Unlock the myths behind St. Patrick’s Day with this History Channel resource

Who was St. Patrick? Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland? What Irish national symbol was part of St. Patrick’s Christian teachings? What’s the meaning of “Erin Go Bragh?” What are some fun things to do to celebrate the Irish national holiday? The History Channel’s St. Patrick’s Day web site is an informative look at the March 17 holiday. In keeping with the History Channel’s excellent reputation for compelling, accurate, and informative programming, this web site gives all the fascinating details related to St. Patrick’s Day. Detailed information on Ireland’s conversion from paganism to Christianity and the Anglo-Irish conflict that consumed the Emerald Isle for 800 years is included. Irish scholars can take an online quiz on the history of Ireland, and the “Interactive Ireland” section of the site provides users with a map of the country so they can click on certain areas to get more information about the region’s history, attractions, and culture.
http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/stpatricksday

tags

Explore the earth’s remote regions at this

Through this site from National Geographic, students can learn the latest about the rarest and most endangered species on earth, as well as fragile ecosystems in their own region. “Sights and Sounds” brings students interviews and information about specific regions of the world. At press time, the focus was the Bering Sea. The extraordinarily detailed map allows classes to zoom in and out on certain regions of interest and learn more about the ecosystems in different parts of the world. By defining hundreds of different ecosystems and explaining what differentiates them, the site gives students a real working knowledge of the ecological variation that makes our planet so fascinating. The Wild World maps are designed to help teachers bring into their classrooms the wonders of biodiversity and the urgency of conserving it. The “Educator’s Guide” that accompanies the maps offers lesson plans and activities on subjects like map fundamentals, biodiversity, and ecoregions.
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld

tags

Celebrate Women’s History Month with this award-winning web gem

March is National Women’s History Month, and in keeping with that theme educators should direct their students to the National Women’s History Project web site. Teachers will want to bypass the main page of the site and head right for the educational content, provided in the “Learning Place” portion of the site. The National Women’s History Project Learning Place is designed to provide educators with information and educational materials about multicultural women’s history. Among the resources gathered here are “Performers,” a list of women’s history costumed performers by state. Audiences across the country can learn about historic women through first-person historical portrayal. The performers listed here will travel to your state and either introduce individual American women and men or focus on fictitious characters from specific time periods. The site also includes a list of women’s museums and organizations by state, and a list of women’s history links in categories ranging from aviators to political leaders to sports figures. Kids can even test their knowledge of women’s history online or with a printout version downloaded from the quiz page. The “Teachers Lounge” provides suggestions to help teachers make women’s history more accessible and lists exercises and games to do with students.
http://www.nwhp.org

tags

It’s a safe bet you’ll find this web site a valuable resource

Safeyouth.org, a comprehensive new resource from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC), outlines a variety of topics related to youth violence for both educators and counselors. NYVPRC was established as a source of information on prevention and intervention programs, publications, research, and statistics on violence committed by and against children and teens. Sponsored by the White House Council on Youth Violence, the center is a collaboration between the council, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies. The center’s web site includes links to topics such as youth violence, violence prevention programs, intimate partners and domestic violence abuse, firearms, suicide, and homicide. Users can also access a variety of FAQs and a complete A-Z directory of topics related to youth safety and violence prevention. The NYVPRC web site and call center, at (866) SAFEYOUTH, serve as a user-friendly, single point of access to federal information on youth violence and suicide prevention.
http://www.safeyouth.org

tags

Fingerprint technology speeds school lunch lines

Some Pennsylvania schools are testing a fingerprinting program that lets pupils pay for chicken nuggets, sloppy joes, pizza, and other cafeteria delicacies without ever carrying cash.

If the program proves successful, the little ridges on index fingers eventually could make school lunch money and lunch-line bullies things of the past.

“It’s certainly a lot faster,” said Linda Kelly, cafeteria manager at Welsh Valley Middle School, about 10 miles from Philadelphia.

