The Education Innovator #35
Volume III
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 September 28, 2005 • Number 35
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  Past issues
What's inside...
Center for Advanced Research and Technology Puts Students on a Fast Academic and Professional Track
What's New
Secretary Spellings announces NCLB Blue Ribbon Schools; Education Department offers fact sheets online, including ones on SES pilot programs and charter schools; Secretary Spellings remembers Sandra Feldman; Reading Is Fundamental joins with Embrace Mississippi's Children to provide Hurricane Katrina relief; Intel Corporation and Scholastic reveal the 2005 Schools of Distinction award winners; Reading Rockets and AFT launch T.ELL.E-GRAM to reach teachers of Hispanic students; and Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award program is accepting nominations.
Innovations in the News
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies discusses reviving the Gulf Coast as the National Endowment for the Arts launches a "Jazz in the Schools" program; plus information about raising student achievement, teacher quality and development, and technology.

The Center for Advanced Research and Technology Puts Students on Fast to Academic and Professional Track
Just south of the coffee shops, clothing boutiques, and music stores of Sierra Vista Mall that typically attract many San Joaquin Valley teenagers, sits a 75,000 square-foot technological and research facility that has become a popular destination for students in the Clovis and Fresno Unified School Districts. The Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART), a charter school developed from a partnership between these two districts, houses students from 18 California high schools who want to combine their traditional academic program with opportunities for challenging project-based learning and access to the latest technology.

Through a unique mix of the traditional high school experience with the freedom of a charter school to develop a distinctive curriculum, students focus on building their academic knowledge along with their technical, design, entrepreneurial, and critical thinking skills. Each day, 1,350 eleventh- and twelfth-grade students in Clovis and Fresno attend classes at their home high schools, either in the morning or the afternoon. For the remainder of the day, they attend CART, where they are in class either from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. for the morning session, or from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for the afternoon session.

Before the first students arrived on CART's doorstep in 2000, a team of teachers, predominantly from the Clovis and Fresno Unified school districts, took a year of release time from their regular classrooms to develop the CART curriculum. This initial curriculum, aligned with California State Standards, forms the backbone of the school's current academic plan. Students learn in one of four "career clusters:" Professional Sciences, Global Dynamics, Advanced Communications, and Engineering and Design.

As part of the "Professional Sciences" career cluster students often walk into peculiar crime scenes in Jill Rossetti's English and forensics class. Recently, the forensic research and biotechnology lab was cordoned off with yellow police tape, and a contorted plastic mannequin lay on a blood-red couch in the center of the room. Students gathered around the scene with notepads, trying to piece together how multi-colored papers strewn on the body and a bottle on a nearby table related to the crime. These students not only acted like Sherlock Holmes, they had read about him in short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They regularly wrote about the psychological underpinnings of Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare, and studied college-level criminology texts. In addition to forensics, students in this cluster can study in the Biomedicine Learning Lab where they investigate how a healthy body functions, or in the Environmental Sciences and Field Research Learning Lab, where they analyze the impact of humans on the natural world.

The "Global Dynamics" cluster houses learning labs for Economics and Finance, Marketing and Advertising, and Law and Policy. Here students examine how people use and manage resources to satisfy personal and societal wants and needs. The third cluster, "Advanced Communications," allows students to study in the Multimedia, Network Management, or Database Design laboratories. Students explore various means of communication using emergent technologies such as web broadcasting, wireless and satellite devices, and the Internet. As an added benefit to the program, students who successfully complete their coursework in the Network Management lab are eligible to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam. Passing this exam enables students to work as fully qualified technicians. Finally, the "Engineering and Design" cluster allows future microbiologists, genetic counselors, or aeronautical engineers to hone their skills in the Product Development or Bioengineering labs.

Within their individual learning labs, students earn advanced credit in English, science, math, and technology. All classes at the school are college preparatory, and meet requirements for the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. Through partnerships with businesses and postsecondary institutions such as CSU Fresno, UC, and the State Center Community College District, students can combine CART lab classes with college-level courses and other certification programs. CART also offers an Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course, and some AP classes online.

Students are expected to achieve at high levels through their class work as well as community-based projects and internships. Each year, students complete five to six projects, and for each one, students are matched with a mentor from the business community who can serve as a resource. In labs such as Biomedicine and Environmental Sciences, students are assigned yearlong mentors who guide them through job shadowing experiences and various site-specific projects. One community-based project teamed three students with a professional cartoonist to meet Clovis's need for a map of the city to give to visitors. The business community invested money in the project, and the students learned about aesthetics, cartography, computer assisted design, and how to meet the needs of customers. The students made a formal presentation to the business community when the final product was unveiled.

