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Articles: Business & Finance

teacher with students

This summer, the U.S. Department of Education has teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services to invest in early childhood learning. Under the DOE's signature competitive grant program, Race to the Top, states can earn money to create robust, coordinated programs to close the school readiness gap and, in turn, reduce crime and strengthen the national economy. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the $500 million grant on May 25 and accepted public feedback on its criteria through July 11.

The editors at DA have been taking advantage of a little extra time that a double issue affords us, talking to our readers at various conferences across the country, as well as checking in with industry experts as we plan our upcoming content. After all, summertime is a time for renewal.

For Sale signs

Across the nation, state expenditures on public education are expected to decline in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 (National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers, 2010). For the fourth consecutive year, despite a temporary boost from federal stimulus funds, governors are proposing deep cuts to education in 2012, and the majority of states plan to spend less in 2012 on education than they did in 2008, adjusting for inflation, despite larger enrollments of students in public schools (Leachman, Williams, & Johnson, 2011).

A North Mecklenburg Vikings player.

One of the controversial issues of late has been the rise of "pay-to-play," in which parents pay user fees so that their children can participate in interscholastic athletics.

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School administrators are faced with a wide variety of choices and a huge market when it comes to products and technology. According to a report issued in March by market research firm Compass Intelligence, school districts spend over $18 billion annually on IT-related purchases, and the market is projected to grow to nearly $21 billion by 2015.

Draconian cuts have become the order of business for many school districts since the economic recession hit in 2008. But for the coming school year, "draconian" has taken on an even harsher meaning, as states from California and Texas to Illinois and New York wrestle with deficits in the tens of billions of dollars and make multi-billion-dollar reductions in funding for education.

Q: What is your role as the education strategist at Intel?

Lento: I spend most of my time working with jurisdictions—schools, districts, or counties—using a blueprint approach toward one-to-one computing. We at the Intel Corporation Education Group partner with districts in the change management process. I help groups to think about one-to-one systemically and make sure they maximize its potential. My teams have members with different expertise.

As Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information officer in the 36,000-student Forsyth County (Ga.) School District, describes it, the way in which the school system made decisions about technology in years past was inefficient and pretty dysfunctional. "We'd go out and buy something, but if we didn't ask anyone if it was instructionally relevant, it might not be used," he says. "On the other hand, administrators in the academic and accountability departments would make a decision about something that might work for them and then lay it on the technology people to figure it out.

At a recent conference that I attended, I learned quite a bit about the development and implementation of online courses in public schools. However, I left the workshop feeling a bit discouraged, even disgusted. Not with regard to online learning; in fact, I am cautiously optimistic that online coursework will benefit students in many different ways. But the more I heard, the more I felt disillusioned.

On March 9, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees and thus reversed an era of organized labor in the state. But it didn't stop there. Other states--Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, to name a few--jumped on the bargaining rights bandwagon proposing and, in many cases, passing similar provisions. It's no wonder, then, why the appointment of Paul Kreutzer, a Wisconsin superintendent who was an outspoken supporter of Gov.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

The Obama administration has grand hopes for turning around the nation's lowest-performing schools, in part by allocating $3.5 billion for School Improvement Grants. Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough qualified principals to replace those mandated to be fired under two of the four school improvement models that the federal government says districts must follow to tap into that funding.

School finance reform has become a key component for transforming public schools in the United States. Over the last decade, a growing number of districts have turned to an approach known by different names— student-based budgeting, weighted student funding and fair student funding, among others—in which budgets are allocated to schools in dollars, based on the needs of students within a school, rather than in staff positions.

Raymond Pecheone believes that to fairly evaluate teachers, one must watch them teach and assess the artifacts—such as assignments, lesson plans, and reflections—they use daily. This form of assessment may seem like common sense, says Pecheone, executive director for the Stanford University Center for Assessment Learning and Equities Scale, although it has really been a long time coming. Specifically, this assessment, which began with performance assessments for the licensing of teachers in California, has been 20 years in the making.

Over 600,000 low-income elementary students nationwide will be receiving fresh food in the 2011-2012 school year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 23 that it will be expanding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program received a funding increase of $48 million—a nearly 40 percent jump from the previous year—for a total of $158 million in funding. The program, which was established in 2008, supports local farms while also promoting healthy eating habits to impoverished students.