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District Administration, Nov-Dec 2011

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Cover Story

Last July, the Atlanta Public Schools became the poster district for teachers and principals behaving badly. State investigators found that, in 44 schools across the city, 178 teachers and administrators had systematically cheated on the state standardized tests taken by their students in 2009.


Proliferating across the country at what seems lightning speed is a law that grants parents an unprecedented degree of power to intervene in the fate of underperforming schools. First adopted in California in January 2010 and spurred by the Parent Revolution group out of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), what’s become known as the “parent trigger” law says that when a majority of parents with children in schools designated “failing” under No Child Left Behind demand administrators be replaced or that the school reopen as a charter, the district must comply.

Bullying has captured the news headlines and the attention of legislators, educators and special interest advocates over the past three years at a greater rate. High-profile teen suicides have raised questions about the role bullying may have played in student deaths.

States have enacted new anti-bullying laws and parents are turning more often to principals to resolve bullying incidents occurring in school and in cyberspace.

Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.

District CIO

Paul Romero, CIO of Rio Rancho (N.M.) Public School District, underlines the importance of constant communication with his superintendent, IT staff and principals for his district’s success. Romero has been with the district, which is 20 miles north of Albuquerque with 15,000 students across 19 schools, for four years, but he has served in other districts in different capacities, including teaching. Romero believes that his firsthand knowledge of what goes on inside the classroom enables him and his team to tackle any IT problem, large or small.

Videogames, as opposed to cell phones, the Internet, or computers, proved to increase creativity among children, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University.

The transition from middle school to high school can often be daunting; however, students in Memphis City (Tenn.) Schools have found that Gaggle, which provides online learning tools, can help ease this changeover with its social media features.

A three-year program launched this past September by Microsoft will ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive software, hardware and discounted broadband Internet service at home. It’s the “digital inclusion” arm of Shape the Future. Shape the Future makes it possible for anyone to have access to 21st-century tools, regardless of their ability to afford it, according to Dan McFetridge, business development director of the Shape the Future program at Microsoft.

In just four short years, the steering committee of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Special Interest Group for Mobile Learning has expanded from a mere six members to 33, and the group itself now has over 3,000 members, according to Elliot Soloway, chairman of the group and professor at the University of Michigan.

Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Fla., performed a full migration of its data center, complete with new storage solutions, more than three years ago. With a $500,000 budget for the conversion—one-third of what surrounding districts had spent for similar initiatives—Lee County couldn’t afford bells and whistles.


Computing technologies have profoundly transformed just about every major organization and field of human endeavor. To take just two examples, Apple is the largest distributor of music in the world, and manufacturing and surgery are the province of robots, not humans.

But K12 still relies on textbooks and pencil pouches. Why have computing technologies failed to transform K12? Here are our 10 barriers to technology adoption.

For many, an instinctual reflex is to marry the term “college town” with images from the movie Animal House. While stories of youthful exuberance make for interesting water cooler conversation, they serve to conceal real opportunities for public schools to collaborate with postsecondary institutions.



Wapello Community (Iowa) School District (WCSD) serves a rural community in Louisa County about 170 miles southeast of Des Moines. Wapello Jr./Sr. High School was built in 1923, and Wapello Elementary School was constructed in 1956—both in need of repair. With a population of just over 2,000 and no hospital or major retail stores, it would have been all but impossible to renovate the schools without increasing homeowner’s property taxes, which WCSD Business Manager Eric Small felt would have been unfair because funds should come from the entire community.

Making the most out of fewer resources is a mantra recited by nearly every school district these days. So when Vickie Hallock, supervisor of elementary education at the Penn Manor (Pa.) School District, realized there would be a shortage of physical education teachers at the elementary level this school year, she saw it as an opportunity to introduce a new 21st-century skills course.

In the burgeoning suburb of Olathe, Kan.,20 miles south of Kansas City, the state’s second-largest school district is becoming a showcase for career-based, hands-on learning that transcends traditional ideas of career technical education (CTE).


Technology may have, at last, caught up with the intentions of balanced assessments—or at least it has in the Douglas County (Colo.) School District, according to Syna Morgan, the district’s executive director of performance and accountability. Already a high-performing district with 62,000 students across 86 schools, Douglas County wanted to take its assessment data to the next level by making students not only college-bound, but global leaders.

Teachers are more likely to stay in a school run by a principal of the same race as they, according to a new study released by the University of Missouri (UM). The study also reports that when teachers share the same race as their principal, they experience higher job satisfaction in terms of compensation and intangible benefits such as administrative support and encouragement. The study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management in September, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Even before the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ended its 19-month compliance review of potential civil rights violations in the Los Angeles Unified School District, district leaders knew they had to change their program for ELLs and other students.

With the U.S. Department of Education receiving a minimal increase in allotted spending for 2012—$68.43 billion compared to 2011’s $68.35 billion—the House and Senate have begun debates as to how the money will be spent. The democrat-dominated Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill Sep. 21 that would provide stagnant funding for formula-based grants, including Title I, for the upcoming year.inside the law photo

The federal Department of Education has been a source of criticism on the GOP presidential campaign trail. In addition to overall shrinking of federal policies, many Republican candidates have expressed their desire to abolish the federal department and funnel more money—and control—back to the states and local schools. Sen. Michele Bachman, Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all listed the Department of Education as one federal agency they would like to take an ax to.


There has been talk of a backlash with education technology. The New York Times published an article recently implying that technology in the classroom does not work, and then another on how some well-known Silicon Valley gurus prefer having their children learn by performing hands-on tasks rather than using high-tech tools in the classroom.