The Education Innovator
Volume IV
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 February 9, 2006 • Number 4
 Share this page Share this page
  Past issues
Dear Readers,

Beginning on January 26, 2006, you may have noticed my name on the masthead of this newsletter. It is my pleasure to work with the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) as its Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary and new publisher of The Education Innovator.

I come to OII as the director of the U.S. Department of Education's Reading First Program, a focused nationwide effort to enable all students to become successful readers. Education has been an important focus of my career. Before coming to the Department, I taught and worked in public elementary schools and worked as a teacher and director for a residential middle school for boys, an innovative school in rural Kenya that is the subject of a current documentary entitled, "The Boys of Baraka." I was also the executive director of the Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP), a private organization that operates three public charter schools and is an approved supplemental educational services (SES) provider. All of these roles, including my favorite as the father of four strong-willed and high-spirited children, have contributed to my understanding of the daily challenges and successes that occur in our nation's schools, and I have deep appreciation for all of you who work both inside and outside the classroom to ensure that every child can attain a high-quality education.

For both veteran and new subscribers to The Innovator, I hope that you will find this newsletter to be a helpful resource for education news and information on promising educational practices. Beginning in March, the newsletter will move to a new monthly distribution cycle. The Innovator is most useful when it is shared with other people, so I encourage you to pass along what you have learned to your colleagues, staff, and other interested individuals, and share with them how to subscribe. I look forward to sharing news from OII with you.

Christopher J. Doherty

What's inside...
The Ingenuity Project, Baltimore, Maryland
What's New
Innovations in the News

A Little "Ingenuity" Leads Baltimore City Students to Success in Math and Science
Forty miles north of the nation's capital, in a city known as the home of Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken, and arguably the best crab cakes on the East Coast, a unique program in a traditional public school has given Baltimore City (MD) another reason to be proud. "The Ingenuity Project" at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute recently produced an Intel Science Talent Search finalist for the second consecutive year. Often regarded as the "Junior Nobel Prize," the Intel Science Talent Search, formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, is America's oldest pre-college science contest. Each year the program honors especially talented high school seniors in an effort to encourage them to pursue careers in science, math, engineering, and medicine. Ryan Harrison, the 2005 Polytechnic Institute finalist and winner of fifth place honors in the overall competition, and Abe Davis, the 2006 finalist, both earned recognition by participating in the Ingenuity Project, a Baltimore-based program that offers capable and motivated students a challenging curriculum in science and mathematics.

The title of Abe's research project for the Intel competition this year may offer a glimpse into the rigor of his classes with the Ingenuity Project. "Bounding Sphere Images: A Parametric Bounding Volume Hierarchy for Collision Detection of the Graphics Processing Unit," reads not like the title of a high school thesis, but more like the subject of an article in a sophisticated science journal. Working for one-and-a-half years with Dr. Jonathan Cohen from Johns Hopkins University, Abe studied how to increase the speed at which hardware performs physical simulations. In March, Abe, along with the other 39 national finalists, will travel to Washington, DC, where his project will undergo judging during the Science Talent Institute. While in Washington, all finalists will display their projects at the National Academy of Sciences, where they will describe their research to visitors, many of whom will be notable figures in the fields of government and science. After the display session, ten winners will be selected, and the first place honoree will receive a $100,000 scholarship.

The Ingenuity Project started in 1993 with the mission to prepare highly capable and motivated Baltimore City students to achieve at nationally competitive levels in mathematics, science, technology, and related fields. A nonprofit organization funded by the Abell Foundation and the Baltimore City Public School System, Ingenuity originated as a middle school program, and then in 1997 it expanded to the high school level. In 2001, Ingenuity established an elementary program. Currently, Ingenuity serves 445 students in four Baltimore City schools: Federal Hill Preparatory School, Roland Park Middle School, Mt. Royal Middle School, and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Overall, the Ingenuity Project aims to prepare students to graduate from each level of the program with strong academic skills, to consider careers in math and science, and ultimately become leaders in their chosen professions. It utilizes an advanced curriculum in science and math that was developed by master teachers who were recruited from Baltimore City, as well as surrounding counties, other parts of the country, and abroad. One such teacher, Mikahil Goldenberg, a Russian émigré and Ph.D. mathematician, currently teaches algebra, calculus, and geometry at the Polytechnic Institute. The Ingenuity curriculum focuses on reinforcing basic skills, applying advanced subject matter, engaging students in hands-on learning activities, using the scientific method to inform research, and integrating technology into classroom and laboratory exercises. All Ingenuity students must maintain an 80 percent average or above in their academic courses.

