State-run virtual schools gather steam

Don’t look now, but online learning–though still in its infancy–is well on its way to becoming a major part of state-sponsored education across the country.

That’s the impression left by a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), whose member states have long been in the forefront of developing government initiatives in virtual schooling.

The 112-page report, which is being released today in advance of next week’s annual meeting of the SREB’s Educational Technology Cooperative, provides state-by-state details on the scope, financing, enrollment, curriculum, teacher preparation, and other aspects of government-supported virtual schools throughout the South.

A copy of the Report on SREB State Virtual Schools, which is based on an online survey conducted last spring, will be available at the SREB’s web site (www.sreb.org).

With 14 of the SREB’s 16 member states overseeing online schools and the remaining two members preparing to follow suit soon, the southern region can point to having more statewide or state-led virtual-school programs than all other regions of the country combined.

In addition to SREB members, 13 states have established online schools, according to the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL), a foundation-backed group that was founded four years ago to expand and enhance K-12 online learning.

One relatively new program reported by the SREB is Alabama’s ACCESS Distance Learning, which began delivering online classes throughout the state in June 2006. With total revenue of $11.3 million for the past school year, the program had about 174 participating high schools and three support centers that recruited teachers, monitored courses, and otherwise helped schools and students.

In another recent launch, South Carolina’s state education department has been developing a virtual-school pilot project since May 2006 in collaboration with 11 school districts that already had experience with online courses. Funds for the first year came to $380,000. About 1,900 students participated in 2006-07. In response to a survey question about why students were taking online courses, the department cited factors that are fairly common among other states: no equivalent courses in the students’ schools, for example, as well as scheduling conflicts, remedial needs, and graduation requirements.

Meanwhile, the statewide Florida Virtual School, a national leader in online learning, had state appropriations this past school year of about $50 million and some 54,000 participating students. (Click here for more information about Florida’s program).

Bill Thomas, the SREB’s ed-tech director, notes that online-school enrollments in the South have grown every year since the Educational Technology Cooperative was established about seven years ago. One reason, he says, is that state legislators and governors have come to "understand the potential of online learning." He says they know that it offers opportunities to "do what hasn’t been done in any other way."

Thomas adds that virtual-school enrollments in SREB states this past year totaled nearly 200,000, an increase of at least 25 percent. But even more important than the numbers, he says, is growing interest in the quality and accountability of online programs.

He also cites SREB survey results indicating that some of the online programs already under way are offering such an "incredible" range of courses that they fairly rival the curriculum typically offered by a large urban high school. The SREB report lists the online courses offered in each state during the past school year. They include everything from core courses in English, math, science, and social studies to Advanced Placement courses, foreign languages, technical studies, remedial courses, music, art, journalism, and health–and that’s just scratching the surface.

NACOL’s president and CEO, Susan Patrick, says it’s only a matter of time–and not much time, at that–before virtually all American students are participating in online offerings "as a normal part of their curriculum."

"It’s going to go mainstream in 10 years," Patrick says, explaining that students who have grown up with the internet have been demanding more and more choices in their education, including online programs, and have been seeking increasingly rigorous courses as well.

Patrick, who sees her organization as a kind of national counterpart to the SREB, acknowledges that education officials and political leaders face at least two big hurdles–a need for more funds and a shortage of teachers who are well qualified to provide online instruction–but she’s confident that the challenges will be overcome.

Referring to recent conversations she has had with members of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Patrick says officials whose jurisdictions have yet to join the online bandwagon are eager to do so. "They’re coming on quickly," she says. "The states are ramping up."

In some states, Patrick says, the motivation is partly to "keep up with the Joneses." But she says many state school leaders are also interested in learning what other states, such as those belonging to the SREB, are doing–so they don’t have to "re-create the wheel."

Besides Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, SREB states that have already established online schools–mainly, at this point, for students in the middle grades and in high school–are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. In addition, officials in Delaware are planning to start a state virtual school in about a year, while legislators in Texas have passed a law to establish a virtual school network.

