Students dial up trouble in new twist to cheating

As if using the internet to plagiarize term papers isn’t enough for today’s teachers to be concerned about, six University of Maryland students have admitted to a new wrinkle in the realm of technology-aided cheating: using their cell phones to access answer keys while taking an exam.

In a case that surprised university officials, a total of 12 students were accused of using the text messaging functions on their cell phones to receive messages from people outside the College Park, Md., campus exam hall during a December accounting exam. Those aiding the students accessed answer keys posted on the internet by a professor once the exam began.

But the students unwittingly fell into a sting set up faculty members, who suspected exam-takers were accessing the answer key. The business school professors posted a fake answer key, then checked the exams to see which matched the bogus answers.

It appears most of the 12 students hatched the plan independently of each other and were not connected, said John Zacker, head of the university’s office of judicial programs. The school has seen a few similar cases before, but Zacker said this is the largest scheme uncovered on campus involving cell phones.

“We’ve had isolated cases in past semesters, but not in these numbers,” he said. The case highlights the ongoing struggle schools face as they try to keep up with technologically savvy students. Some students, for example, troll the internet to find prewritten papers and other material to copy and pass off as their own.

Hitotsubashi University in Japan failed 26 students in December for receiving eMailed exam answers on their cell phones, the Associated Press reported. And in Taiwan, a man was caught Jan. 24 receiving questions from students taking a university admissions exam. The man wanted to use the questions to start a school to train students for the test.

The scope of the University of Maryland case is unprecedented nationally, said Diane Waryold, executive director of Duke University’s Center for Academic Integrity. It’s also a sign that students might have a technological edge on their older instructors.

“It’s a generational issue,” she said. “It’s safe to say our students are far more [technologically] sophisticated.”

The six University of Maryland students who confessed will fail the class and have a mark placed on their transcript that indicates they cheated. Five others either met with school officials or are awaiting trial by the school’s student honor council.

The 12th student died over the winter break. Zacker did not know the circumstances surrounding the death and would not release the student’s name, citing privacy laws. The council is also looking for the people who sent the text messages to exam-takers. Some of those found so far were not university students, Zacker said.

The number of students caught cheating at the university has risen recently, from 97 cases in the fall semester of 2001 to 156 cases in the fall semester of 2002, Zacker said.

But the use of cell phones—many of which allow users to communicate using text messages—is a relatively new twist. Many phones allow the messages to be passed back and forth silently to avoid detection. The accounting exam, for example, was monitored by proctors walking the aisles who failed to notice the cheating.

Howard Frank, dean of the business school, said the fake test was posted after professors suspected students were using similar tactics during exams earlier in the semester.

In response to the cheating, Maryland Provost William Destler sent a letter to faculty over the weekend recommending they not post answer keys while an exam is ongoing. However, the school has no plans to bar students from bringing cell phones to class, Zacker said.

Links:

University of Maryland
http://www.umd.edu

Center for Academic Integrity
http://www.academicintegrity.org

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Schools use technology to recruit teachers from abroad

To combat a growing shortage of certified math and science teachers nationwide, at least one company is using videoconferencing technology to link states and school districts with prospective teachers overseas.

The program provides a quick fix for schools scrambling to fill vacant teaching slots with highly qualified candidates as required under the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act. But the nation’s largest teachers union warns the practice does little to erase the high-risk, low-reward stigma that has driven many home-grown educators to work in the private sector.

“It’s understandable that a lot of states are turning to this type of Band-Aid solution,” said Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the National Education Association (NEA). “But it’s a question of, how are [schools] going to deal with this [problem] in the long term?”

To staunch the bleeding at Calumet High School in Gary, Ind., Principal Leroy Miller turned to an unusual source to find a new science teacher when someone suddenly quit during the first week of school: India.

Miller tried to find a replacement through all the usual sources, but without luck. “It was getting difficult to find someone,” he said.

The break came when Robert Beach, superintendent of the Lake Ridge school district, learned of an organization called USA Employment, which links teachers in India to jobs in American schools.

The Texas-based company invites schools that have been unable to fill teaching vacancies with highly qualified candidates to take advantage of the service, which links school administrators with prescreened educators from India who have expressed an interest in working in the United States.

