Bush selects former FCC staffers, Hill aide for agency posts

President Bush on April 6 announced the nominations of three new commissioners to the agency that will shape how schools and other consumers get new high-speed web connections, wireless technologies, digital television, and other services.

If confirmed by the Senate, the three will give the Federal Communications Commission a Republican majority so that it can push ahead on several important items awaiting action.

Those include a review of rules that limit what broadcast stations can own and how much airwave space a wireless company can have in a particular market. FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said that such restrictions must be justified in today’s competitive markets, suggesting that the rules may be relaxed or eliminated.

Bush’s nominees to fill two GOP slots are Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy, who would serve until 2006 and 2005, respectively. Both are former staffers at the commission. Martin more recently worked on Bush’s campaign as deputy general counsel.

The president said he would nominate Michael Copps to a Democratic seat on the panel. Copps is a former aide to Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. His term would expire in 2004.

If confirmed, the three nominees “will bring important experience and expertise to the Commission and I welcome the opportunity to carry out the responsibilities of the FCC with them,” Powell said.

The Bush administration will likely have one more seat to fill at the FCC. Current Commissioner Gloria Tristani, a Democrat, is expected to leave by year’s end. House Democrats would like to see Andrew Levin, minority counsel to the Commerce Committee, in that spot.

Public interest groups said the GOP nominees are experienced Washington hands.

“What we will want to know is whether they will be willing to enforce the law as written,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the public interest firm Media Access Project. “Many deregulators have been all too willing to bend congressional directives.”

The agency should have five commissioners total, with the majority going to the party of the current White House administration.


“Facing History and Ourselves” invites students to confront prejudice

For almost 25 years, Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit professional development program for teachers and civic education programs, has engaged teachers and students of diverse backgrounds. Through an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism, Facing History “promotes the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.” By studying the Holocaust and other examples of collective violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. The Facing History web site offers teachers and others in the community occasions to study the past, explore new ideas and approaches, and develop practical models for civic engagement that link history to the challenges of an increasingly interconnected world. Facing History helps students find answers to their questions, such as: How can we prevent violence and end racism and anti-Semitism? How do we find the courage to protect human rights so that “never again” truly means that we have learned something by studying the events that led to one of the most violent times in the 20th century? The web site provides information on resource materials, ongoing teacher support, and professional development training through a partnership with VIS Corp., providers of web-based learning.



“Memorial Day” is a memorable tribute to war veterans

This simple and tasteful web site from the U.S Army’s Center of Military History would make a good addition to any Memorial Day discussion about American veterans and United States involvement in all wars since the Civil War. Powerful photographs bring to mind the sacrifices the nation’s servicemen have made in the name of protecting freedom, both in the world theater and at home. A timeline dating from 1866 to the present traces the origins of Memorial Day, a holiday once known as “Decoration Day,” in honor of the tradition of decorating the graves of U.S. soldiers killed in action. The site’s timeline is filled with interesting facts. For instance, in 1866 a group of women in Columbus, Miss., who laid flowers for both Confederate and Union dead at a local cemetery were hailed in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune for their “healing touch for a nation.” And in 1966, Congress recognized the Waterloo, N.Y., celebration on May 5 as the “first observance of Memorial Day as a national holiday to pay tribute to those who gave their lives in all our Nation’s wars.” The site also includes a transcript of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Memorial Day message and information about veterans’ organizations and memorials, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Vietnam Memorial.



Second-story instincts

Technology and the internet are changing what educators have to worry about, and the changes go beyond the obvious.

Time was when the alphabet soup of federal agencies meant next to nothing to the average educator. Except for once a decade or so—when issues such as Sputnik, school desegregation, or federal aid to education would explode into the headlines—it used to seem pretty safe for school folk to ignore what the geniuses and assistant geniuses where up to in Washington, D.C.

Ever since it really got rolling some 50 years ago, federal funding has held a degree of interest for educators. But even federal money has traditionally earned only a 6 or 7 percent rating on the educator-interest meter. Reason: Federal funding did—and still does—amount to only about 6 or 7 percent of the total funding for education.

