PEN Weekly NewsBlast for March 26, 2004
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Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast
                                    "Public Involvement. Public Education. Public Benefit."
                                    One day in May 1954 things changed, and did not change. For millions of
                                    black Americans, news of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in
                                    Brown v. Board of Education meant -- at last -- that they and their
                                    children no longer had to attend separate, and almost universally 
                                    schools. It was, as journalist Juan Williams says in an article in 
                                    edition of American School Board Journal, the ruling that changed 
                                    The rumble of change was felt keenly in local school districts, where
                                    school boards faced up to (or shied away from) the moral imperative of
                                    desegregation, writes Sally Banks Zakariya. Numerous articles in this
                                    volume reflect on what has been accomplished and what remains undone in
                                    the quest for true and lasting educational opportunity for all.
                                    BLACK AND WHITE DISPARITIES ABOUND
                                    Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to own homes, 
                                    earn as much as whites, don't live as long, and don't do as well in
                                    school, according to a report by the National Urban League, reports 
                                    Ferguson. The most conspicuous differences it found were in the areas 
                                    home ownership and economic parity, with black earning power about 73
                                    percent that of whites. The Urban League report found that blacks are
                                    denied mortgages and home improvement loans at twice the rate of 
                                    The report also found that, 50 years after the Supreme Court, in Brown 
                                    Board of Education, decreed segregated public schools unconstitutional,
                                    the performance of black students continues to trail that of their 
                                    counterparts. The 2000 census found that 91.8 percent of white students
                                    graduated from high school, compared with 83.7 percent of black 
                                    "The as-yet unfinished process of implementing Brown has turned out to 
                                    nearly as slow as the process of tearing down the Jim Crow system that
                                    allowed the educational segregation challenged in Brown," Harvard Law
                                    School professor Charles Ogletree Jr. said in one of the report's 
                                    The report also found that teachers with less than three years of
                                    experience are twice as likely to work in predominantly minority 
                                    as they are in predominantly white schools.
                                    GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE NATIONS TEACHERS
                                    Public school teachers just aren't as smart as they used to be. After 
                                    women have more job opportunities. Bright women who once would have 
                                    school today become doctors and lawyers. The gain for individual women 
                                    a loss for education. Or so many people believe. The story is 
                                    but is it true? Virginia Postrel reports on new studies examining 
                                    models that analyze factors predicting teacher quality. She concludes 
                                    when it comes to hiring teachers, we get what we pay for: average 
                                    at average wages.
                                    TEACHERS COME UP SHORT IN TESTING
                                    In Philadelphia, students aren't the only ones struggling to pass 
                                    reports Susan Snyder and Dale Mezzacappa. Half of the district's middle
                                    school teachers who took tests to become certified as highly qualified
                                    under the federal No Child Left Behind law failed, district results 
                                    Math teachers did the worst: Nearly two out of every three failed that
                                    exam, while more than half flunked the science test, 43 percent the
                                    English exam, and 34 percent the social-studies test. The results are 
                                    690 of the public school district's 1,346 seventh- and eighth-grade 
                                    school teachers, who took the tests in September and November. Teachers
                                    have until June 2006 to take the test and meet the mandate. 
                                    teachers failed the test at a far greater rate than those in the rest 
                                    the state. "It's obviously very discouraging," said Betsey Useem, a
                                    research consultant with the Philadelphia Education Fund. "People 
                                    be able to pass this test if this is the subject they're teaching. They
                                    shouldn't be skating on thin ice in terms of content knowledge." Paul
                                    Vallas, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia School District, 
                                    in the teachers' defense that the test "is in no way a wimp test. It's 
                                    tough test." But he supported the testing mandate: "Look, we're holding
                                    the kids to higher standards. We need to hold our teachers to higher
                                    standards, too."
