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From making sure a school is safe to maintaining academic standards to meeting NCLB requirements, urban school principals have to attend to a plethora of issues within the walls of their buildings. But what makes a principal effective? What leadership skills do they need to succeed?

This fall, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory unveiled a prototype of its $100 laptop. The new machine reinvents the omnipresent laptop, not only slashing the price tag but also redesigning it for student use. The target market includes children in third-world countries and the U.S.

As Hurricane Rita roared over the Gulf of Mexico coast in late September and left displaced children and families of Hurricane Katrina to find yet another temporary home out of harm's way, Katrina's wrath was still reverberating.

She wasn't looking to uncover America's secret.

When Rosa A. Smith joined the Schott Foundation for Public Education in July 2001, she simply planned to study the organization's focus: shoring up girls' academic performances across the nation.

Being in the school business is so last century. Being in the learning business is what American school districts must do if they are to create critical thinkers and self-proficient workers for the 21st century.

It's really, do or die.