Education Week - August 29, 2012 - (Page 10)

10 EDUCATION WEEK n AUGUST 29, 2012 n NSF Awards Grants for Climate-Change Education By Erik W. Robelen Efforts to advance climate-change education in schools and communities are getting a boost from a new set of six grants awarded by the National Science Foundation, totaling more than $33 million over five years. The federal aid will support a number of initiatives, including a joint project in Delaware and Maryland to help schools deliver effective and regionally relevant instruction in grades 8-12, and work led by the New England Aquarium to enhance opportunities for climate-change education in zoos, aquariums, and other out-of-school settings. “Ours is an attempt to get appropriate content related to climate change into the curricula of schools on a statewide level,” said Donald F. Boesch, the president of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and the project director for the five-year, $5.6 million grant. “People have to understand what is going on and sort through all the things they hear ... and the choices we have to face.” In addition to helping bring together existing high-quality resources on the topic, the project will develop materials that emphasize the local context of climate change, Mr. Boesch said. And it will feature a lot of professional development for teachers, he added. The project also aims to help venues such as museums, aquariums, and nature centers with climatechange education. The nsf grants, announced this month, come as understanding climate change—including the role of human activity in contributing to it—is identified in a draft set of common science standards as an important dimension of science all students should learn. Among the 26 states playing a lead role in that effort are Delaware and Maryland. The grants announced this month also come as climate change continues to spark debate in the political sphere. sees reasons to worry about the initiative. “One is the very real concern that these programs will be used to teach kind of the extreme ‘doom and gloom’ side of climate change, rather than just talk about the science, how it works,” he said. AWARDS TARGET SCHOOLS, COMMUNITIES The National Science Foundation announced six grants focused on climate-change education. University System of Maryland: Deliver effective and regionally relevant instruction on climate change with an emphasis on grades 8-12 in Maryland and Delaware schools. $5.6 million Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, in Honolulu: Enhance climate-change education in the Pacific Island region at the K-14 level, with a focus on scientific understanding, local impacts, and indigenous cultural issues. $5.9 million New England Aquarium, in Boston: Improve and expand climatechange education in aquariums, zoos, and other settings, with a focus on providing professional development for interpretive staff. $5.5 million Columbia University: Help the public understand climate issues in the polar regions through the exploration and development of “novel educational approaches,” including gaming and game-like activities. $5.7 million University of San Diego: Develop a new model for educating both the general public and key decisionmakers in the San Diego region, with the goal of replicating it elsewhere. $4.9 million Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia: Engage urban residents in community-based learning about climate change and the prospects for enhancing urban quality of life through “informed responses to a changing Earth.” $5.9 million SOURCE: National Science Foundation Teachers Wary of Topic Mr. Boesch of the University of Maryland said climate change typically gets little time and thoughtful attention in public schools. He offers several reasons: a crowded curriculum; lack of awareness and access to good instructional resources by educators; and, finally, apprehension among many teachers. “Teachers aren’t comfortable addressing the subject because they don’t understand it at all,” he said. “It is an inherently complicated set of issues that transcend a single field of science.” In addition, he said, “it’s viewed in our society today as controversial and sensitive, so if I raise this issue, I’m going to upset someone and have a problem.” The New England Aquarium is playing a lead role in a $5.5 million grant over five years for work in partnership with others to help educators, and even youth interpreters, who work at aquariums, zoos, science centers, and other settings. “We think the public dialogue around climate change and other environmental issues needs to be expanded and broadened, not be so much around contention and divisiveness,” said William Spitzer, a vice president at the aquarium, in Boston. “There is a real need to enable people to grapple with what are the issues in terms of science, in terms of policy, how it relates to people’s everyday lives and things they care about.” Mr. Spitzer, like Mr. Boesch, said a core underpinning of the work is that climate change is real, and that human activity is a key contributor. That is consistent with how the issue is treated in a draft of common science standards issued this past spring. The document, in language taken from a framework for the standards developed by an expert panel of the congressionally chartered National Research Council, says: “Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (‘global warming’).” A separate 2011 report from the nrc, the culmination of a five-report series, sums up the issue this way: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems.” “We start with where the science is, and the science is increasingly clear,” said Mr. Spitzer. He argues that aquariums, zoos, and other such settings are wellpositioned to advance public understanding of the issue through their solid reputations and wide reach. iStockphoto/ khalus | VIEWS | Public Engagement & Ed Reform BLOGS of the WEEK | NEWS | From a ‘Fruitcake’ to a ‘Powerful Organization’ I often hear parents say they don’t feel welcome at their child’s school. This is especially the case if they disagree with something the school leadership or staff has done. Of course, strong leaders welcome constructive criticism as a source of continuous improvement. But what