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Nov 2005

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Cover Story


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.

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.

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.


When students in Livonia, Mich., were prompted by a local radio station to visit a unique Web site with the name of their school district in the address, they were assaulted by adult-oriented content touting "75 live cams, 12 girls and no rules."


For students at Newport-Mesa Unified School District, flexibility is the way of the future. In a drive to give to its students what it calls "21st century skills," the district has made a flexible high school redesign one of the centerpieces of its new five-year strategic plan. Frederick Navarro, Newport-Mesa's director of secondary curriculum and instruction, says the district is following trends in higher education toward satellite campuses, online opportunities and alternative class schedules.

Writers are often thought of as solitary figures. Yet good writers know the importance of connections. Their work is to connect ideas, words and images that will, in turn, connect with readers. Research shows that helping students become good writers requires that schools also make the "write" connections:

Teachers and students Sheida White, on analyzing the 1998 NAEP reading assessment, observed a positive relationship between "teachers talking with students about what students were writing and students' writing scores," especially in grades 8 and 12.


The best thing to happen to one-to-one computing this year was Cobb County. Sure, almost every single part of the program went wrong, but that's precisely my point.


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