                                    Children and teenagers are safer now than they have been in three 
                                    but on many other measures, including school performance and health, 
                                    lives are no better, according to a first-of-its-kind national survey,
                                    reports Laura Sessions Stepp. Young people today are less likely to 
                                    criminals, crime victims or parents than they were in 1975, the 
                                    base year. High school seniors are less likely to smoke, drink or use
                                    illicit drugs. But children and youths also are more likely to be obese 
                                    to commit suicide and far more likely to live in a single-parent home,
                                    which brings with it a number of financial and emotional problems.
                                    EDUCATION AS CREATIVE CONVERSATION
                                    All the recent emphasis on test scores and "accountability" in American
                                    education -- a scientific reaction against a perceived relaxation of
                                    standards -- is leading both public and private schools into a new age 
                                    pedagogical hell, writes John Kaufman in Education Week. While the bar 
                                    what a good education is has indeed been lowered, it is not a bar that 
                                    be set at a mathematically measurable height. Our schools are declining
                                    because our culture is declining, more proof of which is the reduction 
                                    education to the taking of standardized tests. While subjects such as
                                    literature and art lend themselves easily to creative conversation,
                                    creativity need not be banished from math or science or history. 
                                    urges teachers of all subjects to make better use of their own and 
                                    students imaginations and to resist the political pall of standardized
                                    stupidity. Education can only thrive in an atmosphere of democratic
                                    give-and-take. Though some private schools and teachers may have 
                                    agendas, any school or teacher that wishes to do good work and prosper
                                    must allow for debate and creativity if the goal is to educate in the
                                    broadest sense. An honest educational conversation requires a teacher 
                                    make his or her case on the subject at hand, note helpful student
                                    contributions, admit mistakes and changes of heart.
                                    Building developmental assets can play an important role in reducing 
                                    forms of youth substance use. Young people with low levels of
                                    developmental assets are two to four times as likely to use alcohol,
                                    tobacco, and other drugs than those who have above-average asset 
                                    according to a new report from Search Institute. This relationship is 
                                    for young people from all racial/ethnic, family, and socioeconomic
                                    backgrounds. "Though there have been great advances in understanding of
                                    substance use and prevention, it is clear that prevention programs are
                                    necessary, but not sufficient to substantially reduce overall use among
                                    adolescents," write report authors Peter L. Benson, Eugene C.
                                    Roehlkepartain, and Arturo Sesma Jr. "Asset building offers additional
                                    approaches, strategies, tools, insights, and capacity that can be woven
                                    together around a shared and sustained commitment to young peoples
                                    healthy development in communities." Download a one-page summary or the
                                    complete article (no charge) at:
                                    14 STATES ASK U.S. TO REVISE NCLB RULES
                                    Fourteen states have asked the Bush administration for permission to 
                                    alternative methods for showing academic gains under the No Child Left
                                    Behind law, reports Diana Jean Schemo. The 14 states, most of which had
                                    their own systems for raising academic performance in place before the
                                    federal No Child Left Behind law took effect two years ago, charged 
                                    as currently written, the law would brand too many schools "in need of
                                    improvement," and thus squander limited resources. The states, 
                                    Alaska, California and Connecticut, said that schools showing academic
                                    gains under their statewide system should escape the failing 
                                    under the federal law, even if that progress falls short of the law's
                                    requirements. They asked for permission to use "growth models," in 
                                    schools would avoid the federal law's remedies and penalties if they
                                    showed academic gains, even if those gains fell short of the amount
                                    required for all students to reach academic proficiency by 2014, as the
                                    law mandates.
                                    BEATING THE ODDS
                                    The Council of the Great City Schools has prepared the fourth edition 
                                    "Beating the Odds (Beating the Odds IV)" to give the nation another 
                                    at how inner-city schools are performing on the academic goals and
                                    standards set by the states for our children. This analysis examines
                                    student achievement in math and reading through spring 2003. It also
                                    measures achievement gaps between cities and states, African Americans 
                                    Whites, and Hispanics and Whites.  And it includes new data on language
                                    proficiency, disability, and income. Finally, the report looks at
                                    progress. It asks two critical questions: "Are urban schools improving
                                    academically?" and "Are urban schools closing achievement gaps?" In
                                    general, the new report shows that the Great City Schools are making
                                    important gains in math and reading scores on state assessments. The 
                                    also saw fresh evidence that gaps may be narrowing. The findings in
                                    Beating the Odds IV are preliminary and leavened with caution, as they
                                    were when we first published these data three years ago. The data from
                                    this report indicate that answers are emerging and that urban education
                                    may be establishing a beachhead on the rocky shoals of school reform. 
