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From DA

It’s August—time to regroup before the school year begins. Yet more than other summers there are many changes to adapt to, with more on the horizon. Decreased funds have resulted in the nationwide elimination of essential programs, as well as personnel layoffs, administrative salary freezes, and higher benefit costs. Governors are being reprimanded as they consider using stimulus monies to plug major budget holes, while at the same time they are trying to find ways to participate in the Race to the Top fund’s $4.35 billion money game.


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Crossing the Bay

Anthony Smith has been named the new superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. He already resides in Oakland, having most recently served as deputy superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Is a longer school day and school year a ticket to higher achievement? Recent reports on 26 schools throughout Massachusetts and 39 schools in Miami-Dade (Fla.) County Public Schools provide widely different answers.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford reluctantly applied for $700 million in stimulus funds after the state Supreme Court forced him to do so in June. The court reasoned that since the legislature had appropriated these funds already, and appropriating funds is the legislature’s and not the governor’s responsibility under the state constitution, Sanford was obligated to apply.

Connecticut has become the third state, after New York and Illinois, to require public schools to use green cleaning supplies. In June, Gov. Jodi Rell signed a bill that had received broad support from health professionals, parents, educators, and the environmental community. Cleaning products used in schools will need to carry the Green Seal or Eco Logo certifications after the law takes effect on July 1, 2011, although districts will be allowed to use existing stocks of supplies.

Even though Google Wave will not be released until later this year, it is already making, well, waves. The forthcoming application combines elements such as e-mail, instant messaging, and wikis and allows collaboration around hosted conversations called waves. Although Google Wave is not strictly an educational application, educators are blogging about it enthusiastically—despite the fact that its release date has not even been announced.

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has released the results of its 2009 survey measuring current levels of technology adoption in schools against the organization’s “Vision K20” goals of ideal levels attainable in the next three to five years. The survey found measurable progress in 17 of 20 areas over 2008 but an overall increase of just 1 percent, to 62 percent of the SIIA’s Vision K20 benchmark.

Each year, the Virginia-based Character Education Partnership names about 10 schools and one district as “National Schools of Character.” Of the four districts so honored since 2006, three are from Missouri.

Coincidence? Hardly. Missouri has become a national leader in school-based character education.

The 21st Century Skills Maps for Science and Geography, which were released in late June, reveal how integrating the skills of problem solving, communicating and critical thinking into science and geography classes supports teaching and prepares students to become effective and productive citizens.

Four states—Alaska, Texas, South Carolina and Missouri—have so far declined to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the attempt to develop national standards spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund.” With these words from a conference call to reporters in June, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made explicit just how central charter schools are to the Obama administration’s commitment to educational innovation.

The 100-square-mile rural and suburban DeForest Area School District, located minutes from Madison, Wis., has an unlikely contributor to its work: the DeForest community at large, which through a series of well-planned conventions has been as active as any board member could be in shaping the district’s future goals.

In just four years, Arthur W. Stellar has helped Taunton Public Schools become first in English language arts and second in math among the 22 urban districts in Massachusetts. It is one of only two urban districts to make AYP for three years in a row. The dropout rate has gone from 6.8 percent to 4.2 percent. The fourth grade at one elementary school—with 80 percent low-income students—finished third highest in math among the state’s 1,176 elementary schools. Another elementary school is eligible for state nomination for National Blue Ribbon status.

Mayoral control of public schools is nothing new. Boston pioneered the practice in 1992, replacing elected school committee members with mayoral appointees. Since then, a dozen urban districts—including Cleveland, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.—have undergone a similar change in school governance that has shifted some or most of the power to mayors, with some cities having mayors make appointments to the school board and others having mayors outright manage the district budget and spearhead large-scale initiatives.