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While the national debate rages over the benefits of early childhood education, an innovative, district-wide early childhood education initiative is bearing fruit in Bremerton, Washington. Since the initiative's founding, the percentage of Bremerton children entering Kindergarten knowing their letters has shot from 4% to over 50%. The percentage of Kindergarteners needing specialized education services has plummeted from 12% to 2%. And the share of first graders reading on grade level has risen from 52% to 73%.

Last week, I spoke with a woman at the center of the program: Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the district's Director of Special programs. She described some keys to the program's success. The district:

  • Aligns existing school and community resources
  • Raises the quality of existing preschools rather than creating new ones
  • Focuses on literacy and numeracy
  • Heeds the research, and
  • Holds all providers to high standards of quality

Read extensive highlights from our interview with Sullivan-Dudzic:

PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: What are the major goals of Early Childhood Care and Education Group, and what do you believe you've accomplished in striving towards those goals?

SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: We have two goals. [The first is] to increase the number of children entering kindergarten with early literacy skills--and now we've added early math foundation skills. And the second goal is to decrease the number of children, students, with learning disabilities or learning differences associated with reading.

PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: And do you feel like you've made headway in reaching your goals?

SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Yes. In literacy definitely. We're just starting in math. We have decreasing numbers of kids qualifying as learning disabled, and we have increasing numbers of kids entering kindergarten with early reading foundation skills.

PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: So you have all kinds of community partners?

SULLIVAN-DUDZIC: Sure. I started 29 years ago with Head Start, as a ...

Do recent NAEP results showing arts education holding steady in eighth grade suggest that No Child Left Behind has not narrowed the curriculum? Not really.

Most evidence points to a decline in arts education at the elementary level, which the NAEP results don't directly address. (See, for example, the Center on Education Policy's 2008 study on the matter.) ...

Editor’s note: Our series of guest blogs in which accomplished teachers offer ideas for how to spend stimulus funds concludes with Susan Graham's thoughts. The opinions she expresses are, of course, her own and do not necessarily represent those of LFA or its member organizations.

This series also includes contributions from Ariel SacksHeather Wolpert-Gawron and Mary Tedrow.

Bob Woodruff, the ABC news correspondent who suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq, didn’t plan to be a journalist. In a recent address to students he recalled that he took a pay cut when he went into journalism, but he went on to say, "I really believe in doing what you want to do. Especially at a young age, do what your heart tells you to do."

What does this have to do with innovative efforts in public school? Before stumbling into journalism, Woodruff spent four years in college and four years in law school. The vast majority of ...

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Earth Day Resources

Happy Earth Day!

Check out our Earth Day and environmental education resources.  We've assembled classroom resources, lesson plans, interviews with environmental education experts and examples of innovative environmental education programs in public schools. ...

French explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau has spent his life campaigning for the health of the world's oceans. He has produced over 75 films on oceans and the environment, involved thousands of young people in hands-on environmental education programs, and met with dozens of world leaders--including nine U.S. presidents--to press the case for stronger environmental protections.

Cousteau recently spoke with us about his work at the Ocean Futures Society to protect the world's oceans through science and education. The overarching message of this work: "if you protect the ocean, you protect yourself."

Download the entire interview here or listen to brief interview highlights (6 minutes):

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(A transcript of these highlights appears below)

Or listen to excerpts from ...

National Geographic filmmaker and writer Jon Bowermaster has long chronicled the declining health of the world's oceans. He has traveled the world by sea kayak, seeing first-hand troubling environmental changes in places as far-flung as Antarctica, the Aleutian Islands, South America, Vietnam, French Polynesia, Gabon, Croatia and Tasmania

Bowermaster recently spoke with us via satellite phone from a beach in the Maldives, a group of low-lying tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. He told us about us about the threats this island nation faces from rising sea levels and pollution--and why other nations like the United States should care about them. Environmental crises on distant shores can herald environmental, social, or political crises at home.

Bowermaster argues that his work holds critical lessons for educators and students. Why learn about the Maldives? Their present may well be our future.

Listen to highlights from our conversation here (6 minutes):

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A transcript of these highlights appears ...

Editor's Note: Yesterday, Hollywood producer turned Montana educator Peter Rosten sent us the following remarks about his school's innovative filmmaking program:

Greetings from Montana!

A friend of mine, Jan Lombardi, is the education policy advisor for Montana’s Governor, Brian Schweitzer. Recently Jan forwarded me a “Learning First” newsletter and pointed to an article titled “Learning in the Community: Teen Filmmakers Talk About Their Work and Its Impact on Their Lives”.

After reading this inspiring story, I reached out to Claus von Zastrow. Perhaps he’d be interested in a pretty cool media program here in the Bitterroot Valley in rural Western, Montana.

And here we are...

In 2004, we created MAPS: Media Arts in the Public Schools. (Be sure to visit our website and Youtube page.) The initial goal was to educate under-served, rural students in the media arts--and since ‘movies’ are cool, there was a healthy and eager response. ...

Last week, teen filmmaker Jasmine Britton told us about the impact of her filmmaking on her life plans and academic prospects. Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization, has reinforced Britton's academic skills and strengthened her motivation to go to college.

This week, we're sharing our recent conversation with Reelworks filmmaker Isaac Schrem, who expands on themes introduced by Britton. Shrem describes how his school's arts programs, together with filmmaking opportunities through Reel Works, shaped his professional aspirations.

Listen to approximately 5 minutes of highlights from our interview (or read through the transcript below):

Interview Highlights
Tell me about the film you made, The Other Side of the Picture.

ISAAC: I was always interested in filmmaking, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to with it. I went with the phrase, "Write what you know." The one thing that I knew or wanted to understand, at least, at the time, was the situation with my parents, and my father leaving us and going away to Paris. So I went with that story.

It was a very rough topic for me to tackle because I still ...

In his March 10th speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama repeated his campaign pledge to help states expand and improve early learning programs.

In defiance of skeptics who question the value or feasibility of early childhood education, the National Association of State Boards of Education points to Obama's home state of Illinois. The Illinois program can boast both strong acadmic results and cost-effectiveness, NASBE argues in a recent policy brief:

Illinois met nine of its 10 benchmarks for pre-k quality, ranked... 12th in access for 4-year-olds and first in the nation for 3-year-olds, while spending slightly more than ...

The 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest newspaper to run its own obituary. It followed closely on the heels of the Rocky Mountain News, which bid adieu to its Denver readers after 160 years. More newspapers and journals are sure to follow. Just this morning, I received an alarming email solicitation from The Nation, ominously titled "1865-??", requesting donations to forestall its own demise.

The implications of this situation for education are not hard to grasp.

For one, it reflects and exacerbates the erosion of civic education in this country. As Kathleen Parker notes in a recent Washington Post editorial, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press recently "found that just 27 percent of Americans born since 1977 read a newspaper the previous day." Young people don't seem to have much appetite for serious newspapers. Many educators feel they don't have much time to whet that appetite.

Yes, young people get some news on line, but ...

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