You are here

Table of Contents

Jan 2011

If you are a K12 district leader you may qualify for a free subscription to the DA print magazine

Subscribe (free)

Cover Story

As the profession of teaching continues to get more attention given recent events, a growing number of school districts from New York to California are adopting "value-added" measures of teaching quality to award bonuses or even tenure. And two competitive federal grants are spurring them on.

Features

As the profession of teaching continues to get more attention given recent events, a growing number of school districts from New York to California are adopting "value-added" measures of teaching quality to award bonuses or even tenure. And two competitive federal grants are spurring them on.

Karl Springer, superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public School District, recently found himself answering tough questions in the heavy glare of the media spotlight. The issue? Student bullying. "We don't escalate the situation by being macho," says Springer, also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a former Marine Corps captain.

Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government requires school districts to use 1 percent of Title I money to fund programs that involve parents in the schools and provides another $39 million annually for 62 Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) that provide training and information for both parents and district personnel to bolster family engagement in schools.

From dating violence to sexting and social networking, districts are struggling to address a number of sensitive and relatively new health education issues that are aggravated by students' increasing access to computers, cell phones and other digital devices. Through new or revised curricula, administrators are attempting to deal with these and other issues. Their efforts sometimes become contentious when parents object to language or materials used in a curriculum and even threaten lawsuits to force changes.

Educators, school safety experts and anti-bullying advocates typically agree that bullying is a serious issue. They also agree that anti-bullying strategies should be an integral component of a school's safety plan. However, differences remain in how bullying should be addressed. Those differences have become magnified as bullying has become an increasingly politicized issue.

Not all public school districts in the country provide sex education, and those that do are torn between emphasizing abstinence or recognizing that sex between teens occurs, so they should also focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Opinion

Recently a student named Michael returned from his freshman year at college to visit the principal at his former high school. He is majoring in engineering and is president of the student council at his college. During the summer, he plans to enroll as a mentor for children at a local Boys and Girls Club. By all accounts, Michael is a shining example of academic success and of positive student leadership. To his former principal, Michael's success is particularly meaningful.

There are some astonishing new facts about mobile technology:

One day last fall, much to my surprise, I walked in the front door and heard something that sounded amazingly like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" being banged out on the piano in our family room. I couldn't imagine it was my 13-year-old daughter Tess, who had been struggling with the piano for the past five years, getting by with practicing for 15 or 20 minutes just before her weekly lesson. I actually thought we had an unexpected guest.

You can't walk away from the movie Waiting for Superman and not be convinced that public education in the United States is a dismal failure, that it's the sole fault of the teacher unions, and that the only solution to this obvious crisis is more charter schools. Wrong on all counts. The film depicts the classic "simple solution to a complex problem" by featuring a few examples of successful charter schools. It delivers a huge but unwarranted condemnation of the nation's public schools.

Solutions

It came as no surprise to the residents of Mankato, Minn. last fall when Forbes magazine called the city a great place for raising a family. The population in the area served by Mankato Area Public Schools, which straddles three counties in the southern part of the state, has reached more than 50,000, thanks to business and recreational opportunities, a low cost of living, state-of the-art health care, great schools, and a welcoming attitude toward newcomers.

High creeks, prickly pear cacti, and dry live oaks dot the central Texas land around the Round Rock Independent School District. Diverse, sprawling and growing rapidly, the district comprises 48 campuses across 110 square miles. Administrators credit a business-inspired, total-cost-of-ownership, technology standardization program with their ability to keep pace with student needs.

Briefings

Alfie Kohn, renowned author, speaker, and progressive education advocate, continues his fight against traditional classroom teaching in Feel-Bad Education. Kohn's 12th book is a collection of essays detailing—as its title suggests—how conventional teaching, testing, praise and punishment methods create an environment unsuitable for learning.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation—famous for its annual $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education award to innovative districts—has awarded $1 million to Rocketship Education, a small nonprofit elementary charter school operator based in San Jose, Calif. The funding, in addition to $6 million recently awarded by the nonprofit venture capital firm Charter School Growth Fund, will help Rocketship expand from the three San Jose "hybrid" charter schools it now operates (with two more slated for fall 2011) to 30 nationwide by 2015.

A decade since it last did so, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) has again revealed the ever-changing characteristics of school administrators. The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study, released Dec. 8, is the latest report in a series that has been conducted every 10 years since 1923.

 

Renegade Lunch Lady

Renowned chef Ann Cooper has partnered with Whole Foods Market to create the Great American Salad Bar Project, which has raised $1.4 million to install salad bars in 564 schools nationwide.

Many language advocates are hoping to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act promptly picked up by the 112th Congress in January—with a new bill included. The Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act, introduced in July 2010 by Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), proposes $400 million in funding to teach world languages to K12 students.

All the rhetoric urging the U.S. education system to up the ante to remain competitive in a global economy came to a sobering point with the release of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on Dec. 7, 2010. In 2009, the United States, along with 65 other countries, joined PISA to assess the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science. The United States remained just average in reading and science, while lagging a bit in mathematics on the global scale.

The physical infrastructure and capabilities of K12 information technology have undergone a transformation over the years, according to "The Future of Information Technology." This white paper, released by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) on Nov. 12, explains how K12 IT departments have evolved and where they will be a decade from now.

The paper notes four major trends changing the role of the CTO:

A recent move by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education will soon relieve many of the financial mysteries involved in the college search. Under the Higher Education Act of 2008, all higher education institutions are required to post a net-price calculator on their Web site by October 2011.

Departments

There is no doubt from all perspectives that measuring the effectiveness of teachers is key to improving today's schools. During these fiscal times, no administrator can forget that salaries and benefits are typically over 75 percent of a district's budget, and the recent PISA standings reaffirm that something has to change in U.S. education. Teacher quality is paramount.

 

NEC

U300X, U310W, $1,199 and $1,299

 

No More Bystanders = No More Bullies

Corwin, $28.95

Just like Web sites for businesses and organizations, school Web sites have gone from being a daring novelty to an absolute necessity. But the challenging task of designing, updating and maintaining a school Web site has also changed over the years. At one time, developing a site involved many hours of work by school or district IT staff , or it meant hiring a design company to custom-build a solution, but today, there are a large number of Web site developers catering specifically to the needs of K12.

Required Reading

Eamonn O'Donovan's thoughtful Supervisor's Opinion ("New Teachers Need Support," November/December 2010) should be required reading for superintendents and principals.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, addresses employees at a district recognition program.