Chary is one student who benefited from the CART program. When he came to CART, he was a member of a gang and had no plans for his future. He had not been successful in school and had a history of attendance problems. With the help of CART teachers and mentors, Chary discovered that he had an interest in and an aptitude for engineering. He applied himself and improved his grade point average from 0.8 to 3.8 in one year. His business mentors recognized his potential and offered to pay his tuition to CSU, Fresno. Chary will graduate from college this year with a degree in engineering, and often visits CART to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning.

The school also supports teachers in their quest to ensure achievement for every student. CART was awarded a Teaching American History (TAH) grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement, to provide CART teachers with resources and an online history course. On the website, teachers can find links to primary source documents, state standards, and hands-on activities that help students meet those standards. The colorful and easy-to-navigate site also includes student work, and ideas for online projects and field trips. Recently, students who benefited from their teachers' participation in the TAH program presented history projects at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Any student in the eleventh or twelfth grade in a Clovis or Fresno Unified school is eligible to attend CART. The school recommends that students be on track for graduation when they apply, and have successfully completed two years of English, one year of science, and one year of algebra. Once students complete their applications, a lottery process determines who will attend. The school's population currently consists of 45.1 percent white, 27.2 percent Hispanic, 18.4 percent Asian, 6.4 percent African American, and 2.8 percent Filipino and Native American students. Nearly one-half of the students qualify for federal free or reduced price lunch.

Academic achievement data for 2003-2004 showed that 45 percent of the students improved their grade point averages from the beginning of the school year. The California School Boards Association recognized CART with its Golden Bell Award in 2004 for this reason, calling the school an "Exemplary Instructional Model for Improving Achievement." The previous year, the Microsoft Center of Excellence selected CART as one of eight schools in the nation that it honored. CART was a field study school in the "Charter High Schools & Real-World Practices" applied research project that was conducted by the Center on Education and Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 2001 and 2003.

The school received start up funds from the Charter Schools Program grant to California in 2000. CART charter school made adequate yearly progress for school year 2004-2005.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative and interesting; however, it does not have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation and may not be replicable under differing conditions.


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

Two hundred and ninety-five schools in the nation have been named No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools for 2005. The schools are selected based on three criteria: schools with at least 40 percent disadvantaged students that improve student performance; schools whose students achieve at the top 10 percent of their state on state tests; and private schools that achieve in the top 10 percent in the nation. "The achievement gap is closing and that is great news for every student," U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said when announcing the awards. (Sept. 23)

The U.S. Department of Education has collected all of the No Child Left Behind fact sheets on one webpage. Topics covered include academic subjects, information for parents, material on student achievement, and fact sheets on the supplemental educational services pilot programs and charter schools. (Sept. 23)

Secretary Spellings released a statement upon the death of Sandra Feldman, former president of the American Federation of Teachers: Sandy "...always put students' needs first. She championed groundbreaking educational reforms to help level the paying field for our country's neediest children and to improve professional development for teachers..." (Sept. 19)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

The evaluation report on the Teaching American History Grant Program has been released and is available on the U.S. Department of Education website. The report examines the implementation of this professional development program and characteristics of the activities, content, and teacher participants for projects awarded during the program's first two years. Findings are based on surveys of program participants and project directors, case studies of projects, analyses of program documents, and a pilot study of lesson plans produced by program participants. (Sept. 22)

Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts

The Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) website continues to post current information about resources that are both needed and donated for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Project Embrace has become Embrace Mississippi's Children, an organization with which RIF has partnered to collect books and other educational and recreational materials for children displaced by the storm. The website also includes a link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Katrina Missing Persons page. Also, the Very Best in Youth (VBIY) program, co-sponsored by Nestlé and RIF, has completed a successful fundraising campaign, the funds of which will be matched by Nestlé and sent to the American Red Cross. RIF is an OII grantee. (Sept. 22)

Raising Student Achievement

Intel Corporation and Scholastic announced the 2005 Schools of Distinction award winners: 20 schools that have demonstrated exceptional commitment to achievement and innovation in education. Elementary and secondary schools were chosen based on 10 categories: overall academic achievement, literacy, science, mathematics, teamwork, leadership, collaboration, professional development, technical excellence, and technical innovation. (Sept. 20)


To coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, Reading Rockets and the American Federation of Teachers have launched the first edition of iColorín Colorado!'s T.ELL.E-GRAM, a free monthly electronic newsletter for preK-12 teachers of English language learners. The e-newsletter will feature articles, instructional tips, sample lesson plans, recommended books for students, and other educational materials. The premiere issue features items on Hispanic Heritage Month. Reading Rockets is a service of public television station WETA and is funded by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs of the U. S. Department of Education. (Sept. 20)

Teacher Quality

Nancy and Rich Kinder ask, "When a doctor, lawyer, and business person can earn more than $100,000 a year, why can't a teacher?" The Kinders have partnered with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) to create the new Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award. With its $100,000 cash prize, the award will honor a teacher in an underserved community who is innovative and results-oriented. The award is intended to raise awareness about the importance of effective, caring educators. The deadline to nominate teachers is December 31, 2005. (Sept. 27)


Innovations in the News

Hurricane Relief/Arts Education
Recently the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies met in Boise (ID) to complete a very important task: mapping out an action plan for restoring arts and culture in the Gulf Coast region. Rebuilding the arts organizations will entail multiple facets, from finding work for the artists to replacing costumes and instruments. The National Endowment for the Arts is launching a new initiative called "Jazz in the Schools." NEA Jazz in the Schools provides teachers with a multimedia curriculum that explores jazz both as an art form and as a means for understanding American history, from the late 19th century in New Orleans through the present. The Internet-based program, designed for high school students and teachers, is produced by Lincoln Center. [More-The Washington Post] (Sept. 13) [free registration]

Raising Student Achievement
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program from the U.S. Department of Education was established in 1982 and revised in 2002 to align with the principles of No Child Left Behind, highlighting schools that perform in the top 10 percent in their state or that have a high percentage of disadvantaged students who demonstrate strong academic gains. Two Houston-area schools, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Frostburg Elementary School, are among 25 Texas public schools to earn the distinction this year. [More-The Houston Chronicle] (Sept. 19)

New Jersey boasts four Blue Ribbon schools, one of which is Parkway Elementary School, the only school in South Jersey to be honored. [More-The Courier Post] (Sept. 20)

Six Maryland elementary schools received Blue Ribbon honors in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, and Worcester Counties. [More-The WBAL Channel] (Sept. 20)

In California, 34 public schools and seven private schools were awarded Blue Ribbon status after being nominated in November by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. One award-winning school, Hermosa Valley School, boasted impressive achievement where 77 percent of eighth-graders surpassed the proficiency benchmark on English-language arts tests, and 92 percent of third-graders were proficient or better in math. [More-The Daily Breeze] (Sept. 21)

Four Northeast Ohio schools are among 12 other state schools to get pinned with Blue Ribbons. At Newton D. Baker Elementary, changes in coursework helped to boost students' performance, especially in the areas of math and reading. Last year, 81 percent of fourth grade students and 79 percent of fifth grade students passed the state achievement tests in reading. [More-The Plain Dealer] (Sept. 20)

Teacher Quality
Las Vegas (NV) has done everything but hire a skywriter to broadcast its message: Teachers Wanted. Las Vegas has 12 schools opening this year, and at least 138 more are needed in upcoming years. The district's student population is expected to grow to at least 528,000 by 2018, and as a result, the district has launched an extensive teacher recruitment drive. At William H. "Bob" Bailey Middle School, Principal Karen Stansfield-Paquette hired teachers from California, Hawaii, Wyoming, Ohio, and New Mexico, among other states, just last year. The district is facing acute teacher shortages in math, science, bilingual education, and special education. [More-The Los Angeles Times] (Sept. 19)

Concerned that the United States is falling behind its international scientific and technological counterparts, IBM is launching a new program for up to 100 employees to transition into the teaching profession. IBM hopes that the initiative will fill in gaps in the country's teaching force, which will continue to grow as many current educators reach retirement. IBM employees who are selected to participate in the pilot program will take a leave of absence from the company, which includes full benefits and up to half of their salary, until they are hired permanently by private or public schools. Employees may also receive tuition reimbursements to cover the cost of earning teacher credentials. [More-USA Today] (Sept. 19)

Former Maine Governor Angus King raised $850,000 in private funds this summer to create a new nonprofit organization, Maine Learning Technology Foundation, which will offer free Internet service for the first time this academic year. This free access to the Internet will be provided to low-income students in Maine's laptop program. Other students in the program can purchase Internet service for a discounted rate. The initiative builds on the state's four-year program that provides Apple iBook laptops to all seventh and eighth grade students and teachers. [More-InfoZine] (Sept. 25)


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Last Modified: 09/10/2008