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From DA

A movement to spread scientific learning in a casual environment that started in Britain in the late 1990s has gotten a foothold in the United States. At science cafés, adults gather at a restaurant, bar or other nonacademic spot to listen to a presentation on a scientific topic while enjoying their favorite beverage.

The next U.S. census is right around the corner, and as part of a national campaign to encourage participation, the 2010 U.S. Census in Schools, a division of the Census Bureau, has created a K12 educational program called It’s About Us. In May, the department sent an introductory letter to every principal in the country describing the vital importance of census participation and in August sent the same principals census instructional kits containing wall maps and lesson guides for their teachers. Additional teaching materials are available free online.

With an education budget slashed to help close an enormous state deficit, one would expect California to be first in line when Race to the Top applications are available later this year. At $4.35 million, the fund represents the largest pool of discretionary money ever distributed by the Department of Education.

California isn’t the only state concerned about its eligibility for Race to the Top funding. Several states have lifted or even eliminated caps on charter schools after learning that the DOE would look with disfavor on states that had them, and as in California, officials in Wisconsin, New York and Nevada are considering what to do with their own state laws prohibiting the use of test data to evaluate teachers. Arne Duncan has referred to these laws as “a firewall between students and teacher data.”


Nelson Smith, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Picture A behemoth machine in a 6-by-6-foot room at Inver Grove Heights Junior High School in Minnesota with cables on all sides and a paper roll printing data that was input by ninth-graders hopeful that their numbers from a recent experiment would be analyzed better than they’d been able to do so far.

They had no idea that as they watched they were experiencing for the first time what we today take for granted: an early-model computer doing its job.

A chemist at local business Speedball Art Products helps students at Statesville High School with a printmaking process.

It’s getting to be that you need a scorecard to identify district administrators by their titles. To keep up with changing needs, many districts are creating new management positions or adding new responsibilities to old ones and then coming up with titles that sometimes only hint at what they are about.

Salary Survey Chart

In December, President-elect Barack Obama selected Chicago’s Dodge Renaissance Academy, a 400-student pre-K8 school, as the backdrop for choosing Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools’ CEO, as the nation’s new secretary of education. Touted as a “turnaround school,” Dodge represented the idea that if change could come to a high-poverty, failing school with low test scores and most students on free or reduced-price lunches, then there was hope for all schools.

Districts wanting to turn around schools without hiring an outside organization are being drawn to the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which equips principals and other administrators with the skills needed to bring about deep change in low-performing schools and provides them with ongoing support.

Last year, fifth-graders at the Herricks Union Free School District in New Hyde Park, N.Y., studied the U.S. presidential primaries while following elections in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Kenya. At South Brunswick High School in Southport, N.C., history students discuss battles of the Civil War via live teleconferences with counterparts in Denmark. Meanwhile the Mathis (Texas) Independent School District, a rural district of nearly 1,800 students, just hired a Chinese language teacher for the first time.

Jane, a high school principal, decides that it is time to change the daily schedule of classes for the next school year. Her goal is to maximize instructional time. Many staff members like the current schedule. It rewards the most senior teachers with the best sequence of classes. Other teachers are ambivalent, as they have accepted the status quo. In proposing a major change like this, a leader will often face intense opposition from those with the most to lose, while those with the most to gain will sit on the fence.

It’s been a busy time for new education technology, with not only many new releases at two large conferences—InfoComm and NECC, both in June—but also updated or entirely new products announced in anticipation of district purchasing decisions for the new school year. But the past few months have also been unique because of the federal funds available to schools from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Over the past decade, online learning has risen to become one of the fastest growing sectors in education and certainly one of the most intriguing. Today, more and more students at all levels of education—elementary to postsecondary—are opting to take courses online. It is a testament to the effectiveness of this model of education.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Alaska) School District is located just north of Anchorage and covers approximately 25,000 square miles. It includes 43 schools, with close to 16,500 students.

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