Thursday, March 4, 2010

Addtional $900 million proposed for failing schools

The class of 2018, or 2010 4th grade students, will be the first to receive initiatives under a $900 million package designed to retain school dropouts if passed. President Obama said the money would become available through grants and specifically for the nation’s worst schools.

Schools must also pull their fair share; meaning they must fulfill one the four outlined models upon receiving money:

Turnaround Model
The school district must replace the principal and at least half of its staff, adopt a new governance structure and implement a new curriculum.

Transformational Model
The school district must train teachers and administrators, implement reform strategies, extend learning time for students and planning time for teachers and provide flexibility in its schools’ operating procedures.

Restart Model
A school district must close and reopen under the management of a charter school or similar organization.

School Closure Model
A district must close a failing school and move its students to other schools in the district.

Anytime a government bill is proposed or passed, news mediums must state the significance and applicability. In this case, much of news coverage focused on Obama’s announcement and the significance of the bill, leaving many residents clueless on how the money or bill would apply to their areas.

The article, “Maine’s worst schools could get $11M boost,” from Bangor Daily News informs readers that Maine’s schools could receive $11 million, the state has 10 failing schools and the transformational model is the most feasible for the district (according to Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Martin). Stylistically, the paragraphs are short, and the models were blocked, which makes it easier to read and comprehend.

Less explicit is the origin of the money. The author says, “Obama, in remarks on Monday, pledged $3.5 billion for changes in the country’s lowest-performing schools, plus another $900 million to support what he called School Turnaround Grants.” It would have been clear and more accurate to say, “The money is an addition to the $3.5 billion that was part of the stimulus package.” Finally, I also look for government stories to avoid jargon and bureaucratic language and to define terms when used. Here the author explains “Title 1” and “School Improvement” grants but forgets “collective bargaining agreements.”

Overall, the article provides a good example of localizing and stating the impact of proposed and current legislation. It’s always easier to tell what happened but definitely more beneficial to “bring it home.” Secondly, editors can never underestimate the importance of translating jargon. This not only keeps the audience informed but makes it want to follow the often boring but important governmental processes.

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