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Equality across states, not just districts

WASHINGTON - Momentum builds on passage of the Student Bill of Rights as the US Conference of Mayors joins with 27 organizations to support landmark legislation introduced by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) of Pennsylvania. The bill, which enjoys the support of 130 sponsors, proposes to hold states accountable for providing resources - such as qualified teachers, challenging curriculums, up-to-date textbooks, and small classes - to all students in the public schools.

"Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we still have separate and unequal schools," Mr. Fattah says. "Poor children have the least access to the basics of an equal educational opportunity. Children deserve better."

Current law requires schools within a district to provide comparable services. The Student Bill of Rights extends that basic protection to the state level, requiring comparability across all districts. It would help ensure that states comply with state or federal court orders concerning fairness.

A homeless man's homily finally heard

In the celebrity-laden world of college commencement speakers, Duane De Witt is hardly marquee material.

But along with his borrowed cap and gown, what Mr. De Witt brought to the stage before fellow University of California, Berkeley, grads was nearly half a century of experience on the margins of society. The soft-spoken Army veteran was an oddity in a school filled with students of privilege, one whose odyssey includes almost an entire semester sleeping in local parks.

De Witt rebounded from a career of low-paying jobs and repeated rejection to graduate from one of America's top universities with a 3.8 GPA. De Witt fought to keep his tenuous grip on enrollment, especially after thieves broke into his Subaru station wagon, stealing not only his meager belongings but all his textbooks and class notes.

For classmates and instructors alike, De Witt's desire to succeed at Berkeley reasserted the values of the academy more than any politician, celebrity, or academic speaker could.

"I told myself that this is what I have to endure to achieve what I want to achieve," De Witt says.

Web smarts


WHAT: The University of North Dakota's "VolcanoWorld" offers everything a budding scientist could want to know about the lava-filled giant holes that dot the earth's landscape.

BEST POINTS: The site is low-tech but rich in content. Visitors can click on a list of all the world's active volcanos and view a history of each.

Volcanologists answer frequently asked questions about folklore; links direct viewers to stories about adventurers who explored the world; and interviews provide insight on the scientists studying them today.

A visitor can even try being a volcanologist at home. The site offers a range of experiments that would make any science-fair contestant proud. The teaching and learning section offers links to lesson plans, descriptions of mineral deposits, and a review of volcanic gases.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: For young scientists, a separate "Kid's Door" opens up into a "Rocky the Volcano" cartoon, which hosts a children's art gallery and virtual field trips to volcanos that include maps and 360-degree pictures.

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