State Takes Over New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina was the flood that broke the New Orleans schools back and left most of the schools under state management.
The state Department of Education has until June to devise a five-year plan to manage 102 public schools starting in the 2006-07 school year, in addition to five schools that were already in the "Recovery School District" before Katrina hit last August. The schools in the recovery district have been failing, i.e., in terms of accountability scores, for four or more years. Three of the five schools that were already in the recovery district before Katrina hit were to have opened in January.
"The hurricane exacerbated the problem," says Meg Casper, education department spokeswoman.
The state is meeting with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, set up by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and with the community to get input, Casper says.
The education arm of the mayor's Bring New Orleans Back Commission reportedly envisions considerable control to principals, slimming down administration and offering parents choices between district and charter schools. It's unclear when schools reopen, but they will be run by outside organizations, nola.com reports.
A year ago, the New Orleans Parish School Board approved a $16 million contract to have a firm take over the board's finances, as the district reportedly had corrupt and wasteful record-keeping and that accounting for employees required a worker-by-worker audit, according to nola.com
The New Orleans Parish School Board was to reopen two schools this school year and another 17 were to reopen in January, along with other charter schools reopening.
Administrators Must Be Clear On Anti-Discrimination
2. Posting children's pictures without parental consent. If a child under age 18 is the main subject in a picture, obtain parental consent before posting; as a safety precaution, do not include names as a caption under a photo.
When a Kansas City principal recently suspended a teenage student for speaking Spanish outside of class with a friend, it put the entire district in the spotlight.
At the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in the Turner Unified School District in Kansas City, the district rescinded Zach Rubio's punishment and stated that speaking a foreign language should not lead to suspension. The family is allegedly suing.
But a national Hispanic advocacy group is warning administrators to be clear: Even if a teacher, cafeteria worker, receptionist or bus driver discriminates against anyone based on race, ethnicity, national origin or language, the entire district--if it receives any federal funding--could be violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and could lose its money.
"Nine out of 10 times, it's a rogue employee with an ax to grind about someone who speaks another language," says Raul Gonzalez, legislative director for National Council of La Raza. "For administrators, just because you have a policy doesn't mean it frees you of being accused of violating that policy because you have a lot of employees. And there is a sort of lack of seriousness in getting that message out to employees."
Two technology pitfalls:
1. Displaying children's identity and their interest without parental consent. In compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Act, do not include the full name, home address, e-mail address, telephone number, hobbies or interests on your organization's Web site without parental consent; this rule applies to children under 13 years old, but to play it safe, apply to children under 18, Vander Hulst says.
2. Posting children's pictures without parental consent. If a child under age 18 is the main subject in a picture, obtain parental consent before posting; as a safety precaution, do not include names as a caption under a photo. www.npgoodpractice.org
Keeping Private Information Private
When a Salem, Mass., school psychologist accidentally posted private student information on the school Web site, it set off some alarms.
School officials claim that there is a need for more knowledge when posting information and using the Web. The psychologist declined to comment.
Children's privacy on the Internet is an important safety issue that all nonprofits, including schools, should pay close attention, according to Angela Vander Hulst, associate director of the Nonprofit Good Practice Guide at Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Many are of the opinion that it's better to play it safe by not including any identity information of children under the age of 18 years of age on Web sites," she says. "If you really need to include this information on your site as integral to a program's description or function of user participation, parental consent is needed for children under the age of 13."
Fast-Track Teaching In Arizona in Question
A two-year alternative teaching path for potential Arizona teachers is under the gun after only three out of six candidates are still in the classroom full time this school year.
The Arizona Education Association agreed to work with Superintendent of Public Instruction Thomas Horne on the Alternative Secondary Path to Certification program as a way to address the teacher shortage and bring in mid-career professionals looking to switch careers, say from an engineer to teach high school science, says John Wright, president of AEA. "We'll see what happens in year two, but the current indication is that it's a lot of work, a lot of financial resources for very little benefit," Wright says.
The program involves a four- to six- week intensive summer training program and an ongoing two-year training program of college course work and embedded professional development.
Arizona is one of 48 states that is implementing an alternative route to certification. Arizona offers a four-year college program for certification as well as a one-year post-baccalaureate program that gives "better preparation and better training" than the summer program, Wright says. The summer program, however, does require passing the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment and completing the two-year program to receive a provisional teaching certificate.
Wright, who says a misunderstanding of what it takes to even manage a classroom may be behind the quick alternative routes, stopped short of saying the instant program wasn't worthwhile. "There are a number of alternative paths to becoming fully certified that will give the teacher full preparation and training," he says. "I don't think this particular path ... is good in the long run."
Mayor Becomes School Board Leader
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is chairman of the Hartford Board of Education in Connecticut, after he appointed himself to the board in December.
The self-appointment has been considered by many with varying viewpoints as arrogant, bold or courageous.
Once the board has a solid plan for the future and the ability to carry it out--which will include Perez's goals of preparing all students for college and improving school safety--he says he will find a replacement for himself on the board and step down, according to courant.com.
Pennsylvania District Stops Teaching ID
A U.S. District Court's denunciation of a school board introducing intelligent design into the science curriculum left the district abandoning the controversial topic.
District Judge John E. Jones denounced the Dover Area School Board in December for having teachers introduce intelligent design--separate from evolutionary theory--as a reason for creation on Earth in science class, saying that teaching it in school violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
The intelligent design movement has been racing across the U.S, particularly in Georgia and Kansas.
Tech-Savvy School Boards
The nation's most digitally advanced school boards
More than 15,000 students:
1st place: Forsyth County, Ga., Board of Education
2nd place: Houston County, Ga., Board of Education
3rd place: Board of Education of Frederick County, Md.
2,501 to 15,000 students:
1st place (tie): West Chester Area School District, Penn., School Board
1st place (tie): Jackson County, Ga., Board of Education
2nd place: Davies County, Ky., Board of Education
3rd place: Clarke County, Ga., School District
2,500 or fewer students:
1st place: Bleckley County, Ga., Board of Education
2nd place: Beachwood, Ohio, City School District
3rd place: Montabella Community Schools, Mich., Board of Education
Urban Ed: Some Good News And Some Bad News
The really good news is that some urban school districts made more progress in the last two years than the country as a whole and the states in which they sit, according to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment.
Students in New York and Boston made bigger gains on tests than students in Los Angeles and Atlanta in reading and math respectively.
But many students are not getting the education they need either. More than half of all fourth-graders in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles fall below NAEP's basic reading level.