Clinton calls for tax incentives, more funding for school technology

President Clinton has announced plans to double funding for after-school programs and training new teachers on integrating technology into the classroom, as well as expanding tax incentives for computer donations and sponsorships from the private sector.

The initiatives mark the highlights of the president’s fiscal 2001 budget, released in February. All told, the largest education budget in the nation’s history requests some $16.2 billion for programs that could impact school technology, including $903 million for technology-specific programs.

Among other initiatives, the proposed budget would provide $150 million to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are technology-literate and know how to use technology as an effective teaching resource.

“Connecting classrooms and libraries to the internet is crucial, but it’s just a start,” Clinton said. “My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st century skills.”

The $150 million would double the existing budget for the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program, which was funded at $75 million in fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

Last year, 225 grants were awarded to consortia of universities, teachers’ colleges, and K-12 schools or districts under the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers program, each at more than $200,000 per year. The Department of Education (ED) is accepting applications for this year’s program through March 7.

“If we don’t improve the preparation of teachers now, it’s such a waste,” said Linda Roberts, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology. “It easily undermines the investments we are making.

“These teachers will be working with students who expect to use technology,” Roberts added. “It is imperative that these teachers remain ahead of the curve instead of behind it.”

The president also requested a $547 million increase for ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would double its funding to $1 billion. With this new support, the program will be able to reach nearly 2.5 million children, ED said.

Now in its third year, the program will award $454 million to schools and communities in 2000, with an average award of $125,000 to support each center. The program doled out $200 million last year and $40 million in 1998. Applications for the latest round of grants are due March 20.

The program is open to rural and inner-city public schools and consortia to help them plan, implement, or expand after-hours, in-school projects that benefit the educational, social, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. Funds can be used to purchase technology, since technology-based learning is among the list of supported after-school activities.

Tax incentives

In addition to increasing funding for teacher training and after-school programs, Clinton has proposed $2 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years for private sector computer donations or sponsorships to schools, public libraries, and community technology centers.

The tax breaks are designed to encourage companies to make charitable contributions to schools, libraries, and technology centers for the purpose of narrowing the “digital divide.”

The current law, which expires in 2000, applies only to computer donations made to schools. The president’s proposal would extend this tax incentive to June 30, 2004 and expand it to include donations made to public libraries and community technology centers in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and high-poverty areas.

Up to $20 million in tax credits annually would be set aside for companies that agree to sponsor schools, libraries, and community technology centers located in Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

The $2 billion in tax incentives also includes money for businesses that offer basic technology training to their employees to help them succeed in the modern workplace.

Other highlights

Other highlights of the Clinton administration’s proposed FY 2001 budget include:

• $12.3 billion in School Modernization funds: $11 billion would be set aside in 2001 (and another $11 billion in 2002) for tax credits to eliminate the interest costs on school construction bonds, and $1.3 billion would fund a new School Renovation program. Of that $1.3 billion, $50 million would be given as grants to Native American reservation schools, $125 million would fund grants to other “high-need” districts, and $1.125 billion would subsidize zero-interest federal loans for school construction. This marks the third year that President Clinton has proposed a school modernization package; the initiative has failed to gain passage in the last two years.

• $450 million for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund program, a $25 million increase over this year’s funding. The program provides block grants for states to administer to local school districts to fund hardware, software, connectivity, and training. The administration sought $450 million last year but had to settle for $425 million.

• $170 million for the Next Generation Technology Innovation program, a new initiative that combines the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs. Three competitions for new awards under this program are proposed for 2001. Advanced Technology Applications will support research and development initiatives that advance state-of-the-art educational technology applications. The Mississippi Delta Initiative will provide training to middle school teachers in the Mississippi Delta region. The Challenging Coursework Online initiative will support the development of high-quality, web-based Advanced Placement, foreign language, and other challenging courses to help ensure that students everywhere have access to challenging coursework that their own schools can’t afford to provide. The proposed $170 million in funding is less than the $200 million provided by the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs in FY 2000.

• $100 million for the Community Technology Centers program, which funds computer learning centers for students and adults in low-income neighborhoods. For its FY 2000 budget, the administration proposed $65 million but had to settle for half of that total.

• $16 million for the Ready to Learn Digital Television program, which supports the development of educational programming and outreach activities designed to promote literacy and school readiness. The program is funded at $16 million in FY 2000 as well.

• $10 million for the Regional Technology in Education Consortia program, which supports the six regional consortia that help states and districts integrate technology with teaching and learning. The program is also funded at $10 million in FY 2000.

• $5 million for the Telecommunications Program for Professional Development, which would expand the currently funded Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program to promote excellent teaching in all core subject areas. The program would fund the use of telecommunications to support sustained professional development and teacher networks that train teachers to help all students achieve state content standards. This year’s Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program is funded at $8.5 million.

• $2 million for the Technology Leadership Activities program, which seeks to strengthen evaluation of the effectiveness of technology programs and to bring together public and private entities to help schools use all available technology resources. The $2 million request would fund the program at its current level. n

Links:

U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2001 Budget site

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget01

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Clinton calls for more tech funding

President Clinton has announced plans to double funding for after-school programs and training new teachers on how to integrate technology into the classroom. The president also wants to expand tax incentives for private-sector computer donations and sponsorships for schools.

