“Hope for Urban Education” takes flight

Nine urban elementary schools that have served children of color in poor communities and achieved impressive academic results are the focus of this report released in December at the Department of Education’s third regional Improving America’s Schools conference in Chicago. “What stands out among these schools,” said Education Secretary Richard Riley, “is a clear and unrelenting focus on high standards, a commitment to serving children and ensuring their academic success, and a collective sense of responsibility and persistence among school staff.” Most of the 150-page report (126 pages) is devoted to in-depth case studies of these nine schools: Harriet A. Baldwin School in Boston; Baskin Elementary in San Antonio; Burgess Elementary in Atlanta; Centerville Elementary in East St. Louis, Ill.; Goodale Elementary in Detroit; Hawley Environmental Elementary in Milwaukee; Lora B. Peck Elementary in Houston; Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary in Cheverly, Md.; and James Ward Elementary in Chicago. All are Title I-funded schools that pool resources through “schoolwide projects” to serve all students and improve achievement. This study and report were produced for the Department’s Planning and Evaluation Service by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


Explore new “Worlds of Web Searching”


The Ramapo Catskill Library System, developer of the KidsClick! search engine, has created a companion web site in an effort to teach internet searching skills to upper elementary and middle school students (grades 4-7). The new site, called “KidsClick! Worlds of Web Searching,” covers such topics as subject directories, keyword searches, truncation, spelling, boolean logic, advanced search strategies, looking for pictures and sounds, and the differences between search engines and directories. Each topic is illustrated and supported by interactive activities.


Concerned leaders should check out this school safety report


Despite heightened public attention following a surge in multiple homicides in schools, overall school crime rates are declining, according to a report prepared by the Departments of Education and Justice and released in October. In addition to the latest statistics on school crime, the second “Annual Report on School Safety (1999)” includes descriptions of activities planned by the 54 communities receiving the first Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative grants last summer; model research-based programs that address the prevention of violence and the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; and schools recognized as doing an exemplary job of creating and maintaining safe environments.


Literacy rules with “America Reads Challenge: Read*Write*Now Resource Kit”


This Education Department site contains all the resources you need to organize a campaign ensuring that all children in your community (through the sixth grade) learn to read and write well. The online kit provides reading and writing activities, directories of helpful organizations, and more. The America Reads Challenge is a grassroots call to action by President Clinton that challenges every American to help kids learn to read, despite disabilities and limited English. The program motivates parents, recruits colleges to enlist tutors, encourages teachers to use best practices, mobilizes volunteers, engages businesses to involve their employees, and unites communities dedicated to child literacy. The online kit also suggests ways to form partnerships among parents, schools, local businesses, and the community to make literacy a reality for all.


Old dogs can learn new tricks at “EduHound.com”


The product of more than five months of labor, this site is a pre-screened database directory of more than 30,000 K-12 educational links. It’s a great starting point to find all the very best educational web sites, resources, lesson plans, webquests, and much more. The site’s creator, Judith B. Rajala (a technology instructor for educators and former sixth-grade teacher), has made the site as easy to navigate as possible, keeping in mind the importance of finding what you need as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Make each student a “NatureExplorer”


This site contains all of the text—and most of the graphics—from REMedia’s ZooGuides series of educational CD-ROMs. This adds up to thousands of web pages, 250,000 words of text, and more than 2,000 color photographs and diagrams. All are available at no cost, though the company hopes that many users will want to upgrade to the animation and video-rich CD-ROM versions of the disks. The online versions do have several advantages, though, like rich cross-referencing features and easy printing and downloading of color images. REMedia has been selling its 9-volume series of CD-ROMs in the K-12 market for several years, and thanks to bundling deals with Apple Computer, more than 300,000 copies of the disks—mainly the titles “The Rainforest,” “Whales and Dolphins,” and “World of Reptiles”—are in use across the U.S., according to the company. All titles include teacher’s guides in PDF format, which are available for download from the site. The goal of this web site is to be the most complete life science resource for schools, libraries, colleges, and the home by offering an extensive reference collection of information on animals, plants, and their habitats.


“Riverdeep.net” provides a torrent of information


Riverdeep.net is an online community for K-12 teachers to develop science, math, and language arts-based curricula, complete with lesson plans, software to download or use online (as well as support to help teachers use that software), and message boards for teachers everywhere to communicate and help one another. The online resources build on Riverdeep Interactive Learning’s courseware and interactive simulations. The site offers access to Riverdeep’s EarthPulse research center as well, which is ideal for helping students understand the impact of geological and atmospheric events on our changing earth. Though much of the site’s content is available only on a per-fee basis, Riverdeep offers educators a free 90-day evaluation period.


Parents and kids are challenged to “Figure This!”


This site, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, offers interactive math problems that teachers and families alike can use to help children understand basic math concepts such as algebra, graphs, geometry, decimals, fractions, estimation, rates and velocity, and volume, among others. With math challenges like “What’s my Angle,” “Play Ball,” “Stamps,” and “Double or Not,” students and their parents can sit down and work through the problems together, while enjoying the format of a game-type activity. Math challenges can be downloaded into a PDF file, printed, and completed by hand if teachers don’t have an internet connection in their classroom.


“Why Is the Sky Dark at Night?” aims to shed light on the subject


To begin to answer this deceptively simple question, come visit this site—and pick up a good working knowledge of elementary physics at the same time. Animations and interactive Java applets help illustrate important concepts, including a small-scale model of heat-transfer physics. In “The Heat Pump,” the physics behind heat pumps, refrigerators, and air conditioners is explained through animated graphics and detailed description. Another hands-on experiment is “The Rubber Band,” which reiterates the laws of physics explained by the heat pump through a simple demonstration that kids can try themselves.


“The Gateway to Educational Materials” is a gem for educators


A new tool is now available to help teachers pick, from thousands of resources on the internet, the one that is right for their students. The Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) site is designed so that teachers can type a topic, grade level, or other information into a search screen in order to retrieve lesson plans, instructional units, and other free educational materials on the selected topic, for the selected grade level. GEM lets teachers search for instructional materials from more than 140 federal, state, university, nonprofit, and commercial organizations. These materials may also be browsed by subject area or key word. Currently, more than 7,000 items are included in GEM, with hundreds of new resources being added and new consortium members joining each month, according to the site’s creator, the U.S. Department of Education. “GEM works like the card catalog system in a library,” explains Keith Stubbs of the National Library of Education, which oversees the department’s support for GEM. “A GEM search retrieves fewer resources than most search tools, and with more precision. Also, in the future, teachers will be able to search and find resources by state academic standards.”