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The hardware's faster, the software's better, the Internet's more in tune with education, and there's still nothing better than a good book. Welcome to the best products of the year.
When President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, he committed millions of federal funds to support wise use of technology in our nation's K-12 schools. The money comes with a few strings, of course. But more districts than ever can expect to receive grant funds for technology under the flexibility provided by NCLB.
This is good news because schools continue to buy computers, peripherals and a variety of related hardware at robust rates.
The annual Quality Education Data research report paints a positive picture of the current state of online connectivity in K-12 education: 97 percent of America's public schools and 84 percent of public school classrooms are now connected to the Internet, and 90 percent of teachers use it as a teaching resource. However, the report also notes that the average Internet use by teachers actually dropped in 2001 from 3.5 hours per week in school to 3.2 hours.
First of all, CD-ROMs are so last century, and the World Wide Web is in. Second, a slow economy has left districts frugal or at least bracing for tight software budgets this coming year.
And lastly, big company mergers are making some administrators gnaw their nails, wondering if mergers will mean they'll have to spend more for software.
These are a few trends that school administrators and the Software and Information Industry Association saw this past school year.
Reading instruction and achievement have gotten almost as much attention this year from President Bush as Sept. 11 and the War on Terror. A major part of the new No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a 300 percent increase in federal funding for the Reading First initiative-from $300 million in fiscal year 2001 to $900-plus million in 2002 (and, if the president's budget request is granted, $1 billion in 2003).
I always valued taking part in outdoor education, conservation and camping programs with school groups. But no outdoor experiences compared to those special educational opportunities in summers and school vacations that involved traveling to national parks, including Acadia National Park in Maine, Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and the Sequoia National Forest in California. Each one truly defined grandeur in unique ways, offering unparalleled aesthetic natural environments.
You wouldn't think growing up on a dairy farm is particularly great training for a superintendent. But think about it. You're an advocate/caregiver; the hours are grueling, the demands are 24/7; the bottom line-test scores/milk production-is all that counts to outsiders; and you don't get a lot of thanks because cows can't talk and fourth-graders don't know who you are, let alone what you do.
Hooky players in Kentucky's Walton-Verona Independent School District don't stand a chance. If students log more than two unexcused absences in a row, they're guaranteed a visit from a two-man district team charged with keeping kids in school. Maybe administrator Larry Davis will knock on their door. Or perhaps Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Jan Wuchner will show up, asking for an explanation of why they're missing school.
Habits of Highly Ineffective Educators
Sometimes being reminded of what not to do is an effective way of getting educators on track. Enter Chicago-based Wavelength, which creates theatrical performances, videos and workshops using humor to elucidate issues in public education. After watching the Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Educators presentation, a group from two schools in Newburgh (N.Y.) Enlarged City School District came up with reflective questions for teachers and administrators.
The "People's Education Secretary"
The professional wrestler known as The Rock likes to call himself the "people's champion" because he considers himself to be popular even if he is not currently holding the title. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige could call himself the "people's education secretary" judging by his recent moves.
It's a common question, but a good one. Our administrator profiles usually include the title of the book our featured superintendent is reading. The answer can reveal more about the subject than any quote from a school board chairman.
Facing a cross-country flight the other day, I bought the book,