Articles from October, 2009

Week in Review

Our editors are hardly a shy bunch, but this week they were especially opinionated. From Associate Editor Joetta Sack’s take on county commissioners, well, taking of a school district’s surpluses to balance the county budget, to Senior Editor Larry Hardy questioning the wisdom of a partnership between the Gates Foundation  and the federal government, to Senior Editor Del Stover’s, admittedly, out-there belief that Hawaii’s recent move to cut three weeks from the school calendar to close a budget gap is really part of an evil plan, there’s no wondering where we stand on the issues. For more sass and sassafras, read these entries and more from this week’s Leading Source.

Naomi Dillon|October 31st, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

Friday Site Visit

Today I visited the Denver School of Science and Technology and in part the visit was due to the kind generosity of the people at Smart Technologies and I want to publicly say thank you.  Large, very large, school districts as those in and around Denver have the capabilities of doing great things and this week I have been privileged to witness two different building sites that are leaders in the world of education.  The one thread I have found in common with the two site visits this year is they both say they are “small schools by design” .  The freedom of choice policy that is in place in the state of Colorado enables these large school districts to create pockets of “small school by design” schools.  The concept is wonderful,but two things I noticed about both districts I visited  is that they limit the number of students they accept to be able to meet their goals.  The rural America that I know is mostly made of small schools, but not by design, but by population.  I wish the parents at these rural schools wanted their children to learn as much as the parents at the Denver School of Science and Technology to be able to hold a student accountable for not doing their homework on the day it was due and not at the end of the term with a report card grade would greatly improve those all important test scores.  The teachers at the Denver School of Science and Technology seem to want to learn new things as much as their students do.  Again, not the norm in public school and something I hope is changing.   I think today’s site visit was a great trip.  The comments I heard on the bus ride home were also favorable with the exception the power point presentation was a little long.  I personally wish I had had some idea as to what their tech center actually was so I could have skipped it and not skipped visiting the Middle School.  Both the high school tour and the middle school tour could have included the tech center.

Mary Carter|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Student Achievement, T+L|

School health and cultural differences: meeting the challenge

As the holidays near, BoardBuzz likes to reflect on the “cornucopia” that is the American student population.  Without a doubt, the cultural diversity of American students is a great asset.  However, effectively accommodating the wide variety of social, religious, and cultural beliefs of students and their families in the school environment is extremely challenging.  This is particularly true for efforts aimed at improving physical activity and nutrition, when cultural beliefs about food, weight, and leisure time may present barriers to effective communication and collaboration with parents, students, and others in the community.

But never fear!  A new field report from Action for Healthy Kids presents several success stories and lessons learned that schools and communities can apply to help bridge the cultural divide.

The report, Lessons for Engaging Diverse Communities to Create Healthy Schools and Kids, showcases successful strategies employed by Action for Healthy Kids state teams in Utah, New York, New Jersey, Idaho, and South Carolina to understand the unique challenges facing diverse schools and communities, communicate in culturally meaningful ways, and use culturally-competent methods to engage parents and other key community stakeholders.   The report also provides lessons learned, tips and techniques for improving the cultural sensitivity and increasing the relevance of childhood obesity and wellness initiatives. 

Cultural competency is important in addressing a wide variety of school health topics, not just obesity.  To learn more about disparities and addressing cultural differences in school health, check out NSBA’s School Health Issues in Communities of Color “101″ packet.

Has your district found a way to bridge the cultural divide, particularly around school health issues?  Let us know about it!

Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Raising an internet-savvy child

October is about to come to a close, and since it is National Cyber Security Awareness Month BoardBuzz thought we’d end the month by mentioning an excellent piece about teaching your child to be internet-savvy from the get-go.

Wired’s Geekdad has recently had a series of guest posts by Adam Rosenberg, New Media Manager, Center for Democracy & Technology, and The First E-Mail Address: Raising an Internet-Savvy Child certainly caught our attention. Here are some key points, but we suggest you check out the full article:

  1. The never talk to strangers rule is still true online.
  2. Treat your e-mail address like any other piece of property.
  3. Read every form you fill out during sign-up, including the privacy policy.
  4. Do not give out personal information without permission.
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your children about their internet usage and whom they talk to.
Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

Differences in state standards

BoardBuzz just checked out this post over at The Edifier about a report that was just released by the Department of Education that compared each state’s standard for proficiency on their state assessments. The report shows that what each state considers proficient varies from state to state. BoardBuzz is certain that some will use this report to argue for national standards, Gadfly I’m looking at you, but Edifier makes a good point. What matters most is if the standards meet the needs of their students and not necessarily if they are the highest. Each state has their own needs and the variation in state standards may just reflect this fact. For example, what students need to know and be able to do in Michigan may be a whole lot different than what students need to know and be able to do in Hawaii.

So before we get too excited over one report and rush into creating national standards, lets take a breath and determine whether each state asks enough of their students so they leave high school prepared for life after high school. If so, we could use our time and energy to actually help schools improve rather than spent arguing over national standards.

To learn more about the national standards debate check out the Center for Public Education’s A new national conversation on national standards? and for more information on NAEP achievement levels check out the Center’s The proficiency debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Jim Hull|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Raising an internet-savvy child

October is about to come to a close, and since it is National Cyber Security Awareness Month I thought I’d mention an excellent piece about teaching your child to be internet-savvy from the get-go.