Elsewhere in the country, state online schools have been established in California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Links:

The Southern Regional Education Board

SREB Educational Technology Cooperative

North American Council for Online Learning

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Carnegie Mellon University´s Heinz School selects Regent Enterprise

Frederick, Md., August 27, 2007 — Regent Education, the leading provider of financial aid management software solutions for higher education institutions, today announced that Carnegie Mellon University´s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management has selected Regent Enterprise as its financial aid management solution.

"The mission of the Heinz School financial aid office is to guide and assist students in securing the financial means to pursue higher education. With varying student needs and a diverse array of Heinz School academic programs throughout the world, Regent Enterprise is the tool that gives us the flexibility to face the complex challenges of delivering financial aid to our students in an ever-changing, global environment," said Betty Casale, the Heinz School´s Director of Financial Aid. "We have selected Regent Enterprise not only for its many functional advantages, but also because we see Regent as a strategic partner who will support our institutional goals and the Heinz School´s reputation for excellence."

Located in Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University has achieved a world-renowned reputation as a leader in education, research, and innovation. As one of seven Carnegie Mellon schools, the Heinz School is one of the top graduate schools in the country with its major strength uniquely focused at the intersection of policy, management and information technology. The Heinz School offers graduate programs in public policy and management, arts management, health care policy and management, medical management, entertainment industry management, information technology and information systems management. In addition to full-time, on campus programs in Pittsburgh and Adelaide, Australia, the Heinz School offers graduate-level programs to nontraditional students through part-time on-campus and distance programs, customized programs delivered virtually anywhere in the world, and executive education programs for senior managers.

"We are honored to work with such a prestigious institution as Carnegie Mellon and the Heinz School," said Michael Ratti, Regent´s CEO. "We would like to welcome our new graduate school partner to the Regent family."

The Heinz School will be deploying Regent Enterprise this year. Regent Enterprise Financial Aid Management System will provide the Heinz School with the tools to automate and manage every aspect of the financial aid life cycle–providing critical information to help them reach their strategic goals. Key benefits include ease of use, flexibility and scalability through its 100% web based technology. In addition, Regent Enterprise´s open standards architecture for rapid implementation ensures fast return on investment.

About the Heinz School

The Heinz School exists to improve the ability of public, not-for-profit and private organizations to address the most difficult challenges facing society, as well as to strengthen and exploit its cultural resources through skilled leadership and management. Founded in 1968 at a time when the problems of society burst into public view in the form of violent urban unrest, the school set as its purpose an aggressive effort to understand the causes of critical social problems and to train men and women through masters and doctoral programs to use new knowledge and technology to bring about positive change. The Heinz School approaches these societal challenges through a distinctive educational process that integrates policy, management and information technology and provides real life experiences enabling students to immediately address needs in communities and throughout the world. The Heinz School´s success is reflected in the contributions our more than 5,000 graduates have made to society, through their work in international, national, state and local public agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and private corporations.

About Regent

With more than 30 years of financial aid software experience, Regent has become an industry-leading provider of financial aid management software. Our web-based, easy-to-use solutions interoperate with and enhance any student information system. The result: greater efficiencies, error reduction, and the enhancement of service provided to students – all equating to a positive, measurable Return on Investment (ROI) within the first year. Regent software automates and streamlines key financial aid processes, such as packaging, awarding, tracking, reporting and disbursements. Designed and built for the financial aid and enrollment management community, Regent enables institutions to execute their financial aid strategy, and enables the 21st century student to access information – anytime, anywhere, any device, in any language. Regent Education is located at: 47 E. South Street, Suite 201, Frederick, MD, 21701. Telephone: (800) 639-0927. Web site: www.regenteducation.com . For more information, email press@regenteducation.com .

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GeoLearning named to first-ever list of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses

West Des Moines, Iowa, August 24, 2007 — GeoLearning, Inc., the leading provider of Managed Learning Services and hosted learning and performance platforms, announced today that it has been ranked on first-ever list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America. GeoLearning was ranked #2,811 on the 2007 Inc. 5000 list with a sales growth rate of 120 percent over the past three years.

Complete information on this year´s Inc. 5,000, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000. The list features a profile for each company, almost all of them written as a result of Inc. interviews with management. In addition, the list is searchable according to numerous criteria, including industry, city, state, region, and year founded.