The initiatives mark the highlights of the president’s fiscal year 2001 budget, released in February. All told, the largest education budget in the nation’s history requests some $16.2 billion for programs that could impact school technology, including $903 million for technology-specific programs.

As might be expected, reaction from Republicans in Congress to the president’s budget proposals was mixed.

“Technology is something we’ll be dealing with in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act later this year,” said Dan Lara, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is chaired by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa.

“For some members, it will be a question of funding, and for others it will be a question of whether [decisions about] these programs are best left to local school districts,” Lara said.

Among other initiatives, the proposed budget would provide $150 million to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are technology-literate and know how to use technology as an effective teaching resource.

“Connecting classrooms and libraries to the internet is crucial, but it’s just a start,” Clinton said. “My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st century skills.”

The $150 million would double the existing budget for the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program, which was funded at $75 million in fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

Last year, 225 grants were awarded to consortia of universities, teachers’ colleges, and K-12 schools or districts under the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers program, each at more than $200,000 per year. The Department of Education (ED) is accepting applications for this year’s program through March 7.

“If we don’t improve the preparation of teachers now, it’s such a waste,” said Linda Roberts, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology, in an interview with eSchool News. “It easily undermines the investments we are making.

“These teachers will be working with students who expect to use technology,” Roberts added. “It is imperative that these teachers remain ahead of the curve instead of behind it.”

She said it is especially important to begin training teachers to use technology now, because over the next ten years K-12 schools will need to hire two million new teachers to fill vacancies left by retiring teachers and to accommodate increasing student populations.

Rob Schleck, principal on special assignment from the A. E. Burdick School in Milwaukee, said he noticed new teachers and student teachers working in his school “lacked a real sense of how to use the internet in the classroom.”

His school struggled for two or three years and spent a lot of money to develop effective technology training for its teachers, he said: “It’s a great idea to put ten computers in a classroom, but it’s of no use if they are not being used.”

The president also requested a $547 million increase for ED’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would double its funding to a whopping $1 billion. With this new support, the program will be able to reach nearly 2.5 million children, ED said.

Now in its third year, the program will award $454 million to schools and communities in 2000, with an average award of $125,000 to support each center. The program distributed $200 million last year and $40 million in 1998. Applications for the latest round of grants are due March 20.

The program is open to rural and inner-city public schools and consortia to help them plan, implement, or expand after-hours, in-school projects that benefit the educational, social, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. Funds can be used to purchase technology, because technology-based learning is among the list of supported after-school activities.

Tax incentives

In addition to increasing funding for teacher training and after-school programs, Clinton has proposed $2 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years for private sector computer donations or sponsorships to schools, public libraries, and community technology centers.

The tax breaks are designed to encourage companies to make charitable contributions to schools, libraries, and technology centers for the purpose of narrowing the “digital divide.”

The current law, which expires in 2000, applies only to computer donations made to schools. The president’s proposal would extend this tax incentive to June 30, 2004 and expand it to include donations made to public libraries and community technology centers in Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and high-poverty areas.

Up to $20 million a year in tax credits would be set aside for companies that agree to sponsor schools, libraries, and community technology centers located in Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

The $2 billion in tax incentives also includes money for businesses that offer basic technology training to their employees to help them succeed in the modern workplace.

Schleck said he has had both positive and negative experiences with receiving donated computers.

“It is really nice having machines donated to us, but frequently they were slow machines with old software,” he said. “Often, the machines were obsolete.”

Other highlights

Other highlights of the Clinton administration’s proposed FY 2001 budget include:

• $12.3 billion in School Modernization funds: $11 billion would be set aside in 2001 (and another $11 billion in 2002) for tax credits to eliminate the interest costs on school construction bonds, and $1.3 billion would fund a new School Renovation program. Of that $1.3 billion, $50 million would be given as grants to Native American reservation schools, $125 million would fund grants to other “high-need” districts, and $1.125 billion would subsidize zero-interest federal loans for school construction. This marks the third year that President Clinton has proposed a school modernization package; the initiative has failed to gain passage in the last two years.

• $450 million for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund program, a $25 million increase over this year’s funding. The program provides block grants for states to administer to local school districts to fund hardware, software, connectivity, and training. The administration sought $450 million last year but had to settle for $425 million.

• $170 million for the Next Generation Technology Innovation program, a new initiative that combines the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs. Three competitions for new awards under this program are proposed for 2001: Advanced Technology Applications, the Mississippi Delta Initiative, and Challenging Coursework Online. Advanced Technology Applications will support research and development initiatives that advance state-of-the-art educational technology applications. The Mississippi Delta Initiative will provide training to middle school teachers in the Mississippi Delta region. The Challenging Coursework Online initiative will support the development of high-quality, web-based Advanced Placement, foreign language, and other challenging courses to help ensure that high school students in poor rural and inner-city schools have access to challenging coursework that their own schools can’t always afford to provide. The proposed $170 million in funding is less than the $200 million provided by the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and Star Schools programs in FY 2000.

