National Science Foundation. Every year up to 108 National Awardees
receive a special citation signed by the President of the United
$10,000 award, and a paid trip for two to Washington, DC to attend a
weeklong series of recognition events. Anyone can nominate a K-6
Teachers should submit completed application materials by May 3, 2004.
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
"The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the
the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely
pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what
on in school buildings and nowhere else."
-John W. Gardner (civil servant/nonprofit leader)
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