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June 2011

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Cover Story

When in 2002 Maine launched its pioneering Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) that equipped every one of the state's 30,000 seventh- and eighth-grade public school students and teachers with their own Apple iBook, all eyes were on the endeavor.


In an effort to help stop bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, school district leaders can look to various organizations for help. And in what is considered landmark legislation, California Senate passed a bill on April 14, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on July 14, that will require public schools to include lessons in part about the historical contributions of gays and lesbians in their curriculum.

Draconian cuts have become the order of business for many school districts since the economic recession hit in 2008. But for the coming school year, "draconian" has taken on an even harsher meaning, as states from California and Texas to Illinois and New York wrestle with deficits in the tens of billions of dollars and make multi-billion-dollar reductions in funding for education.

When in 2002 Maine launched its pioneering Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) that equipped every one of the state's 30,000 seventh- and eighth-grade public school students and teachers with their own Apple iBook, all eyes were on the endeavor.

Q: What is your role as the education strategist at Intel?

Lento: I spend most of my time working with jurisdictions—schools, districts, or counties—using a blueprint approach toward one-to-one computing. We at the Intel Corporation Education Group partner with districts in the change management process. I help groups to think about one-to-one systemically and make sure they maximize its potential. My teams have members with different expertise.

The most high profile one-to-one implementations have come at the state level in Maine, Michigan and Texas, providing valuable examples for administrators to learn from.


An unexpected $50 million state surplus allowed Gov. Angus King to finance the 2002 deployment of Apple iBooks to all of Maine's seventh- and eighth-grade students and teachers under the newly legislated Maine Learning Technology Initiative. The primary goal of MLTI was to transform learning to prepare students for the technology-based workforce and, in turn, help boost the state's economy.

Special education used to be a place—sometimes a separate school, more often a classroom down the hall where students labeled as such disappeared for hours at a time, out of sight and out of mind for the typical classroom teacher. That's still sometimes the case, but increasingly, special education is front and center in the regular education classroom, and the population of students with individualized education plans has shifted away from those considered learning disabled.

As Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information officer in the 36,000-student Forsyth County (Ga.) School District, describes it, the way in which the school system made decisions about technology in years past was inefficient and pretty dysfunctional. "We'd go out and buy something, but if we didn't ask anyone if it was instructionally relevant, it might not be used," he says. "On the other hand, administrators in the academic and accountability departments would make a decision about something that might work for them and then lay it on the technology people to figure it out.

Buzz surrounding the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) program, released late last year, has yet to cease. The report proved that achievement gains of American students were stagnant when compared to students of various foreign countries.


At a recent conference that I attended, I learned quite a bit about the development and implementation of online courses in public schools. However, I left the workshop feeling a bit discouraged, even disgusted. Not with regard to online learning; in fact, I am cautiously optimistic that online coursework will benefit students in many different ways. But the more I heard, the more I felt disillusioned.

Everything was hunky-dory. Baby-boomer-age teachers prepared baby-boomer children to take on baby-boomer- age jobs. But things have changed. In the 1990s, the baby-boomer jobs started drying up, and the baby-boomer kids became the digital generation, playing video games and listening to illicit MP3s. And now? Well, it's not hunky-dory at all. Baby-boomer teachers are preparing the mobile generation.

Among the many challenges facing district leaders, student safety can be particularly difficult as new technologies allow for instant and constant communication. Recent tragic events, most notably the suicide of a Rutgers University student after an intimate sexual encounter was broadcast live via the Internet without his knowledge or permission, have brought increased attention and awareness of the danger of misuse of these technologies. But what can school districts do to protect students and staff without violating their constitutional rights?


El Paso Independent School District (EPISD ) is the tenth-largest district in Texas and one of two in the city of El Paso, along with Ysleta ISD . At the start of the 21st century, the urban district was struggling. Scores on the 2003-2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) were disappointing, with 72 percent of students meeting the state standards for reading, 56 percent for math, and 53 percent for science, while just 50 percent of students passed all TAKS tests, some of the lowest scores of any urban district in the state.

Mark Edwards compares the start of school to Christmas. That's when the superintendent of the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District, north of Charlotte, says the district invites students in grades 4 through 12 to pick up a gift: their own laptop for the academic year.

"It's extremely exciting to see the look on students' faces," Edwards says. "Last year I heard numerous students say—a week before school starts—'I wish school was starting tomorrow.' I thought, 'I've never heard that before.'"


On March 9, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that ended collective bargaining rights for public sector employees and thus reversed an era of organized labor in the state. But it didn't stop there. Other states--Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, to name a few--jumped on the bargaining rights bandwagon proposing and, in many cases, passing similar provisions. It's no wonder, then, why the appointment of Paul Kreutzer, a Wisconsin superintendent who was an outspoken supporter of Gov.


Moving on Up

JoAnn Bartoletti, former principal and currently the executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, will be replacing Gerald Tirozzi this summer as executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

In the 2008-2009 school year, Adams County (Colo.) School District 50, just north of Denver, did something only previously attempted by the small rural Chugach school system in Alaska. The struggling district with roughly 10,000 students abandoned the conventional concept of grade levels and implemented a standards-based system, which only advances students to the next level when they have mastered certain skills. Three years later, student achievement is lower than ever before, and the superintendent that guided the district through this reform is stepping down.

There is a fine line between making student data available to influence data-driven decisions and still respecting student privacy. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative to elevate the importance of safeguarding the collection, use and disclosure of student records. With this new initiative comes a new position, chief privacy officer, and Kathleen Styles is the first.

Arts education is being left out of the national conversation about how to reform schools, according to a report released May 6 by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

The report acknowledges that tight budgets and high-stakes testing has placed arts education on the back burner, but it affirms that there are cost effective models to incorporate the arts across the curriculum that, when done properly, can raise student achievement, attendance rates and behavior.

Failure Is Not an Option is not just the title of a best-selling book; it's a mantra for many high-performing districts. The Mansfield (Texas) Independent School District adopted this motto in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

The district—the second-largest in Texas with over 35,000 students—was far from low-achieving, although it was experiencing rapid change with the addition of over 2,000 students each year. Located outside Dallas, Mansfield has had to add a new school each year for the last 13 years to keep up with enrollment. It currently has 40 schools.

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School opening in the Irving (Texas) Independent School District this August is named after the Texas native and former First Lady, who died in 2007. The 152,000- square-foot school is designed to be a net-zero school, which means it will produce as much energy as it consumes. In fact, it will be the largest net-zero middle school in the nation. Irving ISD is located in a suburb of Dallas and has 34,000 students and 37 educational facilities.

The first crop of Green Ribbon Schools, recognized for energy conservation, creating healthy learning spaces, school grounds, building operations and teaching environmental literacy, will be announced next year by the U.S. Department of Education.


"The first and most important step toward reducing risks is to acknowledge that the potential for an incident exists in any school district in the nation."

Kenneth Trump, "Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning"


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81 percent of administrators said their districts were adequately teaching students about Internet safety, but just 51 percent of teachers said so. SOURCE: National Cyber Security Alliance and Microsoft





I like the name of Maine's 2002 pioneering one-to-one program, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). It has the word "learning" in it, and that's exactly what it takes from many players to implement the approximately 3,000 one-to-one programs across the nation and to make them successful.

ELL Comparisons

Thank you for your ELL story ("Successful Strategies for English Language Learners," February 2011). Our district has a large Spanish-speaking population, and we are always anxious to read about ELL programs to see how our program compares with others and to gain an insight into new approaches and materials. We focus on having every ELL student succeed, graduate and go on to a postsecondary program.