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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES: Rhode Island and Tennessee Governors Stress Education Reform as Central to Thriving Economies

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"Our suburban and rural schools are … performing above the national average."

Saying that “science and technology are keys to higher paying jobs,” Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri (R), during his state of the state address on January 25, outlined a new $15 million, four-part plan to make Rhode Island schools the national leaders in science, math, and technology.

The governor, who is a former high school math teacher, developed his plan based on the recommendations of a Science and Technology Advisory Council that he created about 9 months ago. The plan includes greater opportunities for students to take more rigorous programs of study and improved teacher training in math and science, especially at the elementary level.

Governor Carcieri lauded the state’s suburban and rural schools, but expressed hope that the state could improve the outcomes for students in urban schools. “Our suburban and rural schools are … performing above the national average,” he said. “But we all know we need to lift the performance of our urban schools.” To this end, the governor proposed creating a single Metropolitan School District that would include Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket. He said that combining these districts could “produce significant efficiencies in administration, transportation, standardized curriculum, and infrastructure.”

In his state of the state address on February 7, saying that Tennessee’s students “deserve nothing less,” Governor Phil Bredesen (D) set a goal for the state of a 90 percent high school graduation rate and a 55 percent college graduation rate by 2012. “One important result we need to watch is improving graduation rates,” he said. “We lag the national averages here, and if we don’t fix that, the economy of America in the years ahead is going to pass us by. Nearly a quarter of our students don’t make it through high school; we then don’t have enough students who do graduate going on to college, and for every 100 who do start college, only about 45 get a degree within 6 years.”

In his speech, Bredesen highlighted Tennessee’s program to bring midcareer professionals from other fields into high school classrooms to teach math and science, but stressed that the state needed to continue to invest in its teachers.

“We need to work with our schools of education to send us teachers with the training they need in a new century,” he said. “We need to support our teachers with competitive pay, with the materials they need to teach, with safe classrooms … If we train and recruit and keep and support great teachers, our kids will do fine; if we fail to do this, we can test kids every day and stack computers one on top of another, and we’ll still come up short.”

Grant Competition for Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program Now Open

 

The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting grant applications for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (LSL) program. The program focuses on providing funding to public school libraries in districts with 20 percent or more family poverty. Funds are used to improve reading achievement through updating the library collection, expanding Internet connections, purchasing new technology, providing professional development for library media specialists, and extending school library hours.

Please note that individual schools cannot apply for this program. The grant competition is for public local school districts or charter schools or state-administered schools that are considered local school districts by their State Educational Agency. It is also important to be aware that, for the first time, LSL applicants must use the online U.S. Federal Government’s Grants applications system to apply. This is a different electronic application system from what was used in the past. The department is urging all applicants to register early, as the registration process can take from 7 to 10 days. It is also necessary to send in your application at least 3 days before the closing date of the competition, since it can take that long to process the application.

Applications are due by April 11. Approximately $19 million in funding will be available for an estimated 100 grants. More information on the grant program and the full application package are available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/lsl.

Any questions should be directed to Dr. Irene Harwarth, the team leader for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program, atirene.harwarth@ed.gov.

 

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.