The Education Innovator #6
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 February 17, 2004 • Number 6
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Teaching American History Program in Little Rock
What's New
The next Innovations in Education Exchange, "School Choice: Doing It Right," will be held on February 25; the Magnet Schools Assistance program is recruiting reviewers for the grant competition; the updated draft Title I Choice Guidance is now available; the Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation is piloting a supplemental educational services technical assistance effort; the Building Excellent Schools fellowship program is accepting applications; Teachers College Press has released Taking Account of Charter Schools; the Center for Social Policy has issued an evaluation of the Technology Goes Home Project; and the Center for Education Reform evaluates charter school laws.
Innovations in the News
Some schools are using financial incentives to improve teacher quality; plus information on parental involvement, charter schools, and school choice.

Little Rock Teaching American History Program Stresses Content Mastery, Reading
Compelling evidence confirms what common sense has told us: A teacher's mastery of the academic content of what he or she teaches is strongly linked to student learning. It is also critical to expanding dreams and opportunities for students throughout their lifetime.

One Arkansas school district is focusing on improving the skills of its history teachers, only one percent of whom hold a degree in American history. Little Rock School District (LRSD) has developed a new professional development program for its history teachers in grades 5, 8, and 11. The program aims to accentuate teachers' knowledge and skills, while improving student engagement and achievement.

Those participating in the Teaching American History professional development have also taken the initiative to merge history education with the school system's reading program, a focus of No Child Left Behind. For example, the Great Depression was introduced to 5th graders as they read primary source documents, nonfiction pieces, and historical fiction. The reading of rich and interesting content has resulted in much more emphasis on critical thinking throughout the district.

The Little Rock Teaching American History program has five major components:

  1. History colloquia. The colloquia follow the model developed by the National Council for History Education, where teachers receive the latest in historical knowledge and gain an understanding of primary sources and their importance.
  2. Professional networking connections. The project sponsors 3-hour evening technical assistance sessions; participants exchange ideas via e-mail; and teachers attend local, state, and national conferences to present content and pedagogy to other teachers in the district.
  3. Administrative leadership support. This support includes professional development for all principals and key central office staff.
  4. American history master teachers. This aspect aims to build capacity by having master history teachers participate in collaborative professional development sessions, peer coaching, and follow-up training.
  5. Innovative lesson plans and teaching strategies. This is a way to develop a portfolio of best practices. For example, teacher teams participate in Colonial Williamsburg's 8-day, on-site summer institute and explore resources in Arkansas, such as the Central High School National Historic Site to develop content-rich lessons.
The study trips, designed to deepen content knowledge, are sponsored by partners that support the program, including National History Day, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of History, Colonial Williamsburg, Kagan Professional Development, and the Central High School Historic National Park Site. The partners provide a variety of resources including on-site summer institutes, electronic field trips, professional development programs, ongoing teacher support, and lesson plans.

The LRSD professional development program received a 2002 grant under the Teaching American History program which is administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement. For more information, please view Teaching American History and Little Rock School District.

Note: The featured innovation is a description of one example of a professional development program. The program has only been implemented for one year, so data on effectiveness are not yet available. The information provided should not be regarded as an endorsement.


What's New
Innovations in Education Exchange Series on "School Choice: Doing It Right"
The next Innovations in Education Exchange, "School Choice:Doing It Right," will be held on February 25, from 10:00 a.m.- 11:30 a.m. at the National Capital Region Building, 7th & D Streets, SW, Washington, DC. Secretary Paige will offer a keynote address followed by presentations from Dr. Paul Hill, Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education; Dr. Howard Fuller, former Milwaukee Superintendent of Public Schools and founder of BAEO; Virginia Walden-Ford, Executive Director, DC Parents for School Choice; and Dr. TJ Wallace, Founding Director, Parents Advancing Choice in Education. To register, please e-mail or contact Amber Hutchinson at 202-401-0850. (Feb. 9)

Magnet Schools Assistance Program Recruiting Reviewers
The Magnet Schools Assistance program is recruiting reviewers for the upcoming grant competition. Reviewers should have a background in magnet school planning and implementation, elementary and/or secondary education, curriculum development, or other fields related to magnet schools. For consideration, please send your resume to Kay Wager. (Feb. 10)

Title I Choice Guidance (Draft)
The updated draft Title I Choice Guidance is now available on the U.S. Department of Education website. (Feb. 11)

Supplemental Services Outreach Partnerships
The Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation (GEO), in partnership with OII and local Parental Information and Resource Centers, is piloting a public awareness effort in five cities and one county where enrollment is now open for NCLB free tutoring: Gary (IN), Indianapolis, Denver, Colorado Springs, Boston, Los Angeles, and Montgomery County (MD). Posters about the availability of these services to eligible students will be appearing in community centers, libraries, laundromats, grocery stores, and other neighborhood gathering places. For more information, please view the Supplemental Educational Services Poster download files PDF (99K) and the Supplemental Educational Services Brochure, also in download files PDF (133K). (Feb. 16).