The program doesn’t use a complete fingerprint; instead, it relies on a computer program to match 27 mapped points on a finger. Even so, the technology remains controversial.

The Penn Cambria School District, about 75 miles east of Pittsburgh, began the program in August 1999 and plans to use it in all five of its schools by next year. To avoid controversy, administrators never used the word “fingerprint.”

“We say ‘finger-image’ or ‘finger-picture,'” said Milton Miller, Penn Cambria’s director of food services.

The program has sped up the high school lunch line, which has been growing with the student population.

The other benefits? “One, no lost [ID] cards; two, no one can access another person’s account with a lost PIN number; three, it’s good for the parents. The money is in the account, and they know that the money is only being spent on school lunches,” Miller said.

Another advantage of the program, which also is used in the Tussey Mountain School District in central Pennsylvania, is that students who receive free and reduced-price lunches aren’t embarrassed by having their names checked off a list or by turning in lunch tickets while their classmates pay cash in cafeteria lines.

“At 16 years old, the last thing you want to be known as is poor,” said Mitch Johnson, president of Food Service Solutions, the Altoona-based firm that installed the program. To the best of his knowledge, he said, the system is unique to Pennsylvania.

Johnson said the program, which will cost between $4,000 and $5,000 per lunch lane, was developed to help schools comply with a federal law that says schools can’t overtly identify those receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

“That’s one of the biggest benefits,” said David Magill, the Lower Merion School District superintendent. “They won’t be stigmatized.”

His growing district just wants to find the most efficient system that will get a couple of hundred children through lunch lines in 40 minutes with time to eat, Magill said.

“What we’re really looking for is the system that works the best,” he said. Because the program is in the testing phase, the district is not paying for it.

Some cafeteria customers still have doubts about whether fingerprinting is the right program.

Ian Murry, 13, bypassed the fingerprint system and went straight for his wallet during lunch at Welsh Valley Middle School. “I don’t like it,” Murry said. “It doesn’t always work. Then the line gets slower.”

Tawanda Worthy, on the other hand, said she approved of the program, new at her school this year. “You don’t have to bring lunch money, so somebody can’t take it,” she said.

So far, a minority of the middle school’s 700 children have declined to be fingerprinted. “They think the FBI’s going to get them or something,” said Kelly, the cafeteria manager.

Magill said he hasn’t heard any negative input from parents regarding the program. He knows fingerprinting children could raise a few eyebrows, however, and he rejects Orwellian theories.

“We’re not using fingerprints for anything other than a quick way of identifying the student in the cafeteria line,” he said.

In Michigan, privacy concerns have made it against the law for schools to use electronic fingerprinting.

Citing a 1985 law called the Child Identification and Protection Act, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm ruled Dec. 12 that school districts in Michigan can’t use electronic fingerprinting technology to identify a child for school-related purposes.

Granholm’s ruling came in response to a query from state Sen. Ken Sikkema, who said a constituent of his was interested in the finger-imaging technology and asked if it were allowed in schools.

Links

Penn Cambria School District
http://www.pcam.org

Food Service Solutions
http://www.foodserve.com

tags

Schools try giving SAT via computer

High school students in Darien, Conn., and 12 other communities are taking part in a potentially groundbreaking pilot program, using computers to take a college admissions test previously administered by old-fashioned pencil-and-paper methods.

Twenty Darien High School juniors took the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) on Jan. 27, but they didn’t have to worry about bringing their sharpened No. 2 pencils to fill in the little ovals on their score sheets.

The pilot program will help the College Board, which administers the SAT, to determine the feasibility of offering a computerized test to all students. The students’ scores on the pilot computer test won’t count on their records.

“Unless there’s some sort of breakthrough in technology, it’s at least five or maybe 10 years before large numbers of students use computers to take the SAT,” said Brian O’Reilly, executive director of the College Board’s SAT program.

Even so, the College Board acknowledges that computer-based administration of the SAT is inevitable some day. The pilot aims to identify what challenges this would create.

