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Nov 2010

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Cover Story



Sylvan Dell Publishing

$7.95 for one-year, one-title license


District Administration heard from more readers than ever before for the 2010 Readers' Choice Top 100 Products award. In a challenging year that saw many districts forced to make painful cuts in staff , one might assume that the purchase and overall use of education products and technology also suffered, but this does not appear to be the case. On the contrary, both administrators and classroom educators became even more dependent on products and technology as a result of the recession.



Sylvan Dell Publishing

$7.95 for one-year, one-title license

It's a familiar refrain in American education: African-American children score lower on standardized tests, graduate high school at lower rates, and are considerably more likely to be suspended or expelled than the general population.

When President Obama first signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he took much criticism for spending more money—$787 billion more—when the nation was reeling from decades-old debt, a more than 9 percent unemployment rate and a mortgage crisis. But this measure has allowed public school district leaders to invest in cost-effective, energy-efficient facilities projects faster than they would have if they didn't have the federal funds.

The responsibilities of the modern school superintendent may already seem boundless, from making the most of shrinking budgets, to working 21st-century skills into the K12 curriculum, to meeting the escalating standards of NCLB testing. But thanks to the initiatives of two national organizations dedicated to improving the use of educational technology in schools, the job description just got longer.


Who would want to be a new teacher these days? Only the very hardy, that's for sure. Most of you can probably remember your first teaching assignment—the unruly student, the difficult parent, the office manager with the key to the office supplies just beyond your reach. New-teacher travails, mishaps and mistakes are a staple of lunchroom legend. It's much tougher now.

Gifted students may just be among the most underserved students in the nation. They are one of the few special populations with no funding mandates and no legal requirements to serve their special needs. Yet every author and researcher who forecasts the global economy indicates that the best and brightest students in India and China are being provided the best education those nations are able to provide.

I received a promotional e-mail from a New York City writer recently. In the solicitation, he boasts of having written screenplays for major television networks and film studios as well as articles for well-known publications. You might ask, "What would a screenwriter and journalist be selling to a high school guidance director?" It turns out that he provides a service to college-bound seniors. For around $500, he will provide guidance to a student on how to "craft" the best college essay.

Stop talking about the past! There were 18,628 words in the 12 articles in The New York Times Magazine's 2010 education issue. Of the 12 articles, only one 465- word sidebar used the words "mobile phone," "cell phone" or "smartphone"—13 times. If we were reading the technology section or the business section, those words would be too numerous to count. While we appreciate being told about how education has been, we would have expected The New York Times Magazine to tell us how education is going to be.


Anyone who doubts that adjusting thermostats or turning off computers can make much of a dent in utility bills should have a chat with administrators of the Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pa. In the past four years, thanks to comprehensive policies and procedures, CRSD has cut energy usage by nearly 50 percent and achieved more than $9 million in total savings. The 12,000- student district has been honored for its practices with federal EPA-sponsored Energy Star awards three years in a row.

Schaumburg consolidated School District #54, located in Chicago's northwest suburb, is one of only 18 districts nationwide to receive the highest credit rating by Moody's—the gold star in global credit scores. The elementary district, with 15,000 diverse, middle-income students dispensed across 27 schools, earned this rating for its low debt burden, rapid balance payback, and ample reserves, including a working cash balance of $63 million.

Closure of an interstate highway means many things: traffic backups, lengthy detours, confusing back roads, and a constant headache for the frequent traveler. But what does it mean for school buses when the dependable flow of interstate traffic is the lifeblood for an entire transportation operation?

That's exactly the question the St. Louis-based Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) had to address when the Missouri Department of Transportation announced the two-step closure of a 10-mile stretch of I-64, five miles per year from January 2008 through December 2009.


A new application for touchscreen devices is intended to give learners a physical sense of fractions and the number line. But how does Motion Math, the startup company that developed this application, polish and perfect its product for its target audience? This, unfortunately, is where many projects fall short.


Anti-Bullying Warning

Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, said the department received 800 harassment complaints in the last year. The DOE warned schools in a letter Oct. 27 not to tolerate bullying.

On Nov. 3, the Supreme Court heard arguments for a school choice case challenging the precedent set for the Establishment Clause—the separation of church and state. Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization disputes whether a tax credit program that directs public funds to private religious schools is constitutional. Since 1997, Arizona taxpayers have had the option to divert $500 of their owed taxes to school tuition organizations (STO) for student scholarships. The taxpayers can decide if their money is given to a religious or nonreligious STO.

Back in the 1990s, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in Charlotte, N.C., were plagued with racial equity issues and low academic performance. In 1996, only 66 percent of the students met state reading standards and just 40 percent of the district's black students performed at grade level in reading and math.

That same year, the board of education and school administrators started to map out a turnaround plan to ensure that all CMS students would have the chance to receive an education that would prepare them for college or for success in the workforce.

"We are knowingly administering tests to children that we know cannot do well on them because they don't speak English," says Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), echoing the concerns of many administrators nationwide regarding assessment tests for English language learners (ELLs).

After the release of the iPad, 3 million of which were sold in just 80 days, Apple received an unanticipated reaction from the autistic community. Unknowingly, the company may have stumbled upon a revolutionary framework to change the future of special education technology.

Project RED (Revolutionizing Education), an alliance of technology education leaders from across the nation, released its findings on Oct. 20 after studying how technology is implemented in nearly 1,000 schools. DA spoke with the Project RED president and CEO of the Hayes Connection, Jeanne Hayes.

On the heels of a Florida pastor's announcement of an International Burn a Koran Day this past September and protests over a planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York City, the topic of teaching Islam in public schools is gaining more attention—but this attention is yielding different results in different places.


One of the fringe benefits of editing District Administration is that I'm able to attend conferences and events and meet in person some of the rock stars of education, as I've come to think of them. Rock star status, by my definition, tends to be conferred upon people who are able to reach a large number of people with their work and, as a result, affect change.