Education briefs

Bilingual ed just got bigger

NEW YORK - Mayor Michael Bloomberg will direct an additional $20 million toward bilingual- education programs, which have been criticized for failing to move students quickly enough into regular classrooms.

About 135,000 of the system's 1.1 million children are enrolled in some type of bilingual- education program. English learners drop out at higher rates than their English-proficient peers and score lower on standardized tests.

The $20 million will be shifted from other areas of the Department of Education's budget.

Intellectual elite demands democracy

TEHRAN, IRAN More than 250 university lecturers and writers have called on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to abandon the claim to being God's representative on earth and to accept his accountability to the people.

The intellectuals say they stand behind last month's call for democratic reform by liberal legislators, following a week of protests and riots in which pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with supporters of the hard-line clerical regime.

Among the signatories was Hashem Aghajari, a lecturer condemned to death last year for questioning clerical rule and insulting Islam. After mass protests, Mr. Aghajari's sentence was revoked in February, but he remains in prison.

Top astronomy student feels 'kind of tiny'

FREEPORT, MAINE Some teenagers stay up late partying with friends. But when Susana Hancock is up until 4 a.m., she's out gazing at the stars.

The Astronomical League named Susana a top young astronomer in the US for her study of the existence of dark matter. She also placed first in the Astrophysics event of the Science Olympiad.

Susana's love for the sky drew her to attend a space program in sixth grade, where she took astronomy classes and flying lessons. Her high school didn't offer astronomy or astrophysics, so she had to buy and borrow the books.

"It's the only science [where] you can't bring the medium back to the lab," she says. "It makes you feel kind of tiny." She plans to major in astrophysics and hopes to become an astronaut.

Web Smarts

What: With Founding Father Benjamin Franklin as tour guide, this site teaches students grades K-12, as well as teachers and parents, how the three branches of the US government work.

Best points: Begin by selecting a specific grade range (from K-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12) and explore anything from early historical documents (the Emancipation Proclamation, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers, etc.) to how laws are made (track, for instance, the International Dolphin Conservation Act).

The section entitled "About Ben" introduces students to a timeline of the pioneer's life, exploring his varied involvement in the world of publishing, politics, and invention.

What you should know: "Ben's Guide" has garnered critical acclaim from dozens of web watchers for its user-friendly layout and energetic approach, winning the creators several awards.

Aside from being well organized and well written, however, the site falls short of fully probing the intricacies of state and federal governments beyond a beginner level, and isn't recommended as an in-depth resource for students in grades 9-12.

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