                                    data look better than others. Progress in math is different from that 
                                    reading. Trend lines are not the same from one city to another. Not all
                                    grades have improved at the same rates. Not all gaps are closing. But 
                                    data indicate progress.
                                    HOMESCHOOLING ROCKS THE SCHOOLHOUSE
                                    No longer just for the religious fundamentalists, home schooling has 
                                    main stream, reports Michelle Bates Deakin. It's estimated that as many 
                                    20,000 children in Massachusetts have abandoned test-crazy public 
                                    and high-priced private schools for the comfort of the living room 
                                    But most surprising of all is that Harvard, BU, Brown, and other 
                                    are welcoming home-schoolers like all other students. As home-schoolers
                                    get accepted into the Ivies and prove themselves worthy in the eyes of 
                                    mainstream educational institutions, it would seem inevitable that
                                    cultural stereotypes about them will eventually break down. But it 
                                    happen easily. Many people just assume that home-schooled kids are
                                    awkward, antisocial, and culturally deprived because they're outside of
                                    the traditional school experience. Others criticize home-schoolers for
                                    channeling their tremendous energy for education away from the public
                                    schools. And some simply regret that the opportunity to home-school is
                                    incompatible with single-parent or dual-income families.
                                    More school districts are hiring full-time teacher coaches to advise 
                                    monitor new educators. It's a method being used in a growing numbers of
                                    school systems nationwide to stem the tide of young teachers quitting
                                    early in their careers for reasons that include lack of support, low 
                                    and discipline problems among students. The new approach of easing 
                                    teachers into their jobs is beginning to replace the long-standing 
                                    of coping with the never-ending shortage of teachers by simply 
                                    new ones.
                                    ADOLESCENT LITERACY: GOING DEEPER
                                    While much of the public attention on literacy has focused on teaching
                                    early reading, educators increasingly recognize another critical issue
                                    that needs to be addressed: the literacy needs of adolescents. Robert
                                    Rothman writes that the efforts underway in a number of cities to 
                                    high schools ought to provide an opportunity for educators and 
                                    members to come to grips with adolescent literacy issues. These efforts
                                    stem from the recognition that too many children have been ill-served 
                                    traditional high school structures and instructional practice. While 
                                    of the large districts that are undertaking these reforms have 
                                    in implementing structural changes, they are struggling to make the
                                    instructional changes that will improve teaching and learning. And few
                                    have succeeded at linking schools with community resources that will
                                    enhance their instructional capacity. As the authors in a new volume of
                                    "Voices in Urban Education" make clear, improving adolescent literacy 
                                    require major changes in instruction and substantial links to the
                                    community. For schools to continue to do the same thing, or even do the
                                    same thing a little better, will not work.
                                    HOLDING SCHOOLS TO IMPOSSIBLE STANDARDS
                                    Proponents of the federal Reading First mandates of the No Child Left
                                    Behind Act have routinely misrepresented and exaggerated what the 
                                    shows about effective classroom reading instruction and early reading
                                    interventions, writes Richard L. Allington. Struggling readers are
                                    instructionally needy. Classroom teachers will never have the time to
                                    provide the one-to-one support that so many of these students require.
                                    Research has shown that tutoring is an effective intervention that can
                                    provide this one-to-one support and raise student achievement. It is,
                                    however, costly. If legislators and other policymakers are going to
                                    mandate adequate yearly progress on the basis of research that measured
                                    the effects of individual tutoring, then they should fully fund that
                                    research-based tutoring for all struggling readers. Either that, writes
                                    Allington, or admit to the public that we plan on leaving many children
                                    As the number of foreign languages spoken in U.S. homes and the number 
                                    children who do not speak English increase, education researchers and
                                    practitioners throughout this nation expect the challenge of how best 
                                    teach English literacy to English language learners to intensify. 