The Inc. 5,000 is an extension of Inc. magazine´s annual Inc. 500 list and catches many businesses that are too big to grow at the pace required to make the Inc. 500, as well as a host of smaller firms. Taken as a whole, these companies represent the backbone of the U.S. economy. GeoLearning is also a three-time Inc. 500 winner (2004 through 2006).

"The Inc. 5,000 provides the most comprehensive look ever at the most important part of the economy–the entrepreneurial part," said Inc. 5,000 Project Manager Jim Melloan. "The expansion of the list has allowed us to tell the stories of larger companies, older companies, and a wealth of companies that are underreported in the business media.

"It was a great honor to make the Inc. 500 for three consecutive years and to again be recognized as part of the inaugural Inc. 5000," said Frank Russell, president and CEO of GeoLearning. "It is an achievement made possible by dedicated employees, world-class customers and a unique business model that has been proven very successful over time."

GeoLearning´s award-winning Software as a Service (SaaS) model means its GeoMaestro and GeoExpress Learning Management System platforms are delivered entirely over the Internet, eliminating all the headaches, hassles and risks associated with traditional hardware and software implementations. These Internet-hosted learning management platforms enable organizations to capture, create, manage and share knowledge to improve workforce productivity, accelerate critical business processes, and drive organizational performance. The systems centralize and automate the entire learning management process, making the administration of enterprise learning and development both effective and efficient.

Inc. 5000 Methodology
The 2007 Inc. 5000 list measures revenue growth from 2003 through 2006. To qualify, companies had to be U.S.-based and privately held, independent–not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies–as of December 31, 2006, and have had at least $200,000 in revenue in 2003, and $2 million in 2006.

About GeoLearning, Inc.
GeoLearning is the leading provider of Managed Learning Services and hosted learning and performance technology. The company´s products and services are used by corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations to manage human capital development, accelerate critical business processes and drive organizational performance. GeoLearning´s Software as a Service model means there is no hardware or software for clients to install.

As a result, the company´s web-based GeoMaestro and GeoExpress learning management platforms can be deployed quickly, allowing clients to efficiently manage enterprise-wide learning, development and knowledge acquisition. Additional information is available at www.geolearning.com.

About Inc.com
Inc.com, the Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs, delivers advice, tools, breaking news, and rich multi-media to help business owners and CEOs start, run, and grow their businesses more successfully. Information and advice covering virtually every business and management task, including marketing, sales, finding capital, managing people can be found at www.inc.com.

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Teachers college professor´s new book analyzes rock lyrics for their psychological meanings

For decades, parents have worried that the lyrics to rock music are corrupting their children and poisoning their minds. But what of the many pearls those lyrics may express? In his new book, Rock ´n´ Roll Wisdom: What Psychologically Astute Lyrics Teach About Life and Love, Barry Farber, a Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University´s Teachers College, analyzes rock lyrics for their psychological truths.

"Rock lyrics, I believe, can be a lighthearted but engaging means to think about some profound issues of living," Farber writes. "Specifically, I have looked for lyrics that illustrate in particularly insightful ways common human longings and concerns."

A response to what Farber terms a lack of appreciation for "the psychological acumen of individual artists or songs," Rock ´n´ Roll Wisdom groups lyrics in basic thematic categories, including love and friendship; pain; ways of coping, aging and growing; and the inevitable troika of sex, drugs and money.

A chapter titled "Identity," for example, begins with a line from Joni Mitchell´s "Woodstock": "I don´t know who I am, but life is for learning."

"´Who am I?´ is one of the great questions of life, pondered by philosophers, artists, psychologists, and yes, songwriters," Farber writes, noting that although the rocker Meatloaf "made fun of such existential questions, he also noted implicitly that these are just the kind of things that many think about a good deal."

And in a chapter on death, which weaves together discussion of Aerosmith, Jackson Browne, Simon and Garfunkel, John Prine, Billy Joel, and Bonnie Raitt, Farber notes that in rock lyrics, "nostalgia seems to have two competing sides. One side pushes toward sweetening the past, the other clings to old regrets."

Farber even includes a chapter on the 50 Best Rock Lyrics (in his opinion).
They include several selections from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Billy Joel, among many others. The list, which is presented in alphabetical order rather than by rank, begins with the Beatles´ "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make" and ends with U2´s "We´re one, but we´re not the same/We get to carry each other."

