The Education Innovator #16
Volume III
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 May 2, 2005 • Number 16
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  Past issues
What's inside...
Clean Sweep USA Website
What's New
Secretary Spellings highlights the proposed Teacher Incentive Fund at Milken Family Foundation conference; U.S. Department of Education seeks nominations for the American Stars of Teaching project; Corporation for Public Broadcasting holds pre-proposal briefings on American History and Civics Initiative; virtual charter high school slated to open in Idaho; Broad Superintendents' Academy is now accepting applications; Haberman Educational Foundation, Inc., releases book on effective teaching; "Telescopes from the Ground Up" online science and technology program launched; Ball State University hosts its latest electronic fieldtrip, "Biological Invasion;" and the Spanish Honor Society goes virtual.
Innovations in the News
Charter schools in Hawaii are predicted to grow, plus information on choice, closing the achievement gap, magnet schools, and technology.

Teachers and Students Learn How to Keep America Beautiful with Clean Sweep USA
When Cindy was young in rural Northern New York, a warm Friday night in the summer could mean loading the kids in the car to drive up to the dump to watch the bears. Today, Cindy can take her own children on a virtual field trip to a landfill that is safer, less aromatic, and educational, through the new website, Clean Sweep USA.

The United States generates nearly 230 million tons of garbage each year. It is easy not to think about what or how much we throw away, or stop to consider the environmental and economic consequences of our waste. Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation's largest volunteer-based education and community action organization, recently launched its Clean Sweep USA website, designed to educate children about how they can improve their communities and become more environmentally responsible.

Since 1953, the programs of Keep America Beautiful have promoted the beautification of the country by encouraging people to reduce and properly manage their waste and prevent litter. Clean Sweep USA is one of these programs, and has been specifically designed as a place where teachers, students, and families can address issues related to waste and find information about environmental protection. But Clean Sweep USA goes much further than raising awareness. It teaches science and uses the latest technology to educate its audience about the need to protect natural resources. The colorful, interactive website looks like something out of the pages of a comic book with dialogue balloons and cartoon characters that direct users to information on recycling, solid waste, composting, landfills, and energy.

Clean Sweep USA is designed for use with students in the sixth through ninth grade. The site shows six in-class lessons, which provide teachers with tips for web-directed research and class projects. Clean Sweep offers 22 web-based projects that require students to examine waste management issues from national, state, and local levels. For example, students can research "waste exchanges" by locating one or more places in their community that accept items for reuse. Using Internet resources, students then identify other waste exchanges in their state or a nearby state.

All lessons on the website include two hands-on activities that focus on critical problem solving, and each activity is supported by background information that teachers can download and print. Lessons correlate to Guidelines for Excellence from the North American Association for Environmental Education, which are listed at the end of each lesson plan. Using the Clean Sweep website, teachers can review a summary of a lesson and then download the lesson plan - complete with objectives, a list of materials, procedures, vocabulary, and student assessments. Each lesson corresponds to a student webpage that includes flash animation, interactive games, and facts. For example, a lesson on waste management links to the "Garbage Pizza" page. Students can visit the webpage before the lesson and can create a virtual pizza topped with trash items, an activity which starts them thinking about different methods of waste disposal.

Along with Garbage Pizza, students can explore other interactive links. A "Waste Watchers" page offers tips detailing how students can reuse items in their homes that otherwise would be thrown in the trash. A used milk carton turns into a birdfeeder, an empty mayonnaise jar transforms into a desk organizer, and a juice jug is reincarnated as a piggy bank. In "Recycling Rules" students learn about Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) by viewing a streaming video and then sorting through cans and bottles on a virtual conveyor belt to discover how many items they can recycle. At the "Landfill Lounge" students take a quiz on the parts of a landfill and then build their own.

The activities also allow teachers and students to dig into the science of garbage as well. For example, the process of "micro aerobics" is explained at the "Compost Office." Students learn that microorganisms from the soil eat the organic materials in the compost heap and then use oxygen to break these materials down to create humus. This process creates heat, and the temperature in a compost heap can get up to 150 degrees.

Clean Sweep USA was first introduced in small pilot training sessions in March 2004. Organizations such as the Chicago Center for Green Technology, California State University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Keep America Beautiful state and city affiliates field tested the website.

In an effort to educate the public about the resources Clean Sweep USA offers, Keep America Beautiful has sponsored "Train-the-Trainer" sessions in six states: Mississippi, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, and Illinois. This year, teachers and community leaders from 12 states will participate in training activities. These sessions help classroom teachers and instructors in nontraditional settings, such as zoos, nature centers, and after-school programs, use the website and its tools. Overall, participants' feedback has been positive. On a scale of one to five, attendees gave a rating of 4.9 for comfort with implementing Clean Sweep USA in their classrooms and programs.

During the first two weeks of April, Clean Sweep USA was visited by 128,000 viewers. The EPA and the National Environmental Education Training Foundation have linked to the site, and the Toyota USA Foundation has pledged to help bring the website to the attention of teachers. Keep America Beautiful received a two-year Star Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the Clean Sweep USA website.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative, but does not yet have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation.