Wired’s Geekdad has recently had a series of guest posts by Adam Rosenberg, New Media Manager, Center for Democracy & Technology, and The First E-Mail Address: Raising an Internet-Savvy Child certainly caught my attention. Here are some key points, but I suggest you check out the full article:

  1. The never talk to strangers rule is still true online.
  2. Treat your e-mail address like any other piece of property.
  3. Read every form you fill out during sign-up, including the privacy policy.
  4. Do not give out personal information without permission.
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your children about their internet usage and whom they talk to.
Erin Walsh|October 30th, 2009|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Student Achievement, T+L|

The Week in Blogs

This week, just to show how attuned we are to the global marketplace of ideas, we offer “Blogs From Around the World,” or at least “Blogs That Mention Places From Around the World.”

Let’s begin in sunny Casablanca, where The Core Knowledge Blog finds itself ‘Shocked, SHOCKED to find gambling going on here.” Actually, what E.D. Hirsch Jr. and friends are exclaiming about is the less-than-shocking news that some states, facing all kinds of pressures to improve student achievement under No Child Left Behind, are  –brace yourself –lowering student proficiency standards on their tests.

The Quick and the Ed also weighs in on the issue, saying states may talk a big game, but when push comes to shove, when the going gets tough, when [your cliché here] they just aren’t stepping up to the plate.

Meanwhile, the Center for Public Education’s Edifier blog takes a more nuanced view, saying that some states have raised standards but that most important is where the states end up setting the bar in relation to NAEP.

Speaking of tests, Schools Matter blog this weeks excerpts   a comical (and somewhat harrowing) account of what it’s really like to work in the bowels of the standardized testing industry. (Hint: According to author Todd Farley, not too standardized.)

Now let’s resume our global blog-hop with another Schools Matter item from Merry Olde (actually, more like Contentious Olde) England and this headline: “94 Percent of British Teachers Vote to Boycott Testing Next Year.”  (Note: An amazing number, when you think of it  … and just 6 percentage points less than the proportion of American children destined for proficiency in 2014!)

More on numbers from sunny Hawaii, where school officials, facing a massive budget problem, decided to furlough teachers for 17 days instead of instituting layoffs and increasing class size. Bad move, says The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews.

Bad move, really? Or  “shrewd political gamble?” asks our resident conspiracy monger Del Stover (with tongue in cheek).  See Del’s Modest Proposal below – and happy traveling.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Joetta Sack-Min|October 30th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Student Achievement|

Getting ready for Open Source

I tried at this conference to take a wide variety of different workshops and round tables. The open source sessions were top notch and my hats are off to the presenters. They focused on the benefits of open source software, but also was frank about the realities of open source software.

I was extremely excited to see the Linux desktop in use. In the open source lab I spent a good time looking at all of the educational software availablein the Linux KDE environment.

That night I was trying to figure out how I could get those applications on my laptop with out installing Linux. I then came across a great project from kde.org called KDE on Windows. You download a small install program and then finish the install from a mirror in the Internet. I have not dug in to how they accomplish it but I can describe the results. The program created a new program group in my start menu with all of the KDE programs I chose to install. When I click on one of these applications, Windows launches the application like it was a native Windows application. It is an excellent way to look at these programs right away on existing equipment and software.

KDE on Windows can be found here.

William Brackett|October 30th, 2009|Categories: Computer Uses in Education, Educational Technology, Professional Development, T+L|

Not Everything Cost $$

Today my goal was to discover ways to help my district without having to rob the US Mint and I believe I discovered several new ideas.  We often use our HS cafeteria for disrict wide professional development and use a projector for various presentations.  AVRover has a very nice little tool that is extremely portable, less than $1000 and when connected to a projector will may any surface an interactive whiteboard.  Not only is that impressive but the fact that the ONfinity will enlarge the image up to 15 makes it an outstanding value.  All three of our schools would be able to make use of this.  Also there is the RFB&D program that offers downloadable audio resources  and it is offers free home usage for students that qualify.  Two very exciting finds for my district in these times of financial shortages.

Mary Carter|October 29th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, Professional Development, T+L|

How a Virtual Learning Environment Can and Should Help Learners

Jeff Borden gave a great presentation on the rationale of why and how online learning can help students and teachers. His talk was not full of the often empty rhetoric about how “digital learners” are different from the rest of us. I’ve thought and written about this on my blog (MrPahs.com). Jeff said the learners haven’t changed–the way they and we learn has changed. I think the sooner we include everyone in the conversation about learners the better. No one benefits from creating a divide between so-called digital and non-digital learners. Another point that Jeff made was that students like technology because they like variety. We all like variety–young and old. Online learning can help address this deep need inside of all of us.

Another important way Jeff made for the case for online learning is that the technology can meet the many needs that teachers have everyday. As teachers, we want our students to write more, to think more, to create more. Online technology tools can help us achieve these goals. By using some very straight-forward tools effectively, we can get a lot of return for our investment. What really came through in Jeff’s talk was that he wasn’t just a “tech head” going off on the cool new tools. It was very clear that he uses these tools in actual classrooms. It’s great to hear from someone who has “the goods” and can help teach and inspire others.

Lindsey Pahs|October 29th, 2009|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Educational Technology, T+L|Tags: , , , , , , |
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