The Education Innovator #43
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The Education Innovator
 December 22, 2003 • Number 43
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  Past issues
Editor's Note:
The Education Innovator will take a holiday break over the next two weeks. Look for the next issue on January 12th.

Funding Opportunities:
Check the OII website for word of new grant competitions that are scheduled to be announced in the next few weeks: Teaching American History and Charter Schools.

What's inside...
What's New
U.S. Department of Education launches superintendents' hotline; Secretary Rod Paige and Deputy Under Secretary Maria Hernandez Ferrier unveil initiative to help parents get more involved in education; new guide from the Institute of Education Sciences helps educators identify evidence-based practice; National Endowment for the Humanities accepting applications for summer programs; National Archives announces results of "The People's Vote;" National Center for Alternative Certification to hold conference; and BellSouth launches teaching initiative.
Innovations in the News
A new Spanish-language media campaign on No Child Left Behind is expected to reach 90 percent of Hispanic parents nationwide; plus information on charter schools, virtual schools, teacher quality, and school choice.

It's 9 o'clock at night and your child is writing an essay for his English class. He has incorporated the literature review and feedback from his peers, but now has a manuscript with fragments of ideas. Who can he ask to help him develop transitions and bring coherence to his paper? Or, your daughter has questions about her Algebra II assignment. It's been 25 years since you studied math, and you weren't that great at it then. Where does she go for help?

Based in Washington DC, SMARTHINKING staffs live, online tutoring and academic support for students in middle and high school (grades 6-12), as well as college. SMARTHINKING sessions complement and enhance classroom instruction. The math and writing programs aim to increase student achievement and enhance learning by connecting students to qualified educators through up to 18 hours of pre-scheduled tutoring and unlimited 24-hour-per-day live access to homework assistance.

The 24-hour homework help provides students one-on-one instruction in the core courses, answers to specific questions, and detailed feedback on writing, usually within 24 hours. Students can "drop in" online to get help, without scheduling an appointment in advance.

SMARTHINKING'S standards-based programs in writing and math support the curriculum a student is studying and align with state assessments. Students take a diagnostic test prior to enrolling in the program and are provided with a custom learning plan based on their needs. The actual transcripts of the live tutoring sessions, as well as student assessments, are saved and accessible to students, teachers, and parents at any time so that a student's progress can be monitored.

SMARTHINKING's "e-structors" are available to help students when traditional teachers may not be available. They can also be particularly helpful to students who live in rural, remote areas. The e-structors include qualified college faculty, graduate students, high school teachers, retired educators, and advanced undergraduates. The e-structors currently provide support to students in:

  • Mathematics (basic math through Calculus II);
  • Writing (essays in all subjects and career writing);
  • Grammar and the writing process;
  • Statistics;
  • Accounting;
  • Economics (Macro and Micro);
  • Chemistry; and
  • Spanish.
To date, SMARTHINKING has worked with over 51,000 students and provided over 221,000 tutorial sessions. Lately, SMARTHINKING is also providing supplemental educational services to eligible Title I students in schools in need of improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act. The company is an approved supplemental educational services provider in Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

For additional information, please view SMARTHINKING and supplemental educational services.

Note: The featured innovation is a description of one state-approved supplemental services provider and is given as an example to help school districts and schools implement the supplemental educational services provisions of No Child Left Behind. The U.S. Department of Education has not evaluated the specific services of SMARTHINKING, and the information provided should not be regarded as an endorsement.


What's New
Superintendent's Hotline
The U.S. Department of Education has a new hotline for superintendents: 1-888-625-2787. This resource line offers information about all facts of the No Child Left Behind Act, including measuring school progress, supplemental educational services, and public school choice options. (Dec. 18)

New Initiatives to Assist Parents of English Language Learners
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Deputy Under Secretary of Education for English Language Acquisition Maria Hernandez Ferrier unveiled a new initiative to help parents play a more active role in their children's education. "Ten Key Benefits for Parents of English Language Learners". is a summary of the No Child Left Behind Act's most important provisions that affect the nation's approximately five million English language learners. (see also "Innovation in the News") (Dec. 2)

