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Debbie O'Leary
School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Learning Matters/October 2003

News tips about education from Indiana University

In our diverse and multicultural society, teachers have an opportunity to give public education students experience with ethical deliberation. According to Robert Kunzman, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the IU School of Education, students need guidance and practice in exploring social controversies. "Many disagreements have reasonable arguments on both sides, and students need to learn how to engage thoughtfully and respectfully with those arguments," Kunzman said. "Religion is a particularly divisive ethical issue." Teachers can effectively learn ways to introduce ethical discussions within the course curriculum, he said, especially when ethical disagreements stem from religious beliefs. Concerns about separation of church and state have historically discouraged teachers from exploring ethical issues, but Kunzman emphasized the difference between promoting a religious perspective and understanding how those beliefs inform arguments about how we live together in society. "There are hotly debated issues, such as stem cell research, which we can only discuss thoughtfully if we understand the various ethical beliefs behind them," he explained. "Effective citizenship requires us to understand as best we can the reasons of those with whom we disagree, and public schools are a key setting for these skills to develop." For more information, contact Kunzman at 812-856-8122 or

For many young children exposed to risks such as poverty, disability and linguistic differences, entering and succeeding in elementary school will be a major challenge. In order to promote school success by reducing the educational disparities that exist in this country, the National Institutes of Health has funded a $4.46 million, five-year experimental research grant to investigate the success of the Children's School Success educational model. According to the grant's principal investigator, Sam Odom, research from a variety of disciplines has documented the effectiveness of specific approaches for promoting academic and social growth. "Yet finding an effective combination of research-based components that may be integrated into a comprehensive curriculum model and that is feasible for teachers to use in the classroom setting remains a challenge," explained Odom, the Otting Professor of Special Education in the IU School of Education. The CSS model consists of academic, social and individualization components that are well integrated and have a solid base of scientific evidence documenting their effectiveness. Children at risk for failure when entering public school are defined as 4-year-old children living in poverty, children with identified disabilities and children who are English language learners. These children will be identified through Head Start and other state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. The research will take place in 90 classroom clusters at five regional locations in California, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland and West Virginia. "The locations were chosen for their geographic, cultural and linguistic diversity," Odom said. Over the course of the five-year study, the education progress of 900-1,000 children and families will be tracked through kindergarten, first grade and second grade. "This should prove to be a powerful curriculum model for predicting school success," Odom said. For more information, contact Odom at 812-856-8174 or

International students face a wide variety of obstacles during the acculturation process. The Cultural Orientation and Support for International Students program (COASIS) is a collaborative project between the Center for Human Growth in the IU School of Education and IU International Services, offering a variety of programs to international students and their families. Programs include confidential support and discussion groups, family and individual counseling sessions, and educational presentations and consultation for student organizations or other IU groups who may benefit from knowing more about the adjustment process many international students go through. According to program coordinator Jeannie Annan, international students already receive a great deal of information and support relating to academic and social opportunities. "COASIS complements those areas by serving another potential need in the international student experience," she said. COASIS counselors recognize that counseling may be seen as taboo by other cultures. Counselors have a variety of cross-cultural experiences and understand some of the challenges facing international families and the coping processes necessary during the acculturation process. "The initial sense of euphoria when arriving in the United States can give way to culture shock as students realize the enormous challenges they face as international students," Annan said. "We help them deal with those challenges and utilize the natural resiliency they already possess." For more information about COASIS, contact Annan at 812-856-8302 and ask for the COASIS voice mailbox, or e-mail

The results are in for the first school district participating in a national survey distributed by the IU School of Education that measures students' connection to their high schools. According to Glenbard (Illinois) Schools Superintendent Tim Hyland, the results of the High School Survey of Student Engagement will be used to understand how Glenbard students feel about the education they are receiving. "We receive a great deal of data on math and language arts achievement, which is very important," he said. "But we have less data on affective measures, such as how our students feel about the education they are receiving." Hyland said the district plans to continue administering the survey annually. "What we're hoping to accomplish on a national level is to give high schools some really useful data that can help them in designing their school reform efforts," said HSSSE Director Martha McCarthy, Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. "Right now high stakes tests are driving school reform, and our data will supplement these outcome measures." For example, she said, if the survey results show that a large percentage of students do not feel supported or mentored outside the classroom, teachers can address that issue in faculty meetings and make immediate changes. Last spring, the project was piloted to approximately 7,000 students in four Illinois high schools. The surveys will go out to more than 100 high schools nationwide in spring 2004. Schools are slated to receive the results by August, providing them with rich data for the upcoming school year. For more information, contact McCarthy at 812-856-8384 or