“The pilot will try to look at what problems there would be if high schools gave the test on computers,” O’Reilly said. “What is the feasibility? What are the issues?”

The computer-based SAT is all mouse-driven. “There are no keystrokes, and the kids don’t have to know how to word process or anything. They just click on the ellipse that corresponds with the correct answer,” said Jerry Seen, director of guidance for grades six to 12 at Darien Public Schools.

The test administered at Darien also included a tutorial portion showing kids how to use the mouse.

Advantages of computerized SATs

One advantage the computerized SAT has over the pencil-and-paper version is the instant calculation of students’ scores, Seen said.

“The most important advantage to computerized testing is that it keeps students from pacing in front of the mailbox. This way, you know your score before you walk out the door,” he said.

But there are other advantages to computerizing the SAT, Seen said.

“When a student comes in and logs on, [he or she] can begin right away. When breaks come, normally everyone has to sit there and wait for the next section to begin–but this way, if a child is ready to move on, [he or she] can do so,” he said. “Web-based testing means you’re not tied down to the momentum of standardized testing.”

Seen also believes that a computer-administered test may cut down on accidental errors.

“With a computer, you can’t bubble in the wrong section, because you only have one question at a time. And misnumbering can’t happen, either, because only one section is present at a time,” he said.

The computerized test gives students an option to put a check mark next to questions they intend to go back to, and it provides students with an on-screen calculator.

“You can also check the time still available,” Seen said. “There’s a countdown timer in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, but if a student is distracted by that, it can be hidden.”

Less complication may be better for kids’ test-taking morale, school officials believe. “There is less angst and grief, because it is very difficult to mess this up. There’s no paper, so nothing can be lost, and kids can’t walk out with booklets on accident,” said Seen.

Computerized testing could open up a lot of possibilities for adapting tests to kids with learning disabilities and different learning styles, he added.

“Audio learners could take the test with headphones on, and we could use larger-print texts for student with sight problems,” he said. “Also, some kids get additional time on the SAT because of learning disabilities, and with the computerized version [this extra time] can be programmed right in. Right now, the proctor has to keep track of all that.”

Security concerns and other challenges

Though many administrators worry about the increased chance of cheating with computerized tests, Seen believes that computerized testing will not make cheating any easier, assuming the computers in test rooms are placed strategically.

“The way our test room is arranged, you’d have to stand right behind someone to see what they were doing,” he said. “We have a high-tech lab with the computer screens embedded in the desks, so you have to look down through the glass panel to view the monitor.”

According to Seen, there is also little chance of students sneaking back to work on a previous section of the test. Currently, proctors have to walk around and make sure students are working on the section they are supposed to be. With a computerized test, once the computer times out on a section, there’s no going back.

The pilot test at Darien was delivered on a diskette, but O’Reilly said the College Board has not ruled out web-based delivery.

Both educators and test administrators admit the web-based transfer of delicate information raises serious security concerns, however.

“I’m told there are ways to effectively safeguard against hacking; encryption and firewalls, things like that,” said O’Reilly. “Clearly, security is a concern for us. As the administrators of the test, we have an obligation to protect our intellectual capital.”

But, he added, “It is almost a moot point, because if you make the size of the pool of test questions large enough, even if you had access to the pool, you still wouldn’t know which of the thousands of questions would be randomly selected for your test.”

Another key issue is whether high schools have enough computers to administer the test.

Darien High School has only 20 computers in its technology lab, Seen said. “That’s certainly not optimal testing conditions, since a large test may have 300 to 400 students being tested at one time,” he said.

Districts must use relatively high-powered computers to administer the test, but Seen doesn’t think the technology requirements would be prohibitive. “You need a fairly modern computer to do this, but you don’t need a 500- or 600-megahertz computer or anything like that,” he said.

But, Seen acknowledged, there are still problems that must be overcome before the paradigm shift can occur.

“Honestly, I think the new thought might be to abandon the mass-testing approach altogether,” he said. That way, test-takers could sign up for the test and take it when they felt ready. “It could really reduce long lines and nervous kids,” he said.

