Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
"Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
(NOTE TO READERS: The NewsBlast will be settling in for a brief
nap. The next NewsBlast will be published Friday, January 9, 2004.
you for your ongoing support. We seek a peaceful world and wish you and
your loved ones a healthy and joyful 2004.)
STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT A WORLD OF CELEBRATIONS
For the past 11 years, second-grade students in Lynne Hendrickson's
have been celebrating the holiday season for most of the month of
December. Ms. Hendrickson's "Holidays Around the World" lessons give
students an insight into how different countries and cultures celebrate
this time of year, reports Mary Ellen Zangara. Beginning in early
December, Ms. Hendrickson starts her curriculum with the closest
celebration to the exact dates. "We try to expose the children to
different cultures," she said. "A lot of them (the celebrations) are
European countries, so we try to do North America, South America and
Africa. We do Kwanzaa, Hanukah and a lot of them are Christmas type of
holidays. As each of the holidays are celebrated in the classroom, Ms.
Hendrickson's lesson plan may include learning about the traditions of
that country, from the foods served to the attire for the day. "We
by doing map skills by looking for the country trying to determine what
direction we would have to fly if we were going there from New Jersey,"
she said. "We usually have some type of food or make a craft and I read
stories. They go home and practice the language. The kids love it and
is a nice exposure for them."
SCHOOLHOUSES, STATEHOUSES REEL FROM FEDERAL REFORM MANDATES
States long have endured the federal governments loud laments about
sorry state of the countrys public schools, but, with the No Child
Behind Act, Washington now has a bigger role -- and a bigger stick --
ever. The sweeping federal law left cash-strapped states battered and
confused in 2003. More nationwide provisions will take effect in 2004,
along with the threat of losing millions of dollars for states that
pass muster. Education reforms and money problems are not new for the
nations schools, but they converged with a vengeance in 2003. The
could not have been worse, said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a
Washington, D.C., nonprofit that helps states raise academic standards.
The demands "came at a time when the federal budget deficit is
skyrocketing and state budgets are in terrible shape," Cohen said.
Thirteen states cut K-12 funding for fiscal 2003-2004, according to
National Conference of State Legislatures. "This is the most important
national education law in 25 years," said Jack Jennings, director of
Center on Education Policy. "Its just starting to have an effect," as
suburban parents discover their schools aren't measuring up, teachers
worry about meeting new qualification standards and politicians wonder
to pay for it and what the political fallout may be, Jennings added.
REPORT EXAMINES MOTIVATION AMONG STUDENTS
A report unveiled by the National Research Council last week paints a
picture of high schools unlikely to surprise teachers and students, but
argues that those schools can learn from an array of promising changes
taking root across the nation. Drawing on years of research in
education, and sociology, "Engaging Schools: Fostering High School
Students' Motivation to Learn" shows that by the time many students
high school, they often lack any sense of purpose or real connection
what they are doing in the classroom, reports John Gehring. Although
best high schools are filled with well-qualified and caring teachers in
setting where all students are valued, the book-length report says, for
too many teenagers, high school has become an impersonal place where
expectations are common. Teachers, administrators, policymakers, and
wider community are encouraged to think more creatively about how
settings and instruction can be tailored to address that sense of
alienation. The problem, the analysis says, is even more acute in large
urban schools, where many students come from low-income families. "When
students from advantaged backgrounds become disengaged, they may learn
less than they could, but they usually get by or they get second
most eventually graduate and move on to other opportunities," the
executive summary says. "In contrast, when students from disadvantaged
backgrounds in high-poverty, urban high schools become disengaged, they
are less likely to graduate and consequently face severely limited
TELL PRESIDENT BUSH THAT OUR CHILDRENS EDUCATION IS A PRIORITY
Our children are suffering because our government has put efforts like
cuts for the wealthy ahead of their futures. Right now, President Bush
deciding how much money to spend on public education in 2005. We have
tell him that our children's education is just as important as cutting
taxes. The President says he will "leave no child behind," but for the
past two years, he's requested far too little money to actually give
child a decent education. If the President really cares about
children, he needs to back up his promises with the money to make them
reality! For the past seven years, U.S. Presidents have requested an
average budget increase of 13% each year to pay for education programs,
but President Bush has requested less than half that much for the past
years now! And he's done this while claiming that education is one of
top priorities. Click below to send a free e-mail urging the President
keep his promise to our nation's children.