Evidence-Based Education Practice Guide
The Department's Institute of Education Sciences has released a guide on how to identify evidence-based education practice. (Dec. 2003)

National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is accepting applications for its summer seminars and institutes. Programs for K-12 educators last from 4-6 weeks. Participants are paid stipends ranging from $2,800 to $3,700 per person. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2004. (Dec. 15)

The People's Vote
The National Archives announced the results of "The People's Vote," an initiative to have people vote on the most important milestone documents in the history of the US. Nearly 40,000 people cast votes. The Declaration of Independence edged out the Constitution for the top prize. (Dec. 15)

National Center for Alternative Certification Conference
The National Center for Alternative Certification, funded by OII, will hold its first annual conference on February 1-3 in San Antonio, Texas. The purpose of the conference is to "define challenges and devise strategies" for alternate routes to teaching. (Dec. 15)

BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative
BellSouth launched the BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative—a $10 million, five-year project designed to assist teachers across the company's nine-state territory with professional development, recruitment, and retention—the top issues facing teachers nationwide. (Dec. 10)


Innovations in the News

Parental Involvement
A new Spanish-language media campaign on the No Child Left Behind Act is expected to reach 90 percent of Hispanic parents nationwide. The push will use radio ads, church partnerships, and interviews with free Spanish weekly newspapers as the U.S. Department of Education seeks to communicate with immigrant families. [More-"What's New" and The Miami Herald] (Dec. 7)

Parents can find out a lot about the teachers and students at Sikeston (MO) Public Schools by reading the new report card that has been available online since Dec. 1. The report card gives teacher salaries and the percent of staff whose highest degree is above a bachelor's degree. It also includes student test scores (including ACT), disciplinary actions, and rates of pupil attendance. [More-The Sikeston Standard Democrat] (Dec. 10)

Charter Schools
Before coming to Codman Academy, a small, 3-year-old charter high school in Boston, most of the students were reading well below grade level, and many were getting D's and F's. Now, in classes of 15, they are reading Shakespeare, James Joyce, and Chinua Achebe. Last year, all 25 sophomores passed the language arts portion of Massachusetts's state exam. [More-New York Times] (Dec. 17)

Virtual Schools
School board members in Akron, Ohio voted to let students enrolled in the district's online charter school participate in extracurricular activities. [More-The Akron Beacon Journal] (Dec. 9)

Bend-La Pine School District officials in Oregon unveiled their vision for an online high school that offers students nearly 60 courses, individualized instruction, and the unique opportunity to learn "anywhere at any time." [More-Bend Bulletin] (Dec. 10)

Salem-Keizer Online, or S.K.O., in Oregon is one in a growing number of public, private, and charter schools available to those who are looking for an alternative to a traditional education. [More-The New York Times] (Dec. 7)

Teacher Quality
Bard College is working to address the complaint that high school teachers do not know enough in the subjects they teach. The college has a new 12-month Master of Arts in Teaching program that will require students to take as many courses in their subject area as in pedagogy. [More-The New York Times] (Dec. 14)

Teachers at Bel Air Elementary School in Minnesota collaborate and then set deadlines for students to hit learning benchmarks. A surge in math and test scores has followed. [More-The Pioneer Press] (Dec. 14)

School Choice
Boulder, Colorado parents are investigating charter schools, "focus" schools, and neighborhood schools for their children because it is open enrollment season in the Boulder Valley School District. Parents who want to send their children to a school outside their neighborhood have until Jan. 23 to turn in an application. [More-The Daily Camera] (Dec. 10)

One of the most important educational decisions a young person faces is choosing a high school. For many, the choice is easy. They will attend the public school in their home district. For others, the decision is more complex because students and parents have more options than ever before. [] (Dec. 11)

A Manhattan Institute study of Florida's voucher program found that participating students had much smaller classes, were victimized less often by other students and, in general, got services that their parents say were better than what they got in the public schools. [More-The Tampa Tribune] (Dec. 11)

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Last Modified: 04/26/2011