On each of these topics, Farber argues, rock, in our culture of CDs, iPods and ringtones, has the potential for broader reach than the printed word, particularly when it comes to capturing the interest and attention of that golden target audience, young people.

"The better lyricists within the rock tradition tell stories about life and use creative phrases and imagery to do so," he says. "Like other artists, great songwriters offer the virtue of a more palatable way of learning than through the often-tedious pages of textbooks."

Farber doesn´t dispute that the writings of great authors and psychologists go far deeper than rock lyrics. He admits, too, that many rock devotees don´t really listen to the lyrics. Still, he would like to see the "words" part of rock given more attention and serious consideration.

Rock ´n´ Roll Wisdom does just that, giving an entirely new meaning to the phrase "pop psychology." It´s not typical of Farber´s oeuvre, which runs more to titles such as "The therapist as attachment figure" and "Clients perceptions of the process and consequences of self-disclosure in psychotherapy," but you get the sense he could do equal justice to the psychology of Fifty Cent, L´il Kim and Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Rock ´n´ Roll Wisdom is published by Praeger, with a forward by Dr. Judy Kuriansky. It will be widely available in book stores in September.

Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation.
Teachers College is affiliated with Columbia University but is legally and
financially independent. The editors of U.S. News and World Report have
ranked Teachers College as one of the leading graduate schools of education
in the country.

For more information about the College, please visit www.tc.columbia.edu.

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Back to school is challenge for children with cancer and their siblings

Yellow Springs, Ohio, August 7, 2007 — At a time when an estimated 40,000 children return to school after battling a pediatric cancer, a new Web site now makes it possible for students and teachers to welcome these young survivors back to the classroom.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed A LION IN THE HOUSE documentary, which last month was nominated for a primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking, the Web site –www.mylion.org — provides instant access to information about pediatric cancer and to service-learning projects where classmates can help a peer undergoing cancer treatment. Each project is correlated with national curriculum standards and has a 10-minute clip from A LION IN THE HOUSE.

A LION IN THE HOUSE, which had a national broadcast on the Emmy-award winning series Independent Lens in June 2006, galvanized public attention for childhood cancer by following the stories of five courageous children and their families. Insights from the documentary have been used to develop Mylion.

"Cancer is not fair, and childhood cancer is even less so," said MyLion project director Melissa Godoy. "Not everyone can find a cure for cancer, but we can all contribute to finding that cure, or we can make life better for patients and families."

To ease the anxieties for classmates returning to school after cancer treatment, MyLion.org offers access to service-learning projects, such as Welcome Back Bag, where students discuss the challenges of fighting cancer and then organize a welcoming project for a peer. Another project, Find Your Strength In Numbers: Save a Life, Plan a Blood Drive, shows students how to sponsor a blood drive to help children in the community undergoing cancer treatment. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a third of all schools and half of public high schools provide service-learning, a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies.

"Back to school offers a wealth of opportunities for service-learning, including projects designed to help classmates batting cancer and their families," said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of Youth Service America (YSA), a leading national organization focusing on service-learning for youth and a national partner of A LION IN THE HOUSE. "This is an ideal time for service-learning experiences that help students acquire academic skills and knowledge, but put them in a position to become more compassionate about other children who need empathy and support."

MyLion.org has also teamed up with SuperSibs! (a national support group for the brothers and sisters of children with cancer) to raise awareness of the impact pediatric cancer has on siblings, who often feel frightened, angry, jealous, grief stricken, stressed, depressed and even abandoned. Besides giving students and teachers access to service-learning projects designed specifically for siblings, MyLion.org offers classmates these tips for supporting the brother or sister of a child with cancer:

? Keep in mind that you can´t "catch cancer" from someone else, and that siblings didn´t do anything to cause their brother or sister to have cancer.
? Ask siblings how THEY´RE doing — and then really listen. (Don´t always ask them for the medical report on a brother or sister. Siblings want to know that people genuinely care about them, too.)
? Introduce a sibling by his or her own name (not as "Jimmy´s brother or sister").
? Send fun mail addressed to the sibling — individually, by name.
? Invite siblings to join in fun activities or outings. Siblings need to laugh, have fun and be themselves, even (and especially) during this challenging time for the family.
? Remind siblings they´re not alone and to reach out for support.
? Celebrate the siblings´ own accomplishments. Remind them that they´re special — just for being who they are.
? Teen siblings are often thrust into a "third parent" role, with extra responsibilities. Offer to help do these chores with them.
? Remember that this is a long journey for siblings. Don´t expect them to "just get over it" after a certain period of time. Your supportive friendship (for many years) can help siblings have strength, courage and hope.

