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Feb 2011

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Cover Story

School librarians took notice when in 2009 Cushing Academy, a private secondary school in Massachusetts, transformed its library from a traditional facility to a digital media center. The library gave away most of its 20,000 books and bought 200 iRiver Story and Kindle e-readers. The school also sold to all of its 445 students a laptop to which the library could deliver databases and Web-based electronic books.


School librarians took notice when in 2009 Cushing Academy, a private secondary school in Massachusetts, transformed its library from a traditional facility to a digital media center. The library gave away most of its 20,000 books and bought 200 iRiver Story and Kindle e-readers. The school also sold to all of its 445 students a laptop to which the library could deliver databases and Web-based electronic books.

As the incoming New York City schools chancellor was gearing up to take office, a state senator suggested in December that Chancellor Cathie Black consider establishing an immigrant school in Queens to solve overcrowding in nearby Newtown High School, which is also on the state’s persistently lowest-achieving school list. “With immigrant English-language learners who would otherwise attend Newtown receiving the intensive language- development help they need in a different setting, Newtown could provide more individualized and direct services to students,” Sen.

Diane Lewis began building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools. She had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “We had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls Lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “One of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.”

Mobile learning—the use of mobile devices for educational purposes by students—is rapidly moving from an experimental initiative by a few innovative districts over the last five years to a broadly accepted concept in K12. The latest research and surveys, results of pilot programs, and analysis of trends in both public education and the broader technology industry all indicate that ubiquitous mobile learning—with mobile devices in every student’s hands and used in every classroom, school and district in the country—is advancing quickly and will arrive faster than many expected.


Throughout my career as a counselor, many parents and students have shared positive counseling experiences with me. They have often used words like "helpful," "caring," "committed" and "encouraging." But to date, I have never heard the word "creative" used to describe me or any other school counselor. As the job of the counselor has become more complex and the number of opportunities available to students has continued to expand, however, counselors have often been required to demonstrate a great deal of creativity in their work with students and their families.

Emily is an intelligent, well-rounded high school student. She is in advanced classes and is president of the student government and captain of the cheerleading squad. She has many friends and has a job to help her parents, who are struggling financially. Emily is stressed from balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a time consuming job.


More than 80 percent of El Paso's 700,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The Texas city has a preponderance of schoolchildren with a command of both Spanish and English.

A microcosm of the global education movement has materialized in Oxford (Mich.) Community Schools, home to 4,739 students in northern Oakland County. When Superintendent William Skilling started in 2007, he had a vision for a district immersed in global learning, foreign language, science and technology that resonated with the board of education—a vision the district didn't have, according to Colleen Schultz, school board president.


Maryland’s high school assessment (HSA) exams indicated that students in Prince George’s County Public Schools learning STEM subjects were not as prepared for graduation as their statewide counterparts. Just sixty-five percent of first-time takers passed the state’s Biology HSA, indicating a disconnect between the content and the skills and processes portions of the exam. Secondary science instructional specialist Godfrey Rangasammy felt that students were having a difficult time making interdisciplinary connections and interpreting science data they were learning.


Forty one states, to date, have jumped on the Common Core State Standards bandwagon, adopting common curriculum benchmarks for general education courses in language arts and mathematics. The standards, created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are raising the bar for special education students as well. According to the standards, students with disabilities— defined as students eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ) "must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum."


Leading America

John Danielson, former chief of staff to the U.S. Department of Education, has been appointed to LeadAmerica's executive advisory board. Danielson has said LeadAmerica is essentially a "Head Start program for college and career readiness."

Whether or not to include religious holidays on the academic calendar has been a long-standing debate. However, some districts are finding that the solution lies not in a universal interpretation of the First Amendment, but simply in what works best for each individual district and community.

In an effort both to fight the ever-rising costs of fuel and to go green, Lee’s Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District has become the first district in the United States to operate an all-electric distribution fleet. After beginning a discussion in 2008 on ways to reduce its dependency on oil, in August 2010 the district received four delivery trucks, one van, and one refrigerator truck—all powered by electricity. After converting the cost of electric power to the cost of diesel, the district spends roughly $ 0.11 per gallon compared to $2.25.

Schools across the nation have begun the transition toward cloud computing, and administrators knowledge and ease of use with cloud services ranges from early beginners to the very advanced. A new nonprofit organization, eduCloud, plans to level the playing field by developing a set of best practices for the development of K12 content, tools and assessments hosted in the cloud.

Social networking has become a quick and efficient way for K12 administrators to gain professional development.

Lyn Hilt, principal of Brecknock Elementary School in the Eastern Lancaster County (Pa.) School District recently had to create a new acceptable use policy for elementary student computer use. She posted on Twitter that she was looking for ideas, and within minutes she had dozens of examples from other districts' administrators, including a video that had interviews with students and an administrator discussing the rights and responsibilities of students.

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools gave $50,000 each to three districts recovering from multiple student suicides. The grant, Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SER V), funds recovery projects in districts after a traumatic event has occurred that disrupts the learning environment.


When I consider how rapidly 21st-century tools are transforming education, I think fondly of the legacy passed down from my mom, a retired educator. She was grateful to come from Austria to the United States as a high-school-aged student at a time when U.S. education was envied the world over. She earned her education degree, became a certified FLES teacher and then an elementary school reading specialist in Scarsdale, N.Y. She was a career educator as well as eventually a school board member and subsequently the president in our home district.


SignagePlayer mp8000s and mp8000r, $1,119 and $1,079

The processing speed, memory size and overall computing power of PC s have advanced at an exponential rate over the years, and the pace shows no signs of slowing. The result for many users—those in K12 schools in particular—is that the power of new computers is far greater than most require for the majority of applications. As a result, a number of desktop virtualization products have appeared in the last several years, which divide a single PC into multiple workstations.