Far more profound on the school funding front: whether your friends and neighbors will approve that tax levy or budget referendum.

So is 6 or 7 percent all that important? Well, as our Front Page story reports, President Bush just proposed his first federal budget, and you can judge for yourself. The Bush budget would knock out about $55 million in the federal support you’ve been getting for school technology.

Those $55 million would round out a bank account nicely. But in a field that spends $8 or $9 billion on technology every year, a federal cut of that size would hardly be apocalyptic (unless, of course, part of those particular federal millions had a role in funding the technology program in your schools).

Even so, Congress is as certain as sunrise to fiddle with that funding level before the budget actually is enacted sometime next fall or winter. In other words, it’s premature to worry too much right now. That’s why Mr. Bush’s budget is likely to leave the sleep of educators in Bmidji, Minn.; Gnawbone, Ind.; and the community where you live largely undisturbed.

But that doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about from Washington. In fact, the variety of Washington issues to worry about is on the rise these days.

If not money, then meddling is what we need to watch out for.

In just this month’s issue of eSchool News, one story after another cites agencies and offices educators rarely, if ever, had to think about before. When, for instance, was the last time you had to wonder what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was up to?

Well, now you do.

You do, that is, if you care how well web sites for kids are complying with the regulations enforcing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, page 14). And just in case your schools’ web sites attract visitors under thirteen, guess what: You, too, had better be up to speed on the COPPA rules.

And how about that Federal Communications Commission (FCC)? It’s getting so not a month goes by without an FCC development important to education. So how much time did you spend in grad school studying the role of the FCC in education?

Neither did anyone else.

Yet right now, savvy educators from coast to coast are letting out a sigh of relief. The FCC won’t be taking away your instructional television spectrum, after all, to make room for cell phones, pagers, and other wireless devices (page 19). A spectrum change such as the one being contemplated by the FCC could have cost some school systems millions.

But just as one worry fades away another looms, this time in the form of the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The FCC has just issued the rules schools and libraries must follow when it comes to filtering internet content (page 20). If you want your schools to remain eligible for eRate treats, you must perform your CIPA tricks before next Halloween.

No doubt about it. Technology and the internet have opened a window on the world for education, but they’ve also altered who might climb in. Unfortunately, some people in our federal government react to an open window like a second-story man. They’re gripped with an irresistible urge to grab a ladder.

It’s enough to make an educator want to shutter.

Gregg Downey
Editor and Publisher


Take advantage of these new resources from chip maker Intel

Intel Corp. announced in March that it has launched a number of new online resources for teachers who want to teach with technology. New features on Intel’s education web site include a lesson-plan database, called “Units and Lesson Plans,” with topics ranging from history and science, to math, English, and foreign languages. Each lesson plan includes resources and examples of how to conduct lessons, all available for downloading at no charge. Another new feature is “Ask our Teachers,” which enables teachers to consult with expert teachers on using technology to improve instruction. Finally, Intel continues to offer its “Journey Inside” technology literacy course, which uses interactive experiments and multimedia to help middle school teachers and students discover how computers and the internet work. The Journey Inside is divided into two parts. The “Student” section is similar to an online science museum, filled with activities such as a virtual microscope. The “Teacher Guide” includes tools to help teachers customize the activities in the “Student” section to fit the needs of their classes.



“Resource2000.org” is a well-organized education portal

This useful educational resource portal was conceived and designed by a retired Long Island junior high school history teacher of 32 years and is sponsored by BASCOM, a developer of secure school web sites. Resource2000.org contains links to nearly 2,000 sites for students, teachers, and parents, with a special emphasis on practical information. The site recently added 200 new linked resources, with some links offering streaming radio and video. “Learning the Net” and “Microsoft Product Tutorials” are new to the list as well. Other notable features include curriculum-related links for major subject areas, reference links, links related to high school and college, and teacher and parenting links. The site is pretty bare-bones, with no bells or cyber-whistles, but it scores high for ease of use. Addressing a plethora of subjects from current events to the arts, colleges and careers, lesson plans and resources, and virtual field trips, this site is a great way to locate materials to supplement lesson plans.