"A pediatric cancer diagnosis affects everyone in the family," said Melanie Goldish, SuperSibs! Executive Director. "Siblings need to know, especially during the fight against cancer, that they are special and important people, too, and that their classmates and friends are there to support them during this difficult time."

A LION IN THE HOUSE is a co-production of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), which funds and promotes independent films in the U.S. and presents them on PBS. Information about the additional educational tools produced in conjunction with A LION IN THE HOUSE is available at www.lioninthehouse.com.

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Kanye West and ED in ´08 announce new partnership to urge for national leadership on education forum

Washington, DC, August 24, 2007 — Hip-hop superstar Kanye West and Strong American Schools´ ED in ´08 campaign today announced that West will be featured in new television public service announcements, urging the presidential candidates to address America´s education crisis and dropout epidemic. Nationwide, 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year. The ED in ´08 campaign will also be a title sponsor for the Kanye West Foundation´s inaugural benefit at the House of Blues on Friday, August 24 in Chicago, where West was raised.

In addition to the PSA campaign, both West and his mother, Dr. Donda West, have committed to a joint upcoming appearance with ED in ´08. West´s latest CD, "Graduation," will also be given away at www.EDin08.com through online activities. The Kanye West Foundation (KWF) was established in 2003 to motivate youth to stay in school and graduate. Its signature initiative, Loop Dreams, uses music production to motivate youth to remain encouraged and excited about learning. ED in ´08 is an unprecedented up to $60 million non partisan movement, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which calls on all presidential candidates to improve America´s public schools and make education reform a top priority on the campaign trail.

"The ED in ´08 campaign is excited to partner with the Kanye West Foundation in advocating for new national leadership to strengthen America´s schools," says Marc Lampkin, executive director of ED in ´08. "We look forward to working with the Kanye West Foundation to raise awareness about America´s education crisis and urge the presidential candidates to put forward a plan to improve America´s schools because in every community in America, too many children are leaving school without the skills to be ready to succeed in college, career and life."

Echoing Lampkin´s views, Dr. Donda West, KWF board president, says, "For many youth in the US, there is a sense of hopelessness owed largely to cutbacks in federal and state funding for educational programming. Our foundation focuses on providing qualitative programs in partnership with schools and communities. Engaging with the ED in ´08 campaign is yet another way that working together can make a significant difference."

Editor´s Note: West will be available to discuss this partnership during his pre-concert press conference at 4:30 pm at the Hotel Sax Chicago, located at 333 Dearborn St., Chicago.

To learn more about the Kanye West Foundation, visit www.kanyewestfoundation.org. To learn more about Strong American Schools, log onto www.edin08.com. For information about the Kanye West Foundation benefit concert and related activities, contact Patricia Green, (301) 526.1089.

The Kanye West Foundation is a California-based 501(c) 3 dedicated to combating the severe dropout rate in secondary schools by providing music production programs that motivate students and compel them to stay in school and graduate. The foundation´s signature initiative, Loop Dreams, is a rap music and production program that involves students in learning through a hands-on curriculum. The foundation will launch the Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute in Chicago next year.

Strong American Schools, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is a nonpartisan campaign supported by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that promotes sound education policies for all Americans. SAS does not support or oppose any candidate for public office and does not take positions on legislation.

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ANGEL Learning offers eLearning webinars for K-12

Indianapolis, Ind. — Aug. 24, 2007 — ANGEL Learning, recognized innovator of learning management software and services, today announced three K12 e-learning webinars. The webinars will provide insight into how K12 educators can use a course management system (CMS) to align standards and objectives to course curriculum, provide virtual and hybrid classes, supply professional development, offer remediation and enrichment and engage students beyond the classroom with wikis, blogs and 24/7 access to course content and classroom resources.