• $100 million for the Community Technology Centers program, which funds computer learning centers for students and adults in low-income neighborhoods. For its FY 2000 budget, the administration proposed $65 million but had to settle for half of that total.

• $16 million for the Ready to Learn Digital Television program, which supports the development of educational programming and outreach activities designed to promote literacy and school readiness. The program is funded at $16 million in FY 2000 as well.

• $10 million for the Regional Technology in Education Consortia program, which supports the six regional consortia that help states and districts integrate technology with teaching and learning. The program is also funded at $10 million in FY 2000.

• $5 million for the Telecommunications Program for Professional Development, which would expand the currently funded Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program to promote excellent teaching in all core subject areas. The program would fund the use of telecommunications to support sustained professional development and teacher networks that train teachers to help all students achieve state content standards. This year’s Telecommunications Demonstration Project for Mathematics program is funded at $8.5 million.

• $2 million for the Technology Leadership Activities program, which seeks to strengthen evaluation of the effectiveness of technology programs and to bring together public and private entities to help schools effectively use all available technology resources. The $2 million request would fund the program at its current level.

Links:
U.S. Department of Education’s FY 2001 Budget site
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/Budget01


House Committee on Education and the Workforce
http://www.house.gov/ed_workforce


Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology
http://www.ed.gov/teachtech


21st Century Community Learning Centers
http://www.ed.gov/21stcclc

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Existing school door hardware puts teachers at risk during emergencies

The violence witnessed last year at Columbine High School has led school leaders to plan for a worst-case scenario in their own schools: a “code red” situation, in which armed criminals are loose in the building. As unimaginable as it may seem, such a scenario has happened before, and no one can guarantee that it won’t happen again.

Over the last 20 years, many schools have begun the process of modernizing their doors and locksets to meet new federal guidelines. The major change has been the switch to lever-operated doors in place of doorknobs, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But recent changes in school security requirements have made many ADA-related upgrades obsolete.

Until recently, when a school was built or modernized, the installed door hardware (the handle, lock, and cylinder) was called “classroom function.” Classroom function locksets operate quite simply: there is a key lock on the outside, with no ability to lock the door from the inside. Even when the door is locked from the outside, the door can be opened from the inside.

This contrasts with the more common “exit/entry” function that we’re all familiar with in most home or office environments. In the typical exit/entry configuration, the door can be locked by a key on the outside or a button on the inside. There are a number of variations to this configuration, but the basic concept is that the door can be locked from the inside without a key, from the outside with a key, and the door remains locked from the inside or outside until the lock is released.

“Classroom function” locksets were developed around the perceived safety of children—and the inevitable horseplay that all schools experience. In terms of safety, it was important that classrooms never become locked rooms from which there is no exit. Fire has always been the chief emergency that planners had in mind when they envisioned a classroom of children locked behind a door. And as we all know, a door that can be locked from the inside is a prank waiting to happen when a teacher exits the room.

Today’s concerns have added a radically different issue that is beginning to change the thinking in many school districts. Risk managers, facility managers, and security personnel from districts across the country have a new concern: In a “code red” lockdown, with traditional “classroom function” locksets, a teacher must enter the hallway to lock the door, perhaps into the line of fire.

There is a solution to this problem: a “dual cylinder, exit/entry” function lockset. This function is known as ANSI F88 in the specification books and offers exactly the operating functions that administrators need to address the new security concerns, while still meeting the requirements of the older “classroom function” lockset.

The dual cylinder F88 lockset requires a key to lock the door from the inside or the outside. When the door is locked from either side, it cannot be opened from the outside, but can always be opened from the inside. With these operating characteristics, a teacher can quickly “lock down” the room without entering the hallway. Yet, in the case of an emergency, the door is fully operable from the inside of the room. Because the door requires a key to lock the door, students cannot lock the door from the inside as a prank.

As administrators review the new demands placed on them by a changing school security environment, there are three issues impacting door hardware that need to be addressed:

• Lockset function

• ADA requirements

• Key control and management

When a district becomes proactive with its schools’ security needs, it can address all three issues at once. Using this approach, it would be possible to install a comprehensive key control and management system, change the way the doors function, and meet all ADA requirements with one investment in new door hardware. For between $150 and $250 per door, a district should be able to purchase a Grade 1, dual cylinder F88 “Lever-set” in the desired metal finish.

When developing your security plan, pay particular attention to your key management system and ask yourself these questions: Do I have a system that:

• Can account for the whereabouts of every key?

• Can ensure that keys are not being duplicated without proper authorization?

• Can allow the lock to be rekeyed in seconds without swapping out a core or removing a cylinder from the door?

• Allows an administrator who is directly responsible for overall security at the school to manage key control?