STUDENT WELL-BEING: ESSENTIAL TO ACADEMIC SUCCESS
Research conducted by WestEd, a nonprofit research, development, and
service agency, shows a strong connection between high school students'
academic achievement and their overall health and well-being. The
detailed in two reports available at the link below, demonstrates "a
significant relationship between secondary school standardized
scores and a variety of nonacademic factors." These factors include
substance use, exposure to violence, exercise, nutrition, school
and safety. "Our longitudinal research reveals that schools with higher
percentages of students who are less engaged in risky behaviors, more
likely to eat nutritiously and exercise, and report caring
and high expectations at school made greater progress in raising test
scores," write Thomas Hanson and Greg Austin of WestEd's Health and
Development Program. "This indicates that youth development and
are complementary processes that must be addressed in concert to
student and school success." WestEds research has important
for policymakers and educators: The data suggest that policies and
practices that address the health and developmental needs of youth are
critical components of any comprehensive strategy for improving
performance. "With the academic accountability requirements in NCLB,
improving test scores has become imperative for many schools. WestEd's
report on the relationship between academic performance and learning
support underscores the importance of risk and youth development
to academic achievement," said Wade S. Brynelson, Assistant
Learning Support and Partnerships Division, CDE. "Schools seeking to
improve the academic performance of their students cannot ignore the
that health, school safety, caring relationships in the school, low
of alcohol and drug use, nutrition, and exercise play in their overall
PARENTS, SCHOOLS BEAR THE HIGH COSTS OF AUTISM
A typical third-grader would understand that someone with a worried
expression is anxious, even if he does not know the word. Not Jackson
Merwin, who was diagnosed as autistic when he was 4. Jackson's tutoring
sessions teach him communication and behavioral skills that are
to non-autistic children -- sessions that put him and thousands of
autistic children at the center of a growing dilemma for California.
Experts say these intensive treatments are the only technique proven
effective in giving autistic children the skills they need to live
independent lives. Yet with the state's autistic population doubling in
the past four years, the success of these life lessons and their high
costs -- as much as $60,000 a year per child -- threaten to overwhelm
school districts already struggling to balance their budgets, reports
Michael Kolber. In 1975 Congress promised to pay 40 percent of special
education costs, but over the years typically has funded less than half
that. That sticks the bulk of the costs to the state and the schools,
which are required by law to offer an "appropriate" education to all
students. Because the special education population can grow rapidly,
budgets can unexpectedly balloon. And districts seeking to hold down
frequently duel with parents about how much individualized care is
appropriate. Federal law gives parents significant rights in approving
individual education programs. "Under federal law, money's not the
said Shelton Yip, special education administrator for the Sacramento
Unified School District. "To meet the needs of students, that's our
charge." If the federal government isn't concerned with how to pay for
growing autistic population, the districts need to be.
PRIZE PATROL DELIVERS GRANTS TO TEACHERS
Christmas came early for 32 Wake County public school teachers as a
surprise Prize Patrol this week awarded $56,500 in grants. The Food for
Thought teacher grants program, a project of Wake Education Partnership
for 21 years, is designed to promote effective teaching to affect
achievement. All teachers and support personnel employed by the Wake
County Public School System are eligible. Collaboration and
development are essential to every proposed project, and each proposal
must align with the school improvement plan at the applicant's site.