Despite the possibilities for computerizing the SAT, the College Board believes it will be years before the program becomes completely electronic.

“It’s not the technology end that we are worried about, it’s the practical considerations involved with changing a test taken by 2.5 million students per year,” O’Reilly said.

Feedback from the pilot

Student comments at Darien High School indicated that the pilot was mostly a success.

“Of the students who’ve taken this so far, I think 75 [percent] or 80 percent have said they prefer this to a paper-and-pencil test,” Seen said. “The only complaints we received were about not being able to doodle in the test booklet. With some geometry problems, kids like to draw on the booklets, and with the computerized test they have to reproduce the problem onto scrap paper to do that.”

O’Reilly believes that computer technology could allow test administrators to ask questions that are more open-ended.

“Right now, to score essay questions, you have to fly a group of teachers to a central spot, get them rooms, and have them all sit down to go over the essays,” he said. “Theoretically, if a student composed an essay electronically, it could immediately be sent to the scorer, and that person could very quickly score the essay at a much-reduced cost.”

Seen believes a computerized SAT would be a boon for schools “because we’re talking about a whole generation of kids who’ve grown up in front of a computer screen. They are comfortable there, and there is less regimentation with the computerized test.”

Besides Darien High School, schools in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia have participated or were scheduled to participate in the pilot by March 3.

Links:

The College Board
http://www.collegeboard.com

Darien Public Schools
http://www.darien.k12.ct.us

tags

Free-speech groups sue to block filtering law

School officials worried about compliance with the new internet filtering law may not have to choose between installing filters or relinquishing federal funds–that is, if such groups as the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have anything to say about the issue.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), signed into law Dec. 21 as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, has come under fire from school groups and First Amendment activists who say it is unconstitutional to mandate filtering in schools.

On Jan. 18, the ALA’s executive board voted to file a lawsuit challenging CIPA, which is scheduled to take effect April 20. The decision came after more than a week of intense discussion among the association’s members.

The ALA contends the act is unconstitutional and creates an infringement of First Amendment protections.

The federal filtering mandate, which was spearheaded by Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., would require libraries and schools to install content filters on all computers that offer internet access to minors as a prerequisite to receiving federal technology funds.

According to the McCain camp, “There is ample precedent for conditioning receipt of federal assistance.”

Perhaps, but ALA officials argue that “no filtering software successfully differentiates constitutionally protected speech from illegal speech on the internet.”

An ALA announcement also cited a recent report by the Congressional Web-based Education Commission, a bipartisan commission charged with gathering evidence about online learning. That group found internet filtering to be far from perfect, based on witness testimony.

“Even the federal commission appointed to study child safety on the internet concluded [that] filters are not effective in blocking all content that some may find objectionable, but they do block much useful and constitutionally protected information,” said the ALA.

And the ALA is not the only organization taking legal action against CIPA.

“This is nothing less than Big Brother in the classroom,” said Ann Beeson, ACLU national staff attorney and cyberlaw expert. Her statement came in 1998, when the legislation was first proposed in the Senate. “We believe that educators, not Congress, should be the ones making decisions about what students can learn on the internet,” she said.

At press time, the ACLU was gearing up to challenge the law in federal court, possibly in Philadelphia. However, the group has not yet decided whether its lawsuit would address the school-based filtering requirements.

Why the lawsuits?

Opponents of the law say its intentions may be laudable, but it nevertheless tramples on important constitutional rights.

“The technology just isn’t sufficient,” said Nancy Willard, a research associate at the University of Oregon’s Center for Advanced Technology in Education. Willard said that internet filters inevitably “overblock,” or exclude, sites that are constitutionally protected.

And that’s just one of the reasons the ALA has decided to step into the fracas, according to Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom.

“We are firmly convinced that the types of decisions about protecting young people–and older people, for that matter–should be local decisions and have nothing to do with the federal government,” said Krug.

Krug said she knows of some real “horror stories” from districts that have had problems with filters.

