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Activist Passes

Author, advocate, and defender of public education Gerald Bracey died Oct. 20 at age 69. Renowned as an expert on standardized testing, he released his final book, “Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality,” earlier this year.

An unsettling trend is emerging in urban pockets across the country as some school districts are redrawing their boundary lines. As a result, many municipalities are showing glaring gaps in race, ethnicity and economic status.

According to the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) 2009 School Nutrition Operations Report almost every school district in the nation provides fresh fruits and vegetables, salad bars or prepared salads, and whole grains. Organizers of school nutrition programs are working hard to provide students with an even greater variety of healthy foods, but they struggle to manage the cost of these enhancements. SNA found that the average cost to prepare and serve a school lunch that meets federal nutritional standards at the start of school year 2008-2009 was $2.92.

While school administrators have access to more data than ever before to analyze and monitor the status and progress of their districts, they need sophisticated tools to organize and make sense of it to make the most informed, data-driven decisions. A wealth of information is available, from student test scores to demographic, discipline and immunization reports and a variety of other data.

SAMSUNG TECHWIN SAM CAM 860

Document camera

Hardware, $799

As the superintendent of the St. Mary Parish (La.) Schools since 2004, Don Aguillard faces many fiscal challenges in overseeing the rural district’s 1,500 employees and 10,000 students. But for the 2010-2011 school year, a new and significant financial burden will be added to his annual budget. In an effort to make up a large funding shortfall, Louisiana’s two largest teacher retirement systems will be raising their required employer contribution rates, one from 15.5 percent of salary to 20 percent, the other from 17.6 percent to 24.3 percent.

In 2000, the Milwaukee (Wis.) Public Schools (MPS) requested proposals for pilot programs for a high school to replace its failing North Division High School. At the time, Kathelyne Dye-Gallagher was a business teacher at Washington High School in Milwaukee. The district’s request ignited her desire to create a stronger system that would guide Milwaukee’s low-income students. In 2003, three smaller schools replaced North Division. Genesis High School of Business, Trade, Technology, Health and Human Services was among them, with Dye-Gallagher as principal.

PROBLEM

For years, administrators at Waukegan (Ill.) Public School District 60, located on Lake Michigan and just south of the Wisconsin border, had been using an alternative educational program to serve students who needed extreme discipline or had been expelled from school. But they also needed an entirely different program to help special education students who had aggression or academic weaknesses that prevented them from being successful in traditional classrooms but who did not need restrictive private placement.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has released the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE ) Guide, a new tool for K12 leaders to assess where their district falls in providing their students with critical 21st century skills.

The MILE Guide is the most recent release from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that promotes the integration of these critical skills into core academic subjects.

Seventy-seven percent of high school students nationwide are missing the core benchmarks necessary to prepare them for their first year in college, according to a new study conducted by the research and policy arm of ACT, which conducts curriculum based college entrance exams similar to the SAT.

An organization comprised of September 11th victims’ family members, rescue workers, survivors and educators called the September 11th Education Trust has released a curriculum for grades 6-12 on the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. The September 11th Education Program includes comprehensive lesson plans with 70 video interviews and transcripts, primary source materials, handouts and questions for research and discussion.

Amid the war between parents and popular music, a compromise has been drawn in schools across the country as rap music makes its debut in classrooms. The Flocabulary program, an educational hip hop music series, has been introduced as a means of learning facts and rote memorization. Its founders, Alex Rappaport and Blake Harrison, created their company in the belief that difficult material could be mastered if introduced in an engaging way.

It’s not only the treatments of viruses that can have side effects. The H1N1 epidemic itself has created a variety of “side effects” around the country, as well as in nearly every school district. Among them have been opportunities for companies to cash in with new products and services. Not all are legitimate.

Online learning providers have long touted a variety of advantages of their solutions. But the H1N1 epidemic has given new reasons for schools to invest in such technology.

For the past 15 years, zero-tolerance policies for violence in schools have been the driving force behind many—80 to 95 percent by some estimates—of school discipline policies around the country.

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