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Federal Grant Starts Up 'State Scholars' Program

Arkansas will be the first state awarded federal money to promote a program that encourages high school students to pursue a more a rigorous course of study.

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More information on the program is available from the Center for State Scholars.

The state was awarded a portion of $2.4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education this month to begin implementing the State Scholars program. The initiative aims to set more students who aspire to go to college on the right academic path toward meeting admissions requirements. The department plans to award grants to several other states in the coming weeks.

Created by the Bush administration, the program will urge students to go beyond minimum high school graduation requirements. It recommends that students take at least four years of English, three years of mathematics— including Algebra II and geometry—three years of laboratory sciences, 31/2 years of history and social studies, and two years of the same foreign language.

Students who complete the recommendations of the program will earn incentives that might include recognition from the federal and state education departments, as well as local officials. They may also be eligible for admission and scholarships at public colleges and universities in their states.

The Center for State Scholars, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, will administer the program.

Massachusetts History

The Massachusetts board of education last week unanimously approved a revised version of the state's history/social science frameworks despite criticism from many teachers, administrators, and scholars that the document promotes rote memorization rather than a deeper study of the subjects. The frameworks outline what students should learn in the subject area from kindergarten through grade 12.

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Some 100 superintendents of school districts throughout the state had urged the board in a letter this month to postpone a decision and allow more time for educators and the public to study the latest document.

After hearing comments from board members and some experts in the field, the Massachusetts Department of Education made changes to the 120-page document from a previous version released last month. The approved version now emphasizes historical themes that can help teachers organize their lessons around the standards, and a greater focus on Africa and South and Central America in the world history section.

The changes take effect immediately. State tests based on the new frameworks will be given beginning in the 2005-06 school year.

Lions and Literacy

The talkative lions that inhabit the library of a popular public-television series apparently have helped improve the basic-literacy skills of some children.

A study released this month by Mississippi State University researchers found that children in two high-poverty Mississippi communities who watched "Between the Lions" regularly showed greater proficiency in several key reading areas than a control group did.

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The researchers studied more than 550 children in Head Start and child-care programs, and kindergarten and 1st grade classes in Indianola, a town in the Mississippi Delta, and the community of Pearl River, located on the Choctaw Indian Reservation. The children who watched the program regularly outscored nonviewers on tests of their ability to match letters and sounds, their awareness that words are made up of sounds, and their knowledge of other concepts of print.

Each week during the 2001-02 school year, the students watched two 30-minute episodes of the program. Their teachers also received training in how to use related children's literature and other resources to reinforce the TV lessons.

Global Perspective

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, should cause teachers to take a more global perspective in their teaching, conclude experts at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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To help fill the void, the college in New York City is offering a Web site with advice on how to change the content of curriculum and approaches to teaching it. The site, called Teaching and Learning in a New Global Environment, is based on speeches and discussions from a "teach-in" at Teachers College last January.

Included on the site are Internet links to resources that teachers may wish to tap for help in changing how they teach. The links are to groups such as the Model U.N., a United Nations program in which students role-play issues that face the world body.

National Certification

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has received a $300,000 grant to encourage more teachers—particularly African-Americans and Hispanics— to pursue national board certification.National Certification: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has received a $300,000 grant to encourage more teachers—particularly African-Americans and Hispanics— to pursue national board certification.

The State Farm Companies Foundation, an arm of the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurance company, issued the grant.

"This is an opportunity to create an enhanced communication system to expand opportunities to promote national board certification," said Joni Henderson, the vice president of philanthropic development for the NBPTS.

—Michelle Galley, David J. Hoff, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

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