Articles in the Teachers category

Popup predicament

ABCNEWS.COM reports a troubling story about a substitute teacher who not only lost her job teaching, but was also arrested on 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor when a computer she left unattended began spewing porn site popups.  You know popups—those annoying messages that flash across your screen just because you happened to click on a web site of interest.  BoardBuzz got popped by a few just trying to access the story on ABCNEWS.COM.  See for yourselves.  Those of course, were not of the nature that popped up on the teacher’s computer.  And, it didn’t help that the computer was in a seventh grade classroom where children gathered around the terminal and giggled (as only seventh graders can) at the amazing images promising all kinds of… well, you know. 

You can imagine what happened next.  Even though the teacher’s administrators understood it was mistake and not the fault of the teacher, word got around, tempers flared, ires became aroused … goodness, BoardBuzz better stop. Long story short, the teacher got canned and was eventually arrested.

The teacher swears she didn’t access an adult site and that the popups appeared when she innocently opened an email.  The problem was, she couldn’t shut them off no matter how hard she tried.  Click one and another one pops up.  (BoardBuzz isn’t even going to pun this one). Of course, the teacher missed the computer’s on/off switch claiming she only recently began using the computer herself.  Huh?  And, so the teacher was hauled into court and eventually convicted.

The thing is, when the state’s own forensic experts and computer whizzes examined the computer itself they found “that the true culprit of the pornographic pop-ups was a malicious spyware program.”  In other words the teacher was not guilty of the charges and a judge overturned her conviction “saying the prosecution’s star witness, a computer forensics expert, had given false testimony.” 

The state “dropped the felony charges, but in November 2008″ the teacher pled “guilty to disorderly conduct,” fearing a new trial’s effect on her health. 

All of this leaves BoardBuzz thinking the prosecution may have gone a bit too far, but in terms of the teacher’s future in education, in these times of 21st century learning, if you can’t even figure out how to turn off the computer, perhaps a classroom is not the right place for you.

Christina Gordon|January 27th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Law, Teachers|

On the lookout for a little innovation

If your district is “Changing the Way America and the World Think about Education” we want to hear from you!   It’s not too late!  You can still submit to present at the 2009 T+L Conference in Denver Colorado, October 28 – 30!

T+L Workshop Submissions….Extended until January 20th!

Don’t miss this opportunity to share your innovative approaches with a national audience of school leaders during T+L Conference.  Critical issues like One-to-One Learning; S.T.E.M. and Career Preparation; Mission Critical IT; Professional Development; Tools for Engagement; and Technology and the Law will drive the agenda.  Other program participation opportunities include facilitating a topical roundtable discussion or sharing an initiative approach to instruction at the Education Excellence Fair, which is a two-hour interactive booth format showcased during the Opening Reception. The technology and learning conference welcomes your submissions at

Questions? Contact Colleen O’Brien, Manager, Education Technology Programs at 703-838-6213, or email

Colleen O'Brien|January 14th, 2009|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

Welcome, 2009

As most of us inched back to normalcy this morning, the news cycle also picked up dramatically.  Sure, things happened over our hiatus as we bulked up on fruitcake and New Year cheer, but in the last 24 hours some changes have already welcomed 2009 in with a bang.

The Obamas have made their way to Washington, with Sasha and Malia starting their first day at a new (ahem) private school in Washington.  President Elect Obama landed at Andrews Air Force Base and joined his wife at daughters at the Hay Adams hotel while they wait for the Blair house to open up to them.  Then this morning, Obama made a huge proposal to lawmakers to spark the economy with three million new jobs and $300 billion in tax cuts.  Of course, the money will go largely for domestic programs like infrastructure and green technology, with just minor mentions of education spending.

Also in the education world, the superintendent of Denver‘s schools, Michael Bennett, is up for a Senate seat from Colorado, as the seat opens due to Ken Salazar getting an Obama cabinet position at Secretary of Interior.  As NPR reports, it would be a unique pick, but the superintendent might bring welcome attention to urban education in the Senate.

Finally, USA Today reports that the number of home schooled students in the U.S. hit 1.7 million in 2007.  Before anyone gets too excited that this is a new national trend, that’s only 2.9% nationally, but the top two reasons parents gave for home schooling were “concerns about safety, drugs, and peer pressure” and “desire for religious or moral instruction.”  The numbers might actually be higher because according to the National Home Education Research Institute, “the estimates are low because home-schooling parents ‘are significantly less likely to answer government-sponsored surveys.’”

So there you have it–a quick roundup of education news from BoardBuzz.  2009 is off to a quite an active start!

Kevin Scott|January 5th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Impact of poverty

Many researchers and educators agree that the impacts of poverty on children can be devastating, but a recent report cited in USA Today brings up some alarming new information.  According to the article, the difference between wealthy children and low income children can be compared to the damage a stroke would have on the brain.  The researchers found that there are large differences in brain activity between low-income children and their wealthier peers, which leads to questions regarding  socioeconomic status and performance in academics.  USA Today’s writer, Greg Toppo says;

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows how poverty afflicts children’s brains. Researchers have long pointed to the ravages of malnutrition, stress, illiteracy and toxic environments in low-income children’s lives. Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and “executive function,” or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.

