Education Department chides Hawaii for use of grant dollars

An Education Department official on Wednesday admonished Hawaii for its “unsatisfactory” performance under a $75 million federal grant the state won last year in a high profile competition and said it was placing it under “high risk” status, Fox News reports. That means the state is in danger of losing the money if it doesn’t make improvements. This is the first time the department has placed under such a status a state that won dollars distributed in the competition known as “Race to the Top.” The contest is a signature education initiative under the Obama administration, which has used it to encourage states to enact changes it supports. Hawaii was one of 11 states and the District of Columbia to win more than $4 billion in Race to the Top grants last year. The Hawaii Department of Education is the nation’s 10th largest school system and the only statewide district in the country…

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National education reformer to lead Bridgeport

Paul G. Vallas, an education reformer who has led some of the nation’s most troubled school systems, including the New Orleans district after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city, is taking on a new challenge: The Bridgeport school district, reports. Vallas, 58, was named Tuesday as interim superintendent in the state’s largest city, whose district has some of the state’s lowest test scores and deepest poverty. He starts Jan. 1, and will inherit both a $6 million budget gap and a state-appointed school board whose very existence is being weighed by the state Supreme Court. Earlier on Tuesday at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, Vallas said he is not intimidated.

“I am used to taking on great challenges and going into crisis situations,” he said. “Our plan is to move fast.”

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Facebook agrees to changes to improve transparency

Facebook Inc. has agreed to make several changes to its services to improve transparency and better protect the personal data of its millions of users outside of the U.S., following an in-depth audit of its international headquarters that was released Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. The social media company, based in Palo Alto, California, agreed to changes including asking European users if they wanted to partake in its Facial Recognition, reworking its policies of retaining and deleting private data, and reducing the amount of information collected about people who are not logged into Facebook, the company said in response to the report of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. Facebook’s international headquarters are based in Dublin, Ireland, a member of the European Union. This means the company is required to comply with European data privacy laws, which are more stringent than those that apply in the United States, particularly regarding how long data can be retained…

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Opinion: Newt Gingrich and the meaning of smart

As Newt Gingrich has surged in the Republican presidential polls, we’ve heard more and more in the media about his intelligence, about him being a large thinker, the big idea guy in the GOP, says Mike Rose, who is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and is the author of several books, for the Washington Post. This standard description of him has gotten me to think about intelligence, particularly about the ways we commonly ascribe intelligence to others. I remember as a young man watching William F. Buckley on television and being fascinated by the way his eyes would flash and his tongue flick across his lips when he made a point—and the words! The big words. And that accent, that intonation. I didn’t know anyone who sounded like that. Clearly, this guy was smart. Since those days, I’ve taught a lot of people—which enables you to observe thinking in detail—and have studied intelligence, and I’ve spent a good chunk of my professional life in a university, the epicenter of smarts…

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Report sets forth early learning recommendations

Education organizations have joined together to support alignment of preschool through third grade education.

A comprehensive alignment of preschool through third grade (P-3) education is critical in ensuring that children develop a solid foundation in literacy, math, and social-emotional skills, according to a new report that offers recommendations for high-quality P-3 initiatives.

“The Importance of Aligning Pre-K through 3rd Grade,” released by the Pre-K Coalition, which includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA), details best practices for improving early learning.

The report comes as the Obama administration has just awarded $500 million in Race to the Top funding to nine states to help make early learning programs more accessible and better capable of narrowing the achievement gap between those who start kindergarten without any formal schooling and those who do.

Gains made in high-quality preschool programs must be sustained and built upon throughout the K-3 years, according to the report. Robust P-3 initiatives align comprehensive early learning standards with state K-3 content standards in an effort to promote children’s healthy development, social and emotional skills, and learning. Those standards should be connected and build upon one another so that pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and primary grade educators can develop and select effective curricula, teaching strategies, and assessment systems. Teaching teams should engage in joint professional development.

“Superintendents, principals, teachers, and state and local school board leaders agree that we need to think more systemically about the strategies and practices used in the early grades and their impact on reading achievement,” said Chrisanne Gayl, director of the Pre-K Coalition. “This requires a fundamental shift in perspective to paying greater attention to children’s earliest learning experiences—including those that occur before they ever enter formal schooling.”

The Common Core State Standards hold promise in helping schools connect early learning to later grades, but many state K-12 systems might not connect to early childhood education systems within the same state.

“As a result, we often miss a huge opportunity to influence student learning during the years when children have the greatest growth potential,” the report notes.


10 holiday wishes for administrators, teachers, and students

"If I could give just one gift to my faculty, it would be renewal in the faith of our profession," said one reader.

Although the holidays are a time to show others how you appreciate them, the tough economy is giving administrators and teachers a challenge in showing their support for their peers and their students.

In a recent Question of the Week,” we asked our readers: “’Tis the season to be giving! If you could give just one thing to your students/faculty/peers/school or district, what would it be?”

And while the thought of receiving large cash bonuses no doubt crossed everyone’s minds, readers not only were very practical with their holiday wishes, but seem to understand exactly what their peers and students are going through in these tough times for education and the economy in general.

Here are 10 our readers’ best responses. To share your own gift ideas, leave them in the comments section below.

1.“If I could give my students anything, I would wave my magic wand over them and give them the gift of becoming life-long learners. It wouldn’t make any difference how technology would change; they would find a way to explore new and exciting topics.” —Faye E. Manyak, grade 5 social studies teacher

2.“If I could give just one thing to the children in my district, I would give them all a box of food.” —Lila Goodgame Udell, Florida


Grants of $25K for libraries and museums

The Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries and Museums are a special funding opportunity within the IMLS National Leadership Grants program. These small grants encourage libraries, museums, and archives to test and evaluate specific innovations in the ways they operate and the services they provide. Sparks Grants support the deployment, testing, and evaluation of promising and groundbreaking new tools, products, services, or organizational practices.


$150K for Pacific islands research

The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting competitive applications for the 2012 Pacific Islands Region Marine Education and Training Mini-Grant Program. Projects are being solicited to improve communication, education, and training on marine resource issues throughout the region and increase scientific education for marine-related professions among coastal community residents, including indigenous Pacific islanders, Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented groups in the region.


More than $9M for Hispanic-serving institutions

Note: Deadline applies to letter of intent. Program deadline is Feb. 9, 2012. This program is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of Hispanic-serving institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences. Programs aim to attract outstanding students and produce graduates capable of enhancing the nation’s food and agricultural scientific and professional work force.


Up to $150K for art programs

This program makes awards to creative placemaking projects that contribute toward the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core. Our Town will invest in creative and innovative projects in which communities, together with their arts and design organizations and artists, seek to:

  • Improve their quality of life
  • Encourage creative activity
  • Create community identity and a sense of place
  • Revitalize local economies