Individual webinars address different educational audiences and topics:

? First-hand experience implementing a CMS for credit recovery and professional development, and State standards alignment in a K12 classroom will be relayed by educators who use ANGEL in the "What a Learning Management System Can Do for K12 Schools" webinar.
? CMS features specific to K12, including State standards alignment, defense against cyber bullying and customizations for different grade levels, are highlights of the "Using ANGEL in K-12" webinar.
? How K-12 schools can effectively use a CMS to provide high school students virtual remediation and enrichment, extend the high school curriculum and prepare students for postsecondary education are covered in the "Using ANGEL in a High School Environment" webinar.

"The pressure on educators to provide evidence of learning continues to increase," said Lynn Zingraf, director of marketing, ANGEL Learning. "Course management system technology can help educational institutions accomplish their objectives. The range of topics covered in these webinars will give educators a clear understanding of how implementing a CMS can help them enrich, track and report on student performance."

The e-learning webinars are offered at a variety of dates and times. Registration is free. Visit the ANGEL Learning website for complete webinar descriptions and to register: http://www.angellearning.com/webinars/default.html

About ANGEL Learning
ANGEL Learning, Inc. develops and markets enterprise elearning software. Our flagship products are the ANGEL Learning Management Suite and the ANGEL ePortfolio system. Our products have been honed by use — with millions of students and instructors served from K to corporate. We enjoy a reputation for creating products with exceptional ease of use, excellent vision into learner progress and for keeping our commitments. ANGEL LMS won the Software & Information Industry Association CODiE award for Best Postsecondary Course Management Solution in both 2006 and 2007 and is the only product to win the award two years in a row. Educators ranked ANGEL first in customer satisfaction in the IMS GLC Learn-Sat awards. Having emerged from the academy ourselves, our core values reflect those of our customers well. ANGEL world headquarters are in Indianapolis, Indiana. To learn more about the ANGEL difference, visit us at www.angellearning.com.

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For those at schools without GenderSAFE protections, life can be unpleasant and sometimes dangerous

Washington, D.C. — August 27, 2007 — The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC), today released its 2007 GENIUS Index. The GENIUS Index (Gender Equality National Index for Universities & Schools) tracks and evaluates the efforts of colleges, universities, and K-12 school districts to prohibit discrimination and promote awareness of gender identity and expression in their policies. The report analyzes and enumerates non-discrimination policies, gender-neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral housing, and anti-harassment policies.

This is the second year that GenderPAC has published the GENIUS Index. The 2007 Index reflects a tremendous increase in response rate: 496 students, administrators, and alumni, representing 278 colleges and universities, responded to the survey, as compared to the 2006 Index which received 124 responses (81 schools). GenderPAC also noted an increase in the number of universities specifically banning discrimination based on gender identity or expression: 147 colleges and universities currently have such policies, as compared to 131 in 2006. More than 100 public K-12 school districts, encompassing thousands of individual schools, have extended similar protections to nearly 3.5 million children in 23 states.

Despite the fact that all eight Ivy League schools have inclusive non-discrimination policies, there were a few surprising omissions among "Top 25" schools: Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, and Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, all lack protections for gender nonconforming people.

"We applaud the new schools in GENIUS 2007 that stepped up to ensure a new kind of student equality. We are proud that there are more gender-based protections for all students at schools across the country," said Riki Wilchins, GenderPAC´s Executive Director. "At the same time, GenderPAC urges and expects that schools still without the protections will implement policies to ensure that their campuses are GenderSAFET – supportive, protective and equitable for all students, whether or not they fit expectations for masculinity or femininity."

"The issue of gender safety affects students of all genders and ages; whether we´re talking about an elementary school playground or an Ivy League campus, we see an ongoing epidemic of gender-based prejudice, discrimination, and violence," continued Wilchins. A recent GenderPAC survey found that, of 651 students currently enrolled at US-based colleges and universities, 30 percent have been harassed or discriminated against on campus because they didn´t fit expectations of masculinity or femininity; 13 percent have been harassed for using a restroom because they didn´t fit expectations of masculinity or femininity; and 25 percent have felt unsafe in campus housing because they didn´t fit expectations of masculinity or femininity.