The administrators conduct interviews with the candidates by phone, web camera, or videoconferencing technologies set up by the company and make their selections based on the results of these “virtual” interviews, said Jay Kumar, the company’s founder. Before embarking on the interview process, clients also might choose to view several video introductions prepared by potential teachers on the company’s web site.

The organization already has placed teachers in 25 schools within 15 different school districts, Kumar said. Other states that reportedly have benefited from the service include Texas and Connecticut.

The service seems to have received a warm reception in Houston. Educators there just tapped the company to help fill 50 teaching vacancies slated to begin at the end of February, Kumar said. In Houston’s case, the company even arranged to fly a representative from the district to India, where the official was allowed to make his selections in person. But that is only the practice in instances where a district is looking to fill 10 or more vacancies.

For smaller requests, the service relies on its technology.

According to Kumar, the service works because technology allows principals—who normally are confined to making site-based hiring decisions—to look beyond a shrinking national talent pool and consider candidates from abroad, many of whom have more experience, more education, and are better qualified to fill the positions.

“Technology is making the world so small,” he said. “It’s a global village now.”

At Calumet, Miller arranged interactive online interviews with five job candidates.

Frances Pathak, a science teacher with more than 24 years of experience in the city of Bhopal, stood out during the interviews, which were conducted through a special hookup at the Northwest Indiana Education Center in Highland, Ind.

“She impressed us the most,” Miller told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville, Ind.

He and Maryanne Nicks, head of the 650-student high school’s science department, conducted the long-distance interview.

Pathak arrived at Calumet in November, about a month after she was hired.

According to Kumar, it takes up to 15 days for the employee to secure an H1B visa, which enables him or her to stay in the United States for three years with the possibility of a three-year extension. The visa and the extension are important, Kumar said, because it can take up to four years before the employee receives his or her green card, which allows the employee to stay in the country indefinitely.

It would be a mistake for stakeholders to use international recruitment as a means of ignoring worsening problems associated with teacher shortages, NEA’s Kaufman warns. Instead, the nation’s education leaders must make a concerted effort to address such widespread issues as low teacher salaries, poor working environments, and weak educator-assistance programs.

“Funding and training really need to be stepped up,” he said. “To really fill these positions, there needs to be a long-term commitment.”

For Pathak, the transition has been challenging. She brought her 15-year-old son, Aviral, but left her husband and daughter behind in Bhopal, where she said her career had reached a glass ceiling.

“She’s learning about American children, but there’s no question about her ability and knowledge of the subject,” Principal Miller said. “And she has a real sincerity about her that the kids respond to.”

Pathak is living in Hobart, Ind., in an apartment owned by a fellow Calumet High teacher who brings her to school every day. Another teacher takes her shopping until she can buy a car.

After she arrived, Calumet teachers and staff members surprised her with a welcome shower. They provided items to stock her new home, such as kitchen appliances and supplies.

“They thought of everything,” Pathak said. “There was even a cake with an American flag.”

USA Employment recruits its teachers mostly from India. But the company also has offices in Mexico, from which it already has placed two bilingual teachers in Houston schools.

“It’s been a very delightful cultural exchange,” Kumar said. “People really have been so supportive. They realize the sacrifice [these educators from abroad] are making for the betterment of children here.”

Links:

USA Employment
http://www.usaemployment.org/schools.htm

National Education Association
http://www.nea.org

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Leaders seek consensus at ICT Literacy Summit

The infusion of technology into an increasingly digital society has created the need for a new form of basic literacy among students, according to leading educators, policy makers, and corporate executives who convened Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the need for 21st-century skills.

Participants agreed integrating technology into school curricula will play a major role in preparing today’s students for success in tomorrow’s workplace, but they cited two significant barriers to moving from policy to practice: first, stakeholders must arrive at a national consensus about how to teach technology literacy in schools, and second, they must secure adequate funding to provide equal access to technology resources for all students.

“Until we can come together as a community and arrive at a definition [of 21st-century literacy], it is going to be hard to pressure stakeholders into action,” said John Bailey, director of technology for the U.S. Department Education. “The purpose of education is to prepare students for their future, not for our past.”

The 2003 Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Literacy Summit, which took place at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, brought stakeholders from across the nation together in an effort to define what skills students will need to be successful in the 21st-century workplace.

