Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts
The First Lady and the Secretary visit schools and announce Iowa's American Star of Teaching; Secretary Spellings announces Teacher Training Corps and answers questions on "Ask the White House;" Roger Bacon Academy named North Carolina Honor School of Excellence; first virtual school in Oregon opens; U.S. Army presents "Spirit of America;" U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee launches website with resources for those affected by Hurricane Katrina; CCSSO has student and teacher supply kits; National Association of Charter School Authorizers collects information to connect schools and students displaced by Katrina; Center for Education Reform establishes "Children's Emergency School Hotline;" Disney Channel launches new science programming; National Center for Education Information reports on Troops to Teachers; and Newark Project GRAD students awarded college scholarships.
Innovations in the News
More charter schools open in San Diego, plus information on hurricane relief, raising student achievement, and technology.
In Katrina's Wake: Support and Innovation Rise Out of Destruction
Late August usually marks the coming of a busy season: back to school. Yellow school buses begin to thump down neighborhood streets, and schoolyards are filled with students suited up with backpacks filled with new textbooks and fresh homework. These typical scenes were disrupted for students in the Gulf Coast region on August 28th, with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Instead, yellow school buses sped to bring people from the Gulf States to safe haven in communities across the country, and many students from hurricane-battered cities have had to find new schools to attend.
One such story is told by Ann Trappey, the Director of the Louisiana Teaching American History program in Amite, Louisiana. She wrote, "Tangipahoa Parish was destroyed. There are so many areas that do not have electricity, water, and phone service. Many roads are still impassable...We are expecting over 3,000 of the displaced children to enroll in our schools...They will certainly need all of the love and compassion that we can shower upon them."
Since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, the U.S. Department of Education has been in close contact with state and local officials in areas affected by the storm, as well as with surrounding states. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has met with education organizations, and the Department is working with states that are welcoming large numbers of displaced students. Assistance is being provided on a case-by-case basis due to the differences in the nature and scope of the damage across states.
The U.S. Department of Education also has identified broad areas of flexibility. For example, the Department is examining ways to redirect existing funds toward relief efforts; student loan borrowers living in affected areas may delay payments on their loans without penalty; and the Department is communicating with states and school districts with large numbers of displaced teachers regarding No Child Left Behind's highly qualified teacher requirements.
Specific information about the Department's flexibility is given in a letter from Secretary Spellings to the Chief State School Officers, which can be found on the Department's new webpage, called "Hurricane Help for Schools." This website is intended to serve as a national clearinghouse to address the needs of affected schools in coordination with the National Response Plan, activated by the Department of Homeland Security. The site contains links to the American Red Cross, USA Freedom Corps, and other organizations, such as the I Am Foundation, which can donate children's books to affected areas. The site also lets the public know that such groups as the seniors at Mountain View High School (CA) are organizing school-wide supply drives for Gulf Coast evacuees.
Most importantly, Hurricane Help for Schools is an interactive website where schools can post messages concerning resources and supplies they need and can be connected to companies, groups, and individuals offering resources. As a result of the website, for example, the Willis Hare Elementary School PTA in Pendleton, North Carolina has "adopted" Napoleonville Primary School in Napoleonville, Louisiana, to supply the school with books, notebook paper, pencils, pens, calculators, and backpacks.
In addition to declaring areas of flexibility and providing information, the Department is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine displaced students' immediate immunization needs. The Department is working to establish appropriate procedures that ensure students have up-to-date immunizations. Of utmost importance is that students who do not have medical or academic records will still be able to attend school without encountering barriers to enrollment.
The Department's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS) is also organizing emergency teams of physicians and medical personnel to provide immediate mental health services to local communities. OSDFS has established a toll-free hotline for people in crisis. By calling 1-800-273-TALK, callers will be connected to trained professionals from a network of local counseling centers that are prepared to help those suffering from emotional trauma, such as anger, grief, hopelessness, shock, and sleeplessness, as a result of the disaster. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, every day.
Despite its devastation, Hurricane Katrina has stimulated some educational innovation. Across the country, OII-funded Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs), for example, are providing families with vital information so they may enroll their children in K-12 schools, Head Start, and other programs. These centers are connecting families with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, departments of human services, housing authorities, and FEMA. Professionals and volunteers at PIRCs are helping families cope with the stress of the disaster by bringing learning activities and resources to shelters and transitional housing areas.
