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From DA

Seemingly eight or nine nights for the past several weeks my family and I were caught up in the American Idol phenomena. Thirty-eight million Americans joined us in watching the show's finale. I am encouraged that it is still possible to bring generations together around a wholesome event. In addition to being wildly entertaining, American Idol offers many lessons for educators.

The "Great White" fire in Rhode Island earlier this year was a horror--killing nearly 100 people when rock fans were trapped inside a burning building with too few fire exits. Science laboratory safety expert Jim Kaufman worries that a similar tragedy could befall a school science lab anywhere in the U.S.

Where in the World is Theodore Blaesing? It's the newest twist in educational games.

In Southern California's Lake Elsinore area, the area's namesake also happens to be the community's biggest headache. The town is divided by--you guessed it--a big lake. For those on the wrong side, often without transportation, access to county services used to seem impossible.

Music Programs Missing the Patriotic Beat

Students today are more likely to know the lyrics to pop chart toppers like "Oops! ... I Did it Again" from Britney Spears than "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or even "The Star Spangled Banner." So says a nationwide survey conducted by music educator Marilyn Ward, who completed the research for a doctoral dissertation in music at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Maine's Attempt to Be Exempt Axed

After the state Senate and House of Representatives in Maine passed a resolution requesting a waiver to exempt Maine from the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, the U.S. Department of Education rejected the plea.

"To opt out of the law basically would mean leaving behind the neediest kids," says Jo Ann Webb, department spokeswoman.

Oakland's Perfect Storm Leads to State Takeover

It was a "perfect storm" of sorts, dubbed by locals referring to the 48,000-student Oakland, Calif., school district during the last two years. As a result, the ship's captain, Superintendent Dennis Chaconas, and its locally elected school board, were tossed overboard when the state recently approved a $100 million bailout to save the district from bankruptcy.

OK, first things first. I want everyone to know that I tried. I did. In writing a story that highlights the vast variations in state standards, I really tried to give No Child Left Behind, its principles and its accountability, the benefit of my doubt. I even tried to be optimistic.

What Parents Do

% of parents who have done the following in recent years:

Class trip or party 57%

Behavior and discipline decisions 7%

Financial input 15%

Curriculum planning 19%

Staff hiring involvement 20%

Source: Public Agenda

Bringing the Outside into the classroom: GIS Makes Connections for Students

In Raleigh, N.C., sixth- through eighth-graders at Martin Middle School learn about neat stuff--Geographic Information Systems. And they're using GIS in the classroom as a tool.

When it comes to helping English language learners make adequate yearly progress in school, most people agree on one point: the sink-or-swim method won't work. Research strongly supports this conclusion, and federal law (Lau v. Nichols, 1974) requires that students who are learning English get some extra help. The $64,000 (or considerably more) question is, What kind and how much?

When high school students — either college bound or those preparing for state-mandated exit exams — require an academic refresher, teachers are challenged to find time, not to mention the tools, to provide the just-in-time assistance most students need.