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June 2012

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Cover Story

Geography isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays, that subject is often buried—and therefore inadequately covered—in a social studies curriculum itself under siege because of the extended commitment in schools to reading and math.

Features

At some level, principals always have been instructional leaders—but never before has their role been more prominent.

First, the accountability movement—No Child Left Behind in particular—thrust principals into the spotlight on academic achievement. Then budget cuts peeled away capacity at both the district and school levels, thinning the ranks of assistant superintendents, curriculum specialists and assistant principals, who shouldered some or most of the load.

The senior year of high school has long been considered a lost year, a time when many students have earned most of their high school credits and have been accepted into college. With few requirements and little pressure, students often slack off in a common affliction known as "senioritis."

Kaya Henderson’s childhood in one of New York’s most affluent areas, Westchester County, could not have been more different from that of the middle school students she taught at Lola Rodriguez No. 162 in the South Bronx.

District CIO

For Collier County (Fla.) Public Schools, an urban district of 51 schools equipped with document cameras, interactive whiteboards, projectors and fiber-optic Internet connections in all classrooms, adopting digital textbooks made perfect sense.

About 200 students attending National Academy Foundation (NAF) schools, which offer industry-focused curricula in urban public school districts, have been designing their own mobile applications during the spring semester thanks to a partnership between NAF and Lenovo and with cooperation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This partnership is teaching students the skills needed to flourish in the ever-expanding mobile app market after high school.

Trad Robinson, age 36, began his career in 1997 as the director of technology for the Union County (S.C.) School District after obtaining a computer science degree from Limestone College. In 2007, he became director of technology for Cherokee County (S.C.) Schools. He recently was named the chief information officer at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Q: Can you share some of your career accomplishments so far?

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

Opinion

In his call for a $100 LAPTOP for education in 2005, Nicholas Negroponte changed the course of computer history. In the face of many naysayers, Taiwan-based Asus announced the EeePC 701 subnotebook in June 2007 for a price of $199. While the actual price in November 2007 was about double that, Asus still sold 300,000 units in the first four months of its release and ultimately sold four million units in its first year of availability.

When I was a kid, not a week went by that I didn’t make a trip to the big library about a 25-minute drive from where I lived in rural western New Jersey. It was a love/hate thing for my mom; she loved that I loved the books and the learning that went with them, but it wasn’t always the easiest of rides after a long day at the desk of her 9-to-5 job. Still, she rarely said no.

Have you ever dreamed of experiencing a watershed moment in your field? Moments like the splitting of the atom or the landing of a man on the moon? If you're an educational leader, buckle up, because your moment is here. Schools are still experiencing the shockwaves of the Internet, a transformative global network that is radically changing how we think about learning and schooling. Moments like these are exhilarating, because our decisions matter so much.

Solutions

People hear “rural” and think endless woods and farmland connected by interstates and picturesque windy roads. But in parts of Alaska, rural can mean having to hop on a ferry or a small plane to get from place to place. Eight of the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s 14 schools are on small islands. Only 156 students attend these eight schools; the rest of the district’s students attend schools on Kodiak Island proper. The 21 teachers in these rural schools are required by the district to teach all subjects, making them akin to the teachers in one-room schoolhouses years ago.

About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.

Briefings

Diane Allen Who’s the Bully?
After Stuart Chaifetz posted a videotape of teachers bullying his autistic son in a school in the North Bergan (N.J.) School District, N.J. State Sen. Diane Allen proposed a bill that would streamline the dismissal process for teachers found to be bullies. 

“Everyone likes the arts—people like the idea—but public support doesn’t equal political will,” says Craig Cheslog, principal advisor to Tom Torlakson, California’s superintendent of public instruction. For this reason, Cheslog, along with other California officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and organizations such as the California Arts Council, have joined together to form Create CA, an initiative to make arts education a priority.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) has a theory: that placing robust arts education programs in low-performing schools will narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement. To test this theory, the committee, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Policy Council, and numerous private organizations, has developed the Turnaround Arts Initiative, a pilot project in eight schools deemed low-performing around the country.

Daniela Pelaez is the valedictorian of the north Miami (Fla.) Senior High School’s class of 2012. Pelaez, who was offered scholarships to numerous universities, ultimately chose to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. Although the world was seemingly at her fingertips, Pelaez faced deportation in March because she had been brought to the United States from Colombia illegally by her parents at the age of 4. After a series of student protests and pleas from educators and legislators, Pelaez was offered a two-year reprieve and will work on her case to get a visa while at Dartmouth.

Formerly, vouchers in the state of Louisiana only existed in New Orleans and for students with special needs in eligible districts. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest bill to expand the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program is set to change that. The bill, signed by Jindal on April 18, will allow low-and middle-income students attending Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F,” to receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools.

The 2011-2012 school year marked the first time in decades that Texas school districts could purchase instructional materials without approval by the state board of education. Senate Bill 6, which was implemented Sept. 1, 2011, freed up $792 million for school districts to purchase materials. The intent behind the bill was twofold: to allow district textbook coordinators to spend more money on instructional technology, and to prevent the content of textbooks from being held hostage to the political opinions of the state board of education.

Departments

There was a time when it seemed a day didn’t go by without reading about Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, known for her passion for raising student achievement—and for her aggressive style—became a symbol for the new school reform movement.

K12 respondents report that an average of 30 percent of their new data-center purchasing is green, and 64 percent see cloud computing as an energy-efficient approach to IT.– Source: CDW-G’s Energy Efficient IT Report (2012)

With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.