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The academic lives of college students revolve around computer networks, with nearly every institution offering course descriptions and schedules online, class Web sites, student-teacher chat rooms, work and grades delivered via e-mail and more.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

From Montana to West Virginia, just having enough students is a problem. In New Mexico, low test scores of Native American children are the thorn. And in rural Oklahoma and Pennsylvania schools, the problem can lie in having enough money to hire more teachers and aides, maintain school buildings, and buy updated science textbooks, technology, new buses and even playground equipment.

Everybody's talking about data-getting it, using it, sharing it.

Unearth the realities of data-driven decision-making and how it can be just what your district needs to help at-risk students

Growing up on a farm in Gilman, Wisc., a town with just 400 people, Tim Micke learned that experience is the best teacher.

Take the time he was out in a field and the tractor ran out of gas. As he walked the mile round trip to and from the gas tank, Micke knew he would never start farm work again without checking the gas gauge.

Let's assume you've had the same job for the past 12 years. In that time, you've changed in numerous ways, the typical maturation that follows college, marriage, buying a house and having children.

But today, when you come into work, you realize that the job is still relatively unchanged from when you started and it doesn't use the talents you've developed in the intervening years. Worse yet, you're treated as if you're still 22, with bosses overseeing your every move and telling you what's good for you.