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The Education Innovator #12
Volume IV
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The Education Innovator
 November 17, 2006 • Number 3
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The Innovations in Education Book Series, Charter High Schools, Closing the Achievement Gap
What's New
Innovations in the News

A New Guide Details How Charter High Schools are Closing the Achievement Gap
Albert Einstein once said, "You do not get out of a problem by using the same consciousness that got you into it." This statement is, perhaps, as true for problems of logic and science as it is for problems of education reform. For decades, the United States has grappled with pernicious achievement gaps that separate the academic performance of low-income, special needs, and minority students from their peers. Although progress has been made at the elementary level, there is still work to do to improve the performance of students at the secondary level. To bring promising practices at the secondary level to light, the latest Innovations in Education guide from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement focuses on eight charter high schools. These charter schools are bringing a new consciousness to the problem of raising the achievement of traditionally underserved student populations. The schools use innovative instructional practices, and many have completely re-tooled the traditional academic day and year to demonstrate that all students, regardless of their zip code, learning differences, race, or native language can become learners who are prepared to succeed in school and in life.

Charter schools, in particular, may be well suited to contribute to this cause. Charter schools are public schools, but they operate with more freedom than their traditional public school counterparts. Although levels of charter school autonomy vary from state to state, these schools generally are exempt from many state regulations in exchange for strict accountability for results. For example, charter schools often exercise greater control over their budgets, they may have more input regarding staffing decisions, and they have the ability to initiate cutting-edge programs.

As a result of charter schools' potential to improve the educational establishment as well as the prospects of students who need innovative, effective instructional programs the most, the latest Innovations in Education guide focuses on Charter High Schools Closing the Achievement Gap. The schools included in the guide were chosen in 2005 from over 400 charter high schools that are meeting academic targets under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and are closing achievement gaps by holding students to high academic standards. To be considered, the schools had to have graduated at least one cohort of students and have data to show that, for the most part, students were moving on to postsecondary education or employment. Eight schools were ultimately selected for the guide: Gateway High School (CA), Media and Technology Charter High School (MA), Minnesota New Country School (MN), The Preuss School (CA), The SEED Public Charter School (DC), Toledo School for the Arts (OH), YES College Preparatory School (TX), and North Star Academy Charter School of Newark (NJ). Each of these schools is college preparatory in intent, and each is developing creative solutions to problems faced by high schools across the country.

Profiled Schools Share Similar Elements

Although all the schools are unique, six similar characteristics unite them. Across the board, the schools are mission-driven; focus on college preparation; teach for mastery; provide support; value professional learning; and hold themselves accountable.

The first unifying factor among the schools is that they are mission-driven because they were created in response to what their founders believed was a lack of high-quality secondary school options in their local communities. Because the schools were created with the intent of meeting students' needs as their primary objective, teachers, school leaders, parents, board members, and community partners maintain a laser-like focus on ensuring that their missions ensure students' success. All adults have a clear understanding of and commitment to the mission of their schools, and all decisions from staffing to budget allocations are made based on whether the mission is furthered. Along with a relentless focus on goals, these schools also work to build a positive school culture where students and staff feel valued.

One way of ensuring that students feel valued is to offer them a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum that keeps them engaged and excited about learning. Most of the profiled schools offer Advanced Placement courses along with additional support services. In these schools, there is no such thing as a "college track;" there is only a "success track." In addition to academic rigor, the schools promote internships and enrichment opportunities that allow students to apply the lessons they learn in the classroom to experiences that enhance their understanding of the world that extends beyond their local communities.

To ensure that all their students are prepared for higher education and the "real world," teachers in the profiled schools teach for mastery, expect their students to work hard, and do not accept social promotion. If learning requires more time than a teacher initially anticipated, more time is provided. Lesson plans are flexible, evolving instructional guides — not documents set in the stone of an immovable curricular timeline. All schools have developed longer academic days or years, and some have added summer and weekend sessions.

It is important to note that these schools not only offer students more rigor and more time on task — they also offer more support. This support is exemplified in advisory programs, academic tutoring, mentoring, and college counseling. Each of the schools provides a relatively low student-to-teacher ratio (22:1) and employs part-time specialists, social workers, special education teachers, and parent volunteers who work daily with students. Indeed, parents are considered an invaluable resource at these schools, whether they are serving on the governing boards, fundraising, or participating in parent-teacher conferences.

