2006-12-22 PENS NewsBlast

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					Public Education Network Weekly NewsBlast "Public Involvement. Public
Education. Public Benefit."
***To read a colorful online version of the NewsBlast with a larger typeface, visit:

The NewsBlast will not be published next Friday, as we will be walking in a winter
wonderland. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh. We will return with
renewed energy and passion for public school improvement on January 5, 2007.
Thank you for your ongoing support.

Ehrmann’s prose-poem "Desiderata," composed in 1927, is considered an
inspirational commentary on leading a happy life. Education leaders also can be
guided by Ehrmann’s words as they go through the process of developing
exemplary leadership skills. Few people go into educational administration
striving to be anything less than competent. And while the main ingredients of
exemplary leadership are similar -- desire, skill and experience -- these
ingredients must be augmented by the belief that leadership is an evolving
process, just like life itself. We always can do something a little bit better in order
to achieve our goals, whether that’s exemplary leadership, better health or a
happier life, writes Karen Dyer of the Center for Creative Leadership.

PEN’s efforts to build public demand and mobilize resources for quality public
education took a giant leap forward. Top five accomplishments of 2006 include:
(1) Launching GiveKidsGoodSchools.org; (2) Local Education Funds raising
more than $185 million to support local school reform efforts; (3) National
evaluation of groundbreaking community-based initiatives funded by the
Annenberg Foundation and other funders outlines how public engagement
makes a significant impact on public schools; (4) Convening numerous public
hearings on the No Child Left Behind Act, sharing citizen viewpoints on the
positive and negative impact of NCLB; and (5) PEN Weekly NewsBlast cited as
one of the top ten most influential sources of information on education policy. To
read more about PEN’s strong growth and impact, visit:

Public education in the United States is at a critical crossroads. The knowledge
economy and globalization continue to challenge the basic industrial-era
assumptions upon which most public schools, curriculum, and evaluation
mechanisms are based. KnowledgeWorks Foundation commissioned a map to
examine the forces affecting education and the economy. The map allows you to
hold in your mind, at once, the complexity of several forces of change. It provides
a means for moving the education conversation outside the details of today's
disputes, and into a space where the larger issues underlying those disputes
come into focus. Taking this kind of long view allows you to make better strategic
decisions now, because you see in a new way that there is no single answer to
the challenges and opportunities facing education. The map is structured as a
grid that presents the intersection between six key drivers of change or trends
and five critical impact areas which represent key areas of activity where the
major trends are revealed from different perspectives. Each intersection is
marked by one or more specific trends likely to affect education. Taken together,
these multiple intersections suggest an emerging future landscape of issues,
concepts, and phenomena that will shape the broader context for education and
its stakeholders.

by your dedication and extraordinary efforts in helping to improve our public
schools. Public Education Network is continually grateful for your partnership and
your commitment to excellence in public education. Click below to view our
online holiday card ... a special thank you for NewsBlast subscribers!

there are two expressions of public will. The first is at the ballot box. One makes
the assumption that a vote for an individual will be expressed in the policies that
are enacted, writes Susan Raymond of Changing Our World. The second
expression of public will is voluntarism. Here is the problem. Public policy in a
civil society, ultimately accountable at the ballot box but separated from public
will by time and intermediaries, reacts to or manages problems that affect the
public at large. It does so, at its best, in order to maximize community benefit.
The enactment of those policy decisions, however, can clash with the second
expression of public will, the ways in which a community voluntarily expresses its
support for or concern over its own institutions as embodied in voluntary private
philanthropy. When these two expressions of will public policy and private
philanthropy do not communicate with one another, the result is conflict. As
trillions of dollars begin to change hands in a "transfer of wealth" the potential
size of those conflicts is sobering. Where conflict is inevitable communication is
paramount. Even more so in the future as the size and role of philanthropy in the
nation grow. When trillions of dollars are moving in the philanthropic currents of
communities their confluence with public policy that moves in the opposite
direction will create much confusion and not a little resentment at the level of the
policy-aggrieved community. It is time for philanthropy and public policy to speak
to one another, consistently and openly.