“For instance, I know of one school system that can’t access any American Indian sites because some sites use peyote–a mind-altering drug–in some of their tribal rituals, so this filter blocked all Native American sites,” she said.

“And during the Mars shot–a major scientific event–many schools could not access online resources, because the URL was www.marsexpl.org and the word ‘sex’ was right in the middle of it.”

Besides First Amendment issues, accountability is another sticking point for critics of the law. According to Willard, companies such as Cyberpatrol, Net Nanny, and N2H2 will not reveal the lists of sites they block.

“All of the major filtering companies protect their lists of blocked sites fiercely. They say they can’t reveal them because they are trade secrets, so no one will give accurate information about what is actually being blocked,” she explained. “There has been no effective analysis to determine the effectiveness of their blocking.”

And those worried about the merits of internet filtering see even more insidious repercussions for schools and libraries: namely, a new way to widen the so-called digital divide, the economic and societal gap that separates those who are connected to the internet and those who are not.

“The problem is that there are so many people who don’t have any access to the internet except through schools and libraries, and what we’re doing is giving them an imperfect device,” said Krug.

Chris Hansen, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said the law “may be a violation of the equal protection clause” of the Constitution, because many minorities only have access to the internet through schools and libraries.

Defenders speak out

McCain is confident the law will not be overturned in court.

“When a school or library accepts federal dollars through the universal service fund, [it becomes] a partner with the federal government in pursuing the compelling interest of protecting children,” he said.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that schools have the authority to remove inappropriate books from school libraries. The internet is simply another method for making information available in a school or library.”

Pia Pialorsi, a spokeswoman for the Senate Commerce Committee that McCain chairs, said the senator “has every confidence that the bill will pass constitutional muster, because it does not dictate what technology the library or school has to use, and [it] does not dictate what they have to filter out.”

In 1998, a federal judge ruled that the community of Loudoun County, Virginia, violated free expression rights by screening access to internet sites on all computers in its public libraries. But observers say the current law is different, because it mandates filters only on machines used by minors.

McCain also dismisses the charge that filters are ineffective and unavoidably block useful material.

Quoting the testimony of Peter Nickerson, chief executive officer of Net Nanny Software, to the Senate, McCain said, “A general perception exists that internet filtering is seriously flawed and in many situations unusable. … These notions are naive and based largely on problems associated with earlier versions of client-based software that are admittedly crude and ineffective.”

While some inferior filtering products still exist, McCain said, filtering is now highly effective, well-received by educators, and in high demand. Most problems with filtering software today are the result of users not taking the time to learn how to customize the software to screen only objectionable content, supporters of the law claim.

According to the ALA web site, schools need not rush out and buy filters to comply with CIPA just yet. The organization advises schools to bide their time and await the result of legal action before making any major investments.

“My advice to schools is the same as the ALA’s,” said Willard. “Don’t do anything yet. There are no regulations yet, and there’s at least a year and a half before [the courts will resolve this issue].”

Links:

American Library Association
http://www.ala.org

American Civil Liberties Union
http://www.aclu.org

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
http://www.senate.gov/~mccain

tags

Students add superintendent search to district’s web site

A tiny school district in Washington state is making use of its students’ ingenuity and technological know-how to help find a replacement for its current superintendent, who is scheduled to retire June 30.

In an attempt to broaden its search and attract a variety of qualified candidates for the superintendency, the Nine Mile Falls School District (K-12, enrollment 1,550) near Spokane has empowered a group of tech-savvy teens from local Lakeside High School to begin the development of a web page that district officials hope will draw applications from candidates across the country.

Three students from Lakeside High computer teacher Mark St. Clair’s Multimedia Computers class designed the superintendent search feature on the district’s web site as part of a group project.

The superintendent search page includes background information, a timeline for the selection process, and eMail links to the district.

St. Clair is quick to explain that his students are beginners, and only one of the students responsible for the superintendent search feature had ever studied web design. Other teams from the class were responsible for other aspects of the district’s new web site.