“NowHiringTeachers.com” could bolster your teacher recruitment efforts

NowHiringTeachers.com, powered by the Center for American Jobs, is a new recruiting solution that integrates the web and the telephone to provide employers with a comprehensive skill assessment of job candidates. The web site is intended to provide a fast, easy, and cost-effective way for employers to find pre-qualified candidates that meet their minimum hiring standards. The heart of NowHiringTeachers.com involves the pre-screening and pre-qualifying of prospective employees, using state-of-the-art Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone technology and the internet. Responding to recruitment advertising, candidates can call 800-NOW-HIRING or go to the web site to answer a series of job-related questions designed to pre-qualify them to the employers’ hiring standards. The site’s proprietary system compares the candidate’s answers to employers’ individual hiring criteria, and, where there is a match, automatically eMails or faxes an enhanced resume to employers. The site also allows candidates to record a special message to prospective employers, allowing them to listen to those messages at any time via the internet or the telephone. Use of the service is fee-based for districts, but free to the job-seeker.



“Project 2061” is a launching pad for successful science curricula

In 1985, the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a long-term effort to reform science, mathematics, and technology education for the 21st century. That same year, Halley’s Comet was approaching the sun, prompting the project’s originators to consider all of the scientific and technological changes that a child entering school in 1985 would witness before the return of the comet in 2061—hence the name, Project 2061. Project 2061 “is dedicated to making science literacy a reality for all students and will continue to develop innovative, yet practical, tools educators can use to put science literacy goals to work at every level of the education system,” according to its web site. Panels of scientists, mathematicians, and technologists have prepared a report, called “Science for All Americans,” outlining what all high-school graduates should be able to do in science, math, and technology and establishing principles for effective learning and teaching. The project’s web site includes links to several publications that encourage science literacy. Its “Benchmarks” section provides sequences of specific learning goals that educators can organize however they choose in designing a core curriculum that meets the goals for science literacy recommended in “Science for All Americans.” The site is a great resource to use when developing science curriculum.



Make “The Technology Source” one of your sources for ed-tech information

The University of North Carolina publishes “The Technology Source,” a bimonthly, peer-reviewed periodical, as a resource for educators working to create useful technology programs and initiatives that address the needs of all stakeholders, from students to teachers to families. According to the site’s authors, the purpose of The Technology Source is “to provide thoughtful, illuminating articles that will assist educators as they face the challenge of integrating information technology tools into teaching and into managing educational organizations.” Articles cover topics in the areas of assessment, virtual universities, case studies, and faculty and staff development. Recent articles covered a range of education topics, including: “Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses,” “Online Communities as a New Learning Paradigm: An Interview with Paul Shrivastava,” “eLobbying: Marketing eLearning to the Legislature,” “Electronic Tuition Rates Overcome Distance Learning Barrier,” “Using Technology to Improve Curriculum Development,” and “The Role of Education Faculty in Choosing Web-based Course Management Systems.”



Mine this online database for nuggets of wisdom on school funding issues

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently launched an online database that will help school administrators and the group’s members track a wide variety of education funding issues. The database can be found on the site under “Policy Issues” and “education.” Although the site is designed for state legislators, most information is open to all visitors who are interested in learning more about how certain state mandates affect schools. NCSL describes the site as an “information clearinghouse” that explains how state education funding formulas work and tracks all education-finance litigation. Among the topics covered are funding for technology infrastructure, construction, special education, and transportation. The site also addresses issues such as school choice, teacher quality, after-school projects, school violence, civic education, school-to-work, and releases from the National Center on Education Finance. As funding for school districts may be transformed by policy changes resulting from the new political climate, this site is a great way to keep up with federal- and state-related funding issues.