A $13 billion federal program to help students from low-income families has
actually widened an education funding gap between rich and poor states,
according to a new study. The program, known as Title I, is part of a slew of
federal, state and local policies that direct more resources to the nation's
wealthiest children than to its poorest, the study concluded. It found that the
highest-poverty school districts receive an average of $825 less each year per
student in state and local funding than the wealthiest districts. It also found that
state and local money often flows disproportionately to wealthy students within
districts. "The decisions that we make stack the deck against low-income kids
and kids of color," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, the
District-based nonprofit group that issued the report. "These facts raise really
disturbing questions about our values as a country." The report's authors
contended that Title I, which has become a key element of the No Child Left
Behind law, has failed to narrow the yawning achievement gap between wealthy
and disadvantaged students in part because its funding formula directs more
money to states that already spend the most on education. That means the
formula causes the rich states to get richer, reports Amit R. Paley, leaving the
poor ones further behind.

STUDENTS Finding the perfect gift to express the holiday spirit is never easy,
but students and their parents have been known to bestow on favorite teachers
tokens both weird and lavish. As teachers receive their umpteenth coffee mug
imprinted with a red-suited Santa, colored Hanukkah candles and other
mementos of the season's festivities, many say a heartfelt note of thanks is
what's most treasured. But the gift-giving tradition that has been around as long
as children have walked through school doors is also provoking soul-searching
among educators concerned with the ethical implications of parents' largesse.
Many schools -- public and private -- are adopting policies that discourage gifts or
impose limitations so that particular teachers aren't favored with armfuls of
goodies while others head out for holiday vacation empty-handed. Still, many
families, infused with holiday cheer, continue to share tidings with teachers in
myriad ways, reports Carla Rivera.

QUALITY A growing chorus is arguing that teacher unions and collective
bargaining are obstacles to school improvement. In this issue of American
Educator, that argument is engaged. Education historian and former assistant
secretary for education Diane Ravitch, argues that the real obstacles to better
schools are not unions -- but weak curriculum, mediocre school leadership, lack
of resources, and poor hiring and evaluation processes. Blaming unions, she
says, is just scapegoating -- and it provides an excuse for avoiding the real
problems. Further, she argues that unions provide a necessary check on
administrative abuses and a vehicle for sensible teacher input into educational
decisions. Underscoring Ravitch’s main point, a Washington, DC, high school
teacher writes about his ongoing struggle to prevent his principal from changing
students’ grades and handing out unearned diplomas.

SPEECH RIGHTS Shortly after school began in September, David Paszkiewicz
told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big
Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only
Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a
student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming the teacher broke the
church-state boundary. In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the
pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with
Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with the student, who has received a death threat handled
by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates. "This is extremely
rare for a teacher to get this blatantly evangelical," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn,
executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a
nonprofit educational association. "He’s really out there proselytizing, trying to
convert students to his faith, and I think that that’s more than just saying I have
some academic freedom right to talk about the Bible’s view of creation as well as
evolution." Even some legal organizations that often champion the expression of
religious beliefs are hesitant to support Mr. Paszkiewicz, reports Tina Kelley. "It’s
proselytizing, and the courts have been pretty clear you can't do that," said John
W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a group that provides legal
services in religious freedom cases. "You can't step across the line and
proselytize, and that’s what he’s done here."

For what purpose does your school district exist? There should not be a range of
answers from district to district on this basic question. While the exact wording
could vary, the basic answer would be something along the following lines: "we
exist for the purpose of educating all the students we serve to high levels through
high quality instruction." For the instructional purpose to be fulfilled, continuous
instructional improvement must be the name of the game, the relentless focus, if
not obsession, of leaders and practitioners throughout the system. The core
work of continuous instructional improvement throughout the system is not simply
a large-scale technical challenge. It’s a large-scale adaptive or transformational
challenge with systemic implications at every turn. The nature and intensity of
professional development and material support required to bring one teacher
from average to masterful instructional practice involves a considerable
investment of time, energy, expertise, and dollars. Accomplishing this challenge
in all classrooms in all schools on an ongoing basis is the supreme systemic
challenge of district-level educational leadership in the 21st century. This issue
of Strategies, a publication of the Panasonic Foundation in cooperation with the
American Association of School Administrators and the University Council for
Educational Leadership, is squarely focused on this mega-challenge. In addition
to the introductory essay, the issue features case studies of two districts engaged
in this work and an Endpaper on closing achievement gaps.

