PEN November 14, 2003
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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 
                                    you did.
                                    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 
                                    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
                                    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.
                                    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.
                                    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 
                                    States, a
                                    $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
                                    technology funding.
                                    "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.
                                    "School Grants"
                                    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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