This CD-burning package is one hot item

From making your own DVD movies, to editing photos, to creating a video library, the Total Burn Platinum Suite from Broderbund Software’a division of Cambridge, Mass.-based Riverdeep Inc.’makes burning CDs and DVDs easy.

The suite consists of five software programs that focus on creating multimedia elements and burning them to CDs and DVDs. For CD or DVD burning, the suite includes NTI CD-Maker 5.5, which handles burning data, music, video, and photos. An application called MovieShop allows you to edit videos by adding transitions, special effects, music, or titles. For photo editing, the suite includes the Print Shop Photo Workshop, which features more than 1,500 project templates for creating albums, calendars, cards, and more. The remaining two components, Print Shop Label Creator and MediaShop, help you organize the discs and media you’ve created for easy access.

The suggested retail price for the Total Burn Platinum Suite is $99.99.

tags

Project Macintosh content to a TV screen with this plug-and-play device

FOCUS Enhancements Inc., which specializes in video production and conversion technology, has created a a desktop-to-video output solution designed specifically for Apple’s iMac and eMac computers.

iTView Mac allows computer content from an iMac or eMac machine—such as DVD movies, the internet, or classroom presentations—to be displayed on any TV monitor so the whole class can see. “We created the iTView Mac to provide Mac users with the best TV-out image possible,” said Jason Overhulse, consumer product manager for FOCUS Enhancements.

iTView Mac automatically detects computer resolutions up to 1,024 pixels by 768 pixels and synchronizes them with television, resulting in a high-quality, flicker-free image. It also lets users record directly from their iMac or eMac to a VCR. The device’s software interface allows users to control image adjustments such as size, pan, position, zoom, sharpness, brightness, and color.

The suggested retail price of iTView Mac is $139.

tags

Take control of internet use with this network monitoring software

Instead of merely blocking access to inappropriate web sites, a new network management tool from Security Software Systems Inc. of Illinois, called Policy Central, monitors internet use according to a school’s acceptable use policy (AUP).

Policy Central displays your school’s AUP before students and employees can access specified applications. After accepting the terms of the policy, should a user violate these terms, Policy Central will take a screen capture of the individual’s inappropriate computer use. It also will log the violation by user, date, time, and application.

School network administrators can monitor students’ computer use for pornographic or sexually explicit content right out of the box with Policy Central’s built-in library of keywords. The software also allows you to customize which words and phrases are inappropriate with a user-definable library, and it helps you analyze the effectiveness of your AUP with a variety of reports.

Rather than “snooping” on all user activity, Policy Central will only monitor and report those activities that violate your AUP, according to the company. Because students and employees are aware of your AUP, the software places the responsibility squarely on their shoulders if they choose to violate this policy.

tags

Get reading resources from A to Z with this new Kaplan program

To help schools meet the literacy demands of the No Child Left Behind Act, Kaplan Inc.’s K12 Learning Services division and Canadian software firm AutoSkill International have teamed up to launch Kaplan Reading Empowerment, a software-based literacy intervention program for K-12 schools.

Kaplan Reading Empowerment is an individualized, self-paced program tailored to students’ needs. More than just a piece of software, the program also provides teachers with the training and support they need to integrate the program into their daily instruction and monitor student progress effectively.

Kaplan K12 educators collaborate with district and school staff to define goals and develop a broad reading intervention plan using AutoSkill’s Academy of Reading software. The software identifies specific learning requirements of individual students and creates customized courses of study. Through the software’s database-driven management functions, teachers are able to oversee and track student progress. Throughout the program, Kaplan K12 provides a wide range of implementation services, including project management, professional development workshops, ongoing progress reporting, and follow-up meetings to review student results.

Prices for the program range from about $15,000 to $28,000, depending on the number of students and schools that are using it.

tags

Bush administration: Study justifies cutting after-school programs by $400 million

The Bush administration acknowledges using the results of what many people view as a controversial study to justify a 40-percent budget cut to the $1 billion program that funds after-school initiatives in K-12 school districts.

