PEN Weekly NewsBlast for December 19, 2003
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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
                                    "Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
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                                    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."
                                    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
                                    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.
                                    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, 
                                    even a
                                    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 
                                    arbitrary, process.
                                    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.' "
                                    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.
                                    RECYCLING BOUNTY
                                    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
                                    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
                                    "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)
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