Saturday, September 20, 2003

No Child Left Behind: What Will it Mean for Georgia?

Representing the most sweeping change in federal education legislation in decades, the No Child Left Behind Act aims to achieve a goal that no society has ever attempted: a quality education for 100% of our children by an absolute date. As the 2003-2004 school year begins, all 50 states are moving forward in implementing their plans to meet the requirements of the law-one that asks schools to describe their success in terms of what each student accomplishes.

Exclusively for PeachStar audiences, Congressman Johnny Isakson & State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox have conducted an extended discussion of the impact this broad, sweeping bill will ultimately have on every school and district in Georgia and in the nation. Addressing educational leaders, parents, and students from across the state, Isakson and Cox focus on the aspects of the law that will affect Georgia's schools most significantly:

* The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Georgia's Testing Program
* Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): Assessments, Requirements, & Sanctions
* School Choice & Supplemental Services
* Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO): Moving Towards Safe & Drug-free Schools

Touching on many of the crucial and controversial aspects of the law, the program provides a timely and informative catalyst for class discussions on the role of the federal government in education, the use of test scores as measures of school and student performance, and the elimination of the achievement gap in our schools.

"No Child Left Behind operates on one basic assumption: that every child can learn, and every child deserves to learn. The law means what it says: no child should be left behind, and all of our efforts toward reforming our schools must therefore be focused on ensuring that student achievement and learning improve. For too long, we've had a system that educates some of our children well. We need a system that educates all of Georgia's children well. Under No Child Left Behind, we're on our way to achieving that goal."
-- State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox

Monday, September 8, 2003

PeachStar Classroom Seeks Science Enthusiasts

As PeachStar Classroom enters its second year (five schools participated in the program's pilot during 2002-2003), we wanted to take a moment to offer you the opportunity to learn more about this innovative PeachStar initiative. Emerging out of discussions with the Professional Standards Commission about the shortage of certified science teachers in the state of Georgia, PeachStar Classroom offers high school students credit-bearing college preparatory physics and chemistry courses at no cost.

Experienced Georgia educators certified in physics and chemistry developed the curricula for both courses based on the Georgia Quality Core Curriculum guidelines. The primary method of course delivery is through 30-minute video streaming broadcasts featuring teachers presenting the material to students, demonstrations of principles and techniques, students asking questions and interacting with the teacher, and short assessments of the material. A certified teacher serving as an onsite facilitator for the class interacts with the students, sets up labs, and administers assignments and assessments for the course.

Available classroom activities range from interactive worksheets and videos to online labs and quizzes. The discussion boards enable students and facilitators to post questions and receive answers from PeachStar Classroom's certified content specialists.

This year, seven schools have already decided take advantage of PeachStar Classroom, which is now available to all Georgia schools. If you would like more information about PeachStar Classroom, email Jeff White at for a CD-ROM with sample materials and a list of the requirements for participating schools. Note: Even though the first semester has already started, you may still enroll your school for second semester.

Sunday, September 7, 2003

A Tale of Two Schools

This September PeachStar and GPTV will begin airing A Tale of Two Schools, a PBS special that examines the reading crisis in America today. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the program tells the story of parents and teachers at Bearden Elementary in Mississippi and Walton Elementary in Texas, two schools combating long histories of poor performance. A Tale of Two Schools was developed in order to demonstrate the notion that "readers are made, not born." Executive Producer Noel Gunther describes the program as "an intimate story about what it really takes to teach a child to read. We spent a year inside these schools and found a story of hope, of faith, and of the power of committed adults to help shape the life of a child."

According to the Reading Rockets Project, the initiative behind the development behind A Tale of Two Schools, 37% of all fourth graders read below the basic level, having difficulty understanding simple story lines or lacking reading skills entirely. Phyllis Hunter, a leader of reading reform in Texas, home to Walton Elementary, has dubbed reading "the new civil right, because children can't access their other rights unless they can read and read well."

Be sure to catch A Tale of Two Schools PeachStar and GPTV. Also, visit the Reading Rockets website for teaching tips, articles by reading experts, daily news about reading, and interviews with prominent children's book authors.

Saturday, September 6, 2003

Director's Message

As we move into the first full month of the 2003-2004 school year, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the exciting things PeachStar has in store for you and your students.

As you learned from the article on the inside front cover, September is Literacy Month in the state of Georgia and Georgia Public Broadcasting is joining forces with the Governor's Office and other key state agencies to drive change in the current literacy levels within the state. Both GPTV and PeachStar will air public service announcements about child literacy featuring First Lady Mary Perdue and her twin granddaughters, Sunni and Mary Kate. These messages will be geared toward both students and teachers, stressing the importance of reading to child development. Also as part of this literacy effort, GPB and Mrs. Perdue will present the First Lady's Summit on Our Children, a teleconference broadcast to select sites around the state that will help to build support for children who suffer from abuse and neglect.

This fall also marks the second year of PeachStar Classroom, the online physics and chemistry courses we offer to Georgia high school students at no cost. In order to expand the use of this wonderful resource, we are offering interested schools CD-ROMS with sample lessons and materials.

We have launched not only our new programming schedule, which you read about on page 3, but also our new Follett Library system, which allows media specialists to download MARC records that contain key information for each of PeachStar's programs.

PeachStar and Georgia Public Broadcasting will continue to develop new and effective initiatives throughout the coming school year.


C. Blaine Carpenter, Ph.D.
Director, Education Services

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Georgia's First Lady for Children

In Mary Perdue, Georgians have more than just a First Lady. They also have a dedicated child advocate, concerned particularly with the areas of literacy, foster care, and at-risk children. While Mrs. Perdue holds a Master's Degree in speech therapy, she has nurtured children's spirits by serving, along with her husband, as a foster parent to a number of infants through Covenant Care Services in Macon.