The study finds that after-school programs do not improve academic performance, students’ safety, or the number of children left home alone. After-school program advocates say the report, which is based on first-year results of the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, is too preliminary to be used as the basis of significant budget cuts and sweeping changes.

If the proposed cuts are approved by Congress, they could have a steep impact on students’ access to technology resources after school hours, some educational technology advocates argue. Many of the after-school programs funded by 21st CCLC incorporate computer-based instruction.

The study, released Feb. 4 and called “When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st-Century Community Learning Centers Program,” is the largest and most rigorous examination to date of school-based after-school programs.

The program, which was authorized by Congress in 1994, opened schools after hours so they could be used more broadly by their communities. In 1998 the program was changed to support only academic activities. Since then, its funding has increased from $40 million to $1 billion. The program now supports after-school programs in about 7,500 rural and inner-city public schools in more than 1,400 communities.

The study was conducted for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and its partner, Decision Information Resources Inc. ED funded the research along with supplemental funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

In the study, researchers examined the characteristics and outcomes of typical programs that were operated in elementary and middle schools. Most programs studied provided academic, enrichment, or recreational activities. Homework help was the most common academic activity.

The findings are based on data collected in the first year of the program from students, parents, teachers, principals, program staff members, and school records. Evaluators collected data on 4,400 middle school students and 1,000 elementary school students and conducted site visits, lasting between two and four days, to all grantees at least once.

“The first-year findings reveal that while 21st-century after-school centers changed where and with whom students spent some of their after-school time and increased parental involvement, they had limited influence on academic performance, no influence on feelings of safety or on the number of ‘latchkey’ children, and some negative influences on behavior,” the report says.

To remedy the problem, the report says “policy makers and program developers need to consider ways to address low student participation and low academic content.” It recommends setting a minimum number of days that students would be required to participate, as well as increasing the academic quality and content of programs.

Instead, the Bush administration has proposed cutting the program’s funding request in 2004 by $400 million.

The president’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2004 explains: “The decrease in the request acknowledges that the program needs some time to address disappointing initial findings from a rigorous evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The evaluation indicates that the centers funded in the program’s first three years are not providing substantial academic content and do not appear to have a positive impact on student behavior.”

ED spokesman David Thomas confirmed that the study was the reason the budget cuts were proposed. “I think [the Bush administration] wants to find out what works best before putting all sorts of money into it,” he said.

Critics say a 40-percent budget cut will not adequately address the problem.

“I don’t think a funding decrease allows for that at all,” said Jen Rinehart, associate director of the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance. “That justification doesn’t make any sense at all. It seems the administration is in a position where they need to find revenue, and this is a program they don’t like, and they are using that study as an excuse to cut funding.”

Norris Dickard, director of public policy at the Benton Foundation, expressed the same view. The administration’s policy signals the start of what could be a dangerous trend, he said: “using negative program evaluation information to call for significant program cuts.”

John Bailey, ED’s director of educational technology, told attendees of the Consortium for School Networking’s Private Sector Meeting Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C., that in this climate of greater accountability, research findings are becoming increasingly important.

“I think you are seeing a lot more reliance on studies like this from the [Office of Management and Budget]. This budget cut didn’t come from the Department [of Education] necessarily. The OMB did that on [its] own,” he said.

The report finds:

  • Elementary schoolchildren who participated in after-school programs did not have higher grades in most subjects compared with their peers who did not participate. Also, the after-school programs had no measurable impact on homework completion rates.

  • For middle school students, only math grades were slightly higher for after-school program participants than for their peers who did not attend after-school programs. However, African-American and Hispanic children showed the highest grade improvements, as well as less absenteeism and tardiness.

  • Students who attended programs more frequently, both at the middle school and elementary school levels, did not have higher grades compared with students that attended less frequently.