GenderPAC also supported a University of Illinois study of 200 high school students in suburban Chicago. 62 percent of the students saw peers who weren´t masculine or feminine enough being called names and verbally harassed; 46 percent saw peers who weren´t masculine or feminine enough ostracized and excluded from groups; and 21 percent saw peers who weren´t masculine or feminine enough physically assaulted: pushed, shoved, or hit.

Students across the country have been mobilizing on their campuses to get the more inclusive policies and practices enacted. "The GENIUS Index supports our work with campus groups nationwide," said Brittney Hoffman, GenderPAC´s Youth Program Coordinator. "We work every day with student activists who are trying to create GenderSAFE campuses. Our GENIUS Action Tool Kit provides student activists with the resources necessary to organize on their own campuses, and in their communities, around these issues. We have 63 GenderYOUTH chapters across the country: that´s over 300 progressive student and youth leaders working to raise awareness about gender stereotypes, gender-motivated violence, and gender as a human rights issue."

The 2007 Index, including a complete list of identified institutions with gender identity/expression policies, can be viewed in its entirety at: www.gpac.org/genius/2007.pdf.

The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) works to ensure that classrooms, communities, and workplaces are safe for everyone to learn, grow, and succeed – whether or not they meet expectations for masculinity and femininity. To learn more about GenderPAC, please visit www.gpac.org.

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Post-Katrina education problems linger

Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the Gulf Coast, thousands of displaced students and millions of dollars in unfunded school reconstruction projects still plague the region, according to the report released Aug. 29 by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation (SEF).

The report urged the federal government to adopt a “new response” to restoring education in the affected areas.

That means “doing a full assessment of what the child-care centers, preschools, and K-12 schools need to restore themselves. That’s a lot different than throwing a few million dollars into a bill as it’s going through the hopper,” said Steve Suitts, the foundation’s program director and author of the report.

Billed as the first overall, independent assessment of education along the Gulf Coast since the storm, the report said only 2 percent of the federal government’s hurricane-related funding went toward education recovery.

Other findings in the report:

  • The costs of hurricane destruction in K-12 and higher education were approximately $6.2 billion, but only $1.2 billion in federal funding had been committed to restoring physical structures and property.
  • Displaced students re-enrolled in schools in 49 states, but a lack of adequate federal funding meant that schools with the greatest number of displaced students had insufficient classrooms, staff, and supplies to support them.
  • Nearly one out of every six students in Louisiana’s public colleges and universities dropped out for the 2005-06 school year. In the 2006-07 school year, more than 26,000 students from Louisiana public colleges and nearly 9,000 Mississippi college students remained out of school.
  • “Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has the United States witnessed so many of its own students thrown out of school,” the report said. “During the last two years, however, the most powerful national government in the world has spent relatively small amounts of time, money, and effort in helping to set right the hurricane-displaced students and the schools they attend.”

    In fact, the report contends, as of the middle of 2007, foreign nations had supplied $131 million for rebuilding and restoring colleges and universities in Louisiana, where the largest destruction of schools occurred–virtually the same amount that the federal government has provided for this purpose.

    These figures don’t include loans the federal government has made to schools for rebuilding. But in a press conference convened to discuss the report, Suitts said, “Loans don’t help recovery; they just buy time. Schools can’t afford to pay back the loan with interest and still stay afloat.”

    During the same press conference, SEF President Lynn Huntley expressed frustration that no federal funds were available to support efforts to locate or re-engage as many as 30,000 K-12 students or more than 60,000 college students who reportedly dropped out of school after Katrina struck.

    “The resources that the federal government has provided are grossly inadequate,” Huntley said. “How, in the Information Age, can’t we account for the relatively small number of children affected by Katrina?”

    Suitts said the foundation’s report analyzed government data, school records, and private surveys to estimate the scale of damage and displacement after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

    House Majority Whip James Clyburn said there are “vast and overwhelming” complexities associated with restoring the region’s public education system.

    Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, toured the Gulf Coast this month as part of a delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also visited the region last year.