At Federal Hill Preparatory School, students in first through fifth grade study a science curriculum that combines the acquisition of content knowledge with exploration and discovery, emphasizing children's natural curiosity concerning the world around them. A "spiral curriculum" introduces basic concepts in early grades and returns to those topics in greater detail and with more sophisticated application in later grades. Students study math using the rigorous Singapore Mathematics curriculum, a system of learning in which students are led from the concrete to more abstract mathematical thinking. The program was originally developed in 1982 by a team of experts organized through Singapore's Ministry of Education.

Kindergarten students applying to the Ingenuity Project at Federal Hill are expected to read and understand mathematical concepts at a first grade level. Report cards, recommendations from teachers, and standardized test scores are reviewed for students applying to the program in later elementary grades. If students meet Ingenuity's standards throughout the elementary program, they may apply to the middle school component during the fall of fifth grade.

The original middle school program was designed to help students understand "how we know what we know, and how it is possible to find approaches to new questions." At Roland Park and Mt. Royal middle schools, students tackle research problems, first with the whole class, then in small groups and, finally, through self-directed investigation. Throughout the three-year middle school science component, students examine unity and diversity in living things, the interaction of matter and energy, and changes in the universe and the earth over time. These concepts are developed as sixth graders study earth science, seventh graders study living organisms and how they interact with the environment, and eighth graders study physics and chemistry. Like the elementary component, the middle school math curriculum incorporates instruction based on Singapore Mathematics and progresses through Algebra I. Those students who are successful in the middle school program may apply to the Ingenuity Project at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

At the high school level, all Ingenuity science and math classes are taught at an accelerated pace and cover advanced concepts. Ingenuity students may enroll in honors-level courses in English, social studies, and foreign language. Advanced Placement (AP) classes also are available in calculus, chemistry, biology, environmental science, physics, statistics, U.S. history, U.S. government, English, and Spanish. During 10th grade, Ingenuity students enroll in specific science and math classes covering topics such as probability and statistics, electricity, and "Science Technology and Society." During the summer before 11th grade, students who enroll in the Research Practicum begin working under the supervision of mentor scientists at various colleges, universities, or other organizations. The Practicum continues throughout 11th grade, and students are granted leave from campus in order to research, obtain data, and conduct any necessary observations for their projects. An extensive paper detailing the students' research and findings is due by November of their senior year. The culmination of the Practicum is entry in the Intel Science Talent Search. Based upon their interests, students may study biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, or environmental science in 12th grade.

In 2004, 19 seniors successfully completed the Ingenuity Project at the Polytechnic Institute. Two of them were honored as National Achievement Scholars, and one was honored as a National Merit Scholar. These graduates earned an average score of 1314 on the SAT, and 100 percent were accepted into college. Ingenuity graduates currently attend schools such as Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Wesleyan, and Lehigh Universities, and in 2005, their total college scholarships totaled $2.2 million. Ryan Harrison, the 2005 Intel Science Talent Search fifth place winner, currently attends Johns Hopkins University, where he was admitted via early decision on a full scholarship. After graduating in June, Abe Davis, the school's 2006 finalist, hopes to enroll at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), or Stanford University, all schools he will be better prepared to attend because of the rigorous science and math curricula at his high school.

Currently, President Bush's "American Competitiveness Initiative" focuses attention on improving science and math education across the country through more rigorous and challenging coursework. (See the "What's New" section for more information about this new initiative.) The President's budget for fiscal year 2007 includes $380 million under the American Competitiveness Initiative that will strengthen math and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools. Baltimore City's Ingenuity Project demonstrates one district's attempt to provide its students with a high-quality education in science and math, which can ultimately prepare them to be successful in the global economy.