can parents do in situations where they feel completely excluded? One of the best practices I have observed is suggested by the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership. The institute offers a variety of programs aimed at bringing together parents, teachers, community members, and school administrators for training, information, and experiences that help them work as partners to raise student achievement. The program was developed by the Prichard Committee in 1997 as a way to support informed, skilled parents as effective advocates who are passionate about improving public schools. During a recent session, the institute’s director, Bev Raimondo, talked about the correlation between school leadership accepting input from parents and the number of parents voicing similar concerns. She shared this visual to illustrate the point: • 1 Parent = A fruitcake • 2 Parents = A fruitcake and friend • 3 Parents = Troublemakers • 5 Parents = Let’s have a meeting • 10 Parents = We’d better listen • 25 Parents = Our dear friends • 50 Parents = A powerful organization Early Years Head Start ‘Recompetition’ Moves Into Review Stage By now, the roughly 130 agencies that were slated to vie to keep their federal Head Start dollars had to submit lengthy applications. Now it’s up to a panel of experts to decide if those agencies will keep some or all of the funding, or if the grants will be awarded to new applicants. This is the first time in the federal program’s history that longtime Head Start grant recipients have to “recompete” to continue receiving their funds. The Obama administration has made a big deal out of this policy change that has put some of the largest Head Start grants—Los Angeles County and New York City among them—up for grabs. Most of the organizations that are recompeting are county and city agencies, public school systems, or large, community-based organizations. How many applicants are there? Will the public get to see those applications? Who are the judges? I put those questions to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The response: no comment. Kenneth J. Wolfe, a spokesman for the agency, which oversees Head Start, told me in an email that the hhs would issue a news release when the grant awards are made, but would not provide answers to any of those other questions I asked. The awards aren’t scheduled to be announced until some time in December. I’m a bit baffled and am hoping to get a fuller explanation for why basic information such as the number of applicants would be off-limits. Perhaps there is concern that the process didn’t yield a robust number of new applicants, or that if it did bring in lots of new potential recipients, that information could taint the final outcome. Given the attention and effort the administration put into this Head Start reform, I thought it might track similarly with the transparency of its other signature grant competitions such as Race to the Top. In the Race to the Top K-12 sweepstakes, the Education Department disclosed which states applied, and publicly released those applications. They did keep judges’ names under wraps until after the winners were announced, but they did at least reveal some telling demographic information about who the reviewers were. —LESLI A. MAXWELL ‘Evidence-Based’ Jill L. Karsten, an nsf program director, said the initiative aims to bring together several varieties of expertise in each project: climate scientists, learning scientists, and education practitioners. “By bringing these three very different types of experiences, that’s where some of the innovation will occur in climate-change education,” she said. “We aren’t telling people what to think. We’re trying to give them the scientific literacy to understand what the scientific community is demonstrating through their observations and to know enough to make ... decisions for themselves.” The nsf materials say that a major goal is to prepare citizens to “understand global climate change and its implications in ways that can lead to informed, evidencebased responses and solutions.” But Neil P. McCluskey, an education analyst at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, said he When voices which need to be heard are being ignored, numbers equal power and attention. Again, great leaders understand the direct relationship between strong parent and family involvement and academic achievement. They develop a school culture that supports parent and family partnerships. They know educators cannot be successful without families. Many great suggestions and examples of school cultures and climates that encourage parent and family involvement exist and are readily available. When schools truly partner with parents and families, the kids are beneficiaries. As we move forward, we must understand that taking the next big steps in education will demand the involvement of parents and families. If we’re not already there, we must reform our thinking, culture, and climate to ensure that our parents and families become and remain deeply involved in our schools. —STU SILBERMAN >> To see all Education Week blogs, go to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 29, 2012

Education Week - August 29, 2012
FOCUS ON: AGE: Districts Adjust To Growth in Older Population
Catholic Ed., K-12 Charters Squaring Off
Advocacy Tactics Found To Differ by Families’ Class
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Educator Cadres Formed to Support Common Tests
Ala. Blocked From Asking About Students’ Citizenship Status
Most Students Still Not College-Ready, ACT Report Finds
Study: Vouchers Linked to College-Going For Black Students
NSF Awards Grants for Climate-Change Education
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. Gears Up to Manage NCLB Waiver Oversight
Poll Hints Tight Presidential Race on K-12
Policy Brief
PETER GOW: Let the Dialogue Begin: It’s Time for Independent Schools to Start Sharing What They Know
PATRICK J. MURPHY & ELLIOT M. REGENSTEIN: Trimming the Cost Of Common-Core Implementation
MALCOLM GAULD: Sowing Parents’ Role In Character Development
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
MIKE SCHMOKER: The Next Education Fad: Complex Teacher Evaluations That Don’t Work

Education Week - August 29, 2012