    “I have seen firsthand that the post-hurricane response to rebuilding the public education infrastructure in the Gulf Coast has been inadequate and improvements must be made,” Clyburn wrote in an eMail message to the Associated Press.

    He added: “I believe that the Southern Education Foundation’s report will serve as an important tool to Congress as we further our efforts to reconstruct schools in the Gulf Coast region.”

    Hudson La Force, senior counselor to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, said the foundation’s report contains numerous inaccuracies and fails to accurately depict the role of the U.S. Department of Education and others in aiding the recovery of students and families impacted by the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.

    La Force continued: “Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $2 billion to K-12 and higher-education institutions impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These federal funds are intended to supplement significant other resources, such as private insurance and state funding. The department has received praise from numerous local and state officials on its response and is proud of its ongoing efforts as we continue to work with the impacted states and support the recovery through federal grants, low-interest loans, technical support, and guidance.”

    Education officials in Mississippi and Louisiana said they were encouraged by the progress made within their public school systems.

    Mississippi Education Superintendent Hank Bounds said K-12 enrollment in the six coastal counties was at nearly 93 percent. Bounds said that although reconstruction of some buildings has been slow, “given everything that has taken place, I think that the schools are doing remarkably well.”

    Mississippi’s schools received $300 million in restart funds from the federal government, he said.

    The state’s higher-education system along the coast also appears to be rebounding. Classes have resumed at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus, which sustained extensive damage, and enrollment is near where it was before the storm, said Robert Bass, project director of Gulf Coast operations for the state College Board.

    Louisiana created incentive programs to encourage students to return to school, said Kevin Hardy, a Board of Regents spokesman. The most recent came during the summer legislative session when Louisiana lawmakers approved the Go Grant, a need-based college aid program that would award up to $2,000 to full-time students.

    “We’re still down some 20,000 students in our public colleges and universities,” Hardy said. “The Go Grant was initiated to get enrollment up and target those who are most in need of an opportunity for access.”

    The Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP) Team, a coalition of ed-tech companies and organizations dedicated to rebuilding Gulf Coast schools as 21st-century learning facilities, declined to comment on the foundation’s report.

    Links:

    Southern Education Foundation

    U.S. Department of Education

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    Solution Tree rallies excitement for educational essessment with new release

    Bloomington, Ind. — August 23, 2007 — The mere mention of assessment often conjures thoughts of tedious tests, number-crunching, and data analysis. With the release the new anthology, Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning, educational publishing company Solution Tree hopes to transform tedium into a battle cry for bold moves in school improvement through an assessment revolution.

    Scheduled for release in September 2007, Ahead of the Curve gathers the insights and recommendations from international educational luminaries, including Douglas Reeves, Dylan Wiliam, Rick Stiggins, Thomas Guskey, Robert Marzano, Anne Davies, and Richard DuFour. The anthology addresses a growing number of challenges faced by educators today, such as applying assessments to English language learners and special needs students. While the authors each present a unique perspective, they offer a united front for the need to use assessment to shatter archaic evaluations that trap students in the bell curve.

    "Our readers are practical people who want to know how they can improve professional practice now and have an immediate impact on student achievement," says Solution Tree Director of Publications Gretchen Knapp. "Our contributing authors are experts in their field and extremely well respected by the teachers and administrators with whom they are working."

    Ahead of the Curve is the second anthology in the Solution Tree Leading Edge series. The company launched Leading Edge with the anthology On Common Ground: The Power of Professional Learning Communities, edited by Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Rebecca DuFour. The inaugural anthology set a standard Solution Tree plans to uphold in each ensuing installment: a collection of high-caliber voices presenting a multifaceted examination of a crucial topic in education. Ahead of the Curve is edited by Douglas Reeves and includes contributions from leading educators from the United States, Canada, and England.

    About Solution Tree
    Solution Tree is a leading provider of educational strategies and tools that improve staff and student performance. For 20 years, Solution Tree resources have helped K–12 teachers and administrators create schools where all children succeed. Solution Tree products and services include national and regional conferences that bring leading-edge theories and best practices to educational professionals; innovative publishing of research-based books, videos, and study guides; and inspired, customized professional development for schools and districts.

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