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Articles: Human Resources

As we welcome in 2012, let’s do a quick recap of the new state of the world of education, shall we?

From the outset, President Obama placed teacher quality at the center of his Education Plan. In a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., in March of 2009, he stated, “To complete our Race to the Top requires the three pillars of reform—recruiting, preparing and rewarding outstanding teachers. From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents. It’s the person standing at the front of the classroom.”

Teachers are more likely to stay in a school run by a principal of the same race as they, according to a new study released by the University of Missouri (UM). The study also reports that when teachers share the same race as their principal, they experience higher job satisfaction in terms of compensation and intangible benefits such as administrative support and encouragement. The study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management in September, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

For many, an instinctual reflex is to marry the term “college town” with images from the movie Animal House. While stories of youthful exuberance make for interesting water cooler conversation, they serve to conceal real opportunities for public schools to collaborate with postsecondary institutions.

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

The tornado struck the small southern town three weeks before schools were to end for the year. Eighteen people were killed, and the damage to property was extensive. All three schools were affected, and the high school was nearly destroyed. Numerous staff members at the high school lost their homes and needed time to put their lives back in order. School leaders initially considered ending the year early for the high school. Would that have been the best decision for students?

On June 8, News Corp., a media company owned by Rupert Murdoch, snatched two leading school district administrators to head its new education division. Peter Gorman, former superintendent of the Charlotte- Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools, is the unit's new senior vice president, and Kristen Kane, the former chief operating officer of the New York City Department of Education, is its COO. Late last year, Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, made the decision as well to join News Corp. as senior advisor to Murdoch.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For Michele Hancock, the recently hired superintendent of the Kenosha (Wis.) Unified School District No. 1, her job is not business as usual. When she took the position last summer, she had a vision to transform the district, including questioning all practices, programs and policies to ensure they meet the needs of all students.

If you want to really challenge your thinking about the roles of teachers in the classroom, take a few minutes to watch Newcastle University (UK) professor Sugata Mitra talk about the research he's doing on providing technology to poverty-stricken kids in India. His "Hole in the Wall" experiment, in which he put a stand-alone, Internet-enabled computer, keyboard and mouse facing inward into a walled-off Delhi slum, shows that even children who know nothing about computers can self-organize to learn quickly and deeply on their own without any adult supervision.

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