The idea of support also extends to teachers. A number of the schools have built in regular opportunities either during the academic day or year for teachers to plan, reflect, and collaborate with one another. The principals at these schools value professional learning by working closely with teachers to improve instruction. Principals act as instructional leaders by conducting classroom observations, providing feedback on lesson plans, and collaboratively organizing intervention strategies for struggling students.

The final unifying factor among these schools is that they hold themselves accountable. Strong, active governing boards are at the helm of these schools, generating creative solutions to problems and empowering school leaders to make and implement decisions in a manner that is both expeditious and beneficial to students. The schools are fiscally responsible, and they regularly use student achievement data and information gathered from their constituents to improve their operations.

A Study in Closing Gaps: North Star Academy Charter School of Newark

The high graduation and college-going rates at these profiled schools belie the notion that traditionally underserved students cannot perform to high standards. One of the profiled schools, North Star Academy Charter School of Newark (NJ), named for Fred erick Douglass' abolitionist paper The North Star, promotes higher education as the guiding "north star" of success for its inner city students, the majority of whom are African-American. The story of North Star Academy begins with James Verrilli, a teacher in the Newark public schools, and Norman Atkins, a journalist with a private foundation, both of whom set out to improve the gloomy outlook for students living in the second poorest city in the United States. In 1997, the year that North Star was founded, only 50 percent of freshmen that enrolled in Newark high schools reached their senior year and, of those, only 26 percent planned to attend college, six percent actually enrolled, and only two percent earned degrees. Now in its ninth year of operation, North Star is improving the life chances of Newark students with its 100 percent graduation rate and 95 percent college-going rate for the class of 2005.

No Academic Tracking Leads to a "Success Track" for All

North Star began as a middle school, but was expanded to serve high school students at the request of local parents who wanted better school options for their students after the eighth grade. The school currently serves 384 students in fifth through twelfth grade, with 125 students in the high school section. Ninety-nine percent of the students are African-American or Hispanic. All students who are accepted through the school's lottery system understand that they will be required to work hard throughout North Star's 11-month academic year. To graduate, students must take four years of English, mathematics, science, and history, and three years of foreign language, physical education, and the arts. North Star also encourages its students to enroll in Advanced Placement calculus, U.S. history, U.S. government, and English. None of the classes at North Star are tracked in terms of academic rigor because all classes offer honors-level, college-preparatory work. Additional graduation requirements include passing the New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment, completing a senior thesis and composition, taking the SAT at least twice, engaging in 40 hours of community service, and applying to at least two colleges.

As if North Star students were not busy enough, the school also offers internships and special programs. For example, there is a journalism project in partnership with Princeton University, a Junior Statesman program through Georgetown University , and an FBI Summer Training Institute. Students who keep up their grades may spend a month off campus on work sites or traveling to foreign countries. Through a partnership with AFS Intercultural Programs, Inc., North Star students can spend time in China, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Argentina. A relationship with VISIONS Service Adventures enables students to volunteer in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

Highly Distinctive Features

Two of North Star's most innovative features are its use of data to inform instruction and its commitment to ensuring that all students understand the subject matter they are taught. Every six to eight weeks, teachers administer a set of interim assessments that are aligned with state standards and the school's curriculum. Teachers, department chairs, and the school principal examine the results and determine which students need additional help. Teachers then re-teach key concepts to the whole class or offer tutoring to individual students before, during, or after the school day. North Star also offers a Saturday tutoring session, so that no student slips behind. Another distinctive element at the school is the principal's presence as an instructional leader. Every day, high school principal Julie Jackson and the principal at North Star's sister middle school visit at least 85 percent of classrooms. The principals observe classes, provide informal feedback to teachers, and use data from the interim assessments to draw connections between instruction and student learning.

North Star's Results

The hard work of principals, teachers, and students at North Star Academy Charter School of Newark appears to be paying off with 100 percent of twelfth grade students in the class of 2005 passing the New Jersey High School Statewide Assessment, compared to 85.1 percent of students statewide, 44.2 percent of students in the district, and 19.5 percent of students in neighborhood schools. With the highest rate of four-year college acceptance and attendance of any school in New Jersey, North Star has truly become a guiding light for Newark's most needy students and a model for other schools across the country trying to eliminate the achievement gap.

