[Hpn] A Senator Studies Long Beach's Schools: Vermont's Jeffords ...

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Sat, 23 Jun 2001 13:59:15 -0400


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Saturday, June 23, 2001
Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>
A Senator Studies Long Beach's Schools

Learning: Vermont's Jeffords, who quit the GOP over education
issues, visits classes and praises innovations.

By LOUIS SAHAGUN, Times Staff Writer

In his first trip to the West Coast since he tipped the U.S.
Senate to Democratic control, Vermont Sen. James Jeffords visited
educators, homeless students and veterans Friday to learn more
about their education reform programs.

The Republican-turned-independent first spoke at Cal State
Long Beach, where he said that Congress' failure to fully fund
special education and the White House's denial of his plea for more
funding for education were the main reasons he left the GOP.

"In the end, I felt the only way I could ensure that these priorities
were upheld was to change the Senate," said Jeffords, who
received a standing ovation from about 150 people at a university
conference sponsored by the Long Beach Education Partnership.

"Congress' full promise to special education must be fulfilled,"
Jeffords said. "And proposals for excellent child care and preschool
for all children must be designed and implemented."

Jeffords, who chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions Committee, singled out the Long Beach Unified School
District and its "Seamless Education" program as a "national model
for practical, bold and efficient school reforms." The program
coordinates college and university courses with teacher training and
kindergarten through 12th-grade curricula.

Long Beach Unified, the third-largest district in the state with
95,000 students, has a reputation for innovation. The district was
the first in the nation to require uniforms in kindergarten through
eighth grade, and the first to require mandatory summer school for
third-graders reading below grade level.

Its 7-year-old Seamless Education program has been credited
with bringing coherence and support to professional development
programs for teachers, and has brought them closer to the
university. As a result, district officials said, it has been easier for 
them to tailor curricula and easier for teachers to earn master's
degrees while teaching.

Seamless Education, officials said, is one of the reasons that the
percentage of third-graders reading at or above grade level has
increased from less than 40% to more than 60%.

Jeffords said a program modeled after Long Beach's is now
uniting colleges and universities, business and labor, and teachers
and parents in the Washington, D.C., area.

A Wide-Eyed Reading Audience

Later, Jeffords visited the Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional
School for Homeless Children, where he read a version of the
Johnny Appleseed story from a book given to him by 10
wide-eyed students who only a few weeks ago had been living on
the streets.

Bethune, which has helped 3,000 children get back into public
schools since it opened in 1991, was among the first schools in the
nation to address the needs of homeless children.

Leaning forward in a chair with the book on his lap, the
67-year-old lawmaker with tousled gray hair provided the children
with a passionate rendering of the tale of the man who planted
apple seeds across the frontier.

Jeffords, who reportedly spends time each week reading to a
third-grader from a Capitol Hill school, had their complete

No sooner had he completed the story than kindergartner
Machell Corswell, 5, jumped up, grabbed his hand and led him on
a spirited tour of the main attractions in her stifling classroom
bungalow: a big brown teddy bear, a terrarium containing a live
bullfrog, a computer terminal.

Beaming with pride and importance, the little girl found it difficult
to let go of Jeffords' hand.

Machell's teacher, Bryan Dilts, could not help smiling at the girl
who only a few weeks ago was being shunted from neighbors to
friends to relatives.

"When she first got here, she would scream and cry for hours,"
he said. "Now, she's leading a senator on a tour of the place."


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
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Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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