MySpace Vows to Protect Kids Better
MySpace has reached an agreement with attorneys general from 49 states to prevent sexual predators and others from misusing it, but some experts say the social networking site's proposed changes lack substance and could negatively affect its popularity.
MySpace officials and attorneys general from New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York announced the agreement in Manhattan. The company said it would create a task force to develop software to enforce the site's often-violated minimum age requirement of 14 and would, among other measures, accept independent monitoring, allow parents to submit children's e-mail addresses to prevent accounts being made, and respond to complaints about inappropriate content within 72 hours.
"This is not a real commitment," says Rich Sutton, director of 8e6 Labs, which investigates Internet threats and enables organizations to protect against them.
Age verification technology is cumbersome and can lead to an onerous signup process, which Sutton says will deter children from using the site and cause them to migrate to less secure social networking forums. He adds that teenagers are savvy enough to create anonymous e-mail addresses to get around the parent submission measures, and the 72-hour turnaround time "should be in the single digits."
Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, the sole holdout in the partnership, claims that no social networking site can be safe for minors until there are significant improvements in technology. "We are concerned that signing the joint statement would be misperceived as an endorsement of the inadequate safety measures contained therein," he wrote in an open letter directed to MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe.
Sutton says the majority of attorneys general are misguided and any new agreement should be focused on Internet safety training in schools, especially junior high.
"Kids must be taught new skills for the digital age," he says, "such as dealing with fraud, identity theft, and knowing how to recognize who people say they are."
$30,000 X-Factor Winners Receive Honors
The Grand Prize winners of DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION'S X-Factor Student Achievement Awards, announced last September and sponsored by AutoSkill International, were honored last month at the annual National Title I Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The $30,000 prize for an innovative 300-word idea to improve student performance was awarded to PE teachers Lou Ann Miller and Larry Carr of the Mohawk Area School District in Pennsylvania for their "Fitness Buddies" proposal to investigate the link between physical activity and academic achievement.
The funds were earmarked for purchasing technologies such as Dance Dance Revolution and Sportwall International to deliver cardiovascular workouts in a game format in a new interactive fitness center.
Susan Koch, VP of marketing at AutoSkill; George Halo, DA associate publisher; and Odvard Egil Dyrli, editor-in-chief, presented the award.
New Support for Formative Assessments
The benefits of technology-enhanced formative and interim assessments are highlighted in a new white paper from CTB/McGraw-Hill, which touts their ability to accelerate learning among all students and help to close achievement gaps.
The special report, "Promoting Student Achievement Using Research-Based Assessment with Formative Benefits," delves into several different independent studies to demonstrate that technology-enhanced formative assessment is a practical and powerful solution for educators to increase student achievement.
A copy of the white paper is available for download at www.AcuityForSchool.com. See also "Diagnostic Testing," this issue's in-depth feature on formative assessments.
Two Million Minutes-Well Spent?
A controversial new documentary, Two Million Minutes, which chronicles the educational lives of six high school students in the United States, India and China, was recently screened in Orlando at the Florida Educational Technology Conference. Investigating how the teens-one boy and one girl in each of thecountries-spent their two million minutes, or four years, of high school, the film features expert commentary and facts critical of U.S. education.
The movie presents the U.S. students as expending less daily effort on education than their international counterparts and succeeding in attaining college placement and study in their chosen career paths with less rigorous effort.
Those interviewed for the project say that well-meaning educators are responsible for a lot of good things happening in American education but that there needs to be a shift to place more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, and the only thing students excel in at this time is their own self-confidence. More can be learned at the fi lm's Web site (www.2mminutes.com). -Ken Royal
Texas BOE Gives Math Books the Boot
In a decision that better represents a growing power struggle over the approval of classroom materials than students' education, the Texas Board of Education's recent rejection of the third-grade edition of Everyday Mathematics is sparking debate on whether this decision was justified, or even legal.
The board members who voted against the McGraw-Hill textbook say it relies too much on calculators and peer activities as opposed to traditional approaches such as rote memorization of multiplication tables and basic arithmetic.
Board president Don McLeroy, who voted to reject the text, concedes that the vote and the debate it has sparked fits in with the trends associated with the infamous "math wars."
McGraw-Hill, along with supporters such as Andy Isaacs of the University of Chicago School of Mathematics Project, who worked on the book, contends that it provides strong instruction and meets state requirements and has fi led an appeal with Texas education commissioner Robert Scott.
Camille Malone, director of mathematics at the Dallas Independent School District, told The Dallas Morning News that officials rolled out Everyday Math books in kindergarten through sixth grade at 19 schools with low math scores during the 2000-2001 school year, and by 2002 none of the schools had low scores.
Critics say the board should only consider whether a book fulfills the state's curriculum standards, called TEKS, and meets other basic requirements.
OK Supt. Resigns
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent John Q. Porter, profiled for the June 2006 DA cover story ("Leader/Pioneer/Secret Shopper") as Montgomery County (Md.) schools' deputy supt., recently resigned amid accusations of financial mismanagement and poor job performance.
Porter had been suspended on Jan. 7 pending an investigation into allegations against him, and a hearing in which he was expected to defend himself had been scheduled for Feb. 6, but the district's school board voted 6 to 1 to accept his resignation in late January.
"The decision to resign is difficult because of those who have sacrifi ced to help me succeed and my passion and training that prepared me to try to transform this school district," Porter said in a statement.
A new nationwide poll of voters conducted by Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion research firm, indicates that Americans believe developing the imagination is a "critical ingredient" for achieving innovation in the global economy and that schools-as they function more and more like test centers-aren't doing enough to cultivate it.
The poll results identify a growing "imagination constituency" looking to vote for a presidential candidate who supports developing skills of the imagination in K12 schools through enhanced art education programs, interdisciplinary core classes and the like.