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student achievement

With oil continuing to spill into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling explosion and experts scrambling to discover the elusive solution that will halt the unceasing flow of pollutants, it's time to begin grappling with the necessary question that legislators, bureaucrats and everyday citizens must now address: How do we prevent this kind of disaster from happening again?

A summer job for a 16-year-old typically involves serving coffee, scooping ice cream, or babysitting the neighborhood children. Some students at Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools, however, spent their summer vacation designing a children's Web site for the city of Miami Beach. An increasing number of students are finding themselves mingling among professionals with internships in local businesses—the culmination of a work-based learning curriculum.

In October 2009, Mark Schumacker, a seventh-grade mathematics teacher at Ankeney Middle School of the Beavercreek City School District, a suburban district east of Dayton, Ohio, earned the EUREKA Educator of the Year Award from the Better Business Bureau of Ohio's Center for Character Ethics for his efforts to blend character education with instruction. Schumacker is the first recipient of this statewide honor that recognizes positive actions with regard to constructive character development.

When the Houston school board announced Terry Grier as its pick for superintendent last fall, he broke the ice with a self-deprecating joke. "There's one difference between a dead superintendent lying in the road and a dead skunk," he said. He immediately drew laughs with the punch line: "There are tire tracks in front of the skunk."

When Adam Fletcher was hired as the student engagement specialist for Washington state's education department 10 years ago, it didn't take him long to realize how difficult his newly created job would prove. "No one was talking about the roles of students other than as learners," says Fletcher, referring to a state teachers' conference early in his career. "They laughed out loud at the proposal of students being partners in school improvement. It really was preposterous to them."

Walt Rulffes had an unlikely ascent in Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD). Having served neither as teacher nor principal before his hiring as deputy superintendent of finance and business, his seven years of dogged lobbying for dollars from the legislature nevertheless paid off when he was hired as superintendent of the fifth-largest school system in the country.

By the time James G. Merrill became superintendent of Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools (VBCPS) in 2006, there wasn't much to improve statistically. The district ranked first in reading proficiency among the neighboring seven cities and first on the combined SAT; all schools had earned full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education; and even the relationship between its elected school board, the community and administrators was harmonious.

Kathy Cox, the superintendent of schools for Georgia, believes "excellence is not an accident."

She made a name for herself by winning $1 million proving she was smarter than a fifth-grader on a popular television show. And since her election in 2002, Cox has earned complaints and kudos for tackling testing and implementing new curriculum standards and graduation requirements for Georgia.

As she prepares for possible reelection next fall, she remains committed "to be part of the solution"— a promise she made to her students when she entered politics over a decade ago.

On April 7, 2009, as the nation agonized over a worsening economy, voters in western Wisconsin's Elk Mound Area School District passed a $9.3 million referendum to upgrade its three aging, overcrowded schools. On that same day, similar referendums in surrounding school districts failed. How did Elk Mound, a rural community without even a local newspaper, convince voters to address the needs of students?

The latest trend in the rapidly advancing and fiercely competitive interactive whiteboard market reflects the ever-increasing popularity and global appeal of this technology: support for multiple languages. A variety of manufacturers have recently added or expanded their language resources because of U.S. demand for teaching ELL students, the use of the devices in foreign language classes and strong sales in countries around the world.