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Articles: Business & Finance

On March 9, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees and thus reversed an era of organized labor in the state. But it didn't stop there. Other states--Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, to name a few--jumped on the bargaining rights bandwagon proposing and, in many cases, passing similar provisions. It's no wonder, then, why the appointment of Paul Kreutzer, a Wisconsin superintendent who was an outspoken supporter of Gov.

Draconian cuts have become the order of business for many school districts since the economic recession hit in 2008. But for the coming school year, "draconian" has taken on an even harsher meaning, as states from California and Texas to Illinois and New York wrestle with deficits in the tens of billions of dollars and make multi-billion-dollar reductions in funding for education.

Q: What is your role as the education strategist at Intel?

Lento: I spend most of my time working with jurisdictions—schools, districts, or counties—using a blueprint approach toward one-to-one computing. We at the Intel Corporation Education Group partner with districts in the change management process. I help groups to think about one-to-one systemically and make sure they maximize its potential. My teams have members with different expertise.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

The Obama administration has grand hopes for turning around the nation's lowest-performing schools, in part by allocating $3.5 billion for School Improvement Grants. Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough qualified principals to replace those mandated to be fired under two of the four school improvement models that the federal government says districts must follow to tap into that funding.

School finance reform has become a key component for transforming public schools in the United States. Over the last decade, a growing number of districts have turned to an approach known by different names— student-based budgeting, weighted student funding and fair student funding, among others—in which budgets are allocated to schools in dollars, based on the needs of students within a school, rather than in staff positions.

Raymond Pecheone believes that to fairly evaluate teachers, one must watch them teach and assess the artifacts—such as assignments, lesson plans, and reflections—they use daily. This form of assessment may seem like common sense, says Pecheone, executive director for the Stanford University Center for Assessment Learning and Equities Scale, although it has really been a long time coming. Specifically, this assessment, which began with performance assessments for the licensing of teachers in California, has been 20 years in the making.

Over 600,000 low-income elementary students nationwide will be receiving fresh food in the 2011-2012 school year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 23 that it will be expanding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program received a funding increase of $48 million—a nearly 40 percent jump from the previous year—for a total of $158 million in funding. The program, which was established in 2008, supports local farms while also promoting healthy eating habits to impoverished students.

For Michele Hancock, the recently hired superintendent of the Kenosha (Wis.) Unified School District No. 1, her job is not business as usual. When she took the position last summer, she had a vision to transform the district, including questioning all practices, programs and policies to ensure they meet the needs of all students.

Boston schools are getting a little help for challenged students. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 76 percent of all students qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunches. Although poverty is a proven factor in reducing student achievement, Boston Public Schools is seeing the results of City Connects (CCNX)—its intervention, prevention and enrichment program that, for a decade, has worked with teachers to pair students with community-based services to help students better engage and thrive in school.

The suicide of the 10th-grader sent shock waves through the middle school, but after a few months, almost all students and staff had moved on. The principal had heard through the grapevine that the parents blamed the school, but he had no idea that the school was going to be sued. The lawsuit specifically named the principal, coach and a teacher the parents believed had failed to stop the bullying of their child at school. The parents claimed that they had told school officials of their concerns about their child being victimized and that nothing had been done.

If you want to really challenge your thinking about the roles of teachers in the classroom, take a few minutes to watch Newcastle University (UK) professor Sugata Mitra talk about the research he's doing on providing technology to poverty-stricken kids in India. His "Hole in the Wall" experiment, in which he put a stand-alone, Internet-enabled computer, keyboard and mouse facing inward into a walled-off Delhi slum, shows that even children who know nothing about computers can self-organize to learn quickly and deeply on their own without any adult supervision.

A nationwide survey of forty-two states and the District of Columbia examined how states are using the $3.5 billion in School Improvement Grants, part of the federal Title I program. Early State Implementation of Title I School Improvement Grants under the Recovery Act, conducted by the Center on education Policy and released in late February, found that changes in the guidelines implemented for these grants were intended to funnel more resources toward those high schools most in need.

District administrators in Wisconsin would appreciate greater management leeway in negotiations with teachers' unions, but many say the collective bargaining restrictions crafted by Gov. Scott Walker and the republican-controlled legislature go too far. On March 9, the GOP senators of Wisconsin abruptly passed a stripped down version of the budget repair bill. The financial proposals were eliminated, although they kept the language ending many of the collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.