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

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings spoke at the National Education Data Summit, hosted by the state of Florida with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Governors Association. The Secretary noted, "As we work to improve school performance and ensure a quality education for every child in this country, it is absolutely critical that we have sound information guiding our decision-making at the local, state, and national level." (Feb. 2)

Secretary Spellings released "Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World: Strengthening Education for the 21st Century," which outlines the educational components of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative, a comprehensive plan to ensure that American students and workers remain leaders in opportunity and innovation, as well as other math, science, and foreign language programs. (Feb. 2) is now online to provide easy-to-understand assessments of Federal programs. is a comprehensive website including assessment summaries about nearly 800 Federal programs. Each summary provides a program overview, key findings, and follow-up steps agencies are taking to address those findings and improve program performance. (Feb. 6)

Secretary Spellings visited Ramsay High School in Birmingham (AL) with Governor Bob Riley. The Secretary discussed President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Advanced Placement Incentive Program, which supports the need for American students to take rigorous math and science courses to be prepared for higher education and the workforce. (Feb. 3)

Secretary Spellings recently penned an editorial article in a special edition of Newsweek (December 2005-February 2006) concerning the critical need to reform the nation's schools and maintain global competitiveness. (Feb. 7)

President Bush is requesting $54.4 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal year 2007. Discretionary appropriations have increased by more than $12 billion, or 29 percent, since fiscal year 2001.This year's 4.6 percent increase in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) spending includes increased resources under the American Competitiveness Initiative, promoting stronger instruction in math, science, and foreign language in early grades and more challenging coursework in high schools. (Feb. 6)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released The Homeschooling in the United States: 2003 report. The report uses the Parent and Family Involvement Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) to estimate the number and percentage of students who participated in homeschooling in the United States in 2003 and to describe the characteristics of these students and their families. (Jan. 30)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

The Transition to Teaching grant competition is now open. The purpose of the program is to recruit and retain highly qualified mid-career professionals, including qualified paraprofessionals and recent college graduates, for the teaching profession. The application deadline is March 20. (Feb. 1)

The Charter Schools grant competition is now open. The Public Charter Schools Program supports the planning, development, and initial implementation of charter schools. The application deadline is March 10. (Feb. 1)

The Arts in Education Model Development Dissemination grant competition is open. Grants are designed to enable local educational agencies and organizations with art expertise to create and develop materials for the replication or adaptation of approaches for integrating a variety of arts disciplines into the elementary and middle school curricula. The application deadline is April 7. (Feb. 8)

The Congressional Academies for Students of American History and Civics Education Program is accepting applications. The program supports the establishment of academies for students to develop a broader and deeper understanding of American History and Civics. The application deadline is April 7. (Feb. 9)


The Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute has released a study, An Evaluation of the Effect of D.C.'s Voucher Program on Public School Achievement and Racial Integration After One Year download files PDF (136KB). The study found the voucher program has provided more opportunities for integrated schooling, specifically in private schools, but that the academic effects of vouchers on the District's public education system currently are minimal. The authors suggest that one year is not enough time for voucher competition to have a positive or negative effect on the public schools. (January 2006)

The nation's first peer-reviewed journal focusing on public and private school choice, the Journal of School Choice, will soon be available in print and online. The Journal was developed as a vehicle for presenting research, policy, and resources related to school choice. Presently the Journal is seeking manuscripts for publication related to diversity, academic achievement, and the economics of school choice. Contact Dr. Judith Stein or Dr. Steve Rollin for information. (Feb. 7)


New Leaders for New Schools, a national nonprofit organization that promotes high academic achievement by attracting, preparing, and supporting outstanding leaders for urban public schools (see Innovator, June 17, 2005), is accepting online applications and nominations for the 2006-2007 program year. The application deadline is March 1. (Feb. 9)


Imagine 300 million books: if spread out flat, that's enough to cover 2,500 football fields and, if laid end-to-end, that's enough to circle the globe 1 ½ times. It is also the number of books that Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) has donated since its founding in 1966. RIF achieved this milestone at Washington Heights Elementary School (PA) when Parker Beene, a fifth grade student, chose Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at his school's Reading Pep Rally. (Jan. 19)


