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District Administration, February 2012

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Cover Story

If the results of the most recent international achievement tests were graded on a curve, U.S. students probably would rank somewhere in the B range.

Features

The nature of school security has changed dramatically over the last decade. Schools employ various measures, from metal detectors to identification badges to drug testing, to promote the safety and security of staff and students. One of the increasingly prevalent measures is the use of security cameras. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education reported that more than half of all public schools used security cameras during the 2007-2008 school year to monitor students, a 30 percent increase over eight years prior.

It’s a drug prevention conversation—and program—that was largely missing as recently as a decade ago in most middle and high schools. In those days, the principal concern of health educators and disciplinarians alike was to keep students from misusing alcohol and illegal street drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and even heroine.

Before the sun rises most days, Dwight D. Jones is at the office. Since becoming superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada last December, 4:30 a.m. arrivals are common. “There’s just hardly enough time in the day,” Jones says.

District CIO

Many districts have blocked YouTube because it either served as a distraction or raised concerns over appropriate use. Its new portal, however, offers solutions to teachers.

The Web 2.0 video site launched YouTube for Schools on Dec. 12, which allows schools to sign up for the site’s education channel, YouTube EDU, which previously only hosted videos from colleges and university professors. By joining this site, schools automatically disable certain often distracting features, such as posting comments.

In 2007, Onslow County (N.C.) Public Schools agreed to work with Digital Millennial Consulting (DMC), a private consulting firm offering education technology solutions to schools and state agencies, in pioneering Project K-Nect, a mobile learning initiative aimed to increase math proficiency. The program, funded in part through Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative, provided high school students in this rural district with smartphones equipped with DMC monitoring software that tracked their usage of the devices and provided a safe network through which they could collaborate.

For Scott Newcomb, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Marys Intermediate School in St. Marys, Ohio, using smartphones in the classroom helps him teach math to his technology-savvy students in new ways. Instead of the typical textbook geometry lesson, Newcomb brings his students outdoors, where they use smartphones to snap photos of parallel lines, acute angles and other examples of geometric shapes.

Opinion

Scenario 1: A middle school student was continually harassed and bullied at school. He was taunted and pushed in the hallways and was even punched in the face in the school bathroom on one occasion. His tormentors always seemed to know when the adults at school were not looking. He felt that if he fought back it would only make things worse. He had debated many times telling the teacher or an administrator about the bullying, but, again, he felt that it would only get worse. Besides, he did not feel a close connection to any school staff member.

As legislators in Florida gather this month in Tallahassee, they have a unique opportunity to empower our students with technology that will enhance their education. Our legislators have the capacity to provide students with digital content at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

Solutions

Problem

Students in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Ill., were getting tired of paying more money for healthy foods at lunch and craved nutritious meals with a variety of flavors and choices at a fair price. Students were actually paying more for salad and carrot sticks than unhealthy foods such as pizza or fries. In early 2010, they asked the school board to make changes in the food. Because of the growing rates of diabetes and obesity in school-aged children around the nation, board members had to act.

Describing her 2,000-square-mile district in Polk County, Fla., Superintendent Sherrie Nickell says the district is “larger than some states!” Located in the heart of central Florida, the county is known for pristine lakes and aromatic citrus groves that sit between the vacation hotspots of Tampa and Orlando. But in Polk County Public Schools, it’s all business, all the time.

Two-thirds of the Amarillo Independent School District’s 33,000 students enrolled on 53 campuses qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Undaunted by the academic and societal challenges commonly associated with such a statistic, 10 of Amarillo’s lower-income schools have recently joined the No Excuses University (NEU) network. This fast-growing collective of 117 elementary and middle schools scattered across the United States is a brain trust of principals and teachers who promote college readiness from kindergarten up, especially for children living in poverty.

Briefings

After defaulting on its monthly payments 10 consecutive times through December 2011, the Chester Community (Penn.) Charter School announced on Dec. 29 that it had filed suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the state’s Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis, the Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) and its board of directors seeking $3.8 million in overdue funding. The charter school is owed an additional $18 million through the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

While in the fourth year of a five-year Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) federal grant, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) learned in late December that Congress had cut the grant’s final year of funding. ACTFL had used its portion of the grant, which was created to improve innovative foreign language programs, to develop nationally recognized language assessments. Consequently, four years’ worth of work developing these tests assessments would go unfinished.

Since the launch of the Iphone 4s in Oct. 2011, siri, a voice-activated response system, has been considered all the rage. Voice activation may take a back seat, however, as new technology that uses one’s eyes to activate the screen, scroll through Web pages and play games makes its debut.

Four doctorate students at the IT University of Copenhagen presented their new software last June at Startup Weekend, an intensive boot camp for entrepreneurs. They have since won four technology awards and founded Senseye, a technology startup company based in Copenhagen.

Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster are multibillion-dollar leaders in the energy drink industry. Touting empowering names and containing nearly 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, these drinks have become staples in the diets of young, active and stressed-out students. National health associations, however, warn that these drinks can be hazardous, particularly among student athletes.

Vallas Heads to Conn.

After serving as superintendent in New Orleans, Paul Vallas was hired as interim superintendent at Bridgeport (Conn.) Public Schools. Vallas began on Jan. 2 and has been charged with developing a turnaround plan for the district within a year.

A Better Budget

After finding that the state’s predicted revenues were higher than originally projected due to employment gains, Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed restoring $89 million to the K12 education budget next year, which he had originally planned to cut.

About 12 percent of charter schools in the United States have collective bargaining agreements with their unions, either by a state mandate or as part of an individual school’s mission. These union contracts—the first generation of such agreements—generally include unique innovations and are more streamlined, according to a new study by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Released on Dec.

Departments

“As of fall 2011, 40 states have a state virtual school or state-led online learning initiative, accounting for 536,272 course enrollments, a 19 percent annual increase.” Source: iNACOL Keeping Pace 2011

Michael Peveler has been vice president of education sales for AMX for five years. An education major in college at Texas Tech University, he taught for eight years. He has been exposed to the industry and the transition toward a networking type technology over the course of the 13 years that he has worked for AMX. At the same time, he is receiving an Executive MBA in International Business at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.

American underachievement and the best ways to reverse it has become an ongoing and urgent national conversation among educators and politicians, as well as a public embarrassment every three years when the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tables are released. The next PISA results are due later this year, and for many reasons, we can guess that the United States will not be at the top of the list.