“Because technology has become so imbedded in the way the world does business, the difference between a technology company and a non-technology company has virtually disappeared,” said Karen Bruett, summit chair and director of public sector marketing and business development for Dell Computer Corp. “It’s critical to prepare students for this new and rapidly changing economy and for the shift toward a more knowledge-based work force.”

According to a 2002 study called Digital Transformation: A Framework for ICT Literacy, ICT literacy is defined as “using digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge society.”

The report—sponsored by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and conducted by the International ICT Literacy Panel, a group of nine representatives from the business and educational fields—outlined five basic skills necessary to achieve ICT literacy:

  • The ability to access information in the digital era;

  • Knowledge of how to manage information effectively;

  • The ability to interpret and integrate the results of research;

  • The ability to evaluate the quality of these results; and

  • The ability to create new information by adapting, applying, designing, inventing, or authoring information.

During the summit, stakeholders from both the private and public sectors identified three basic necessities for an effective ICT literacy campaign in schools: professional development in IT (information technology) for teachers; equal access to technology resources for students; and strategic relationships between educational institutions and corporate partners.

“We need to devote resources that allow students to understand how to better utilize the technology,” said Kurt Landgraf, chief executive officer of ETS. “It’s one thing if you can turn [a computer] on, but can you use if effectively?”

Throughout the discussion, participants communicated a vision of ICT literacy that calls on students not only to use technology in the classroom, but also to understand how technology can influence the way that they live in society.

“Putting computers in the classroom is not the issue, it’s how we use those computers to utilize the information that is out there,” Landgraf said in a mid-morning panel discussion.

Experts agreed that ICT literacy among students is contingent on stakeholders’ ability to identify and close existing gaps in America’s schools—from disparate levels of technology access, to mastery of core subjects and skills.

They also called on leaders from the private sector to define for educators what skills students will need to make it in the rapidly changing landscape of tomorrow’s technology-driven work force.

Teaching students to be ICT-literate is a challenge for educators, many of whom are less familiar with the latest digital innovations than their students. That’s why schools must invest heavily in IT training initiatives that teach educators how to integrate technology literacy components into existing lessons, experts said.

“The biggest challenge right now is how we teach the curriculum,” said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Educators, he said, must understand that teaching technology literacy is a question of integration and should not be viewed as separate from the existing curricula.

One strategic path some schools are taking to integrate technology literacy into the fabric of everyday learning is the implementation of personal laptop computers in schools.

That approach has worked to great effect for educators in Henrico County, Va. A pioneer of the laptop movement in schools, Henrico over the last two years has supplied wireless laptops to more than 23,000 middle and high school students throughout the district.

According to Superintendent Mark Edwards, it’s an investment that already is paying dividends where ICT literacy is concerned.

Originally, technology education in schools was limited by the amount of class time allotted during a given school day, he said. But thanks to the addition of wireless laptops, students can continue acquainting themselves with the technology from home, a sporting event, or wherever else life after class leads them.

“The students have an affinity to use these tools,” Edwards said. “You learn by being involved.”

The success of Henrico’s laptop initiative to date is representative of a paradigm shift in education, moving from traditional classroom instruction to interactive eLearning activities, panelists said.

But in light of the fact that states nationwide are mired in the worst economic crisis since World War II, some educators argue that it will be a long time before schools nationwide can commit to the same type of high-dollar technology investments at work in Henrico.

Still, summit panelists said there are smaller, more cost-effective steps that schools can take.

Joe Simpson, deputy for leadership services and professional development at the Council of Chief State School Officers, urged educators to partner with government agencies and institutions of higher learning to create interconnected virtual networks where information, training programs, and educational resources can be shared at little cost to schools.

Corporate partners, too, are providing resources to teach technology skills in schools. Initiatives such as Dell’s TechKnow program—which allows students who complete 40 hours of coursework to earn computers for their homes—provide a unique opportunity for students to learn about technology literacy, while doing their part to bridge the technology access gap in schools.

The program, which employs students to build computers from the ground up, teaches kids how to make computer repairs, perform upgrades, and install software—all skills technology employers say are critical for success in tomorrow’s work place.

