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From DA

Associate Editor Marion Herbert and I had the pleasure of attending the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) 70th Annual Conference held April 10-12 in Chicago. What was most evident was how the commitment to student success among the attendees is unwavering even with the increasing challenges they face in these tough economic times, including more federal mandates, charter schools and a lack of alignment with community expectations.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is focused on reforming its teacher recruitment, evaluation and training systems, along with better coordinating its student services. In both goals, the district is being helped by elements of the business community, including a billionaire philanthropist and some MBA students.

San Antonio's (Texas) North East Independent School District (NEISD) grows by about 2,000 students per year, says Superintendent Richard A. Middleton, because when new families move to town, many prefer his district out of the 19 others in the city.

Sara, a high school student, logs in to her Facebook account only to be confronted with cruel and nasty remarks posted by classmates. She feels angry, humiliated, and afraid that everyone at school will see such postings. Sara has become the target of cyberbullying, and ensuing incidences occur. Consequently, her grades begin to drop, she becomes preoccupied with correspondences on Facebook, and she experiences intense anxiety about attending school.

It has been another tough spring for school districts across the nation. The economic crisis of the past two years is hitting school systems hard as districts plan for the 2010-2011 school year. State support to schools continues to decline, and the "soft landing" afforded by federal stimulus monies is a thing of the past. School districts must cut costs but find their options constrained by restrictive labor agreements in addition to the collective bargaining process itself. If ever there was a time for a new approach to bargaining, it is now.

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Despite the growth of electronic communications, Web based document solutions and digital data systems, paper documents remain a vital part of K12 administration. Bubble sheet exams, parent communications, student academic and disciplinary records, and a wide variety of other communications still relies on paper, but technology has revolutionized its use. Using paper forms, assessments and other documents once required multiple devices such as printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines, as well as third-party companies to scan exams.

One-to-one computing has not lived up to its expectations. Providing each student with a laptop computer has not resulted in significant achievement gains. In an analysis of previous studies on 1:1, Boston College researchers found that the impact of a one-to-one computing implementation is largely a function of the classroom teacher. Some teachers know how to make good use of a one-toone situation, and some don't. If extracting value from an innovation is dependent on the teacher, then the value added by the innovation per se is limited.

At its most fundamental level, literacy represents the ability to read, write and communicate. Unfortunately, too many adolescents lack the literacy skills necessary to navigate the reading and writing requirements of high school and the future world in which they will work and live.

On March 15, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and three other education organizations each filed amicus curiae briefs with a Supreme Court case that discusses the right of a public school to deny recognition to a student organization that does not comply with the school's open membership policies. An amicus curiae brief, or "friend of the court" brief, is a document volunteered by an outside party that contains additional information on an aspect of the case to assist in its ruling.

 

RACE TO THE TOP

Lillian Lowery, Delaware's secretary of education, helped lead the way for the state's Race to the Top application, which won the contest along with Tennessee. The application included proposals to reform low-performing schools.

A well-rounded education now includes environmental literacy, according to the Obama administration.

"A Blueprint for Reform," the administration's amended proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), has for the first time carved out room in the budget for environmental education. The proposed bill, No Child Left Inside (NCLI ), is among the administration's signature competitive grants and if passed would provide $500 million over five years to states that develop superior environmental and outdoor education plans.

Broadband advocates spoke, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) listened. The highly anticipated—and long overdue—National Broadband Plan was at last released by the FCC on March 16. K12 education groups, including the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the Education and Libraries Networks Coalition (EdLiNC), were pleased to see substantial improvements recommended for the E-rate program, which provides discounted telecommunications services for schools and libraries.

"It's 2010, and the world has changed," says Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education and former Apple executive. "Technology is going more mobile."

PROBLEM

Don Tylinski inherited a challenge when he became superintendent of the Seneca Valley (Pa.) School District in 2004. The 7,363-student K12 district located 30 miles north of Pittsburgh was under strain because of the arrival of large new industries in the area, including a new facility of global nuclear power plant builder Westinghouse. "The growth in student population had everyone in the district scrambling. We lost consistency in the curriculum," says Tylinski.

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