Marshall University Writing Project Satellite in Logan County, West Virginia
The General Accounting Office asserts that No Child Left Behind does not fall under the category of "unfunded mandate"; the Lincoln Center Institute has a website with information for students and educators, including an online library catalog; the Center for Education Reform has released the National Charter School Directory 2004 with information on almost 3,000 charter schools; and the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk has a new website with information on how to use student data for decision making.
Innovations in the News
Some school districts do better than others in getting the word out about parent involvement under No Child Left Behind, plus information on school choice, supplemental educational services, teacher quality, and technology in schools.
Marshall University Writing Project's Satellite Site in Logan County, West Virginia Runs on Distance Learning
Few teachers from Logan County were prepared to drive four hours over mountainous terrain to attend the Marshall University Writing Project's summer institute in Huntington, West Virginia. Yet, Logan County, where the poverty rate for children is about twice the national average, was in dire need of new ways to instruct its students. In 1999, only 35 out of 453 10th graders in the county who took the statewide writing test scored a 3.5 or a 4 (on a 4.0 scale).
To serve the needs of the Logan County teachers, the Marshall University Writing Project established an online program with a curriculum for teacher professional development aligned with Logan County's academic goals. In the beginning, some of the teachers were as wary of the technology as they had been of crossing the mountains to go to Huntington. To help overcome this obstacle, the Writing Project site recruited student "Technology Specialists" to teach teachers advanced word processing skills, how to construct Power Point presentations, and how to send lesson plans to colleagues across the state.
The Logan County online "satellite site" now uses listservs; online, real-time chat room formats; and email to allow participating teachers to communicate with each other and others in physically remote counties. As a result, faculty members are able to engage in open dialogues on student progress, hold joint advisory board meetings, and plan events for the satellite site, all using computer technology. To communicate with students and parents during the school year, teachers learn how to post assignments, keep daily classroom journals, and display rubrics online.
Since the teachers of Logan County now use technology to communicate with ease in their remote location, involvement in site programs continues to increase. As active teacher and community involvement increase, so do test scores. Since the satellite site became active, the number of students who scored 3.5 or 4 on the statewide writing test in 2003 nearly tripled.
The emphasis on writing skills infuses the Logan County curriculum. For example, the director of the Logan County site, Laura Tracy Baisden, for example, requires students to write in her technical physics class at Logan Senior High School. She says the students' writing "helps me know whether they understand concepts and what I need to teach."
With this progress, the Logan County site now provides an invitational summer institute for teachers, writing development workshops during the school year in all subject areas, and a book club open to all Logan County community members. The site also runs creative writing camps for students.
The camps provide writing instruction that supplements what students learn during the school year. Instead of focusing on remediation, as the county previously had, the program encourages students in grades seven through 12 to enrich their skills. Students learn how to write specifically for the web, including creating web logs, and how to use the Internet to communicate with students in other states about local West Virginia history, for example. Writing Project teachers are encouraged to participate in two to three of the creative writing camps, so that they can relay their knowledge to students in an informal setting, without the pressure of school tests.
All of these programs are designed to help teachers communicate effective writing tools and techniques to students and community members alike. Laura Tracy Baisden says, "If we bring together strong teachers, who then teach other teachers the methods, skills, and ideas that work best for them, then we have a group of teacher leaders who share strong teaching practices. Best practices can be shared across the Internet, as well as across a desk."
The Marshall University Writing Project and the satellite site in Logan County are part of the network of more than 180 National Writing Project sites in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The National Writing Project and the local sites are funded through a grant administered by OII and by funds from local donors.
Reminders: Note: The featured professional development program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program described may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.
General Accounting Office Finds NCLB Is Not an Unfunded Mandate
The General Accounting Office has released a new report, Unfunded Mandates: Analysis of Reform Act Coverage PDF (1MB), that found No Child Left Behind does not fit the category of "unfunded mandate." (May 25)
Lincoln Center Institute
The Lincoln Center Institute has a new website for arts educators with audio clips, email discussion groups, workshop descriptions for professional development, and other online materials. The site's online library catalog of the Heckscher Foundation Resource Center offers searches by author, title, or subject. (Spring 2004)
Center for Education Reform Ninth Edition of the National Charter School Directory
The Center for Education Reform has released the ninth edition of the National Charter School Directory 2004. This directory provides updated contact information, enrollment data, and descriptions of programs and curricula for nearly 3,000 charter schools. It also includes information on approved, but not yet open, specialty schools. (April 1)
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR)
The Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR) has a new website that provides resources for data-driven decision-making, including reviews of software for analyzing student data. This website is in response to No Child Left Behind's requirement for accountability as evidenced by student data and is an outgrowth of the report, Software Enabling School Improvement Through Analysis of Student Data. PDF (2MB)
On June 7-10, UScharterschools.org will host a moderated, web-based dialogue on issues related to the upcoming charter schools conference. (May 27)
The 2004 National Charter Schools Conference will be June 16-18 in Miami Beach, FL.
The Transition to Teaching grant competition remains open. The deadline for application is June 14.
The State Charter Schools Facilities Incentive grant competition remains open. The deadline for application is July 1.
Innovations in the News
No Child Left Behind has codified the crucial role that parent involvement plays in academic achievement, but some school districts have had difficulty getting the word out. Other districts are making conscious efforts to reach out to families as a direct result of NCLB. [More-Christian Science Monitor] (June 1)
Started by leaders of an inner-city Lutheran Church, Garden Homes Community of Schools in Milwaukee provides lots of choices, all in the same neighborhood. The cooperative of schools includes a private Lutheran elementary-middle school with a public Montessori school in the same building. It also includes a public elementary school and a public high school for at-risk students. [More-Pioneer Press] (June 2)
Supplemental Educational Services
There is widespread satisfaction among Oregon students (and their parents) who took advantage of free tutoring available this year. The prediction is that tutoring programs will be bigger and better next year. [More-Oregonian] (May 30)
Nearly 87 percent of students who attend Hopi High in Keams Canyon, AZ, graduate from this school that incorporates Hopi and Navajo language and culture into its classes and has high school-to-college transition programs. Additionally, the school has a 90 percent teacher retention rate, regular meetings with counselors, and an after-school tutoring program with bus service afterward. [More-KVOA Tucson] (May 31)
The Japanese teaching model, "lesson study," has gained a wide following in the U.S. Soon the New Jersey Department of Education will back it as an approved professional development tool to strengthen math instruction. The method is based on collaboration among teachers to develop lesson plans with goals for what they want students to learn. [More-Star-Ledger] (May 26)
Teach for America teachers are considered highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. Recruits like the 118 new teachers in Philadelphia this year have bachelor's degrees and undergo six weeks of additional training, including teaching summer school. School system administrators say they would gladly take more of these novice teachers. [More-Philadelphia Inquirer] (May 30)
Technology in Schools
Elementary and high school members of Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) teach teachers about technology. They help with Internet research and Power Point presentations. Their classmates look to them for tutoring and tips on computer use. [More-Chicago Tribune] (June 1)
Last Modified: 06/30/2011