                                    research, published in Research Points by the American Educational
                                    Research Association (AERA), shows that children who start school 
                                    little or no English can learn the basic skills of word recognition in
                                    about two years if they are carefully taught. However, achieving the
                                    fluency necessary for long-term academic success is more demanding. 
                                    Statistically, the number of children ages 5 to 17 who do not speak
                                    English or do not speak it well is estimated at 3.4 million, according 
                                    2000 U.S. Census Bureau data. The majority (2.7 million) live in
                                    "linguistically isolated households" where no one over age 14 speaks
                                    English very well. Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic and
                                    French Creole top the list of the fastest growing languages.    
                                    indicates that children need skills in recognizing words and 
                                    meaning to master reading and English literacy. For that to happen,
                                    teachers need to deliver intense, explicit and supportive reading
                                    instruction developed through targeted and continuing methods. AERA's
                                    Research Points offers policymakers suggestions to address needs of the
                                    increasing number of children who enter schools in America with limited 
                                    no English.
                                    RURAL SCHOOLS TRY LONGER DAYS, FOUR DAY WEEKS
                                    The town of Orofino, Idaho, has instituted a four-day school week as a 
                                    to trim costs in an era of bare-bones budgets. Classes run longer each
                                    day, but on most Fridays the school is dark, school buses are idle, and
                                    kids stay home, reports Kathy Hedberg. Few other options were at hand.
                                    There's no money to fix the pre-World War I school, an aged red-brick
                                    structure among the state's most dilapidated. There's no money for 
                                    of other things, too, so the community made the hard decision last 
                                    to shorten the school week. The experiment is raising questions about 
                                    a shorter week affects learning, and whether the monetary savings are
                                    worth the academic cost. And, as in other places that are trying 
                                    weeks, the move is also forcing lifestyle changes for schoolchildren,
                                    parents, and teachers alike.
                                    SCALING UP "FIRST THINGS FIRST"
                                    A comprehensive reform initiative that calls for changes in school
                                    structure, instruction, and governance, "First Things First" aims to
                                    increase academic achievement and student and teacher engagement in
                                    low-performing secondary schools. This report examines the initial year 
                                    implementation of First Things First at seven schools in Texas, 
                                    and Mississippi, focusing on the programs key components and the
                                    effectiveness with which those components were put into place. The
                                    programs basic elements -- small learning communities, a family 
                                    system, and strategies for instructional improvement -- were 
                                    at most sites by the end of the first year of implementation. 
                                    with students and teachers and survey responses indicate that small
                                    learning communities and family advocates proved effective in fostering
                                    more personalized relationships among teachers, students, and students
                                    families. Students reported that they felt more supported by their
                                    teachers during the implementation year than they had a year earlier, 
                                    they also reported putting less effort into their schoolwork. And, 
                                    teachers displayed positive attitudes toward the reform during the
                                    planning year, they exhibited less enthusiasm for it after experiencing
                                    the difficulties involved in implementation.
                                    As Boston charter schools begin intensive advertising for new students,
                                    analysis of enrollments in Boston charter schools shows that: (1) Only 
                                    little more than half the students in Boston charter schools qualify 
                                    meal subsidies -- compared to nearly three-quarters of Boston district
                                    students; (2) Only about one in ten students in Boston charter schools
                                    have disabilities -- compared with nearly one in five students in 
                                    schools; (3) Not one student in Boston charter schools is learning 
                                    as a second language -- compared with nearly one out of four students
                                    enrolled in district schools. In the absence of a moratorium on charter
                                    school expansion, writes Anne Wheelock, education decision-makers -- 
                                    Governor, legislature, and state Board of Education -- should act to
                                    ensure that Boston charter schools enrollment reflects the diversity of
                                    Boston Public Schools and that all students have equitable access to
                                    Boston charter schools. 