How did these beginning webmasters get the chance to try their hand at a district web page? “Their instructor was silly enough to volunteer them,” joked St. Clair. “All the board members visited each school after the announcement [that our superintendent was retiring], and when they came to the high school, school board President Joe Poss said they’d really like to see the web used in some way,” he explained. Since Nine Mile Falls did not have a proper district web site, only a page linking to the various school web sites, St. Clair was anxious for his students to fill this need and gain some invaluable web-authoring skills at the same time.

“We just thought it was ridiculous not to have a district web page. It’s such a great way to communicate with the local community,” he said.

According to St. Clair, district officials had two primary reasons for wanting to create a superintendent search page on the district’s web site.

First, they wanted a way to advertise the position outside Nine Mile Falls.

“We’re not even a dot on most maps, even though we are only 15 miles from Spokane,” said St. Clair, who said the other reason for the web-based superintendent search was to provide potential candidates with all the information they needed about the district. “We got mission statements and vision statements from the district and posted that information on the site,” he said. “These are the types of things that will be asked of [applicants].”

St. Clair said the entire district web site is being overhauled, but the superintendent search feature was “the catalyst for getting the whole thing done in the first place.” St. Clair’s students are using Macromedia’s DreamWeaver web-authoring software to create the pages on the district’s web site. The package being used by Lakeside computer students includes Macromedia’s Flash animation component; Director, a multimedia component; and Fireworks, Macromedia’s graphics production piece.

“Last year, the class was purely doing HTML [hypertext markup language] programming,” said St. Clair. “While the students need to know HTML, it has been my observation that most professionals are using a web-authoring tool of some sort.”

St. Clair said his students like the Macromedia product, because it allows them to switch back and forth between the set templates and original HTML coding easily.

“The program lets the kids tweak the code very easily,” he explained. “There’s a button that allows you to click over to HTML and then click back to DreamWeaver. Professionals call that clean code.”

St. Clair said his experiences in project-based teaching with the Multimedia Computers class have changed the way he conducts the rest of his classes. The Multimedia Computers class “is very popular and self-motivating. The push in education now is for larger, project-based learning that asks kids to solve problems. This class is all about real-world applications,” he said. “It’s really opened my eyes to how traditional approaches to learning can stifle creativity.”

St. Clair’s students have even designed web sites for local businesses.

“We did one site for a local ski resort,” he said. “They wanted something better than what they had, and they told us to go ahead and design it–and if they liked it, they’d use it.” St. Clair believes his students have found the real-world applications of web design to be very exciting. “There are no textbooks. We work on our projects in design groups. It’s exactly like the business world, because they work in design groups as well,” he explained.

Superintendent candidates who have applied for the position at Nine Mile Falls will be notified by April 18, according to the student-created web page. So far, the response has been enthusiastic.

“We have even gotten some eMails from overseas,” St. Clair said.

tags

LT Voice Server gives a voice to school staff and community

Franklin: It’s a famous name in American history. It’s also the Wisconsin home to the 3,800-student Franklin Public Schools, a suburban district just south of Milwaukee, whose success “can be clearly linked to an active partnership with families and the community,” said Superintendent Gerald Freitag.

“We’re a school-centered district,” said Janay Wittek-Balke, coordinator of communications and public engagement for the district, which has seven schools and a full- and part-time staff of 530. “That means we are constantly listening to students, parents, and staff. It’s all part of our commitment to continuous improvement.”

How does the district stay connected to those it serves? “We hold focus groups. The superintendent conducts listening sessions. We open part of board meetings for public comment. We do some paper and pencil surveys,” Wittek-Balke said. “However, our automated telephone questionnaires are among our most valuable listening tools.”

Franklin schools use a technology called LT Voice Server, from the Everett, Wash.-based Leadership Technology Group (formerly Voice Poll Communications), to tap into stakeholders’ opinions. When respondents dial a special phone number to complete an interactive telephone questionnaire, they are connected with a district server.