For school districts that are developing emergency plans, the concepts of door function and key control are critically important. When upgrading a school’s hardware to an F88 function, it is equally important to get the keys under control. The high cost of replacing such an enormous amount of hardware means that districts should pay attention to all three issues impacting the project—ADA compliance, door functionality, and key control—when evaluating door hardware upgrades. n

J. Peter Guidi is director of education sales and marketing for Shield Security Systems, developers of InstaKey technology. He can be reached at (800) 316-5397 or pguidi@instakey.com.

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Gay tolerance booklet divides educators

It may have the backing of educational, medical, and mental health experts, but a new booklet aimed at creating a safe learning environment for gay and lesbian students isn’t going over well in some schools.

The 12-page booklet distributed to schools in November, called “Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel,” was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Psychological Association.

But the booklet has drawn fire from conservative educators and other organizations who call it “gay propaganda.”

Antioch, Calif., schools chief Lee Jenkins said he probably would not distribute the booklet.

“Our responsibility is to teach math, science, history, geography, English,” he said. “It is not our mission to be involved in those controversies. That’s for society at large.”

The booklet’s distributors, on the other hand, say it “provides information that will help school administrators and educators to create safe and healthy environments in which all students can achieve to the best of their ability.”

Protecting gay and lesbian students from harassment and physical violence is becoming a serious concern for some school officials. And whether they like it or not, school officials can’t afford to ignore the issue any longer, the booklet’s supporters say.

In January, a sixteen-year-old New Jersey high school student was allegedly beaten on school grounds by a fourteen-year old for being homosexual, and school officials did not report the incident to the police.

Though charges had not been filed at press time, police are investigating the incident as a bias crime after the alleged victim went to police later that same day. Several days before the incident, the younger boy reportedly had taunted the older boy about being gay and threatened to “get people to jump,” or attack, the older boy.

Principal Mike Navarro declined to comment on why he did not call the police after the incident was reported.

In an unrelated incident, a former Nevada high school student has filed a lawsuit against Washoe County school officials, claiming they failed to stop verbal and physical harassment inflicted by classmates because he is gay.

Derek Henkle alleged school officials denied him equal protections because of his sexual orientation and denied him free speech rights by allegedly urging him to hide his sexual orientation.

Henkle’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, Nev., is being handled by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based gay rights organization.

School district officials had no immediate comment. But Jon W. Davidson, a Lambda attorney in Los Angeles, said school officials had a responsibility to protect Henkle.

“These school officials discriminated against Derek in how they handled his complaints of really horrific harassment, assaults, intimidation, and discrimination that he was suffering at the hands of other students,” Davidson said during a conference call with reporters. “Instead, they treated him as the problem.”

Henkle, now 19 and living in Atlanta, said he was forced to quit school two years ago because of the intimidation. He eventually received a high-school equivalency certificate but said he feels cheated out of a diploma and educational and career opportunities.

At Washoe High, Davidson said the principal repeatedly told Henkle not to tell people he was gay.

“If other students try to harass or abuse students who are out, the solution is not to tell lesbians and gay students to go back in the closet,” Davidson said.

Massachusetts is one state that is taking the initiative to make sure gay and lesbian students receive protection, according to David LaFontaine, Chair of the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. The state provides its high schools with Safe Schools grants to form gay/straight alliances in order to safeguard gay students from abuse.

“Educators and administrators don’t realize how mush harassment and violence these students suffer in schools,” LaFontaine said. “Every high school has gay and lesbian students, whether people realize it or not. This is a population that needs real protection in school.”

“For the children who project what is typically though of as a gay image, they suffer tremendously,” added Ellen Schwartz of the Bergen County chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. “It is every parent of a gay child’s nightmare that our children will be the victim of a hate crime.”

Besides raising awareness of the potential for in-school violence against gay students, “Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth” also expresses concerns about the potential harm posed by “reparative therapy” and other techniques intended to change sexual orientation.

“I think this is a history-changing moment,” said Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a New York organization devoted to ending anti-gay bias in the schools. “The entire mainstream education and mental health establishment has said that it isn’t lesbian, gay, and bisexual students who need to change, it is the conditions in our schools that need to change.”

Conservative groups have attacked the booklet, saying that it’s based on politics, not science.

“They’re saying they want to present factual information on homosexuality, but we believe that they’re presenting propaganda,” said John Paulk, a homosexuality and gender analyst for Focus on the Family, a Colorado Christian group that holds Love Won Out conferences where reparative therapy is endorsed and participants are taught how to combat what they say are pro-gay messages children receive in schools.

Janet Parshall, chief spokeswoman for the conservative Family Research Council, also condemned the coalition’s mailing. “If they’re going to talk about ‘the facts,’ here’s a fact: All the major religions of the world consider homosexuality wrong,” she said.

Deanna Duby of the National Education Association, a leading union of schoolteachers, said the coalition was formed after members heard about the Love Won Out conferences and decided a response was needed. Duby, who helped create the booklet, said the publication was approved by the association’s leadership, including its president, Bob Chase.

Most of the organizations represented by the coalition, Duby said, had already passed resolutions on their own condemning reparative therapy and endorsing the need for “safe environments” for gay students.