Other companies, such as Microsoft Corp., also are getting into the act. At a press conference during the summit, the software giant announced it would donate 4,000 Windows XP operating systems to run on computers built by students in Dell’s program.

Also at the summit, ETS and ISTE announced a partnership to jointly develop ICT literacy assessment and professional development programs. The materials will incorporate ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), which currently are used by 44 states as part of their ed-tech plans or standards.

Links:

ICT Literacy Summit
http://www.ictliteracy.info

Dell Computer Corp.
http://www.dell.com

Microsoft Corp.
http://www.microsoft.com

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov

Educational Testing Service
http://www.ets.org

International Society for Technology in Education
http://www.iste.org

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This program addresses critical issues and needs regarding the recruitment, preparation, enhancement, and retention of science, technology, and mathematics (STM) teachers for grades K-12. Its goals are to improve the quality and coherence of the learning experiences that prepare and enhance STM teachers; to develop innovative resources that prepare and support STM teachers and school and district administrators; to research and develop models and systems that support the teacher professional continuum; to research teacher learning and its impact on teaching practice; and to disseminate this research as well as innovative models and resources to a national audience. An estimated $28 million will be available for fiscal year 2004. This program replaces the Teacher Enhancement program component and STEM Teacher Preparation.

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‘SQL Slammer’ hammers home network security challenge

A powerful internet attack—dubbed SQL Slammer—that hit computers worldwide Jan. 25 has security experts worried that too many system managers are only fixing problems as they occur, rather than keeping their defenses up to date. The problem underscores the need for school technology managers to monitor security bulletins carefully and download the latest software patches as soon as they are made available.

The worm—which crippled tens of thousands of computers worldwide, congested the network for countless others, and even disabled Bank of America cash machines—took advantage of a vulnerability in some Microsoft Corp. software that had been discovered in July.

Microsoft had made software updates available to patch the vulnerability in its SQL Server 2000 software—used mostly by businesses, governments, and school systems—but many system administrators had yet to install them when the attack hit Jan. 25.

Some of those administrators were at Microsoft itself, the company acknowledged in a report in the New York Times. Some computers at the software giant were affected because appropriate Microsoft patches had not yet been installed. That irony underscored how hard it can be to ensure that all security measures are in place and up to date. But Microsoft’s internal problems were cold comfort to those affected by SQL Slammer.

“There was a lot that could have been done between July and now,” said Howard A. Schmidt, President Bush’s No. 2 cybersecurity adviser. “We make sure we have air in our tires and brakes get checked. We also need to make sure we keep computers up to date.” Network technicians worked furiously in the wake of the attack to repair damage caused by the fast-spreading worm. The problem was declared largely under control Jan. 26, though some experts were worrying about the possibility of lingering infections appearing for days afterward.

The FBI said Jan. 26 that the attack’s origin was still unknown.

As the worm infected one computer, it was programmed to seek other victims by sending out thousands of probes a second, saturating many internet data pipelines.

Unlike most viruses and worms, it spread directly through network connections and did not need eMail as a carrier. Thus, only network administrators who run the servers, not end users, could do anything to remedy the situation.

According to Keynote Systems Inc., which measures internet reliability and speed, network congestion increased download times at the largest U.S. web sites by an average of 50 percent, and some sites were completely unavailable at times.

Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at Counterpane Internet Security, said the attack proves that relying on patches is flawed “not because it’s not effective, but [because] many [systems administrators] don’t do it.”

Two of the previous major outbreaks, Code Red and Nimda, also exploited known problems for which patches were available.

But with more than 4,000 new vulnerabilities reported last year, according to the government-funded CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University, system administrators can have trouble keeping up.

Patches also take time to install and could disrupt other systems and applications. Schmidt said many network managers delay installing patches to fully test them first.

Russ Cooper, a security analyst at TruSecure Corp., said patches are also complicated, and applying them out of order can undo an earlier fix.

Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller said the company is working with network professionals to develop better tools, including ones that can scan systems automatically for known vulnerabilities.

A larger problem is inadequate information on which patches need to be tested and installed first, said Dan Ingevaldson at the Internet Security Systems’ X-Force research arm.