“The computer, equipped with special software, does an immediate tabulation and gives us a running total of their responses. We can print that information out at any time and begin our analysis,” Wittek-Balke said.

“Our automated questionnaires have become a part of the culture of our schools,” she added. “Principals are constantly using these high-tech, easy-to-use tools to spot and correct problems, improve student and staff performance, and build even stronger relationships. On a district-wide basis, we’re also getting feedback for teachers in our orchestra program, because they want to constantly improve their instructional strategies, and for our food service program, because they want to offer the best service possible for our students and staff.”

A case in point is Chuck Wedig, principal of the district’s Pleasant View Elementary School. “We make extensive use of the automated questionnaires, which make it possible for those who participate to punch in their responses on their telephone keypad,” he said.

In an interview, Wedig highlighted how he uses the telephone technology:

Students. “We now have telephones in every room of our building. This past year, we asked students in grades three through six to respond to 11 statements using the automated questionnaires.” All 311 students at those grade levels participated in the process, privately entering their responses – yes, no, or not sure–on the phone keypads. The statements included items such as: “I know what is expected of me at school,” “I have everything I need to do my work right,” “My teacher cares if I learn,” and “The principal knows my name.” Overall responses for the school are shared with the principal and community, but specific responses for each classroom are shared privately with the teacher. They are not part of the evaluation process.

Parents. From home or school, parents are asked to respond to statements related to their child’s experience in the classroom and school improvement objectives. Among these statements were: “My child’s teacher has appropriate expectations for student learning,” “My child’s teacher knows and treats students as individuals,” “My child’s teacher cares about my child’s success,” and “Your child participated in a goal-setting process this school year. Do you believe the goal-setting process was effective for your child?”

Parents and staff. Both parents and staff were asked privately to give letter grades ranging from A to F to the school principal, the teaching staff, the overall operation and performance of the school, and the overall operation and performance of the district.

“With these automated questionnaires, we get results immediately. They are instantly tabulated by our computer,” Wedig noted. “The effectiveness of any organization depends on its being measured. Feedback needs to be fed forward so that each of us can respond to it, constantly building a better education for our students.”

Making the general results public has “reinforced our credibility as public servants committed to outstanding education,” Wedig said. “The very process not only helps us build a sense of participation, it also helps us get valuable information at the same time–what some people are calling the ‘partimation effect.'”

The results of this internal and external listening have been a source of positive reinforcement. “We get a lot of positive feedback,” Wedig acknowledged. What’s getting further attention as a result of the process? Quite a number of things. For one, 83 percent of students said, “My teacher cares about me.” “That’s positive, but our teachers are concerned about doing even better in reaching the other 17 percent,” he said.

What about the principal? Wedig volunteered, “Only 73 percent of students said the principal knew their name. We know that can have an impact on student success. I’m working on the other 27 percent.”

tags

Kansas House approves bill linking schools, libraries, hospitals

The Kansas House of Representatives approved an act Jan. 25 creating a technology network linking schools, libraries, colleges, and hospitals.

Known as the KAN-ED Act, the bill would link the state’s institutions with a broadband network that provides high-speed internet access, distance learning, and medical evaluation.

The act was approved 114-8, sending it to the Senate. Funding for the network would be contained in a separate bill.

Schools and libraries would begin connecting to the network by July 1, 2002. Hospitals have until July 1, 2003. A nine-member board would oversee the network, which would be maintained by the private sector.

Rep. Carl Krehbiel, R-Moundridge, said the state stood to get federal funding for the network. Other funds could come from the $68 million in new spending Gov. Bill Graves has recommended for education.

“The state is going to need to put something up,” said Krehbiel, a member of the Utilities Committee, which sponsored the bill. “It will probably have to be a few million dollars to demonstrate the state’s commitment.”

Krehbiel said the bill stood a better chance of passage this session than last.

“The bill failed in the Senate last year primarily because a state agency was going to run [the network] and the telecommunications industry had been left out,” he said.

The KAN-ED act is HB 2035.

tags