The booklet is divided into chapters, including sections on how sexual orientation develops; reparative therapy, “transformational ministries” and other religion-based efforts that try to help homosexuals change their sexual orientation; and laws protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination.

“Because of the religious nature of ‘transformational ministry,'” the booklet advises, “endorsement or promotion of such ministry by officials or employees of a public school district in a school-related context could raise constitutional problems.”

The publication states that “therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”

Five of the organizations in the coalition contributed money to print and distribute the booklet, as did Michael Dively, a philanthropist and former member of the Michigan Legislature who is gay.

Responding to the booklet, Paulk, of Focus on the Family, said that no scientific studies had been done on reparative therapy, and that organizations that have “debunked” the technique were acting on the basis of political motives, not scientific evidence.

Paulk also defended his organization’s efforts to promote in schools the conservative view of homosexuality as abnormal.

“Parents don’t want their children being taught about homosexuality, period,” Paulk said. “We believe that homosexuality is something that should be talked about in the home. But in the worst-case scenario, if it’s going to be presented in public schools, we want equal time.”

Bruce Hunter, director of public affairs for the American Association of School Administrators, which represents public school superintendents and is a member of the coalition, said his organization agreed with the message of the booklet. Still, he said, the publication is likely to be used by school administrators “based on community values.”

“There are many communities in this country that are just too conservative for that, and I trust superintendents to know their communities,” Hunter said. “On the other hand, when push comes to shove, occasionally you have to stand up, and we would hope they would stand up for tolerance.” n

Links:

American Association of School Administrators, 1801 North Moore Street, Arlington, VA 22209; phone (703) 528-0700, fax (703)841-1543, web http://www.aasa.org.

American Psychological Association, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242; phone (202) 336-5500, web http://www.apa.org.

Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995; phone (800) 232-6459, web http://www.family.org.

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 121 West 27th Street, Suite 804, New York, NY 10001; phone (212) 727-0135, fax (212) 727-0254, eMail glsen@glsen.org, web http://www.glsen.org.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 120 Wall Street, Suite 1500, New York, NY 10005-3904; phone (212) 809-8585, fax (212) 809-0055, web http://www.lambdalegal.org.

Massachusetts Department of Education, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148-5023; phone (781) 338-3000, web http://www.doe.mass.edu.

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Los Angeles Unified School District abandons toxic site

The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted 5-2 to abandon a toxic site where the nation’s costliest high school was under construction.

Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines had asked board members to delay their vote for 60 days to give the district more time to study alternatives to scrapping the school.

Board members made their decision Jan. 25 after presiding over a meeting that included hours of impassioned pleas from community members who lobbied for or against completing the high school downtown.

The Belmont Learning Complex was supposed to be the crown jewel of the nation’s second-largest school district, giving a home to some 5,300 students in a desperately overcrowded part of downtown. Instead, construction was halted over environmental concerns after the district spent $170 million.

The complex was built on an old oil field in a crowded, low-income neighborhood, and officials fear it could be contaminated with hydrogen sulfide and methane gas that could form explosive pockets under the foundation.

Prior to the board’s vote, Cortines proposed transforming the school into an administrative office and warehouse, because environmental standards for adults are not as strict as they are for children. Critics came from all sides.

The contentious battle was played out in a beleaguered district that recently lost its superintendent, in part, because of the Belmont debacle.

District personnel slated to move to Belmont said they feared for their safety. Neighborhood residents and students, upset by overcrowded conditions and long bus commutes to other schools, held rallies urging completion of the high school.

The teachers union opposed its completion based on safety concerns and criticized the district for the expense. It could take more than $200 million to resolve the issue, said Day Higuchi, president of the union that represents 42,000 teachers, counselors, psychologists, and other professional staff.

“Our main concern is that, like everyone else, we had serious questions even before they voted to go ahead with it as to its safety,” Higuchi said. “Also, this is an incredibly expensive school.”

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Study: Pesticide risks for school children unknown

Far too little is known about the health risks facing children from exposure to pesticides in school, a congressional study concludes, prompting a call for the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the issue.

“This information gap is troubling,” Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said at a Jan. 4 news conference.

“We know that children are particularly vulnerable to risks associated with pesticides, including elevated rates of leukemia and brain cancer. So we have every right to be concerned,” he continued.

Lieberman released a report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, that said its investigators could find no credible statistics on the amount of pesticide used in the nation’s 110,000 public schools, nor information about students exposure to pesticides or their health impacts.

Pesticide manufactures and distributors have argued that the chemicals used in schools are safe and are used in accordance with requirements already issued by the EPA. Without use of the chemicals, students could be exposed to dangerous, disease-carrying pests, the industry argues.

But a private advocacy group, the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, has maintained that students frequently are exposed to unhealthy levels of pesticide residues in classrooms and on playgrounds because of spraying by pest control companies.

“All the data available suggest students face a hazard,” said Jay Feldman, the coalition’s executive director, who joined Lieberman at the news conference. Feldman acknowledged that hard data on pesticide use and health risks in schools are sketchy.