Resources: Note: Readers should judge for themselves the merits of the practices implemented in the schools profiled in the new Innovations in Education guide. The descriptions of schools and their methodologies do not constitute an endorsement of specific practices or products by the U.S. Department of Education.

Charter High Schools Closing the Achievement Gap will be available through ED Pubs beginning in early December.


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What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the Education Trust's "Dispelling the Myth" Award Ceremony and declared the "greatest myth of all" is that the No Child Left Behind Act's goal of bringing every child to grade level by 2014 is impossible. She noted that the law's goal is a "moral imperative and responsibility" so that America may remain competitive in the 21 st century. (Nov. 6)

Secretary Spellings announced the award of $42 million for 16 grants funded through the new Teacher Incentive Fund. The grants will be used to provide financial incentives to teachers and principals who improve student achievement in high-poverty schools and to recruit effective teachers to those schools, particularly for hard-to-staff subjects such as mathematics and science. The grants are projected to be funded for five years for a total of some $240.6 million. (Nov. 3)

Secretary Spellings released a statement regarding the College Board's annual analysis on the cost of colleges and universities and student financial aid. She noted, "[The report] underscores the need to make colleges and universities more accountable for results and at the same time increase need-based aid." (Oct. 24)

Secretary Spellings announced the release of final Title IX single-sex regulations that give communities added flexibility in offering choices to parents for the education of their children. The regulations give educators more flexibility to offer single-sex classes, extracurricular activities, and schools at the elementary and secondary levels. (Oct. 24)

At the University of New Mexico, Secretary Spellings participated in a roundtable discussion on higher education and global competitiveness. Secretary Spellings discussed the need to prepare American students for a global economy and make colleges and universities more affordable, accessible, and accountable. (Oct. 17)

Secretary Spellings announced the award of $12.9 million in grants to school districts in 22 states to help dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical foreign languages. The grants, part of President Bush's National Security Language Initiative, are intended to support new and expanded programs for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. (Oct. 13)

The second group of No Child Left Behind - Blue Ribbon Schools were hailed by Secretary Spellings. The program annually recognizes schools that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap or whose students achieve at very high levels. Thirty more schools in five states were added to the list of 2006 honorees. (Oct. 12)

To protect students, increase school safety, and raise awareness of effective ways to prevent violence, Secretary Spellings and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hosted a Conference on School Safety at the request of President Bush. During the conference, Secretary Spellings led panels on preventing school violence and helping communities cope with traumatic events. (Oct. 10)

Secretary Spellings announced the award of $11.6 million in grants to help develop highly qualified teachers for students with disabilities, particularly in areas where chronic shortages exist. Funds also will be used to train specialists in early intervention and other aspects of services for students with disabilities. (Oct. 5)

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the U.S. Department of Education have named 65 exemplary elementary and middle school principals from schools across the country and abroad as 2006 National Distinguished Principals. The distinguished principals are annually selected by NAESP state affiliates, including an affiliate in Washington, DC, and by committees representing private and overseas schools. (Oct. 10)

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2003 "U.S. datafile" is now available on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website. The datafile includes variables unique to the U.S. context, such as race and ethnicity, which are not available in the international dataset. As with other NCES datafiles, a user's guide and an electronic codebook are posted on the website. (Oct. 27)

Researchers often need to know which variables are available across several years of datasets. For each of the restricted-use datasets from main and long-term trend National Assessments of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 1990 through 2003, the variables are now available in comprehensive lists so that researchers can easily locate variables of interest. Users of the NAEP Data Explorer also may find these lists useful. To learn more about the lists of restricted-use variables, visit the NCES website. (Oct. 27)

Have you ever wanted to create your own tables that compare states based on their average NAEP scale scores for selected groups of public school students? If so, a new feature on the NCES website may be of interest. Using this feature, you can create tables that compare states and jurisdictions within a single assessment year, or compare the change in students' performance between two assessment years. (Oct. 20)

A recent NCES report uses data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) to compare the economic outcomes of high school completers at three different points in time with the outcomes of non-completers. Differences by sex and the type of credential earned also are examined. (Oct. 12)