Preventing the next outbreak, security experts say, will mean rethinking security. Favored approaches range from getting vendors to make better software to paying private companies more money to handle the brunt of the work.

Microsoft, for one, has already pledged to improve its products. Just two days before the attack on its software, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates sent out an eMail outlining such improvements as better support for “smart cards” to replace or augment computer passwords.

Company executives have also said they want to make security updates automatic so users could grant permission once and have multiple patches installed over the internet whenever needed. Network managers, however, worry that such automation could inadvertently introduce problems for other applications.

Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute is among research centers working on improving security before software is shipped, thus lessening the need for patches, said Brian King, internet security analyst at Carnegie’s CERT center.

Security companies that stand to profit are pushing for more financial commitment.

“It is cost-effective to be proactive,” said David Perry of antivirus vendor Trend Micro.

Being proactive might have helped save computers at the Governor Mifflin School District in Shillington, Pa. “We did not have any damage, as we applied patches earlier,” said Sandra Becker, the district’s director of technology.

Becker said Governor Mifflin learned its lesson the hard way. After feeling the effects of the Code Red worm in 2001, which infected more than 250,000 systems worldwide in just nine hours, the district’s technology team made a conscientious effort to ratchet up its defenses.

Since that time, schools there have prevented similar invasions by investing in software that alerts technology staffers when patches need updating; subscribing to security notices posted by Microsoft and other software providers; using back-up servers and actively saving files offline; implementing eMail security software that prohibits the distribution of harmful executables; and integrating high-quality virus protection software that works across all servers, desktops, and laptops throughout the district, Becker said.

Links:

Microsoft SQL Server 2000 patch
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/virus/alerts/slammer.asp

CERT Coordination Center
http://www.cert.org

TruSecure Corp.
http://www.trusecure.com

Trend Micro
http://www.trendmicro.com/en/home/global/enterprise.htm

Governor Mifflin School District
http://www.gmsd.k12.pa.us

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Schools offered wireless networking certification program

A company that trains and certifies information technology (IT) professionals in wireless networking is giving its curriculum and courseware to U.S. high schools free of charge, although schools will have to pay some of the cost of equipment and training. The program complements the hard-wired networking programs already offered in schools by the likes of Microsoft and Cisco Systems, its creator says.

Through the Wi-School program, schools can begin training students in wireless networking with the same materials used by IT professionals. So far, about 50 schools in 40 states have signed up to teach the course.

Participating schools receive a free license to the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) curriculum, which is a vendor-neutral program created by Planet3 Wireless Inc. of Denver.

The professional course, which is taught in five 8-hour days, normally costs $2,500 per person. Because of this special offer, however, K-12 students can take the course for free.

The CWNP curriculum is ideal for schools that already offer the Microsoft or Cisco introductory and advanced computer networking classes, Planet3 says, because students should have a strong background in networking before taking the CWNP course.

“The Cisco and Microsoft courses don’t teach wireless, and wireless is the hottest thing on the market today,” said Kevin Sandlin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Planet3 and the CWNP program.

The equipment and materials needed to teach the Wi-School curriculum cost about $500. The equipment includes Wi-Fi compatible access points, wireless PC cards, a wireless USB client, and a wireless Ethernet converter.

“The minimum necessary equipment costs about $500. [Schools] can spend more if they want, but it’s not required,” Sandlin said.

Training for one instructor is offered at half price, for $1,250. Students also get a 40-percent discount on the certification exam. The exam normally costs $175, but through the Wi-School program, students pay $100.

“The most compelling thing for high school students to do after they take the class is to take the certification exam. The exam is our main product,” Sandlin said.

In total, each participating Wi-School gets the CWNA Study Guide portable document file (PDF), which includes eight lab exercises; the CWNA Course Guide PDF; a PowerPoint presentation for instructors; discounted CWNA Certification Exam Vouchers; and discounted training in wireless local area network (LAN) administration.

Educators contacted by eSchool News said they signed up to receive the free curriculum because wireless is the next big thing in technology.

“Wireless is what’s coming to the front in technology, and if [our students] want to have a job [in an IT field], they’ll have to have the basics in wireless,” said Jeff McCormack, network administrator at Medford High School in Medford, Mass.

