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Update

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Brown v. Board of Ed: 50 Years Later

Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, when segregation was supposed to have been history in American schools, the system appears to be as segregated as ever. A growing number of minorities, particularly Hispanics, has changed the face of American education, and with that, comes more challenges.

A consortium of education, community and military leaders, led by former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley released a report, With All Deliberate Speed, offering recommendations to address achievement and diversity. "Our dilemma is that we are a nation ambivalent," the report states." We are both for integration and against it. We are for academic success for all, but we allow millions of children to remain isolated in inferior schools."

Recommendations include:

Diversity must be a key element in defining 'high-quality education' in laws and fiscal equity judicial cases.

All students must have access to a high-quality education and diverse learning.

After-school learning programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, should also be offered.

A new social compact and working relationship must be created between schools and communities.

www.education.nyu.edu/metrocenter/brownplus/home1.html

School as Community Center

Renovating an old and unused high school in Minnesota was a critical piece in reviving the East Side of Saint Paul.

John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School in Saint Paul, opened in 2000, is a state-of-the-art community school in an area where 2,500 manufacturing jobs were lost recently. These layoffs led to increasing child poverty. The school is also next to a new YMCA, part of a complex that is a creative partnership between the city, the district, Ramsey County, the YMCA, the East Side Family Center and the Wilder Foundation.

With Buying in Bulk,Online Auction Could Save

A few districts in North Carolina are testing a new way to buy in bulk: reverse online auctions.

"This is a beta trial," says Al Hartkopf, vice chairman of the Orange County Board of Education in North Carolina. "It's not even a service but a purchasing process change that ultimately might bear some fruit for the district."

Online reverse auction, which is still in its infancy, is run by Asset Management Technologies, a private corporation that sets up the auction for everything from desks to paper, all with kudos from the North Carolina School Boards Association. The process, which lasts about a half hour, could save about 10 percent to 15 percent on the purchase, or thousands of dollars, Hartkopf says. And it doesn't cost the district anything. "AMT is paid a commission by the vendor," he says.

For Orange County, the reverse auction, which would take the lowest, responsible bidder for the purchase, comes at a time when a new middle school is set to be open in August. "And we have to buy loads of furnishings, loads of desks, and loads of chairs and loads of cabinets and that's where you save," Hartkopf says.

Union County Schools just used it to buy 84 mobile/trailer classrooms and "saved a ton of money," he says.

Evolution Alone Ain't In Kansas Anymore

Kansas recently became the fifth state in the U.S. to adopt standards that question the evolutionary theory taught in schools.

The state Board of Education approved curriculum standards recently that question evolution. Some critics say it is just an excuse to introduce religion in a public school.

Beauty of Blogging:But is it Too Much Information?

It might have a bad rap, but blogging is growing on teachers and administrators across the U.S.

Among Internet-using teens, 57 percent are content creators, or those who have worked on a blog or Web page or shared original creative content, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project report, Teen Content Creators and Consumers.

"It's becoming more apparent that [blog sites] are easy ways to publish content to the Web and there are potential learning opportunities for kids to connect to other people," says Will Richardson, teacher and supervisor of instructional technology at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J.

The biggest downfall of blogging is that a predator might prey on youngsters giving out personal information like cell phone numbers, which happens on some sites. Teachers can and often do warn students about controversial sites, says Richardson, also an author. But Richardson and others say their school blog sites have rules: No last names and no personal information. Richardson says that not allowing blogging in school won't solve risks. "If we don't teach kids how to use the tools properly they won't know what to do" when they are alone, he says.

The "real dynamic shift" is that it's no longer just for the teacher to read, which has huge ramifications for the development of curriculum, he says.

Newspaper Blog

At Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Colo., students started blogging in school a year ago under teacher Bud Hunt using Budtheteacher.com. Literary students started using blogs to discuss literacy with students in another district and used blogging to publish the school newspaper, Olde School News.

Students learn to think more critically about their own and others' work, and become more responsible given the larger audience.

High School Students Performing Better

Students are taking tougher courses, achieving at higher levels and earning more college degrees than they did 20 years ago, according to a report released by Center on Education Policy.

Do You Know...The Latest Good News About American Education tracked American education on 24 indicators that include course-taking and teacher quality.

"Given the negative attacks and media reports they have sustained, many might believe that the nation's public schools are in the worst shape they have ever been, and that is simply not the case," says Jack Jennings, CEP's president and CEO.

Findings include:

NAEP trends in math and reading show test score gaps between whites and minority students have narrowed the most in 30 years.

High school graduates in college has increased from 55 percent in 1984 to 64 percent in 2003.

High school graduates completing advanced math and science courses climbed in that time.

Ancient Chinese Secrets: Finding Qualified Teachers

As learning Chinese becomes more popular in K-12 schools nationwide, the greatest struggle is finding qualified teachers. "I know of only four colleges of education that actually certify teachers of Chinese in public schools," says Scott McGinnis, of the Defense Language Institute.

The Chinese language push came about 20 years ago, when the Dodge Foundation established 60 programs in schools. But many disappeared due to the difficulty in replacing teachers. Now, the push is back on in part because China is becoming a huge economic force. "Three billion people speak Chinese," adds Michael Bacon, immersion education coordinator for Portland Public Schools.

Portland Public Schools and the Univ. of Oregon received a grant to build a Chinese K-16 Flagship Program, the first model program through the National Security Education Program. It's a Mandarin immersion program including students that learned English first and heritage speakers with some Chinese skills already. Finding qualified and certified teachers is a major challenge.

Five teachers are native Chinese speakers and one is fluent in Chinese and all are transitioning to an American classroom, such as learning that teachers earn respect here and don't automatically get respect, Bacon says.

Over the long term, "we really need to build professional development programs" in college and have schools of education that prepare teachers for teaching the language, McGinnis says.


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