The National Indian Education Study, Part II: The Educational Experiences of Fourth- and Eighth-Grade American Indian and Alaska Native Students, presents results from a national survey conducted in 2005 by NCES with support from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education (OIE). (Oct. 10)

An NCES report uses questionnaire and test data collected in 1980, 1992, and 2002 to present time series data on three cohorts of high school sophomores. The report presents information on the changing context of cohort demographics, family characteristics, school characteristics, school experiences, after-school activities, and the cohorts' future plans and expectations. Test results also are presented in mathematics from 1980 to 1990 and 2002, and in reading from 1990 to 2002. (Oct. 3)

Charter Schools

The National Charter School Research Project and the Progressive Policy Institute recently convened a meeting of local, state, and national leaders from both the charter school sector and teachers' unions. The Future of Charter Schools and Teachers Unions: Results of a Symposium download files PDF, (633KB) summarizes the opinions expressed at the meeting and provides recommendations for how both groups might coexist while maintaining their most valued principles. (Oct. 2006)

Leadership

New Leaders for New Schools is seeking over 130 highly motivated individuals nationwide to become New Leaders in Baltimore (MD), the Bay Area (CA), Chicago (IL), Memphis (TN), New York (NY), and Washington, DC. Applicants must have a record of success in leading adults, K-12 teaching experience, a relentless drive to lead an urban school, and an unyielding belief in the potential of all children to achieve at high levels. The final application deadline is March 1, 2007. (Nov. 9)

Education Reform

A new report from the Comprehensive School Reform Quality (CSRQ) Center provides a scientifically based, reader-friendly review of the effectiveness and quality of 18 widely adopted middle and high school comprehensive school reform (CSR) and school-wide improvement models. (Oct. 2006)

Raising Student Achievement

A report download files PDF, (1.22 MB) from the American Youth Policy Forum, The College Ladder: Linking Secondary and Postsecondary Education for Success for All Students, reviews 22 programs that provide opportunities for high school students to earn college-level credit or take college-level courses to determine their impact on a range of student outcomes. (Sept. 2006)

School Facilities

The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA), the planning and coordinating entity guiding redevelopment in South Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has adopted the basis of the American Architectural Foundation's (AAF) Eight Recommendations for School Design Excellence in the 21st Century as a guideline for its school facility construction and rehabilitation projects. These eight principles, download files PDF, (4.39 MB) growing out of AAF's and KnowledgeWorks Foundation's National Summit on School Design, address topics such as the integration of technology into school facilities and the creation of schools that serve as centers of community. (Sept. 27)

Teacher Quality and Development

The 2006 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Expectations and Experiences compares this year's data with results from 22 earlier MetLife polls. Notably, teacher satisfaction is at a 20-year high. Despite the apparent career satisfaction, one-quarter of all teachers polled reported that they were planning to leave the profession by the year 2011. (Oct. 2006)

The Center for American Progress recently conducted an international review download files PDF, (6.16 MB) of teacher and principal compensation. The report addresses six major topics: teacher compensation levels, incentives for teaching in challenging schools or in shortage subject areas, performance-related salary systems, principal compensation systems, the relationship between teacher salary and class size, and the influence of unions on compensation. (Oct. 2006)

Technology

The Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University has launched a website, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, called the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE). The BEE contains brief, readable summaries of research on educational programs using symbols similar to those found in Consumer Reports. Full-text reviews also are available on the website. (Nov. 9)

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest gathering of publishing executives, Google unveiled a new website to help literacy organizations contact each other. The website also provides links to reading resources and features video segments from around the world on successful reading strategies. Google created the website in collaboration with LitCam (Frankfurt Book Fair Literacy Campaign) and UNESCO's (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Oct. 4)

District-level technology leaders can calculate the potential costs and benefits of educational technology purchases in measurable terms through a new Value of Investment tool developed by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). (Oct. 4)

Writing

Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School a report, download files PDF, (367KB) commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York and published by the Alliance for Excellent Education, discusses 11 instructional techniques that research suggests may help improve the writing skills of students in fourth through twelfth grade. (Oct. 2006)