Lieberman and Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., are pushing for legislation that would require schools to notify parents before pesticides are to be used in a school and require schools to adopt pest management plans that rely less on toxic chemicals.

EPA, Lieberman said, should take steps to minimize students’ exposure to pesticides through federal guidelines on parent notification and on the use of pesticides in school environments, and begin a “full-scale statistical survey” to determine whether children are at risk because of the accumulated exposure to pesticides

The EPA issued a statement saying it is “vitally important to call attention to potential risks from pesticides in schools and in all other places where children may be exposed” and that it would consider all the recommendations.

“Federal and local health officials are increasingly concerned about children’s exposure to toxics,” said Kevin Adler, editor of Indoor Environment Business, a newsletter that covers school environmental issues. “Since pesticides contain toxic chemicals, they should receive more scrutiny.”

Adler added that when lead-contaminated soil is removed from around schools and day care sites, the residue of older pesticides, now banned, would be removed, too.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act regulates the use of pesticides in the United States, but there are no specific provisions in the law about the use of pesticides in schools. More than 3,000 pesticide labels include provisions for how, when, and where the pesticides should be used in schools, but these provisions generally do not afford any more protection for school children than any other groups, such as hospital or nursing home patients.

Comprehensive nationwide data on the amount of pesticide use in the nation’s K-12 schools is unavailable, the report said, because the federal government has collected no such data, and only one state—Louisiana—requires its school districts to report the amount of pesticides they use.

Data on short- and long-term effects linked to pesticide exposure are limited as well, the report said. Though information obtained from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows that from 1993 to 1996, about 2,300 pesticide-related exposures at schools were reported, there are questions about the completeness and reliability of the data because some cases of pesticide exposure are not reported—and outcomes are not known for more than 40 percent of the reported cases.

EPA and a number of states have taken initiatives over the last decade to reduce the use of pesticides in schools through “integrated pest management” including making structural repairs to prevent pests from getting into a building, improving sanitation, using baits and traps where possible, and using the least-toxic chemicals when pesticides are necessary.

Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia require schools to adopt integrated pest management. Montana law encourages school districts to implement integrated pest management on a voluntary basis.

Maryland and Texas are the only states to require parent notification in advance of pesticide use, although seven other states—Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—require schools to provide that information when requested by a parent, according to GAO.

The full GAO report, titled “Pesticides: Use, Effects, and Alternatives to Pesticides in Schools” (RCED-00-17), can be downloaded in PDF format from the agency’s web site. n

Links:

General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20548; phone (202)512-6000, fax (202) 512-6061, web http://www.gao.gov.

Environmental Protection Agency, Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460; phone (202) 260-2090, web http://www.epa.gov.

National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 701 E Street SE #200, Washington, DC 20003; phone (202) 543-5450, fax (202) 543-4791, eMail info@beyondpesticides.org, web http://www.ncamp.org.

Indoor Environment Business, 7920 Norfolk Ave., #900, Bethesda, MD 20814; phone (301) 913-0115, fax (301) 913-0119, eMail agoldstein@iaqpubs.com, web http://www.iaqpubs.com

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Ten proven violence prevention programs

A recent survey by the Boulder, Colorado-based Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) revealed that 80 percent of programs designed to prevent youth violence have never been tested for effectiveness, according to the center’s director, Delbert Elliot.

In fact, out of more than 500 programs tested by the center in an extensive project called “Blueprints for Violence Prevention,” only ten programs were proven to be effective, while 30 more showed promise, Elliot said.

The object of the extensive testing—funded with help from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice and the Centers for Disease Control—was to evaluate programs to identify the ones which best “could provide an initial nucleus for a national violence prevention initiative.”

Researchers from the CSPV singled out 10 truly outstanding programs and outlined a series of “blueprints” for each one. The blueprints describe each program’s theoretical rationale, core components, evaluation design and results, and the practical experiences encountered by those who have implemented the program.

The resulting data is meant to provide states, communities, and individual agencies and school districts with the tools to find an appropriate violence-deterrent to fit their needs, provide a cost estimate for start-up, and indicate potential barriers and obstacles to implementation.

The ten programs that exhibited a measurable impact on school violence were:

1. The Midwestern Prevention Project: This program uses active social techniques—such as role-playing, modeling, and discussion—as well as homework assignments to help youth understand and combat the social pressures to use drugs and engage in violent behavior. It works hand-in-hand with a parental program that involves a parent-principal committee to review school drug policy and encourages strong parent-child communication. Students also are provided with a consistent message of non-drug use through mass media programming and coverage, community organizations, and changing local health policy. Costs are estimated be about $175,000 over a three-year period for the training of 20 teachers, 20 parents, and 1,000 participating students. Contact: Mary Ann Pentz, Ph.D., Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California, 3414 Topping Tower, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, MS-44, Los Angeles, CA 90033-0800; phone (323) 865-0330.

