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From DA

Students Get to the Heart of the Matter

Hear it in Court

Criticism just keeps coming for No Child Left Behind. The nation's largest professional employee organization, the National Education Association, is joining the malcontents nationwide, including governors, top school leaders and school boards. NEA plans to sue the federal government for allegedly forcing an unfunded mandate down state and local officials' throats, officials say.

Head Start in Question

By one vote, the House passed in July the Head Start reauthorization bill that would reshape the program to be more in line with what the White House wants, and with what many politicians and educators fear.

The issue now goes to the Senate.

Teaching quality is a hot topic these days because research shows that teachers have a greater influence on student academic growth than any other factor, including class size, ethnicity, location or poverty. Several researchers have reached this conclusion, including William Sanders. His value-added assessment studies in Tennessee show that the residual effects of teachers (for better or worse) can be measured at least four years after a student leaves the classroom, regardless of the effectiveness of subsequent teachers.

The recent Supreme Court decision in the American Library Association case challenging the Children's Internet Protection Act has significant implications related to how filtering software is implemented in schools.

You might say that Mike Moses is a leader of Biblical proportions. He runs a really big school district--12th largest in the U.S.--oversees a super-sized $1.2 billion budget and makes $325,000 a year, by many accounts more than any other superintendent.

Located smack-dab between Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving Independent School District has experienced technology acceleration at its finest. Its ambitious technology upgrade plan has put Dell laptops into the hands of every student and sparked renewed interest in learning.

"I see teachers teaching kids, kids teaching other kids, and kids teaching their parents," says Jennifer Anderson, Irving's executive director of technology. "And now I see other school districts coming to Irving to find out how we're doing it."

We all know the first step to overcoming a problem is to admit there is a problem.

Consider school officials, and especially those leading some of the largest urban districts, to be on step one in their fight against dropouts.

A teacher recently forwarded to me a disturbing series of images that supposedly documented the Feb. 1 explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The message stated the pictures were taken by an Israeli satellite, and released by the U.S. Department of Justice to "hopefully give NASA a better idea of what happened." The e-mail was sent to more than 70 colleagues, who in turn likely forwarded it to countless others.

Whether you agree or disagree with the accountability called for in No Child Left Behind, one thing is starting to become clear--the standards and the Title I money attached to meeting those standards may depend a lot more on where you live than on how well you teach your students.

Use it or lose it. It's a cute saying, but it is particularly fitting for the brain-especially in small, developing brains. "During the first three years of life, there's an overabundance of activity in the brain," says Kenneth A. Wesson, education consultant at Neuroscience in San Jose. "If brain cells don't find a job, they will be eliminated. There is no welfare in the brain. These brain cells seek a job to do. They go dormant or are eliminated if kids don't have specific kinds of experiences and nothing to build on."

Seemingly eight or nine nights for the past several weeks my family and I were caught up in the American Idol phenomena. Thirty-eight million Americans joined us in watching the show's finale. I am encouraged that it is still possible to bring generations together around a wholesome event. In addition to being wildly entertaining, American Idol offers many lessons for educators.