Fourteen elementary and 10 secondary schools from around Wake County
represented among the winners, including one of Wakes alternative
RELIGIOUS CLOTHING GENERALLY ALLOWED IN U.S. SCHOOLS
French President Jacques Chirac's call to ban religious symbols and
clothing in state schools and hospitals has met with controversy in
and around the globe. What's the policy in the United States? American
students generally have the right to wear religious garb such as a
skullcap, a Muslim scarf or a cross in public school, although
restrictions can be made if the school has a dress code that is not
directed at a particular faith. For example, a school trying to limit
activity may set a dress code that incidentally bars religious clothing
like headwear, according to Jeffrey Sinensky, general counsel for the
American Jewish Committee. If a school has such a dress code,
administrators still have the power to make exceptions if a student
to wear a religious item. School officials usually accommodate
though occasionally disputes arise that make their way into court, said
Sinensky and Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic
a civil rights group. Hooper said there have been sporadic cases in
school districts have attempted to ban headscarves or persuade Muslim
girls not to wear them, usually from a mistaken belief that they
the school environment. But the conflicts have usually been quickly
resolved, he said. Rules regarding what teachers can wear are
Several states bar public school teachers from wearing religious
in an attempt to have a religiously neutral classroom.
FREQUENT TESTING HELPS CLOSE ACHIEVEMENT GAP
One of the second-graders at San Francisco's Treasure Island Elementary
School spent much of last year in the principal's office as punishment
fighting and throwing things in his classroom. The boy couldn't read,
his teacher had no idea why. This year, the boy took a test that
his specific problem: He did not know the sounds corresponding to each
letter. That meant he was not ready to learn which letters made up each
word. At last his teacher knew how to help him, reports Nanette Asimov.
"He's reading now," said Principal Greg John. "It's incredible. He
turned into an angel, but he's not in my office every day now, either."
John and the teachers at Treasure Island have become converts to the
increasingly popular practice of using frequent tests to diagnose
children's academic needs -- a practice they believe can help
low-achieving students soar in school. A new study of 32 Bay Area
suggests they are right. Researchers from the Bay Area School Reform
Collaborative looked at achievement levels in two groups of 16 schools
(kindergarten through eighth grade) with similar ethnic and low-income
populations. In one group, black and Latino students were doing as well
better than their white and Asian American classmates. The researchers
found that schools where black and Latino students' test scores were
rising did many things differently from the lower-achieving schools.
notably, teachers diagnosed students' needs a few times each week then
changed how they worked with the kids based on what the data revealed.
GRADING STANDARDS THAT ALL STUDENTS CAN UNDERSTAND
For years, Sanford Pinsker has been telling students in his literature
classes that an A demonstrates excellence; a B "suggests" excellence; a
demonstrates competence; a D "suggests" incompetence; and that an F
demonstrates incompetence. To use another metaphor, an A+ is a
that got the crowd to its feet. An A is a touchdown that generates loud
cheers but not necessarily a standing ovation. B grades are akin to
goals. The student got close but at the end had to settle for a good
and three points. C students are the sort who can get a first down,
couple of first downs, but in the end, they punt the ball. D work might
likened to a team that cannot protect its quarterback and that thus
suffers the big-time loss of yardage known as "sacks." F work is
It can come as an interception or a fumble but, either way, you've
up the ball. Despite the desire for clarity and transparency in
Pinsker admits that often grading can be a subjective, indeed an
LEAD-TAINTED FAUCETS FORCE DISTRICT TO USE BOTTLED WATER
Seattle Public Schools will provide bottled water to about 70 schools
after the winter break and test drinking water in all locations
an analysis initiated by a parent that showed high levels of lead and
cadmium in drinking fountains. The school board directed Superintendent
Raj Manhas to undertake the testing and report back to the board by
February with a plan on how to proceed with and fund any necessary
repairs, reports Deborah Bach. "This is a critical health problem that
have to act upon," said School Board member Dick Lilly. "We have to
protect the health of kids." John Vacchiery, the district's director of
facilities planning and enrollment, said the water testing would likely
cost between $48,000 and $64,000. Providing drinking water to just 40
schools for a year, he said, would cost about $700,000. Vacchiery
estimated it would cost roughly $10 million to replace galvanized iron
pipes, a major source of lead contamination, in the 38 district schools
built between 1900 and the 1960s. There are about 100 schools in the
district. The issue arises at a crucial time for the district, which
put two major levies before voters in February. The board would have
to decide right away if it wanted to increase one of the levies to
any water system repairs, but instead delayed a decision on how to pay
any remedial work.
