Elementary school newspapers are historical low-tech, usually a product of little more then an ancient typewriter
and an overworked copy machine.
Four Cleveland elementary schools are changing that. The schools - Charles Orr, Gibbings, Louis Pasteur and Miles
Standish - have hooked up with a Cleveland software firm, Acme Express Inc. to produce student newspapers on a web site.
The project is slated to expand to more schools in 1999.
The site is filled with stories - fact and fiction - written by third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at those schools.
A fifth grader at Miles Standish wrote about a ferret, the class pet. A fourth grader at Louis Pasteur spun a yarn about
a jaguar and a lion. Others wrote about summer vacations. The sites include a school calendar and are decorated with
student art work.
The address of the site is www.clevelandschools.net
Matthew Kovelan, school project coordinator for Acme Express, said his research had not turned up any programs like this one
for children of similar ages. "We have full intentions of marketing this concept to other school districts in other
cities and states," Kovelan said.
The project began about a year ago when Don Scipione, president of Acme Express, submitted a proposal for a $50,000
Small Business Innovative Research grant to the U.S. Department of Education's office for Educational Research and Improvement. The proposal was
an outgrowth of conversations among members of a task force of educators, business leaders and others in the City of
Empowerment Zone in 1997. Their dream: Create an internet newspaper for children living in poverty.
The grant was awarded to the company this summer, and the pilot program began in the fall.
"My kids are really excited," said Kay Smith, principal at Louis Pasteur. "We are focused on using this to help us prepare
for the proficiency test. The more stories they write, the more creative they are with their thinking."
Smith said a vehicle to hone student writing skills is vital at schools such as Louis Pasteur, where only 2 percent
of the fourth-graders passed all five parts of the states proficiency test last spring. "We're a bottom-quartile
school, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us to be a pilot," Smith said. "One of the next steps is to expand it
so more classrooms will be involved."
The software for the website is an offshoot of a site for sports articles the company had previously designed, Kovelan said.
It requires students to fill out a form, write their story and write a summary of the story. When a student files a
complete story, his or her teacher is automatically notified by email.
"I'm real excited about working with these kids," Kovelan, who was hired by Acme specifically for this project. "The best
thing is seeing their eyes light up when their story is published".