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.
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.
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.
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.
We are often reminded that there is a time for everything. As the book of Ecclesiastes puts it, "a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak." I believe the time has also come for educators to listen, to speak, to mend and to change some aspects of the public education system. We need not wait for Superman or the Department of Education to shape this change. The changes I speak of must come from within—from educators who work to teach the skills and improve the lives of students in American public schools every day.
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.
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.
For many schools, data and communications systems are the equivalent of a messy closet. Administrators are forced to master different controls for bells, security cameras, audio-visual equipment, intercoms and the like—a time-consuming, unproductive task.