“New technology is coming out all the time. Wireless is going to fill a huge void for people who don’t have [high-speed] access [because] DSL doesn’t run in their area, cable doesn’t run in their area,” said Darrell Radford, lead instructor for the Cisco Networking Academy at Mainland High School in Daytona, Fla.

Radford plans to begin teaching the CWNA curriculum at the end of March. “Cisco is going to come out with a wireless curriculum, but I wanted to get a head start,” he said.

The curriculum met the teachers’ approval, though it might be a little advanced for some students.

“I thought it was a little difficult for high school, so I’ll have to distill it,” McCormack said. But “it’s a good course, and there’s not much curriculum around that addresses wireless.”

“The [vendor-] neutral approach is great,” Radford added.

Links:

Wi-School program
http://www.cwne.com/wi-school/index.html

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Maintain a healthy school environment with help from this resource

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using the internet to help educators and other stakeholders address health issues in schools. EPA’s “Healthy School Environments” web site provides online resources for school board members, administrators, parents, architects, designers, nurses, facility managers, teachers, janitors, and other staff members to consult when considering how best to improve the quality of the environment both inside and around a school building. Whether you have concerns about waste removal, water purification, outdoor air pollution, or indoor air quality, this site contains articles and links to information for all of your environmental questions. Another feature, the site’s Environmental Education section, provides resources for teachers to help educate students about the importance of maintaining a clean, healthy living environment. The site’s resources have been identified and developed by EPA, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations. Visitors can browse these resources by topic, geographic area, or a specific keyword search.

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NASA launches educator-astronaut program to inspire kids in science and math

NASA is putting out a vast help-wanted ad for teachers in space. The program—which is designed to pique students’ interest in science and math—will use satellite video feeds and the internet to connect students on earth with teachers in space to explain the intricacies of space exploration.

The space agency launched the program Jan. 21, via television and the internet, to recruit more teachers as astronauts. The widows of three of the Challenger astronauts took part in the announcement, and the family of Christa McAuliffe offered its support.

“One of the things I’m going to say when I’m in space is what I’m going to say right now to all of you students and teachers,” said educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan, who was McAuliffe’s backup on that frigid, fateful morning of Jan. 28, 1986. “I’m going to say, ‘Come on up. We want you to follow us.'”

Morgan, 51, will fly to the international space station in November aboard Columbia, the shuttle now circling Earth on a 16-day research mission. She quit her Idaho teaching job in 1998 to move to Houston and join NASA’s astronaut corps.

NASA plans to choose three to six teachers for its next astronaut class, the Class of 2004, and launch at least one of them a year beginning in late 2005 or early 2006. The educator-astronauts will be eligible for multiple space shuttle flights, and even long stays aboard the international space station, performing the same experiments and operations as other astronauts.

Educators bring a unique set of skills that will enable them to communicate to students the challenging concepts associated with the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in space, NASA officials explained.

The widows of Challenger’s commander, Dick Scobee, and astronauts Ronald McNair and Gregory Jarvis were in the audience at Hardy Middle School in Washington, D.C., as NASA put out the call for more educator-astronauts.

Adena Loston, NASA’s education chief, said McAuliffe’s husband, Steven, a federal judge, wanted desperately to attend the ceremony but had four cases pending. McAuliffe’s mother, Grace Corrigan, flew to Washington but arrived too late for the event.

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe said the space agency wants to recruit more teachers like Morgan, who has a biology degree from Stanford University and taught second and third grade.

NASA will accept applications until April 30 from teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade who have bachelor’s degrees in education, math, science, or a science-related discipline, and who have taught for at least three of the past four years. Candidates must be U.S. citizens and must be able to pass NASA medical exams.

The pay is sure to attract the attention of teachers: The starting salary for educator-astronauts is between $51,000 and $95,000 a year.

Neither Morgan nor McAuliffe was a full-fledged astronaut, and they had undergone only minimal training, when Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. McAuliffe, a New Hampshire schoolteacher, was killed along with the six others on board.

O’Keefe said the new educator-astronaut program is a natural extension of NASA’s commitment to education. Besides encouraging students to nominate their favorite teachers as astronauts—and teachers to nominate other teachers and themselves—the space agency is developing classroom materials to be published on the agency’s web site.