  • After-school programs did not reduce the number of “latchkey” children, or those who are not cared for by parents, adults, or older siblings after school.

  • Nor did the programs increase feelings of safety after school. Also, the study found, middle school participants were more likely than non-participants to have sold drugs, smoked marijuana, or had their property damaged.

On the positive side, parental involvement—such as volunteering or attending open-house meetings—increased among students who attended after-school programs.

Although after-school programs were available to students four to five days a week, most students averaged only two days per week of attendance.

The programs, which were largely run by full-time teachers, also were slow to begin planning to sustain themselves after the 21st-CCLC grant ended. Even among those grantees within months of their grant’s end, sustainability planning was almost nonexistent.

After-school program advocates say the report is based only on first-year data, has a negative bias, and quickly dismisses the benefits of after-school programs.

“We don’t think much of that report. That’s not to say it’s not a good report, it’s just a preliminary report. The figures are from when the [21st CCLC] program was in its infancy,” said Phil Evans, director of communications for a national group called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which represents more than 2,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and crime victims.

“The after-school hours are very dangerous for children. It’s the time when youngsters are most likely to commit a crime or be a victim of a crime. It’s the time when they are most likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and smoking cigarettes,” Evans said.

He added, “There are good studies that show these programs do, in fact, prevent crime.”

The Benton Foundation’s Dickard said he is concerned about the impact the proposed cuts would have on students’ access to technology after school.

As ed-tech data from the National Center for Education Statistics show, he said, “schools have increasingly been making their computer facilities available in the after-school hours to students who might not otherwise have such access. In many cases, they are open to the wider community. Thus, I find cuts to the after-school program very troubling, especially given proposed cuts to other digital divide programs.”

Policy experts agree with the report’s recommendation of finding ways to improve the 21st CCLC program, but they don’t believe funding cuts are the answer.

“We were incredibly disappointed that the administration chose this study as the basis for deep funding cuts. This is not how the evaluation was supposed to used,” said Rinehart of the Afterschool Alliance. “Normally, when you conduct an evaluation, you look at how you can improve the program. This is taking one study and making a sweeping policy decision on the basis of that one study.”

This school year, the 21st CCLC program is being administered at the state level instead of at the federal level for the first time, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dee Cox, program manager for the 21st CCLC program in Arkansas, said she was shocked to read about the study and wants to make sure none the grantees in her state make the same mistakes it identifies.

“I definitely see that after-school programs serve a purpose, especially if it’s a [high-] quality program,” Cox said. “We have some excellent programs in our state. We’ve seen some good results.”

Links:

“When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st-Century Community Learning Centers Program”
http://www.ed.gov/pubs/21cent/firstyear

21st-Century Community Learning Centers
http://www.ed.gov/21stcclc

Afterschool Alliance
http://www.afterschoolalliance.org

Benton Foundation
http://www.benton.org

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
http://www.fightcrime.org

tags

Examine the ABCs of reading with help from PBS

“Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers” is the latest in a long line of complementary educational web sites from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). According to the site, this resource, which accompanies the five-part PBS television series “Reading Rockets,” provides teachers with reading strategies that are proven to work. The site is organized into five main topics: Roots of Reading, Sounds and Symbols, Fluent Reading, Writing and Spelling, and Reading for Meaning. Each topic provides an overview of the concept, explains its importance, gives links to related articles and content, and offers educators the opportunity to watch archived television interviews with top reading experts. There’s also a forum for sharing strategies with peers, as well as suggested booklists and selected answers to key educator questions.

tags

Qwest indictments won’t affect Arizona schools’ wiring project, officials say

The indictment of four Qwest Communications officials in connection with a project to wire all of Arizona’s classrooms to the internet shouldn’t affect the project’s completion, state officials say.