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Innovations in the News

American History
New reports have pointed to a potential "crisis" in civics education due to a lack of knowledge about American history, politics, and economics among college students. One such report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a nonprofit organization in Delaware, found that in a test of 14,000 college students, freshmen and seniors on average answered only half of the 60 multiple choice questions on civics correctly. To ensure that more students have a stronger grasp of American history and civics before they enter college, Philadelphia 's (PA) new Constitution High School was created. The school partners with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York . The Institute provides lesson plans to teachers and brings some of its 60,000 primary documents to classrooms. With 90-minute classes, Principal Thomas Davidson states that there is more time for in-depth instruction and for unique learning opportunities, some of which are provided through the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. [More-The Christian Science Monitor] (Oct. 26)

Carolyn Ferrucci is making 2006 a year for her personal history book. Ms. Ferrucci, an American history teacher who teaches eleventh and twelfth grade students in the Delsea Regional School District (NJ), was recently awarded the 2006 Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction award from the National Society of High School Scholars. The Georgia-based society annually honors teachers who are positive role models and who encourage their students to strive for academic excellence. Angela Deola, the student who nominated Ms. Ferrucci for the award, notes, "[Ms. Ferrucci] is an inspiration to everyone she encounters." The Delsea district is a 2005 recipient of a Teaching American History grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. [More-Courier-Post Online] (Oct.12)

Charter Schools/Magnet Schools
Ohio 's network of publicly funded, privately operated charter schools is constitutional, according to a ruling of the state's Supreme Court. At the heart of the ruling was the majority belief that the legislature can create and fund alternative schools such as charter schools without violating the state's charge to operate a common education system for all children. Currently, 305 charter schools operate in Ohio with 72,000 students in attendance. [More-The Plain Dealer] (Oct. 26)

From the asphalt playground outside of the massive 117-year-old building, it may not be obvious that Drummond Montessori Magnet School in Chicago (IL) is a hub of innovative instruction and rising student achievement. Back in 1995, the school's prosaic outward appearance matched the lackluster environment both inside and outside Drummond's walls. The school was two times above its building capacity, teachers had to share their classrooms and supplies with colleagues, and the neighborhood had a 95 percent poverty level. By 1996, and with a new principal, reading and mathematics test scores increased by 10 percent. Now, with a Montessori curriculum for the school's three, four, and five-year-olds, students are thriving, and teachers are excited about the direction the school is taking. By the year 2010, the entire school will incorporate the Montessori philosophy. Drummond is a beneficiary of a Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. [More-Teaching Pre K-8] (Oct. 2006)

Closing the Achievement Gap
In 2004, teachers at Hollin Meadows Elementary School in Fairfax (VA) were shocked to learn that 60 percent of black students in selected grades did not pass the state reading test and that the school had failed to make academic progress required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Now, efforts begun in the past two years to address the challenge at that school and others in Fairfax are showing results. New state data show that many black students are making significant progress countywide. The percentage of black elementary school students who received the highest rating on the state tests increased this year. Said Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale, "We are looking child by child and, when you do that, you start to see gains. We still have areas to work on. It doesn't happen overnight." [More-The Washington Post] (Oct. 27)

Twelve Mississippi schools received $5,000 each in recognition of the advancements they have made toward closing the achievement gap. The awards recognize districts and schools whose performance on statewide tests reflects the greatest degree of improvement in eliminating the achievement gap. State Superintendent of Education Hank M. Bounds and former Mississippi State Superintendent Henry L. Johnson, who currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, presented the awards. [More-The Clarion-Ledger] (Oct. 26)

In an interview, economist Ronald Ferguson, director and faculty co-chair for Harvard University 's Achievement Gap Initiative, discusses his research into factors affecting both black and white students' academic achievement. Mr. Ferguson's "Teaching the Hard Stuff" protocol trains teachers how to analyze the assignments they give to students in order to determine why some students do not succeed. Mr. Ferguson's protocol also trains teachers to better differentiate instruction. [More-Harvard Education Letter] (Oct./Nov. 2006)

Education Reform/Raising Achievement
How much is a bachelor's degree worth? According to data from the Census Bureau, the degree translates into about $23,000 a year. This amount is the average gap in earnings between adults with bachelor's degrees and adults with high school diplomas. Adults with bachelor's degrees made an average of $51,554, compared with adults with high school diplomas, who made $28,645 in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available. High school dropouts earned an average of $19,169, and those with advanced college degrees earned an average of $78,093. Eighty-five percent of people 25 and older had at least a high school diploma or the equivalent in 2005, according to the Census Bureau's 2005 Current Population Survey. Twenty-eight percent had at least a bachelor's degree. [More-The Boston Globe] (Oct. 26)

