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The Education Innovator #3
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 January 24, 2005 • Number 3
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Feature
Leaders for a Lifetime, Aurora Foundation, Tucson, AZ
What's New
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings releases statement about College Board report on Advanced Placement; list of grant competitions with forecasted deadline dates available on Department website; OII and PBS to co-host Ready To Learn TV summit; OII updates Funding Opportunities webpage; Georgia state board of education approves new strategic plan for Georgia's charter schools; Partnership for Reading launches online tool to help parents and teachers assist children with reading difficulties; and Jobs for the Future publishes Big Buildings, Small Schools: Using a Small Schools Strategy for High School Reform.
Innovations in the News
New report says arts can improve student achievement, plus information on charter schools, choice, reading, and teacher quality.

Leaders for A Lifetime Helps Young Women Grasp the Future
No Child Left Behind is grounded in the idea that all children can learn, and all can contribute to society as mature, strong adults. The Aurora Foundation, Inc., in Tucson, AZ is focused on turning this idea into reality by working with young women with disabilities, especially those from minority groups, who are being left behind.

The foundation has been in the process of developing "Leaders for a Lifetime," a research-based, results-oriented leadership program for ninth- and tenth-grade girls. "Leaders" seeks to dispel the notion that disabilities are insurmountable obstacles to leadership while promoting new understandings about who can lead. The program's curricula were developed based on research across the disciplines of medicine, psychology, sociology, and business.

The program has the following goals: participants will develop the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue postsecondary education, enter and succeed in a chosen career, live independently, and become financially secure. To achieve these goals, participants will build a future-oriented self-concept (the idea that they have a place in the work world); will develop critical thinking skills for decision-making; and will better understand teamwork and collaboration in both personal and professional settings.

In the last two years the foundation has piloted three programs for a total of 100, ninth- through twelfth-grade young women. Sixty-two percent of the participants were from minority groups, including Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, or two or more mixed races. Sixty-one percent reported some disability, including a learning disability or mild mental retardation, a speech/language impairment, a visual impairment, or an emotional disability. Thirty-eight percent were from such intense at-risk conditions that their capacity to learn was affected.

The programs were conducted in three separate settings to determine which works best: one program took place in a high school in a large urban school district (Tucson); one was conducted on the campus of a community college; and one occurred at a grassroots community organization that assists homeless or nearly homeless high school youth stay in school. The curriculum revolves around specific problems that students work to solve by participating in hands-on activities. Within this context, participants learn such skills as time management and effective communication, while gaining experience in designing and managing projects, for example.

One project involved students working with teachers, mentors, and restaurant owners to raise funds for a local nonprofit organization. A percentage of the proceeds from a "restaurant night" event went to a local nonprofit organization. Students helped with the financial aspects of fundraising, provided information to the public about the fundraiser and the cause, and acted as restaurant greeters at the actual event.

Another learning activity consisted of planning and preparing a meal to serve at a Ronald McDonald House for families of ill children. The students developed the menu, purchased the ingredients, and cooked the meal. They also learned about policies regarding privacy and standards of conduct in a quasi-medical setting.

Classroom lessons helped prepare students for these types of hands-on activities. A lesson around self-concept, for example, took place early on in the program. Students broke out into small groups to discuss the concept of "the future," asking core questions: what each will be doing professionally and personally; where each will be doing these activities; and who each will be doing them with. Then each student developed a four-quadrant map with answers to the questions 5, 10, 20, and 30 years out. This lesson helped to build a baseline of information about each student's perspective at that point in time. The baseline information was then compared to answers to the same questions at the end of the program. This lesson also taught and incorporated verbal skills in discussing the future, visual skills in creating the map, and mathematical skills in envisioning numbers of years.

At the end of the three pilot programs, Aurora gathered feedback from participant focus groups and questionnaires. Participants said that they began to communicate better, learning to "listen more and not interrupt," and they gained a sense of responsibility:" I always wanted to blame someone else for my problems, now I take responsibility." Follow-up with participants also included activities in leadership settings. For example, former students briefed Congressman Raul Grijalva about the program, and two graduates conducted a leadership workshop at the annual conference of the Tucson/Pima County Women's Commission. Most of the participants who were of an age to be eligible to graduate from secondary school completed high school and successfully entered college or the work force.

The review of the pilots revealed that the program works best with younger students, who are in the ninth and tenth grades, and in an out-of-school setting. Future programs will follow this model.

A further-revised program will be tested beginning this summer as part of a summer camp offered by the Tucson City Parks and Recreation Department. Through the process of multiple tests and refinements, the Aurora Foundation hopes the program can be replicated in other parts of the country and the world. Findings from developing the Leaders for a Lifetime program were presented by the principal investigator, Dr. Stephanie Parker, to the China-US Women's Conference on Women in Leadership in both Shanghai and Beijing, China.