A 12-count federal indictment handed down Feb. 25 accuses four former Qwest executives of devising a scheme to create more than $33 million in false revenue by wrongly reporting a purchase order from Arizona’s School Facilities Board and then covering it up.

The board, which oversees Arizona’s program for constructing and maintaining school buildings, hired Qwest for a $141 million project to wire the state’s 1,383 public schools for internet access.

“The Justice Department never let us know about this,” said board spokeswoman Kristen Landry. “But this certainly isn’t going to affect any of the Qwest work that is being done.”

“We are going on with what’s in the contract,” said Jeff Mirasola, a Qwest spokesman in Phoenix. He declined to comment further on the contract or on the indictment.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment, which was handed up by a federal grand jury in Denver. New Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman William Donaldson, standing next to Ashcroft, announced the filing of civil fraud charges in U.S. District Court in Denver against the same four former executives and four other past or current Qwest officials.

Although its contract with the Arizona School Facilities Board provided for Qwest to be paid as the statewide school computer network was installed over an 18-month to two-year period, the company instead counted all of the revenue immediately, in violation of SEC rules, the government said.

The Justice Department also said Qwest knowingly filed false documents to hide its actions.

“As we continue our efforts to battle corporate fraud, our message is clear: We will protect the integrity of our markets by punishing those who falsify financial information out of sheer greed,” Ashcroft said in a statement.

Arrest warrants were issued for these former employees: Grant P. Graham of Evergreen, Colo., chief financial officer for Qwest’s global business unit; Thomas W. Hall of Englewood, Colo., senior vice president in the global business unit; John M. Walker of Littleton, Colo., vice president in the unit; and Bryan K. Treadway of Atlanta, assistant controller.

Graham pleaded innocent Feb. 28 to charges of artificially inflating revenues for the telecommunications company. He was the last of the four men named in the 12-count indictment to surrender, turning himself in earlier that day. He was the first to enter a plea.

Qwest had been under investigation by both the Justice Department and the SEC and was the subject of congressional hearings into its financial practices. Both agencies said their investigations were continuing.

Qwest spokesman Steve Hammack said the company was continuing to cooperate with the government, but could not comment specifically on the indictments. “As a company, as individual employees, we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards as we conduct our business,” he said.

The SEC’s civil fraud charges allege that the eight former or current Qwest executives inflated the company’s revenues by some $144 million in 2000-2001 to meet Wall Street’s expectations. The agency said it wanted the men to repay their salaries, bonuses, and stock gains during the one-and-a-half years they allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities.

“The defendants played with the numbers so investors would believe the company was doing better than it really was,” Donaldson said. “The defendants couldn’t make the numbers work by following the rules, so they cheated.”

The four others sued by the SEC are Joel M. Arnold, former senior vice president of the company’s Global Business division; Douglas K. Hutchins, a former director of the division; Richard L. Weston, former senior vice president of product development in Qwest’s Internet Solutions division; and William L. Eveleth, currently chief financial officer of the company’s corporate planning and operational finance division and a senior vice president of finance.

The probes have examined whether Qwest artificially inflated its revenues by swapping network capacity with another scandal-plagued telecommunications company, Global Crossing Ltd.

The company said it was restating its financial reports for 1999 to 2001 because of accounting errors, including $950 million in revenue booked from swaps.

The company fired Arthur Andersen LLP, the auditing firm that was convicted of obstruction of justice in the Enron collapse, and brought in KPMG LLP in June to look at its books.

Last June, chief executive Joseph Nacchio resigned under fire. Thousands of workers have been laid off and the company’s stock plummeted. Lawmakers have charged that Qwest executives cashed in millions of dollars in options before the stock fell.

So far, Qwest has finished wiring 625 Arizona schools, facilities board spokeswoman Landry said. Work is ongoing at 159 others, and plans are being developed for the remainder.

Landry said all work should be done this August, well ahead of the state-mandated deadline of June 30, 2004.