Pennsylvania recently developed new standards aimed at better preparing the state's students for postsecondary education and the workforce of the 21 st century. The new Academic Standards for Career Education and Work give students an opportunity to explore their career options as early as the first grade. Students will begin their individualized career plans and portfolios by eighth grade and, by eleventh grade, they will begin analyzing the relationship between career choices and career preparation opportunities, such as postsecondary degrees and industry or military training. [More-Philadelphia Business Journal] (Oct. 25)

With demand for engineers expected to rise in this country over the coming years, Arizona high schools are responding by offering a pre-engineering program to attract young people to the profession. "Project Lead the Way," introduced in 1997 in New York high schools, now has more than 1,600 schools offering its pre-engineering curriculum across the country. There are five classes designed for middle school students and a series of eight classes for high school students. In Arizona, six schools currently are participating. [More-The Arizona Republic] (Oct. 17)

"Learning to Finish," a campaign recently launched by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, seeks to address the problem of high school dropouts in communities ready to meet the challenge as a community-wide concern. The Pew Partnership for Civic Change has also published a dropout discussion guide entitled Learning to Finish: The School Dropout Crisis. The guide contains five elements that may serve as the core of a community-wide dropout prevention effort. [More-What's New at The Pew Partnership for Civic Change] (Oct. 2006)

Technology
Districts are turning at an increasing rate to high-speed wireless networks to make better use of educational software and bandwidth-heavy interactive websites. Students and educators want the "bigger pipes" the newer wireless networks provide, which is one reason why both the K-12 and higher education systems are at the forefront of this technology trend, according to researchers such as Rachna Ahlawat who works with the Gartner Group, a Stamford (CT) firm specializing in information technology research. The percentage of public schools using wireless systems has increased fourfold between 2001 and 2005, based on a report by Market Data Retrieval, a Shelton (CT) education data-research organization. Many states with the highest percentages of wireless-networked schools are heavily rural, such as North Dakota and Kansas , with 63.3 percent and 62.7 percent of districts, respectively, with such technology. [More-Education Week] (paid subscription required) (Oct. 25)

Are you an educator, parent, or student? Do you have opinions about the value of technology in today's classrooms? If so, the annual SpeakUp Day survey, conducted by the California-based nonprofit NetDay, may be the forum to have your voice heard. The survey opens November 1 and runs through November 30, and may be accessed by visiting NetDay's website. The free survey is now in its fourth year and has probed hundreds of thousands of teachers and students across the country about their views on technology in schools. This year's survey also will include a section for parents that asks questions on a variety of topics, from their views about online learning to the types of skills students should hone for success in the 21 st century. [More-eSchool News] (Oct. 19)

A "One-to-One Laptop Pilot Program" will provide new laptop computers at no cost to sixth grade students in three Oregon middle schools. The program aims to improve students' test scores by giving them their own laptops that will be used in the lessons of every sixth grade class. The pilot program is a partnership among Intel Corporation, the state department of education, and the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts (ESDs). Intel is donating $350,000 in Gateway laptops and training, and the state will provide another $100,000 for software, hardware, and teacher training. The ESDs will provide matching funds. [More-Oregonian] (Oct. 17)

The 2007 National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)/MetLife National Principal of the Year, Jill Martin, knows first-hand how technology can help schools improve. Since she became principal of Thomas B. Doherty High School in Colorado Springs (CO) in 1999, the average student attendance rate has increased from 87 percent to 91 percent. Also, the dropout rate has decreased from 3.2 percent in 1999 to less than one percent during the 2004-2005 academic year. But it is Ms. Martin's goal to personalize the learning environment that has made her one of the nation's top secondary school principals. Ms. Martin believes that this personalization can be improved through technology. For example, teachers at Doherty use data about their students' previous and current levels of achievement to tailor current lessons and improve assessment. Teachers also employ creative instructional strategies through the use of PowerPoint, probeware, and other technology. [More-eSchool News] (Oct. 16)

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