Building Excellent Schools Fellowship Program
The Building Excellent Schools fellowship program is accepting applications and nominations for its fourth class of aspiring charter school founders. The deadline for application is May 1. (Feb. 9)

Taking Account of Charter Schools Empirical Studies
Teachers College Press has released Taking Account of Charter Schools, a collection of empirical studies of charter schools on such topics as the characteristics of their teachers, the impact on student achievement, how they address federal requirements, and the growth of for-profit educational management organizations. (Nov. 2003)

Technology Goes Home Evaluation
The Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has issued an evaluation of the Technology Goes Home Project of the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation. The evaluation shows that the program has benefits for family involvement and student learning. (Jan. 20)

The Center for Education Reform
The Center for Education Reform has compiled Charter School Laws Across the States 2004: Ranking Scorecard and Legislative Profiles, a report based on the finding that a predictor of charter success is the strength of the charter school law. Evaluators rated the strength of state laws as follows: 6 states received an "A," 14 states a "B," 13 states a "C," 6 states a "D," and 2 states an "F." (2004)


Innovations in the News

Teacher Quality
Many education experts and policymakers who think all schools should pay more to their most effective teachers are watching the Chattanooga experiment and a few other initiatives like it. Are bonuses paid to 26 high-performing teachers in Chattanooga responsible for increases of 10 percentile points in third-graders reading at or above grade level? [More-Washington Post] (Feb. 10)

Parental Involvement
A new parents' guide to Miami-Dade Public Schools, written in three languages, includes program information and more than 100 phone numbers and Internet sites. It will be delivered to nearly every home in the county. [More-The Miami Herald] (Feb. 3)

When Scott Kirk looked at which parents at his children's school were doing most of the volunteer work, the gender gap was obvious. He formed the Four Fathers, a group of men who have helped raise thousands of dollars through penny drives and yard sales. [More-The Sacramento Bee] (Feb.1)

More than 200 attended the parent information session on No Child Left Behind in the Salem-Keizer School District (OR). [More-The Salem Statesman Journal] (Feb.1)

School district officials in Charlotte County (FL) presented the first draft of a policy on parental involvement. The policy, which stems from No Child Left Behind, will include parents more in school district decisions and will require school employees to be more customer-friendly toward parents. [More-The Sun Herald] (Jan. 11)

School Choice
Principal Gloria Smith's tireless boosterism of Ross Elementary, a Washington, D.C. public school where 74% of students are low-income, has prompted a number of affluent families to send their children to the school. [More-The Washington Post] (Feb. 5)

Superintendents in Manitowoc County, WI generally support Wisconsin's open enrollment policy because it gives parents and students choices when it comes to public education. [More-The Manitowoc Herald Times] (Feb. 3)

Fort Pierce Central High School (FL) is instituting a new dual-enrollment program with Indian River Community College that will give students the opportunity to earn a diploma and an associate's degree at the same time. [More-The Stuart News] (Feb. 5)

Charter Schools
The District of Columbia could be getting three new charter schools in the fall. The city school board has approved applications for Bridges Public Charter School, Howard University Middle School of Math and Science, and William Doar Public Charter School for the Performing Arts. [More-ABC 7 News] (Feb. 4)

Six of the country's largest school-management businesses have formed a new interest group. The National Council of Education Providers will seek more public money for charter schools, along with more charter-friendly regulations, at both the state and federal levels. [More-Education Week] (Free Registration) (Feb. 4)

Waseca (MN) will open TEAM Academy, a charter school sponsored by the Waseca School Board but funded with federal and state money. The school will emphasize preparing for postsecondary education from an early age through field trips to colleges and technical schools. [More-Mankato Free Press] (Feb. 3)

Reminder: Grant Application Deadlines
  • Public Charter Schools Program, February 19
  • Teaching American History Program, March 2
  • D.C. School Choice Incentive Program, March 5
  • Magnet Schools Assistance Program, March 15

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Last Modified: 06/28/2011