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The latest developments in math, science, language arts and social studies

The Gift of Music

The Berklee College of Music in Boston launched its City Music Network in March to bring vocal and instrumental training to underserved middle and high school students. Berklee has chosen to replicate its successful (1000 students) Boston City Music program begun in 1991. The City Music Network pilot begins in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., with 200 students. Partners for the project include Apple Computer for technical support and the International Music Products Association for instrument donations. Berklee is providing the virtual City Music Network at no cost. It will invest $1 million in start-up costs, but hopes to raise $10 million to support scholarships and expansion of the project to 50 partner sites within five years. The four-point immersive program includes instruction in instrumental, vocalism, ensemble and musicianship, as well as music theory study.

David Mash, Berklee's vice president of information technology, says, "We needed a common curriculum that worked, qualified faculty to instruct, and an online community."

The online components and standardized curriculum will provide consistent tools for instruction by specially trained and certified Berklee alumni. Popular R&B, rock, hip hop and jazz songs recorded by the Movement Orchestra, which is Christina Aguilera's backup band, along with several other musicians who are Berklee alumni, fill a common online library to reach students through the music they love.

Partner music Web sites in pilot cities will link to a Virtual City Music Network for instant access to online resources. Web casting and videoconferencing will provide virtual interaction between City Music Network students and with faculty and students at Berklee's Boston campus.

This community-based, cultural partnership supports music students at school and home, and students who complete the coursework qualify for scholarships to five-week summer programs and undergraduate study at Berklee. Next year Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta are scheduled to join the program.

An Online Cultural Approach to Improve Literacy

Lee y ser?s lo que quieras ser ("Read and you will be anything you want to be").

In collaboration with the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic-American advocacy organization, and the Verizon Foundation, Scholastic has launched to help Hispanic-American children realize their potential as strong readers and learners. Educators and Hispanic parents can access the interactive Lee y Ser?s Web site curriculum for free and can download and print materials that will help their children build literacy skills. The site features podcasts and videocasts with educators, community leaders and researchers. It also acts as an online community where visitors can post questions and ideas.

Parents can learn how to use nursery rhymes, songs and folk tales from their own culture to instill a love for reading. They will also find literacy tips and guides to help spark family conversations. The Fun for All section has games, activities and story time, all in the Hispanic cultural context.

Lee y Ser?s is available in both English and Spanish versions.

Technology Rich Kansas Classrooms

The Technology Rich Classroom (TRC) project is a statewide grant to integrate technology and state curriculum standards and to promote best practices in Kansas elementary and secondary schools. The grant was funded by Enhancing Education Through Technology, an NCLB Title IID program, and part of the Kansas Competitive Grant project. A total of 42 grants have been awarded, impacting 64 school districts. Over 160 Kansas classrooms in 70 elementary schools have TRC project programs.

Since 2003, the total TRC grant of more than $7 million has been divided into four content area parts, with over $3.1 million going to reading, almost $2 million to math, close to $1.2 million for integration, and the smallest amount, $445,000, going to science.

TRC goals are to enhance reading, math and science skills through technology. Improving teacher technology skills for increasingly advanced integration is a priority, and teachers receive extensive online professional development. TRC is now in Phase 5 and will award new grants in April 2007.

The minimum equipment in a TRC classroom includes a laptop or desktop computer for every two students, an interactive whiteboard, a media projector, a digital still camera, a printer, a scanner, Internet access, and software to support instructions and curriculum projects.

School leaders support the classrooms, schools and the TRC project, so that students can benefit from content-rich learning experiences using 21st century tools. TRC is contagious, says TRC grant facilitator Rita Betts. Administrators are listening and learning, and more teachers are attending training sessions and requesting technology for their classrooms. According to technology specialist Layne Schiffelbein, an additional benefit has been increased attendance and decreased disciplinary referrals.

Making History in Arizona

In September 2006, Arizona state superintendent Tom Horne announced a partnership with History Education and The History Channel to implement a statewide social studies initiative. Funding for the program will be $3.7 million. All districts and charter school seventh- through 12th-grade classrooms will receive the History Education Multimedia Classroom, which includes an American History series that covers the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the American Revolution. Arizona already has one of the most rigorous social studies standards in the nation. "I am tremendously gratified that The History Channel has recognized the hard work that it has taken to strengthen Arizona's history standards," said Superintendent Horne. Horne, a student of history himself, believes that the multimedia approach will make it easier to revisit social studies topics in-depth that were originally taught at the middle school level, where students were not mature enough to understand concepts fully.

The History Education Multimedia Classroom is a set of interactive teaching tools featuring award-winning program content from The History Channel. The lesson plans are correlated to Arizona's social studies standards and are easy to use. Each lesson plan combines short clips of original programming with primary source documents, discussion questions, extended activities, maps and images, and suggestions for further research and reading. The lesson plan components, in CD-ROM format, are paired with DVD versions of the full-length programs on which they are based. "The History Channel is honored to partner with the Arizona Department of Education and to support the State of Arizona's demonstrated commitment to high-quality history education," remarked The History Channel's chief historian Dr. Libby Haight O'Connell.

The History Channel will provide specialized training and support for teachers, including workshops and video instruction provided over the existing Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona's Learning (IDEAL) online education system.