To convey the experiences of the educator-astronauts to students and other teachers, NASA will employ a technology known as telepresence, or live, interactive video communication across extremely long distances (such as between students on earth and a teacher in space), as well as online postings through webcasts and chats, live video feeds, and other multimedia tools, the agency said.

“If nothing else, your math and science classes are going to get a lot more fun,” O’Keefe said. He added: “What better way to convey the excitement of space exploration than to entrust the mission to teachers?”

Links:

NASA’s Educator Astronaut program
http://edspace.nasa.gov

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Bush budget would triple loan forgiveness for math, science teachers

A proposal that President Bush plans to include in his forthcoming budget for fiscal year 2004 might give school leaders an extra tool in their effort to compete with the high-tech sector to recruit and retain highly qualified math and science instructors.

Bush wants to more than triple the aid offered to college graduates who agree to teach math, science, and special education classes in poor schools, enough for many to wipe out their federal student loans.

The president’s proposal would forgive up to $17,500 in debt for teachers who enter fields known for chronic teacher shortages and fast turnover. Prospective teachers in those areas often look for work outside public schools because of many school systems’ relatively low pay.

“Frankly, it’s Economics 101,” Deputy Education Secretary William Hansen said Jan. 21. “The private sector will search out folks with math and science degrees in a very aggressive way, and that is the biggest challenge we have.”

A math teacher’s salary, for example, falls more than $15,000 below that of a statistician or an engineer, according to department figures. Intense workplace pressures make special education courses particularly hard to fill as specialists opt for general education or other careers.

Current law allows teachers in poor areas to have $5,000 in loans erased if they work for five consecutive years.

The Bush proposal maintains the five-year work requirement but limits the increased benefits to those in math, science, and special education. The administration settled on the $17,500 figure because that’s the average amount of federal debt owed by today’s graduates, Hansen said.

The proposal applies only to federal loans.

Schools across America face fundamental problems of quantity and quality in teaching. Teacher retirements and student enrollments combined will produce an estimated shortfall of 2 million educators over 10 years, and the Bush education program requires high-quality teachers of core subjects by 2005-06.

The department estimates the existing loan program will help 38,000 students who will begin their college education next year. Of those, 7,000 are expected to become math, science, or special education teachers and could be eligible for the expanded aid.

Bush’s loan-forgiveness plan resurrects an idea that he and lawmakers have championed before. The House approved a broader version last fall, proposed by former Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., but it died in the Senate.

Graham, now in the Senate, said he expects Bush and Congress to embrace a more expansive offer. Graham’s version would extend the increased loan forgiveness to teachers of any subject in traditionally poor schools and to special education teachers in any school.

Teachers would have to maintain their certification to remain eligible.

“What the taxpayers need to understand is you’re not giving people money,” Graham said. “People are having their loans forgiven by having to work five years.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Senate’s education committee, said: “The good news is President Bush recognizes that there is a national crisis when it comes to our teacher shortage, especially in the most challenged schools. … However, as we saw with similar Republican proposals last year, if there is no real money behind the increase in teacher loan forgiveness, it’s just another empty promise to the nation’s schools, teachers, and students.”

Expanding loan help for teachers, particularly those serving poor areas, would be a welcome recruitment tool, said Kim Anderson, a lobbyist for the National Education Association. A comprehensive package, including bigger tax deductions for teachers and more aid for professional development, is what the union wants from federal leaders.

Under the Bush plan, current teachers, not just new ones, would be eligible provided that they meet the criteria, Education Department spokeswoman Jane Glickman said. To be eligible, teachers must have taken out at least some of their loans after Oct. 1, 1998.

The program is expected to cost $70 million a year.

Links:

White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov

National Education Association
http://www.nea.org

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Schools try web-based drug treatment program

Providers of a web-based adult drug and alcohol treatment program have created a version for teenagers that can be accessed on school computers, helping to reduce barriers that prevent teens from receiving treatment.

Ten million teenagers need treatment, but only 1 million teens get it, according to CRC Health Corp., the creator of internet rehab programs eGetgoing and teenGetgoing.

Barriers such as access, affordability, and confidentiality prevent many teens from getting help, said Judi Kosterman, vice president for business relations at CRC Health Corp.