While this news is depressing, at best, there is good news with this report that says with substantial interventions, these definiencies can be reversed.  For those educators out there that work with rural, urban, or even subrurban students that are sticken by poverty, it gives us pause to think that there’s one more hurdle for these students to jump over so they may break the cycle of poverty.

Kevin Scott|December 8th, 2008|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Wellness|

Front of the Class: a teacher’s struggle with Tourette Syndrome

I’m not an avid TV watcher and when I do sit down in front of the tube, it’s rarely for a television movie, let alone a Hallmark Hall of Fame one. Eekk. Those kinds of schmaltzy, sappy, tear-jerker films just aren’t my scene.

Yet last night, I found myself glued (and then increasingly unglued) as I watched Front of the Class, a real life tale of a young teacher with Tourette Syndrome. Despite a rough and misunderstood childhood, where classmates, teachers and even his own father ridiculed and berated him about his neurological disorder, Brad Cohen grows into an optimistic and determined young man, intent on becoming the kind of teacher he never had: kind, supportive, and understanding.

The journey is far from easy. Even though he excelled in college and had the recommendations to boot, Cohen interviewed at 25 different schools in the Atlanta-area, before he was finally offered a job as a second-grade teacher. The scene where Cohen breaks down in his car after a particularly horrible interview is heart-wrenching.

To be honest, there’s a lot of material in the film that will bring on the waterworks. Toward the end of the movie, my eyes were nearly swollen shut (can barely seen the monitor right now) because I’d cried so much and I AM NOT A BIG WUSS; trust me.

Front of the Class is an inspiring film; truly one of the best stories of human triumph that I’ve seen characterized on film in a long, long time. It should be required (I’m not getting paid by the Hallmark people) viewing at all schools, to show teachers and students how to treat people who are different. And to show those who are different that they can succeed in spite, and sometimes because of their differences.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|December 8th, 2008|Categories: American School Board Journal, Diversity, Leadership, Teachers|

She’s back…

Time magazine, which is often considered an archive for American events, has an educational pioneer on the cover this week. While we know that BoardBuzz regulars know Michelle Rhee well, the majority of Americans don’t get to see school superintendents (chancellors) in the mainstream media. With the headline reading, “How to Fix America’s Schools” and Rhee’s photo staring straight ahead, one might assume she’s the cure to America’s urban schools. The article features Rhee with some background information. In case you’re not up on the rise of Michelle Rhee, here’s a summary:

Grew up in Toledo, Ohio
Graduated from Cornell University
Taught in Baltimore City Schools for three years as part of Teach for America
Started an organization for new teachers called New Teacher Project
In June of 2007, she was appointed Chancellor of D.C. Schools

But can she fix D.C.’s schools? She’s definitely taking some new stances in urban education and shaking things up. She’s fired many principals, consolidated central office workers, and had a “take no prisoners” attitude with her work ethic. She’s negotiating with the teacher’s union and has a plan to give incentives to pay teachers over $100,000 a year. Even President Elect Obama shouted her praises in the final debate saying she is a “wonderful new superintendent.”

What caught our attention wasn’t Rhee (we know about her), but the fact that it was the cover of Time. With all of the problems in America and the challenges the new administration faces, we’re surprised that this made the cover. In a way, it’s good to bring this to the attention of those outside the Eduwonk world, isn’t it? Even though we have questions about the methods to the way the D.C. schools is governed, bringing the matter front and center will only help Rhee, D.C. schools, and urban districts around the country focus on the common goal of improving student achievement, graduation rates, and bridging the gap. At least we’re hoping so.

Erin Walsh|December 1st, 2008|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

No Escape

So, are you tired of hearing about the bad financial times we’re currently bogged down in and hearing about on a daily basis? If you’re like BoardBuzz, you wonder if FDR’s first inaugural message of “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” couldn’t ring more true. We won’t bemoan all of the indications that our economy is struggling, so we thought maybe there’s a ray of hope in this story coming out of Newark.

Newark is an urban area that has had its share of troubles over the years. But if you pay attention to some of the political news, you may have heard of a young, talented, and dedicated mayor named Cory A. Booker. He’s hoping to make Newark a great city and turn around years of problems. One way to start is with Newark’s schools. In a new program, students in one high school are becoming part-time bankers. A branch opened in their high school and the students that work as tellers in school also will work in the community at local banks. They get trained as Capital One tellers and even get to stay at a local university as they take college preparation classes for a week. They also learn about financial planning, money management and career readiness skills.

While we spend so much time hearing about the financial woes occurring around the country, it sure is encouraging to hear that the next generation will receive financial planning education to gain an understanding about how money flows locally, and not just toward large corporate bailouts. BoardBuzz loves it when students are taught financial responsibility. Our friends on Wall Street could take a lesson.

Erin Walsh|November 17th, 2008|Categories: Curriculum, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Google maps ancient Rome

BoardBuzz was looking for something fun to blog on this otherwise dreary afternoon, and lo and behold Google provides.