In the wake of the recent elections, the District of Columbia is poised to embark
on yet another conversation about school governance. The truth is that no
governance structure can, by itself, produce better schools, writes Mike Casserly,
executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. There are cities with
conventional school structures -- elected board, traditional superintendent and
independent taxing authority -- that are making significant progress in student
achievement. There are also cities with the same structures that have seen no
gains. The New York City school district, among others, is being considered as a
possible governance model for the District. Every indication suggests that the
New York schools are doing better than they were before the mayor's
intervention. But the steps taken in New York were designed to solve problems
the District does not have -- or has in a different way. Adopting New York's
governance model would solve the wrong problems, leave current problems
unaddressed and create new ones. The problems in the District are related more
to overreaching and redundant decision-making authority above the school
system and to weak capacity for solving the system's own problems. Having D.C.
schools under the mayor's control would not solve this redundancy problem, and
it would not address other challenges faced by the system. It might continue the
debilitating turnover of school superintendents and add to the system's instability.

Nearly all urban school districts struggle with high dropout rates, too many poorly
performing schools, money problems, and increasing parent and public
dissatisfaction. With a few rare exceptions, writes veteran journalist Ronald Wolk,
all efforts to solve the urban school problem have failed or produced only slight
improvements. Educators and policymakers have been reluctant (or unable) to
make the drastic changes needed in the way schools are organized and
operated. They've failed to transform the existing conventional schools into
learning centers that would attract and serve the minority, immigrant, and poor
students who populate our cities. Most districts have little choice but to continue
trying to improve existing schools while dealing aggressively with the worst of
them. But this is tantamount to bailing out a leaky boat. The other option is to
build a parallel system of alternative learning opportunities to match the diversity
of their students—charter, contract, and theme-based schools. Leaders of urban
districts may be starting to realize that they are not in the school business, they're
in the education business; they need to value their students more than their
schools and do whatever it takes to provide them the educational opportunities
they need and deserve. Every year of futile tinkering consigns millions of
youngsters to a bleak future.

EDUCATION Attention, Bush administration officials: Get ready to raise your
right hand and swear under oath. That’s the message from congressional
Democrats, who say the Republican-led Congress has been lax in overseeing
federal agencies, including the Department of Education. The two veteran
Democrats preparing to chair the education committees -- Rep. George Miller of
California and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts -- say Republican
lawmakers have largely looked the other way while the GOP administration has
employed questionable practices for distributing federal grants, done little to
gauge the effectiveness of tutors hired with federal dollars, and let states slide on
some of the teacher-quality requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Many
observers expect Democratic-led House and Senate education committees to
quickly launch investigations into the Reading First program, a signature Bush
administration program that has provided nearly $5 billion in federal grants to
schools to promote research-based reading instruction. Alyson Klein reports that
other areas of inquiry could include the Education Department’s process for
approving contracts and grants, student financial aid, teacher quality and gender

Over the last decade and a half, the number of home schooled students has
grown dramatically. An estimated 1.1 million students are now home schooled
each year. Previous research suggests the family values and local school quality
influence student enrollment decisions. However, it is less clear why some
families may choose home schooling over other private schooling options. A new
paper by Eric J. Isenberg for the National Center for the Study of Privatization in
Education uses data from the National Household Education Survey and
secondary data sources to examine preferences for home schooling. The author
finds that families are more likely to engage in home schooling if the mother has
abundant time but scarce income, and if the state public school finance system is
centralized, making switching schools less efficient and private schooling more
costly. Preferences for home schooling are especially strong among well-
educated parents with younger children. Home schooling of older children is
more sensitive to child-specific behavioral needs.