Mrs. Perdue has made it clear from the beginning that she looked at her position as First Lady as an opportunity to promote the cause of child welfare in the state of Georgia. According to Mrs. Perdue, "Children are some of our most valuable citizens. I believe that if we meet the needs of children in their formative years, then we can eliminate many of the problems that older children and teens face," she said.

One of the ways Mrs. Perdue believes we can help Georgia's children is to teach them the power of words early on in life. For Mrs. Perdue, a great lover of books, the opportunity to read to children is always welcome. She prefers books that teach a moral lesson, and her favorite one to read to school children is Miss Twiggley's Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox, which, according to Mrs. Perdue, "teaches young readers that people's differences are really assets."

In September, Mrs. Perdue will be focusing on the issue of Children's Literacy. She is joining with Georgia Public Broadcasting and Georgia schools to promote the importance of reading in the lives of young children. Look for two public service announcements Mrs. Perdue has created about the importance of reading to young children with Mrs. Perdue and her twin granddaughters, Sunni and Mary Kate, which will begin airing on GPTV and PeachStar in September.

PeachStar Makes Literacy a Priority

September is Literacy Month in the state of Georgia, and in celebration of that, we wanted to dedicate space in this issue of Pipeline to discussing the importance of literacy in the lives of not just students, but of all Georgians. The passage of the Reading Excellence Act in 1998 marked an important shift in our nation's thinking about the value of literacy and literacy programs. The Reading Excellence Act provides grants to help educational institutions in their endeavors to:

* Teach every child to read by the end of third grade
* Provide children in early childhood with the readiness skills and support they need to learn to read once they enter school
* Expand the number of high quality family literacy programs
* Provide early intervention to children who are at risk of being identified for special education inappropriately
* Base instruction, including tutoring, on scientifically-based reading research

The funds provided through the act were to be used to accomplish the above goals through 1) improving educator professional development in the area of reading, 2) carrying out family literacy services, and 3) providing early literacy intervention for children experiencing difficulties.

In 2001, PeachStar partnered with the Georgia Department of Education to address this first task: improving educator professional development in the area of reading. Together we created The Reading Excellence Act Best Practices Institute, a ten-episode professional development series, models best practices in comprehensive reading instruction according to the tenets of the Reading Excellence Act. The programs focus on the six essential dimensions of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, explicit systematic phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and motivation.

PeachStar and Georgia Public Broadcasting have consistently addressed the second task, family literacy services, through our years of participation in PBS: Ready To Learn program as well as our adult education endeavors. Family literacy, as defined by the Reading Excellence Act, includes parent and child interactive activities, early childhood education, adult training, and parent education. Through Ready To Learn, PeachStar provides trainings to parents and caregivers and a complete day-time program schedule of educational children's programming. PeachStar reaches adult learners through both GPTV Overnight and trainings across the state that focus on programs such as GED Connection and Workplace Essential Skills, which address key issues for adult learners. GPTV Overnight also provides parents with a wealth of information regarding childcare, with a special focus on helping children learn to read.

PeachStar's Ready To Learn involvement also addresses the need to provide early intervention for children with reading difficulties. Programming such as Between the Lions assist young readers with the development of phonemic awareness as well as vocabulary and comprehension. Through the First Book program, PeachStar distributes books to children who otherwise could not afford them, thereby giving them access to the instructional materials they need to develop their reading skills. PeachStar regularly conducts trainings at Head Start facilities across the state, working with employees to develop sound strategies for literacy instruction.

As you can see, even while we give literacy special recognition during the month of September, it is a year-round priority for PeachStar. We work closely with parents and educators statewide to ensure that Georgia's youngest citizens have access to the knowledge and support they need to become good readers and successful students. Look for Reading Excellence Act Best Practices Institute to air throughout the month of September on Channel 410 and visit the PeachStar website regularly to learn more about our Ready To Learn initiatives.

Monday, September 1, 2003

On Your MARC, Get Set, Go! PeachStar Cataloging Goes Digital

PeachStar has always endeavored to use the suggestions and requests of the educators we serve to shape the development of our resources. You may recall that in the summer of 2002 we worked with select media specialists to catalog our entire library of satellite-delivered programming. Laura Gunn, of Valdosta City Schools, led the work conducted by the following media specialists from all parts of the state:

* Wanda Tucker
* Kay Rasbury
* Sonya Boyd
* Debbie Vassell-Mitchell
* Lynn Craig
* Dianne Atwater
* Anne Bohn
* Andy Spinks
* Rosemary Scalessa
* Marianne Chapman
* Diane Donaldson
* Susan Fancher
* Margie Hall

This initiative, which involved the cataloging of PeachStar resources by Dewey Decimal number and subject heading, was in direct response to feedback from our 2002 annual survey, in which media specialists overwhelmingly indicated a need for PeachStar resources to be catalogued using a universal classification system.

Once the work of cataloging had been completed, we still needed to find an effective way to share the information with media specialists across the state. After researching available resources, we settled on the Catalog Plus system by Follett Software Company. This system took the cataloging work done by the media specialists above and converted it into MARC records - Machine Readable Cataloging records. MARC records are widely used by librarians because they allow for the sharing of bibliographic resources. Each bibliographic record contains such information as item description, Sears subject headings, and classification or call number. Converting all of our records into MARC records has essentially created an electronic PeachStar card catalog for use by media specialists.

While this resource is available to anyone, schools currently using Follett's Z39.50 server will be able to tap into this system to retrieve records electronically.