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From DA

Mixing career topics into everyday classroom seals the school-to-work connection. And integration is not as tough as you'd think

"Come to Genitti's. It's the best food in Northville. You'll taste the difference.""The Fraser Inn makes you feel as if you are at home."

These simple ad slogans for businesses in the small Michigan city of Northville appeared in a special section of the local newspaper. The advertising agency of choice? Silver Springs Elementary School, Grade 3.

Superintendent needed. Must transform urban school district plagued by bureaucracy, administrative turnover and low-test scores into unified, focused organization. Top-notch reading skills in everything from high school graduation standards to children's classics needed. Arctic explorers encouraged to apply.

Blocked Web sites, IT staff that exist to hinder staff, and restrictive policies make integrating technology too hard to overcome

I recently spent a week teaching in a wonderful school. The school sits on a gorgeous sprawling campus. The principal is well read and charming. The students were delightful and the teachers generous with their hospitality. Every student has his or her own laptop. I was engaging the children in activities I love, and yet I found the overall experience excruciating. Why? Because of an information technology staff run amok.

When a student in New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School created an unofficial school Web site with a message board where the 3,000 students could evaluate teachers anonymously, hundreds of messages were posted daily. While some claimed that individuals assigned too much homework or were overly strict, anonymity also prompted the use of expletives and libelous charges such as "skirt chaser" and "pedophile." The site was shuttered after three teachers threatened legal action.

One of the best things that ever happened to my younger brother is that he decided not to go to college. By the time he was a high school senior, he was sick of school. "Academically tracked," he despised the expectations people put on him, and the relentless exhortations that with his abilities he should be doing better. They told him he had doctor or lawyer potential but had to work harder to make it real. But he found schoolwork boring and decided that when he graduated he'd surprise everyone by just saying no to college.

Houston wins the first urban education prize for having clear goals and demonstrating dramatic student achievement

Houston Independent School District has what it takes to succeed despite large volumes of low-income and at-risk students.

Detroit Public Schools: True role models

A few years ago, a high school student from Michigan was expelled for intentionally downloading viruses from the Internet to a home computer and unleashing them in his school's computer lab. The viruses disrupted computer use throughout the district by preventing infected machines from booting, and the school network had to be shut down to check 800 PCs and clean up 130 contaminated systems. At the time, the school was not running anti-virus software because of budget constraints, and the false savings resulted in estimated damages exceeding $60,000.

When Jesse Gonzales was only 6, his father was fatally shot by his godfather over a poker game. Then his mother was taken to a sanitarium with tuberculosis, and he and his 12 siblings were separated into foster homes.

In his teens, when he and his family were reunited, Gonzales says he wanted to drop out of high school. But the support of one high school teacher in particular nurtured his natural talent for leadership and peacemaking.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in June upholding a school voucher program in Cleveland, pundits across the country said the decision would transform the nature of education in America. They predicted a state-by-state shakeout, with school choice advocates plotting their next offensive, minority parents forming powerful grassroots movements, and Republican legislators slyly soliciting support for voucher amendments.

I am an enthusiastic user and advocate of digital technology. I am not a utopian and I appreciate how colleagues and pundits alike remind us to be aware of the potential negatives associated with technology use. As far as I can tell, the greatest downside of the computing and communications revolution is that every two-bit, weasely politician and mediocre educational bureaucrat in the world has read Peter Drucker.

Ms. Jones has been teaching English for 10 years, and the community loves her. She's creative, energetic and great with kids. However, she frustrates her principal. Last year, he purchased six computers for her classroom and sent her to a week-long workshop on integrating technology. Still, the computers sit idle most of the time. Ms. Jones says she doesn't have time to cover the state-assessed English curriculum and teach technology.

The presidential vote-counting debacle of 2000 was the first in a spate of recent national events that put the spotlight on understanding our democracy, Constitution and lawmaking.

After the election was resolved, President George W. Bush maintained the focus with his call for Americans to be "citizens, not spectators." The terrorist attacks on September 11, the resulting war on terror and its attention to homeland security, and the new likelihood of war with Iraq have kept issues like privacy, war powers and the duties of citizenship in our collective consciousness.

As an educator, Deborah Meier walks the walk. Her learning theories are evident in the successes of the urban schools she's touched, and those theories have generated thinking about alternatives to large, impersonal one-size-fits-all schooling. The schools she has overhauled set the standard for excellence and raise educational expectations without falling into the trap of standardization. Meier's students demonstrate their knowledge to the community through her pioneering work with student exhibitions and the development of habits of mind.

We all sing the praises of parent involvement as an essential ingredient to increased achievement for students; yet in most school districts it's cultivated at only the lowest levels. We want parents to come to the ball games, school concerts, school plays and awards assemblies. But, do we really want them sitting in on classes or debating the merits of the curriculum? It doesn't seem so.

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