A report in a recent issue of Science magazine presents research showing that a
classroom-based intervention significantly improved the grades of a group of
African-American middle school students and reduced the racial achievement
gap between those students and their white student peers by 40%. The research
was conducted by a team from the Psychology Departments at the University of
Colorado, Boulder, and Yale University, and funded in large part by the Nellie
Mae Education Foundation. "Reducing the Racial Achievement Gap: A Social-
Psychological Intervention," details the findings of two rigorously structured field
experiments that were designed to test the theory of "social identity and
stereotype threat." The theory holds that, in certain "evaluative situations," when
minority students are concerned that other students or teachers may hold
negative stereotypes about their group’s abilities, their concern can impair their
ability to perform well in those situations. The intervention included a positive
"affirmation exercise," which was designed to reduce the stress caused by this
threat. Although the results of the experiments are exciting and promising, the
authors are quick to point out that the intervention is not a "silver bullet" for
eliminating the achievement gap.

enrollment numbers continue to trickle away, many of Idaho's rural school
districts are switching to a 4-day school week to save money - and are seeing
some extra benefits. At Marsh Valley High School, one of the latest school
districts to make the switch as an experiment this year, teachers say attendance
has gone up. At Bear Lake High, where they're in their second year of a four-day
week, teachers say students show up fresher and ready to learn. ''I'm almost
convinced the four-day week is better than chocolate,'' said Marsh Valley High
Principal Gary Yearsely. ''Personally, I'd hate to go back to a five-day now.''
Public schools in Idaho are funded through state money, which is handed out on
a per-pupil basis. As these schools' enrollments decline, the money they get from
the state goes down with them. The four-day week is meant to save money by
cutting down on utility payments. Classroom thermostats at Marsh Valley High
are dialed down from 70 degrees to 55 degrees on Fridays, and it's not
uncommon to see teachers bundled up in their winter coats in their classrooms
on Fridays getting in extra work.

|--------------- NEW GRANT AND FUNDING INFORMATION--------------|

"Honoring Teachers Who Use Music in the Classroom"
The National Music Foundation Lois Bailey Glenn Awards for Teaching
Excellence honor teachers that use American music as part of their lessons.
Lessons can be for any subject, in any grade K-12; they can use any type of
American music. Maximum Award: $1,000. Eligibility: public or private
schoolteachers, teachers from community music or education programs, or
teachers who provide private music instruction, for students K-12. Deadline:
December 29, 2006.

"Rewards for Exemplary Partnerships Between Schools and Businesses"
The National School and Business Partnerships Award recognizes exemplary
partnerships between schools and businesses around the country. Maximum
Award: $10,000. Eligibility: partnerships involving kindergarten through 12th
grade public schools and/or school districts and businesses. Deadline: January
30, 2007.

"Grants to Support Improved Eating and Physical Activity Patterns Among Youth"
General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids Grants encourage communities in the
United States to improve the eating and physical activity patterns of young
people. Grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations and agencies working
with communities that demonstrate the greatest need and likelihood of
sustainable impact on young people’s nutrition and activity levels through
innovative programs. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations
with a target audience of youth ages 2-20. Other guidelines apply; please see
website. Deadline: February 1, 2007.

"Awards for Teachers Who Promote Understanding Between Americans &
The Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award recognizes exceptional teachers
who further mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese. The award
is presented annually to two pre-college teachers in two categories, humanities
and Japanese language. Maximum Award: $7,500. Eligibility: current full-time K-
12 classroom teachers of any relevant subject in the United States who have
been teaching for at least five years. Deadline: February 1, 2007.

"Recognizing Excellence and Innovation in Teaching History"
The Beveridge Family Teaching Prize recognizes excellence and innovation in
elementary, middle school, and secondary history teaching, including career
contributions and specific initiatives. Maximum Award: $1,500. Eligibility: K-12
teachers. Deadline: March 15, 2007.


"Voters value public education because they believe it evens the playing field and
gives all children an opportunity to get ahead. However, they do not believe that
all children currently receive a good education despite their belief that every child
deserves one. In fact, a plurality feel concerned or frustrated with public schools,
three quarters believe candidates are not talking enough about public education
and a majority believe national and federal elected officials are not doing enough
to improve our public education. They are more divided on state and local
elected officials. In the end, voters are not giving up on public schools as very
few feel "defeated.’ They know that everyone has a role to play to improve public
schools and that everyone in the community has responsibility for making sure
public officials keep their promises regarding public schools."
-2006 National Poll findings by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group
for Public Education Network

"Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They
are the engines of change, windows on the world, ‘Lighthouses’ as the poet said
‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers
of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print."
-Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher (1788-1860)

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