ATTENDING CLASS JUST FOR LAUGHS
Derek West and his friends might not be ready for "Saturday Night Live"
yet, but the budding student comedians filled a nightclub recently,
billing themselves as "The Kids of Comedy." The event was planned by
students at the Grover Cleveland Middle School -- the so-called "world
food" prepared by students and the entertainment provided by students.
food consisted of fried rice, chips and salsa, and quesadillas. The
was sponsored by Citizen Schools, a nonprofit that places volunteer
professionals in city schools for after-school classes. One of the
was taught by Corey Manning and Chris Tabb, two very funny guys who are
regulars on the Boston comedy circuit. For 10 weeks, the duo worked
10 students, teaching them the basics of being funny: finding material,
writing jokes, timing, and delivery, reports Bella English. As for the
teachers, they were proud of their charges. "This is far beyond what I
expected," said Chris Tabb. "Stand-up is so much more than just telling
jokes. It's about using your words and mind as opposed to using your
or weapons." Added Corey Manning: "A lot of these kids are the class
clowns. We tell them, `Instead of acting out in class, write it down,
save it for the stage.' "
UNDERSTANDING EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS OF "MODEL MINORITIES"
What are some of the factors that have led to the view that Asian
Americans constitute a model minority? Is there a degree of truth
this view? What does this conception mean for Chinese Americans in
particular? According to Vivian Louie, clearly, there are some Asian
Americans doing well. What is obscured, however, is that there are a
number of Asian Americans not doing so well on typical indicators:
poverty, occupation, educational attainment. This is especially the
for southeast Asians, who have arrived as refugees, and this is true
among those groups commonly thought of as uniformly doing well. Any
comparison of Asian Americans to other minority groups yields a much
complex picture than the one offered in the model minority image. In
article, Louie explains historical events that have influenced public
perceptions of the educational attainment of Asian Americans and the
implications of those beliefs on immigrant communities.
UNLOCKING MATH FOR MINORITIES
"Beset by cultural prejudices, poor resources, and frequent
misconceptions, many minority students -- Hispanic, African American,
Native American alike -- 'tune out' of math classes at an early age
because higher education is not considered a necessity or even an
writes John Franklin in "Unlocking Mathematics for Minority Students"
(Curriculum Update, Fall 2003). "Getting them to 'tune back in,
say, often requires changing the way parents view education, the way
teachers view their students, and-above all-the way students view
themselves." Educator misperceptions are a common problem when it comes
minority students and mathematics. Low expectations by faculty
to the reasons that "a disproportionate number of minority students are
not prepared for college-level math.
In innovative efforts across the country, young people are practicing
and different ways of living green. At Temple Isaiah in the San
Bay area, for instance, seventh graders recycle an unusual commodity --
cold, hard cash -- and in the process turning the gift-giving
with bar and bat mitzvahs on its head. Read more about this and other
unusual recycling efforts.
|---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
"Harold Howe II Youth Policy Fellowship"
The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) of Washington, D.C. announces
2004 competition for our annual Fellowship award to a promising young
scholar or practitioner. The Fellow will carry out a self-designed
on significant issues in youth policy, practice, research or program
evaluation, focusing particularly on disadvantaged youth. The
is supported under a grant from the Ford Foundation and will be
for work commencing in the summer or fall of 2004. Proposal deadline:
January 9, 2004.
"New RFP for Youth-Led Research"
The Center on Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
(CIRCLE) is pleased to announce a new grant competition for research on
civic engagement that is conducted by youth. Research teams that
youth and adults working together, or research teams of youth and adult
mentors are welcome to apply. Mandatory letters of inquiry are due no
later than February 18, 2004.
"AT&T Wireless for Schools"
The National PTA and AT&T Wireless have teamed up to bring PTA members
of the most convenient fundraising programs ever: AT&T Wireless for
When you sign up for new AT&T Wireless service through a qualified
plan, a $50 donation will go directly to your local PTA.
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
"Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make,
you do, something you are, something you give away."
-Robert Fulghum (author/minister)
The PEN Weekly NewsBlast is a free e-mail newsletter featuring school
reform and school fundraising resources. The PEN NewsBlast is the
of the Public Education Network, a national association of 86 local
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