Examples of how other OII grantees are helping are both inspiring and practical:
- The Transition to Teaching Program in Florida has posted information on its website for teacher evacuees so that they can find out about teaching vacancies and the person in each school district who can help with certification and reciprocity with other states. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama certification officers have been contacted so that official copies of professional certificates can be obtained to accompany teachers' applications. Florida is waiving the initial application fee, and school districts are finding ways to pay the fees for fingerprinting each displaced candidate (which is required of all applicants for teaching jobs in the state).
- Teach for America is partnering with Do Something and Nickelodeon on a campaign called "We've Got Your Back" to send backpacks full of school supplies to children affected by Hurricane Katrina. Teach for America has also created an "Emergency Corps" to serve displaced students in Houston and South Louisiana.
- Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a directed grant monitored by OII, is working with Project Embrace in Mississippi to collect books and other educational/recreational objects to be assembled into kits for use in shelters. RIF is also proposing technical assistance in shelters/new housing settings for adult evacuees to be trained to work with young children on literacy development.
- Hurricane Help for Schools
- Fact Sheet and Resources
- Letter from Secretary Spellings to Chief State Officers
- Letter from Secretary Spellings to the Mississippi Department of Education
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
From the U.S. Department of Education
First Lady Laura Bush and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings visited Lovejoy Elementary School in Des Moines Iowa, to discuss what schools outside the affected areas can do to help students and families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They also visited Greenbrook Elementary School and Goodman Oaks Church of Christ in Southaven, Mississippi. The church was one of the first places to open its doors to hurricane survivors. (Sept. 8)
At the visit to Lovejoy Elementary, the Secretary and Mrs. Bush announced that Judy Kinley is Iowa's American Star of Teaching. Kinley is a master math educator for Lovejoy and Des Moines Public Schools. One teacher from every state and the District of Columbia, representing all grade levels and disciplines, will be honored this fall as a No Child Left Behind 2005 American Star of Teaching. A committee of former teachers at the U.S. Department of Education selected the American Stars, based on their success in improving student academic performance, from among 2,000 applicants. (Sept. 8)
Secretary Spellings announced a new teacher training corps and a technology partnership for teachers in urban areas who focus on math and science. These efforts are the latest additions to the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher-to-Teacher initiative that offers professional development, research-based classroom strategies, and other support to teachers. (Sept. 8)
Secretary Spellings participated in "Ask the White House," an online, interactive forum where people can submit questions to administration officials. One questioner from Gulfport, MS, stated, "Teachers are desperately searching for information on their students, schools, paychecks, and reopening dates. We need a centralized location to address each of these issues." The Secretary replied that the state department of education is the best place to find the information, and added that the U.S. Department of Education has created a webpage that matches schools' needs with organizations that would like to help. (Sept. 6)
The Roger Bacon Academy Charter Day School was recently named one of North Carolina's 25 Most Improved K-8 schools, as well as an Honor School of Excellence. These honors correlate with the school's performance on the state's ABCs report card, where the charter day school's composite score for reading and math measured at 91.9 percent, up from 86 percent last year. (Sept. 13)
Oregon's first virtual school has now opened. Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) will serve students in grades K-9 and will add a grade each year until it has attained a full K-12 program. This public school alternative will deliver services to as many as 500 Oregon students statewide, in their own homes. The ORCA website includes a self-assessment for parents and students so they can determine if ORCA is the right school for them. (Sept. 12)
The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will present "Spirit of America," a live-action musical performance that brings American history to life. Performances are free and are offered in Washington, DC on September 16 and 17, as well as in Cleveland, OH, September 23 and 24. (Sept. 9)
Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts
The Education and Workforce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has put together a website with resources available for students, schools, families, and communities. The site contains information from both the Committee and the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Education. (Sept. 12)
The Council of Chief State School Officers has developed student MS Word, (80K) and teacher MS Word, (80K), supply kits which those affected by the hurricane can use. The kits can be downloaded free from the Council's website. (Sept. 12)
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) has developed an online survey for charter, other public, and private schools to identify any available spaces they may have to house Gulf Coast evacuees. NACSA will send the results of the survey to the local authorizer or sponsor agency designated on the survey. Capacity data also will be made available to educator and parent groups who are assisting with relocation efforts. (Sept. 7)