The project has not proceeded smoothly, however. Although it began in January 2001, the project stalled last May when the company stopped installation work over a contract dispute with the board. In August, the board and the company agreed to an amended contract and work resumed.

School Facilities Board Chairman Logan E. Van Sittert said he and other members were surprised by the federal indictment, but said there have been no problems since the contract was renegotiated.

Qwest has had other woes as well. In August, Qwest agreed to pay the state of Colorado $1 million, plus payments to customers, to settle complaints that it failed to adequately inform consumers of the least expensive telephone service they could obtain, instead encouraging them to buy pricer packages. Others complained of poor customer service.

Qwest is the local phone company for 14 states extending from Minnesota west to Washington state and southwest to Arizona and New Mexico. It bought US West, one of the Baby Bells created from the breakup of AT&T, following a bidding war with Global Crossing.

Links:

Qwest Communications Inc.
http://www.qwest.com

Arizona School Facilities Board
http://www.sfb.state.az.us/sfbmain/core-home.asp

tags

Best Practice: District doubles pass rate on state math exam

Like most high-stakes tests across the country, the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) poses a significant challenge for schools and their students. But East Side Union High School District in San Jose achieved outstanding pass-rate gains on the math portion of the exam last summer, with help from Kaplan K12 Learning Services Inc.

East Side UHSD partnered with Kaplan to prepare 101 students to retake the CAHSEE Math Exam. Working with district and school personnel, Kaplan helped deliver a proven curriculum that strengthened math skills and provided strategies to help students retake the test with confidence.

The result: The pass rate among students who had taken the Kaplan program was 27 percentage points higher than the pass rate of students who hadn’t taken the course, according to the company (see graphic below).

A Proven Effective Program

Through Kaplan’s scaffolded instructional design, targeted professional development, and ongoing support, teachers can help their students apply strategic approaches for improved performance on the CAHSEE and other state exams. A Kaplan K12 consultant is available to tailor an implementation plan for regular school year instruction, after-school programs, tutoring programs, and turnkey Kaplan-taught programs. For more information, call toll-free (888) KAPLAN-8 or visit http://www.kaplank12.com.

tags

There’s no debating the value of this site for history teachers

The 1960 presidential debates between former presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon marked the first time television played a decisive role in the outcome of a national political contest—but it would not be the last. Now, students have an opportunity to go back in time and witness the most historic and influential presidential debates of the television era. Sponsored in part by the History Channel, “The History of Televised Presidential Debates” provides a timeline of every televised presidential debate since 1960. Special features let students watch a documentary about the Kennedy-Nixon contest, read political commentary about the debate, and even watch the debate itself. Students also can look at essays on the use of television in politics, view archived interviews with media professionals, check out television viewing and voting statistics, and even read a 1959 article written by Kennedy about the role television plays in running a national campaign. Plus, teachers have access to several curriculum resources, including sample lesson plans, activities, a glossary of terms, and more.

tags

Tap into this CoSN toolkit for “Promoting Online Safety”

The Consortium for School Networking has released new resources to help guide school leaders when they talk to parents and other community members about online safety issues. Sponsored by the BellSouth Foundation, the AOL Time Warner Foundation, Microsoft Corp., and Sprint Corp., the “Promoting Online Safety” toolkit was created with the understanding that schools need to be proactive in communicating with parents and other community members about their online safety strategies—and parents need to understand the steps they can take to make sure their children use their home computer in a safe and appropriate manner. The toolkit components include a handbook, called “Promoting Online Safety: The Home-School Partnership,” designed to help school leaders develop the message they want to convey to parents and community members, based on their local circumstances; a 10-minute video that highlights the experiences of two school districts, one in Pennsylvania and one in Kansas, as they worked through questions surrounding the best ways to protect students when they go online; and a presentation to help school leaders explain to parents and community leaders the steps their schools are taking to protect children online. School leaders can download the handbook and presentation at no charge from the project’s web site.

tags