Classworks, a network-based program consisting of reading and mathematics curricula for K-12 schools that is a product of Curriculum Advantage, Inc., was recently selected as a finalist in the 2006 CODiE Awards. Classworks was nominated as the Best Instructional Solution in the Language Arts/Reading - Elementary category. The awards, established in 1986 by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), recognize innovative products, services, and companies. More than 1,000 nominations were submitted for the 2006 award cycle (Jan. 30)


Innovations in the News

More students than expected are retaking Arizona's AIMS test, even though they have already passed it. These students are hoping to improve their scores and earn themselves free tuition to one of Arizona's state universities. Starting with the Class of 2006, students who score in the "exceeds standards" category on the reading, writing, and math portions of the mandatory exit exam will be rewarded with a tuition waiver to any of the three state universities. Only 2,199 of approximately 62,000 high school seniors in Arizona have made the grade. However, huge numbers of students are signing up to retake the test this spring. [More-The Arizona Republic] (Jan. 29)

A new independent study financed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education concludes that students in regular public schools do as well as or better than comparable students in private schools. The study compared fourth and eighth grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter, and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Though private school students have generally scored higher on NAEP, the study uses advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income and school and home circumstances. [More-The New York Times] (Jan. 28) (subscription required)

At least one-fifth of states plan to apply for a pilot program from the U.S. Department of Education that would allow them to use students' academic growth over time as a measure of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets under the No Child Left Behind Act. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the "growth models" pilot in November, and further guidance was released on January 27. The deadline for states to apply is February 17, and up to 10 states could take part after a peer-review process. As many as eight, mostly rural, states also may use the pilot to petition for the flexibility to form a rural accountability system focused on the individual student. [More-Education Week] (Feb. 1) (subscription required)

Charter Schools
For fourth grade student Jefferson Warner, Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA), Oregon's first wholly online public charter school, is a perfect fit. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Jefferson finds it difficult to focus in a traditional classroom environment. With ORCA, however, Jefferson may take classes at his own pace. ORCA currently enrolls 692 students. Certified teachers assign, oversee, and grade all work, and keep in touch with students via email and telephone. Parents or other adults act as "learning coaches" who track attendance and verify that students follow the school's program, which is aligned with state academic standards. [More-Albany Democrat-Herald] (Jan. 7)

A new statewide nonprofit group, School Choice Indiana, aims to promote school vouchers, charter schools, and other alternatives to traditional public education. The group will receive financial support from the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation and other school choice organizations. Virginia Walden Ford, a single mother who pioneered school choice efforts in Washington, DC, presented at School Choice Indiana's first community event where she discussed her book, Voices, Choices, and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State. [More-The Indianapolis Star] (Feb. 1)

Private Schools
In a break from the country's past, private schools are gaining popularity in Germany. There has been little private school tradition because the state has set high standards for public schools and has a constitution with strict guidelines governing private schools. With an international study in 2000 ranking Germany's public school system at the bottom third of industrial nations, however, more parents are currently viewing private schools as an option for their children. Since 1995, the number of students attending German private schools has increased 61 percent for primary schools and 25 percent overall, according to German government statistics. [More-The Christian Science Monitor] (Jan. 30)

Raising Student Achievement
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced his intent to create a residential math and science high school for the state's "best and brightest students." The school would be housed at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma. The University of Tennessee and its partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are slated to help develop the curriculum and admission requirements. Students would attend during their last two years of high school, and Governor Bredesen stated that he hoped to begin enrollment in the fall of 2007. [More-Memphis Commercial Appeal] (Jan. 30) (subscription required)

For the sixth consecutive year, Galena Elementary in Floyds Knobs is one of Indiana's "Four Star Schools." The Indiana Department of Education recently recognized Galena and 197 other schools. All 1,870 accredited public schools in the state were eligible. Galena had nearly a 98 percent attendance rate, and 82 percent of its tested students passed both the English and math portions of the ISTEP exam. Principal Dwight Beal attributed the school's achievement to high levels of parental involvement, instruction that focuses on state standards, low student mobility, and policies that require inclusion of all students in classroom instruction regardless of their abilities. [More-The Louisville Courier-Journal] (Feb. 2)


Print this page Printable view Send this page Share this page
Last Modified: 07/09/2009