The Center for Education Reform has established a "Children's Emergency School Hotline" (1-800-291-7809) to connect families seeking schools to schools in surrounding states that can immediately welcome their children. The organization has contacted every charter school in the states surrounding the affected areas, states where families are being taken, and other charters to identify available slots. (Sept. 8)
The Disney Channel has developed "The Eyes of Nye" educational series that focuses on such science topics as, "Genetically Modified Foods," "Nuclear Energy," and "Pseudoscience"—Looking for Evidence and Proof. Episodes of the program are available on DVD, along with an educator's guide and an interactive glossary. (Sept. 6) (available for sale)
Troops to Teachers
The National Center for Education Information (NCEI) has released a new report, Profile of Troops to Teachers, (2MB). The report is based on a survey of 3,000 Troops to Teachers participants and shows that the program provides schools with qualified, predominately male, math, science, and special education teachers for poor urban and remote rural schools. NCEI and Troops to Teachers are both OII grantees. (Sept. 2005)
In Newark (NJ) Project Grad (see Innovator, March 8, 2004) helps students fulfill their dreams. For the first time, 89 students from Central and Malcolm X Shabazz High Schools received a total of $534,000 in Lucent Technologies Scholarships for successfully meeting all GRAD requirements for the Class of 2005. Project GRAD Newark works to empower students from disadvantaged communities by encouraging them to study with college entrance and graduation as the goal. (Sept. 8)
Innovations in the News
More charter schools are opening in the San Diego Unified School District: this year, increasing by 13 to 34 schools. By the end of this month, nearly one in ten public school students in San Diego will be attending a charter school. The new schools will reflect a statewide trend that targets minority students from underserved neighborhoods. Examples of new schools include Fanno Academy, which will offer an African-centered curriculum, and Jola Community School, which will help girls succeed in math, science, and technology. California currently houses about 570 charter schools that serve approximately 200,000 students. [More-San Diego Union-Tribune] (Sept. 6)
KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School (MA) students succeeded in bringing up their test scores. This year's sixth graders improved an average of 2.7 grade levels from fall 2004 to spring 2005 on the Stanford 10 exam. After one school year of instruction, students went from the 37th percentile to the 58th in reading, from the 49th to 74th in math, and the 42nd to 67th in language. [More-Daily Item] (Aug. 23)
The Rutland Hurricanes of Rutland Middle School are helping students displaced by Katrina feel welcome in their new home of Bibb County, Georgia. A Rutland School art teacher is helping students design T-shirts to sell and raise money for the storm victims. Georgia school systems have gained more than 5,600 new students in the last two weeks and more students are expected. State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox has said that the goal is for children to be in the classroom as soon as possible. [More-Telegraph] (Sept. 12)
Radio personality Tom Joyner has launched the "HBCU Scholarship Relief Fund" to assist students at three Historically Black Colleges and Universities—Dilliard, Xavier, and Southern University—in New Orleans whose campuses have been closed due to Hurricane Katrina. Also, the Louisiana Board of Regents has a website with information about colleges throughout the U.S. that are accommodating displaced college students. [More-Radio INK] (Sept. 12) and [More-CNN.com] (Sept. 7)
Raising Student Achievement
In the New Miami Local School District in Ohio, all 900 students attend classes in one building that is divided into an elementary wing and a junior/senior high wing. In the last five years, the district has jumped 14 indicators on the state report card, moving from a rating of "academic emergency" to "effective." On the latest report card, the district met 18 of 23 performance indicators and met Adequate Yearly Progress standards for the second consecutive year. The positive results can be attributed, in part, to a continuous improvement plan, enrichment activities for students, and partnerships with Miami University of Ohio, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Girl Scouts, and the United Way, among other organizations. [More-Journal News] (Sept. 6)
A row of clocks displaying the time at space centers across the country hangs in the front of the classroom. Recorded sounds of solar flares and cosmic plasma fill the room. Children work on models of the solar system. This "space exploration center" at Hobgood Elementary School marks a renewed focus on science and technology. Hobgood is one of 50 schools nationwide to receive a grant to participate in the Explorer Schools program from NASA. The three-year program includes lesson plans, NASA-related activities, and $17,500 in technology funding to be used toward digital learning equipment, which enables the schools to communicate with each other as well as with NASA scientists, education specialists, and engineers. The NASA program was created to increase economically disadvantaged students' interest in careers relating to science, technology, engineering, math, and geography. [More-The Tennessean] (Sept. 6)
What is four-feet wide, touch-sensitive, and beginning to take the place of chalkboards, paper handouts, and textbooks all over the world? The answer is: the interactive whiteboard. This year, students in over 150,000 schools in various counties will use these high-tech boards that are Internet-enabled and connected to projectors and desktop computers. Whiteboards can transform a teacher's handwritten notes into typed text that can be saved and printed for later use. Their multimedia instructional approach can appeal to different learning styles, helping students understand a lesson's core concepts. [More-The Washington Post] (Sept. 6) [free registration]
Last Modified: 08/12/2009