“Just looking at those numbers, realizing that people need treatment and aren’t getting it … spurred the idea that treatment might be brought to people in another way,” Kosterman said.

The adult service, eGetgoing, has an 80 percent completion rate and an excellent sobriety rate as well, Kosterman said. “We had people who relapsed, but the great thing is that they come to group and tell you instead of disappearing,” she said.

The company offers two programs for teens: teenGetgoing Discover, a live counseling program, and teenGetgoing Aware, a self-paced learning program that makes students aware of their drug and alcohol use.

TeenGetgoing Discover costs $1,200 for 24 group therapy sessions conducted over the internet, which is half the cost of typical outpatient counseling. Families can make an initial $300 payment and can pay in installments thereafter.

Up to 10 teenagers participate in the group with a counselor. The voices of each teenager, as well as the counselor’s image and voice, are streamed to each person’s computer through a secure, encrypted connection.

“It’s not type-text chat. It’s a live counselor. They can see and hear that counselor on the screen,” Kosterman said.

Teens participate in the counseling twice a week for 12 weeks. Because participants often need time before and after sessions, the counselor is available for two hours, although each session is formally an hour long.

Because people can’t see and touch each other over the internet—and doing so is an important part of substance-abuse treatment—the company hired actors to portray teens undergoing treatment. During the group sessions, participants watch these short dramatizations of teens interacting at home with their parents, at parties with their peers, and at school with their teachers.

“It almost has a soap-opera effect. People want to come back to see what happened to Tony in the video,” Kosterman said.

By removing the face-to-face contact usually found in group therapy, teenGetgoing’s creators discovered that teens actually are more eager to talk.

“People engage more quickly in this environment. People share more,” Kosterman said. “People are not judged. They can say anything they want to in this environment because of the anonymity.”

To ensure their privacy and safety, participants are only identified by their screen name.

“We monitor messaging so participants can’t divulge personal information. They have to use their screen name,” Kosterman said. “This is especially important for the use with kids.”

In addition to attending group sessions, students also use the web site for keeping a journal and completing therapy homework.

“The great thing about the web is that everything can become data. We track mouse clicks, participation, everything,” Kosterman said.

The company provides reports to officials who are authorized to have them, such as school counselors or probation officers.

TeenGetgoing Discover is best for teens who are at an early stage of drug or alcohol use and still have support structures in place, such as living at home and attending school regularly. It’s also ideal for teens who have recently returned from a 28-day program and need extra support coming back into an environment where their peers might still be drinking and using drugs, Kosterman said.

“It’s not for an out-of-control, full-blown addict who needs residential stay,” she said.

TeenGetgoing Aware is an asynchronous, self-paced learning program that makes students aware of their drug and alcohol use. Kosterman said this program is ideal for principals or teachers to administer during detention for at-risk kids.

The program, which consists of three 30- to 45-minute sessions, combines audio, video, and questions. The first session addresses alcohol and drug abuse, the second addresses abuse and dependency, and the third session identifies where the teen fits into this picture.

When a student completes the sessions, the program generates a summary that teachers and principals can use to make informed decisions about students.

The summary shows the students’ level of alcohol and/or drug use, their readiness and willingness to change, and the factors that increase their risk for substance abuse.

TeenGetgoing Aware costs $40 per student, but there are volume discounts.

Mike Mikesell, a school psychologist for the Northwest Regional Educational Service District in Hillsboro, Ore., Mikesell gave the teenGetgoing program high marks.

Twenty students from the district’s West Slope Senior Academy—a school for students who were expelled from regular school programs—have participated in teenGetgoing throughout the school year, Mikesell said.

“Everyone liked the program. School attendance was higher, some parents commented favorably, and—most of all—I believe that drug consumption in the school is beginning to fall,” he said.

“Before teenGetgoing came along, we were having a pretty tough time reaching the kids in a positive manner and obtaining lasting outcomes,” he added. The students who attended the school’s drug and alcohol groups were filled with resentment toward adults, so the teachers couldn’t really help.

TeenGetgoing “provided extremely effective, individually tailored direct interventions for students who were actively using or abusing,” Mikesell said.

Links:

eGetgoing
http://www.egetgoing.com

teenGetgoing
http://www.teengetgoing.com

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