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Table of Contents

Nov 2002

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Cover Story

Houston wins the first urban education prize for having clear goals and demonstrating dramatic student achievement

Houston Independent School District has what it takes to succeed despite large volumes of low-income and at-risk students.

It has clear and specific academic objectives.

Features

The presidential vote-counting debacle of 2000 was the first in a spate of recent national events that put the spotlight on understanding our democracy, Constitution and lawmaking.

After the election was resolved, President George W. Bush maintained the focus with his call for Americans to be "citizens, not spectators." The terrorist attacks on September 11, the resulting war on terror and its attention to homeland security, and the new likelihood of war with Iraq have kept issues like privacy, war powers and the duties of citizenship in our collective consciousness.

As an educator, Deborah Meier walks the walk. Her learning theories are evident in the successes of the urban schools she's touched, and those theories have generated thinking about alternatives to large, impersonal one-size-fits-all schooling. The schools she has overhauled set the standard for excellence and raise educational expectations without falling into the trap of standardization. Meier's students demonstrate their knowledge to the community through her pioneering work with student exhibitions and the development of habits of mind.

We all sing the praises of parent involvement as an essential ingredient to increased achievement for students; yet in most school districts it's cultivated at only the lowest levels. We want parents to come to the ball games, school concerts, school plays and awards assemblies. But, do we really want them sitting in on classes or debating the merits of the curriculum? It doesn't seem so.

The academic lives of college students revolve around computer networks, with nearly every institution offering course descriptions and schedules online, class Web sites, student-teacher chat rooms, work and grades delivered via e-mail and more.

Houston wins the first urban education prize for having clear goals and demonstrating dramatic student achievement

Houston Independent School District has what it takes to succeed despite large volumes of low-income and at-risk students.

It has clear and specific academic objectives.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in June upholding a school voucher program in Cleveland, pundits across the country said the decision would transform the nature of education in America. They predicted a state-by-state shakeout, with school choice advocates plotting their next offensive, minority parents forming powerful grassroots movements, and Republican legislators slyly soliciting support for voucher amendments.

Opinion

A few years ago, a high school student from Michigan was expelled for intentionally downloading viruses from the Internet to a home computer and unleashing them in his school's computer lab. The viruses disrupted computer use throughout the district by preventing infected machines from booting, and the school network had to be shut down to check 800 PCs and clean up 130 contaminated systems. At the time, the school was not running anti-virus software because of budget constraints, and the false savings resulted in estimated damages exceeding $60,000.

Solutions

Detroit Public Schools: True role models

When Jesse Gonzales was only 6, his father was fatally shot by his godfather over a poker game. Then his mother was taken to a sanitarium with tuberculosis, and he and his 12 siblings were separated into foster homes.

In his teens, when he and his family were reunited, Gonzales says he wanted to drop out of high school. But the support of one high school teacher in particular nurtured his natural talent for leadership and peacemaking.