                                    A STEP BACK CAN HELP A STUDENT MOVE FORWARD
                                    In recent years, writes Jay Mathews, when someone expressed 
                                    that schoolchildren were being promoted despite low reading scores,
                                    educational researchers usually said the same thing: Repeating a grade
                                    doesn't work. At school board meetings or congressional hearings, the
                                    experts in the room would explain that the students who were held back
                                    were doing no better academically years later than low-performing 
                                    who were promoted. Often those held back were first to drop out. But as
                                    frequently happens with educational research, many policymakers ignored
                                    it. Several major school districts, including the District and Prince
                                    George's County, began programs that put low-achieving children in 
                                    school and held them back if they did not improve. Now the first 
                                    studies of those programs are showing that retaining some kids might be 
                                    good idea.
                                    THE EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD
                                    On the campus of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, in Berkeley,
                                    California, students grow and prepare their own school lunches, getting 
                                    "seed to table experience" that reinforces the connection between the
                                    earth and the food we eat. The program is inspired and led by Alice
                                    Waters, organic chef and owner of Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant. 
                                    read the full story or view a 6-minute Web documentary click:
                                    |---------------GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|
                                    "New Leaders for New Schools Application Deadline Nears"
                                    New Leaders for New Schools - a national non-profit that fosters high
                                    levels of academic achievement for every child by attracting, preparing
                                    and supporting the next generation of outstanding urban public school
                                    principals - is accepting applications for its 2004-05 Principal
                                    Development Residencies in Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C.,
                                    Memphis and the Bay Area of California.  The application deadline is
                                    Thursday, April 1!  New Leaders for New Schools is looking for 
                                    with a relentless drive to improve education for all children, a record 
                                    effective teaching/success with children and a strong foundation of
                                    management and leadership skills.  Are you a future New Leader?  For 
                                    information, email or call Millene Hahm at or (646)
                                    "Smaller Learning Communities Grants"
                                    The Federal government continues to expand its role in addressing the
                                    needs of hundreds of thousands of high school students who can barely 
                                    on the eve of their high school graduation.  In another example of this
                                    commitment, new awards through the Smaller Learning Communities program
                                    must focus on methods to improve reading and mathematics skills for
                                    students who enter high school significantly below grade level.
                                    Application deadline: April 29, 2004.
                                    "National Geographic Society Teacher Grants"
                                    The mission of the National Geographic Societys Education Foundation 
                                    to prepare children to embrace a diverse world, succeed in a global
                                    economy, and steward the planets resources. Teacher grants are given
                                    directly to educators to facilitate their work in the classroom, 
                                    district, and community. Applications are accepted in the spring from 
                                    current teacher or administrator in an accredited K-12 school within 
                                    United States or Canada. Application deadline: June 10, 2004.
                                    "Department of Education Forecast of Funding"
                                    This document lists virtually all programs and competitions under which
                                    the Department of Education has invited or expects to invite 
                                    for new awards for FY 2004 and provides actual or estimated deadline 
                                    for the transmittal of applications under these programs. The lists are 
                                    the form of charts -- organized according to the Department's principal
                                    program offices -- and include programs and competitions we have
                                    previously announced, as well as those they plan to announce at a later
                                    date. Note: This document is advisory only and is not an official
                                    application notice of the Department of Education. They expect to 
                                    updates to this document through July 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
                                    " group is more frustrated with declining standards than teachers.
                                    Many are troubled by having to face classrooms in which significant
                                    numbers of children are not prepared at home to put forth their best
                                    efforts. They are frustrated at having to fight off administrators and
                                    parents who claim they want higher expectations, but whose first 
                                    when children don't meet them is: give these kids a break. What happens 
                                    reality is that when several students fail, the principal hears from 
                                    parents, says one veteran Texas teacher. The students and their parents
                                    make wild claims about the unfairness of the teacher. Instead of
                                    supporting the high standards of the teacher, the principal runs to the
                                    teacher and requires him to dumb down his course. When teachers are not
                                    supported by administrators, there is no possible way for us to keep 
                                    standards high."
                                    -William J. Bennett, et al., "The Educated Child"
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