2. Functional Family Therapy: This is an outcome-driven prevention and intervention program for youth who have demonstrated delinquency, violence, substance abuse, conduct disorder, and disruptive behavior. First, it attempts to engage students in the program to avoid dropouts; motivate them to change maladaptive emotional reactions and beliefs; increase alliance, trust, and motivation for lasting change; and assess the relationships and systems which affect the students’ responses. The program then attempts to correct behavior and provide family case management. Functional Family Therapy costs between $1,350 and $3,750 for an average of 12 home visits per family over 90 days. Contact: James F. Alexander, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Utah, 390 S. 1530 E, Room 502, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, (801) 581-6538; or Kathleen Shafer, Project Coordinator, (801) 585-1807.

3. Quantum Opportunities Program: This program is designed to serve disadvantaged adolescents by providing education, service, and development activities, as well as financial incentives, over a four-year period, from grade nine to high school graduation. The program requires 250 hours of computer-assisted education and peer tutoring to enhance basic academic skills; 250 hours of development activities, such as cultural enrichment, personal development, life skills, college planning, and job preparation; and 250 hours of service activities, in which students participate in community service projects. Financial rewards are offered for hours worked, in the form of periodic completion bonuses and long-term matching funds. The cost for one student for the four-year period is $10,600, or $2,650 per student per year. Contact: Mr. C. Benjamin Lattimore, Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, 1415 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122; phone (215) 236-4500, ext. 251; eMail oica@aol.com; web http://www.oica.com/programs.htm.

4. Life Skills Training: LST is a primary intervention program designed to prevent or reduce the use of “gateway drugs,” such as tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, over a three-year period. The program consists of 15 sessions in the first year, 10 sessions in year two, and five sessions in the third year. Each session helps students learn general self-management skills, social skills, and information and skills specifically related to drug use. This program can be implemented at a cost of $7 per student per year, with an initial $2,000 per day for one or two days to train the instructors. For information about the program or to order curriculum materials, contact the publisher: phone (800) 636-3415 or (609) 921-0540, eMail sabrod@aol.com, web http://www.lifeskillstraining.com.

5. Multisystemic Therapy: This is an intensive family- and community-based treatment that helps deter serious antisocial behavior in adolescents. The program targets chronic, violent, or substance-abusing juvenile offenders. Its major goal is to empower parents with the skills and resources they need to address difficulties in raising teenagers. The program itself costs around $4,500 per youth for about 60 hours of contact over four months. Contact: Scott W. Henggeler, Ph.D., Family Services Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 171 Ashley Avenue, Annex III, Charleston, SC 29425-0742; phone (843) 876-1800.

6. Prenatal and Infancy Home Visitation by Nurses: This program is designed to serve low-income, at-risk pregnant women bearing their first child. Registered nurses visit the mothers’ homes over the course of the pregnancy and for the first two years of the baby’s life. Nurses provide information on how to properly care for babies and toddlers to improve their health and development, and they improve the women’s personal development. The program has been tested among white and African-American families, as well as in rural and urban settings, and across the board the nurse-visited women and children have fewer verified cases of child abuse and neglect, fewer subsequent births, less welfare aid, fewer mothers arrested, fewer adolescents arrested, and fewer occurrences of adolescent alcohol consumption. Costs for the program were recovered by the child’s fourth birthday, according to estimates. The immediate cost for the two-and-a-half year program is estimated at $3,200 per family, per year. Contact: Dr. Narcisa Polonio, Chief Operating Officer, Replication and Program Strategies, 2005 Market Street, Suite 900, Philadelphia, PA 19103; phone (215) 557-4482, web http://www.replication.org.

7.Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care: This program provides an alternative to group or residential treatment, incarceration, or hospitalization for antisocial, disturbed, or delinquent adolescents. Community families go through extensive training to provide these students with treatment and intensive supervision at home, in school, and in the community. The training emphasizes behavior management methods to provide troubled youth with a structured and therapeutic living environment. Family therapy also is provided to the child’s biological family, with the ultimate goal of returning the youth back to his or her parents. The program includes closely supervised home visits, and parents are encouraged to maintain close contact with the child’s case manager. The cost per youth is $2,691 per month, and the average stay is seven months. Contact: Patricia Chamberlain, Ph. D., Clinic Director, Oregon Social Learning Center, 160 E 4th Street, Eugene, OR 97401; phone (541) 485-2711, web http://www.oslc.org/tfc/tfcoslc.html.

8. Bullying Prevention Program: The main purpose of this program is to act as a universal intervention for the reduction or prevention of bullying/victim problems. This is accomplished through administering anonymous questionnaires to assess the nature and prevalence of bullying at each school and holding a conference day to discuss bullying and plan interventions. The program also calls for the formation of a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee to coordinate all aspects of the school’s efforts. Classroom regulations against bullying are established, and interventions between students identified as bullies and victims are held. Contact: Susan Limber, Ph.D., Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, Clemson University, 243 Poole Agricultural Center, Clemson, SC 29634; phone (864) 656-6320, eMail slimber@clemson.edu.