The Aurora Foundation, Inc. received an OII grant in 2002 through the Women's Educational Equity Act Program.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative, but developers are still in the process of testing the program's effectiveness. The program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

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What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings released a statement about the report by the College Board on Advanced Placement (see What's New) saying, "I am pleased to see more and more high school students are embracing the rigors of Advancement Placement (AP) coursework...the President, in his 2006 budget, plans to propose a 73 percent increase in funding for the AP program..." (Jan. 25)

A list of grant competitions with forecasted deadline dates is available on the Department's website. This list is updated regularly, so readers are advised to check it frequently. (Jan. 13)

From OII

OII and PBS are co-hosting a Ready To Learn TV summit on February 3-4 in Baltimore, Maryland. The summit will examine the impact of media on children's literacy skills with the goal of forging new partnerships among the public broadcasting, reading research, technology and entertainment fields. The event will be webcast live and then archived. Please watch the Innovator for access to the webcast. (Jan. 19)

OII's Funding Opportunities page has been updated with additional competitions for fiscal year 2005. Check this page for notices about specific grant announcements. (Jan. 19)

Advanced Placement

As the Advanced Placement program approaches its 50th anniversary, the College Board has released the first Advanced Placement Report to the Nation, showing that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have increased the percentage of high school students scoring 3 or above on an AP exam. (Jan. 25)

Charter Schools

A new strategic plan download files PDF (64KB) for Georgia's charter schools has been approved by the state board of education. This is the first time the state has crafted a system to support its 35 charter schools. (Dec. 9)

Reading

Dr. Sally Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia, will field questions in a live, online chat at 2:00 PM ET on Thursday, January 27. This event will begin a new project, the centerpiece of which is an online tool to help parents and teachers assist children with reading difficulties. The chat with Dr. Shaywitz is offered in cooperation with the Partnership for Reading, a collaboration of the U. S. Department of Education, the National Institute for Literacy, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (Jan. 18)

School Reform

Big Buildings, Small Schools: Using a Small Schools Strategy for High School Reform, is a new report from the nonprofit organization, Jobs for the Future (JFF). The report describes emerging efforts in such communities as Boston, New York City, and Sacramento to convert large, comprehensive high schools into autonomous small school units under one roof. (Jan. 20) (free registration)

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Innovations in the News

Arts Education
Arts woven into education can improve student achievement, according to a new study of the Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds Through the Arts program. The two-year study showed that schools using the OII-funded program had more than 20 percent improvement in math scores on the Stanford 9 test and more than 33 percent increases in language scores. [More-Tucson Citizen] (Jan. 7)

Charter Schools
Galapagos Charter School is one of 18 new schools in Chicago that officials want to open this fall under Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 plan. Five schools would replace three troubled ones. Six will help relieve overcrowding. And seven will be privately operated. [More-Sun Times] (Jan. 19)

A new math and science charter school is set to open in Cincinnati this month, increasing the number of Cincinnati charter schools to 23. Horizon Science Academy will offer small classes, college counseling, one-on-one tutoring, and math and science through local and international field trips. This college-prep public school will be housed in the same building as Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Church. [More-Enquirer] (Jan. 19)

Appleton Public Montessori, an Appleton Area School District (WI) charter school set to open next fall for grades one through six, is holding a series of information sessions. Planners will present their charter proposal to the Board of Education for approval after pupil applications have been received. [More-Post Crescent] (Jan. 19)

Choice
A recent study released by the Utah legislature says that a proposed tax credit plan could save the state almost $1.3 billion over 13 years. The plan would give a tax credit of up to $2,000 for parents who choose to send their children to private schools. [More-Salt Lake Tribune] (Jan. 14)

Portland Public Schools (OR) has a sort of "school supermarket" to provide parents with lots of information about school choices at its annual schools open house. The district advertised the event in multiple languages. [More-Oregon Live] (Jan. 19) (free registration)

Parents in Massachusetts must learn how to navigate through their many school choice options. In Framingham, for example, where 35 percent of students attend schools outside their neighborhoods and where a charter middle school opened in 2002, the district strives to send a clear message about choice. [More-Boston Globe] (Jan. 9)

Reading
Govenor Jeb Bush wants to add $43.3 million more for reading initiatives in his proposed state budget. The money will go toward requiring middle school students who read below grade level to take an intensive reading course. Last year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results showed that middle school students made smaller improvement in reading than those in earlier grades. [More-The Ledger] (Jan. 11)

Classroom Connect, an educational technology division of Harcourt Inc., has an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Education to create a comprehensive online professional development program for K-3 Reading First early literacy instruction. [More-PR News Wire] (Jan. 7)

The Jacksonville (AL) Kiwanis Club and Kid's First have kicked off a pilot project to bring reading into day-care centers. Kiwanis Club members will donate their time to read to children to ensure that they are exposed to reading early. [More-Jax News] (Jan. 13)

Teacher Quality
With the goal of attracting star teachers and principals to the school district, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) superintendent has suggested incentives for principals and teachers to work at low-performing and high poverty schools: an extra $10,000 to stay at a low-performing school for at least three years; one-time bonuses of up to $20,000 for principals who guarantee teachers duty-free lunch periods; and tickets to sporting events and the theater from corporate donors. [More-Charlotte Observer] (Jan. 15) (free registration)

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009