Thanks to Google and the Rome Reborn Project, anyone can explore the city of Rome during the rule of Constantine the Great. That’s right, Google has released an “Ancient Rome 3D” layer for their popular Google Earth geographic browser.

The Rome project consists of more than 6,700 buildings of Ancient Rome fully modeled in 3-D. This is a perfect example of the bringing together of technology and information to disseminate knowledge and culture. Rome is a fascinating city, the Caput Mundi–Latin for “Capital of the World”–during its heyday, and seeing its past resurrected is truly fascinating.

The interesting Google Earth feature was created in conjunction with the Rome Reborn Project at University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Directed by Bernard Frischer, the project was created to depict a moment in time in Ancient Roman history, specifically June 21, 320 A.D.

Google Earth 4.3 (beta) can be downloaded for the PC, Mac or Linux. The Ancient Rome 3D layer is in the Navigating Toolbar under Galleries. For a video demonstration, see the video embedded below, or click here.

But that’s not all. When in Rome…Teach!

Google is providing K-12 educators in the United States with the chance to highlight their creativity and technical know-how by combining this content with classic classroom curricula.

Google is running a contest and is accepting curricula from all grade levels and K-12 subject areas. So whether you teach 5th grade art or high school engineering, there’s glory and a nice prize package waiting for you.

Teachers submitting the top 6 examples alone or in teams will be honored as rockstar Google educators online and will enjoy a prize package including:

  • Apple MacBook laptop
  • Digital classroom projector
  • Digital camera
  • 3D Navigation mouse
  • $500 in gift cards to Target or Office Depot
  • Engraved Google “Top Educator” plaque

Learn more.

Erin Walsh|November 17th, 2008|Categories: Educational Technology, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Teachers|

Better late than never?

While this phrase might sometimes ring true, school officials don’t believe it has any merit in the academic world. BoardBuzz knows how hard it can be to get to school or work in the morning, but after an article in Ohio’s The Plain Dealer, we were once again reminded at just how much tardiness can affect a whole school day.

Teachers and faculty in Cleveland schools are treating tardiness like an epidemic because on some school days the percentage of students who show up late can reach the double-digits! A committee is working to correct the problem, but school board members are getting antsy because detentions and phone calls home to parents are not working to solve the issue.

The article highlights the experience of one school board member and lawyer who volunteers to teach constitutional law to help 10th grade students pass the social studies portion of state achievement tests, saying,

Lawyer and school board member Natalie Peterson said only three of 26 students were on time for a first-period class she worked with last month at John Marshall High School. Students were still drifting in halfway through the 40-minute session.

“It’s very distracting when you’re trying to instruct kids and kids are walking in,” she said.

Why so tardy? Laziness isn’t exactly the answer. Many students are responsible for seeing younger siblings off to school in their single parent households, and others face the problem of limited transportation. Still, school spokesperson John Hairston is looking for solutions that don’t involve bribing students with cash or suspending children who already are missing out on classroom time.

BoardBuzz hopes the Cleveland schools find a workable solution to combat tardiness in their district and is proud that their school board members have become so involved in helping the students and fixing the problem.

Erin Walsh|November 14th, 2008|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The KIPP-ing point

For a decade now, the ed policy world has been wowed by a small but growing network of scrappy charter schools that appear to consistently produce high-achieving students in communities where college-going seems elusive. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) was founded by two young Teach for America veterans who wanted to show that through a combination of high expectations and hard work, they could prepare traditionally underserved students for success.

The vast majority of KIPP students are low-income, African American and/or Latino. There are no admissions criteria for entry to KIPP academies other than a desire to be there. The program itself is characterized by rigorous curriculum and long hours for students and teachers.

According to the their website, “more than 90 percent of KIPP middle school students have gone on to college-preparatory high schools, and more than 80 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.” These dazzling results are what has prompted the attention of many policymakers and journalists. But they have also attracted the skepticism of other educators who wonder if there might be more selectivity going on than meets the eye and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results. Other observers who, like BoardBuzz, are less cynical still wonder if KIPP success can be replicated and brought to scale.

This week The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice released a study by Columbia University researcher Jeffrey Henig that attempts to answer these questions. Henig reviewed seven studies that have examined KIPP school practices and results. Henig finds that KIPP outcomes seem to be genuine, writing “students who enter and stay in KIPP schools tend to perform better than similar students in more traditional public schools.” He found no hard evidence that KIPP admissions policies screened for only the most motivated students, which could overstate their results. Rather, many of the students entered the program with a history of low performance and became high achievers. On the downside, Henig reports that there seem to be high attrition rates among students and teachers both, possibly due to the long hours the program demands.

What can school leaders take away from this? First, they may want to look at the KIPP curriculum to see if their own program measures up. This would be a relatively easy thing to do. Other lessons, like so many other things, come down to time and resources, however. KIPP reinforces the idea students who start from behind may need more instructional time to catch up. How can schools give students the time they need and avoid burning out students and their teachers both? And how can they pay for it?

The Center for Public Education has some helpful information about using school time effectively in addition other resources. It could be a good place to start to look for answers.

Erin Walsh|November 11th, 2008|Categories: Curriculum, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers|
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