9. PATHS—Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies: The PATHS program is designed to promote emotional and social competency, while simultaneously reducing aggression and behavior problems and enhancing the educational process. The PATHS curriculum is taught a minimum of three times per week for 20-30 minutes, and provides teachers with the lesson plans and guidance they need to teach students emotional literacy, self-control, social competence, positive peer relations, and interpersonal problem solving skills. Some skills learned are how to identify and deal with feelings, reduce stress, control impulses, and understand the perspectives of others. Program costs over three years would range from $15 to $45 per student per year. Contact: Mark T. Greenberg, Ph.D., Prevention Research Center, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, 110 Henderson Building South, University Park, PA 16802-6504; phone (814) 863-0112, eMail prevention@psu.edu, web http://www.psu.edu/dept/prevention.

10. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: This time-honored program has been providing adult support and friendship to troubled kids for almost 100 years. A 1991 report showed that more than 70,000 youths and adults were supervised in one-on-one relationships through the program. The agency uses a case-management approach, following each case through until closure. Each case manager carefully screens applicants and finds matches that will benefit both parties. The process includes an orientation, volunteer screening, youth assessment, matching, and supervision of the matched youth and his or her mentor. The national average cost of making and supporting a match is $1,000 per child per year. Contact: Jerry Lapham, 230 North 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; phone (215) 567-7000, eMail national@bbbsa.org, web http://www.bbbsa.org. n

Links:

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, 900 28th Street, Suite 107, Campus Box 442, Boulder, CO 80309; phone (303) 492-1032, fax (303) 443-3297, eMail Blueprints@colorado.edu, web http://www.colorado.edu/cspv.

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St. Louis Schools Receive Grant to Computerize Student Health Records

Filled with transient students with poor access to health care, St. Louis Public Schools will have a computer network in place this fall through which school nurses can share information about students’ health.

Made possible by a $500,000 grant from the St. Louis-based Deaconess Foundation, the network will enable the school system to keep track of the estimated 60 percent of students who switch schools each year, school officials said.

The grant shows how districts interested in technology funding shouldn’t limit their search to technology-specific grants or foundations. Besides improving recordkeeping by nurses, the network also will enable school officials to track a wide variety of information on students, said Peter McGehee, executive director of the district’s technology office.

The Deaconess Foundation was created with funds from the Deaconess Incarnate Word Health System, but the two organizations are not affiliated. The foundation is dedicated to improving the health of metropolitan St. Louis.

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Professional Development Online Comes of Age

Online professional development courses for teachers have blossomed in the past few years through the efforts of individual schools, school districts, states, and private companies. Schools are experimenting to find the right mix of traditional in-person professional development, usually concentrated in courses of a week or two, and online courses that may stretch over several months or an entire school year.

The author suggests that in choosing or creating online professional development courses, administrators and teachers must consider issues of course content; pedagogic style; time demands to complete the work; type of internet access, computer hardware, and software needed; and cost.

Teachers who have taken online courses have praised modularized courses that allow for flexibility in taking courses at the time of their choosing. But other students have worried that not taking courses with colleagues from their school will leave them isolated and embarrassed to admit when they are having trouble with new concepts (particularly in technology-related professional development). The best of the courses help reduce the potential for problems by providing opportunities for students to learn by different methods—discussion groups, guided coursework, and projects (again, the latter is most common in tech-ed courses).

There are an incredible number of online professional development course providers, and they range from degree-granting institutions to private companies offering tutorials on their equipment, to sites that host discussion groups and forums on particular topics. While a complete list is almost impossible to provide, the following sites are good starting points:

•What Makes a Successful Online Student?

http://illinois.online.uillinois.edu/model/

Studentprofile.htm

• Peterson’s Study Tips for Successful Distance

Learning

http://www.petersons.com/dlearn/study.html

• American Center for the Study of Distance Learning at

Penn State

http://www.ed.psu.edu/ascde

• Classroom Connect’s Connected University

http://cu.classroom.com

• Macromedia’s Training Cafe

http://www.trainingcafe.com

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For-Profit Education Firms Poised to Grow in Next Decade

Internet enthusiasts in the business world have their sites set on education as the next great frontier. Founders of “dot-com” companies are predicting that parent dissatisfaction with many public schools and the increasingly competitive nature of college entrance requirements are pressing parents to seek for-profit companies to provide solutions.

For these entrepreneurs, education (including higher education and job training) presents an extremely lucrative market that they can reach with unprecedented ease through the internet. For example, FamilyEducation Network offers a series of education web sites, slicing into segments the 53 million children in grades K-12. Officials at the company say that they are drawing 2.5 million visitors per month. FamilyEducation Network also works hard to reach the parents of schoolchildren, seeing them as the purchasers of education (and other types of) products and services.

Even for companies looking at the traditional facility-based education, the rush towards charter schools has opened vast opportunities to challenge the present public school structure. Business Week says that venture capitalists are pouring money into startup companies serving the education market, and that it is only a matter of time before some of these companies generate enough attention from parents and children that schools will have to take notice. For-profit pioneer Edison Schools went public in November 1999, and investors strongly support the company’s plan for competing with public schools through technology-intensive education. And Edison faces at least 10 competitors seeking to duplicate its success—and profit.

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