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

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings promoted the President's proposal for a $500 million Teacher Incentive Fund in her address at the Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference. The Secretary noted that teachers who teach in the most challenging environments and who make significant gains toward closing the achievement gap should be rewarded. She added that the nation must acknowledge the work of high-quality teachers to fully realize the potential of No Child Left Behind. (April 27)

The U.S. Department of Education is seeking nominations for the American Stars of Teaching project of the Teacher-to-Teacher initiative. The project recognizes outstanding teachers who are using innovative strategies to raise student achievement. Teachers across all grade levels and disciplines are eligible. Nominations will be reviewed early this summer. (April 22)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII)

The schedule of events, where U.S. Department of Education officials will help celebrate National Charter Schools Week (May 1-7), has been updated. Please check the schedule for a celebration in your area. (May 1)

OII's Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary Michael J. Petrilli will be leaving the U.S. Department of Education to become vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. In his new position, he will lead the Foundation's research program, project development, dissemination, and communications. Mike helped to establish and develop OII, and he will be greatly missed. (April 28)

American History

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has scheduled pre-proposal briefings on its American History and Civics Initiative grant program. The program seeks new and effective ways to teach students history and civics using interactive technologies, including gaming. Upcoming conferences will take place in New York (May 3) and San Francisco (May 23).

Charter Schools

Idaho students will be able to attend a new virtual charter school beginning next academic year. INSPIRE, the Idaho Connections Academy, will offer a nationally certified curriculum that combines textbook learning with technology-based resources and hands-on materials. Students will work with their parents, or other academic coaches, and an Idaho certified teacher, using personalized daily lesson plans. Each student will receive a desktop computer, printer, and Internet subsidy. Boise State University is a partner of the initiative. (May 2)

School Leadership

The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is looking for outstanding senior executives, educators, entrepreneurs, and other interested individuals to fill its Superintendents' Academy. The Academy is a rigorous 10-month management program designed to prepare leaders to become public school chiefs. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with a review at the end of each month. The deadline to submit applications is September 15, 2005. (May 2) (contact: Mollie Mitchell at 310-954-5082)

Teacher Quality and Development

A new book entitled, Star Teachers:The Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty, was recently released by the Haberman Educational Foundation, Inc. The new volume analyzes the attributes and behaviors of star teachers based on 45 years of observation, interviews, and research. (May 2)


Telescopes from the Ground Up, a web-based program using national science and technology education standards, takes users on a journey starting with Galileo's refractor telescope and culminating with NASA's Great Observatories. The site includes teaching tips, background information on telescopes, and links to other science education resources. (May 2)

Ball State University's Electronic Field Trip series will host a "Biological Invasion," highlighting the cause and consequences of the arrival of non-native organisms to the nation's coastal waters. The program was developed by Ball State's Teachers College and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), and is sponsored by The Best Buy Children's Foundation. "Biological Invasion" will air at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Viewers will be able to call in with questions or send questions through an online discussion forum. To register for the broadcast, please visit: BSU Registration or check local cable or satellite listings. (May 2)

Kentucky Virtual High School (KVHS) now offers the first-ever virtual chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica, or Spanish Honor Society. The honor society is a national group that recognizes exemplary high school students who are studying Spanish. The organization is affiliated with the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. (May 2)


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
A recent report by Hawaii's Charter School Administrative Office estimates that charter schools in Hawaii are expected to grow by 50 percent over the next five years. Most of the state's charter schools, which currently are in their fourth year of operation, have students on waiting lists. [More-The Honolulu Advertiser] (April 21)

A new Texas bill would allow home-schoolers to attend classes or play on sports teams or in the band at their neighborhood schools. This could help parents who homeschool their children but who lack chemistry labs, for example, or whose children now cannot participate in extracurricular activities. The public schools would receive extra funds in return for the increased enrollment as a result of providing specific activities and services. [More-Dallas Morning News] (April 21) [free registration]

Closing the Achievement Gap
A new proposal would require all Los Angeles Unified School District students to complete a rigorous college preparatory course track. Beginning with the freshman class of 2008, all students would be required to complete an "A-G sequence" of 15 high school classes needed for admissions into the University of California or Cal State University systems. Only 15 percent of Latinos and 21 percent of African Americans who began high school in 1999 graduated with the courses needed to attend a four-year California university. San Jose Unified School District implemented a college track in its high schools in 2000, and its graduation rate increased from 73 percent in 1999 to 79 percent in 2003. [More-The Los Angeles Times] (April 26) [free registration]

Magnet Schools
The King/Drew Magnet High School is shattering expectations of what poor children can achieve in Watts (CA). King/Drew sends more African American students to UCLA than any other high school. This year, students were also accepted into Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, Cornell, and four other University of California campuses. The school attributes its success to a relatively small learning community, high expectations, and committed staff. The school was started in 1982 by local activists who wanted to encourage minority students to pursue careers in medicine. [More-Los Angeles Times] (April 27) [free registration]

Classrooms are now using handheld remote devices that measure how well students are learning. Several Pennsylvania districts, including Pennridge, Ridley, Upper Moreland, and Wallingford-Swarthmore, are utilizing the technology. In the classroom, the teacher gives each student a numbered remote. When a multiple-choice question is displayed on a screen or the blackboard, students aim their remotes at a receiver set at the front of the classroom and punch a button on their remote keypad. Their answers are automatically recorded, so that the teacher can tally the answers and see how well students comprehend the lesson. Proponents of the technology state that the remotes allow teachers to have instant feedback so that they may modify lessons or re-teach concepts. [More-The Philadelphia Inquirer] (April 21)

A new Center for 21st Century Skills will be run from the North Carolina governor's office through the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE). The Center will work with K-12 public schools, community colleges, and teacher education programs to redesign the state's existing curricula, improve teachers' professional development, and implement assessments to track students' academic achievement. The Center will emphasize such topics as information and communication technology, global awareness, and critical thinking skills. [More-eSchool News] (April 25) [free registration]


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Last Modified: 08/20/2008