Connectix sale raises cross-platform concerns

Software giant Microsoft Corp. has acquired the assets of Connectix Corp., a maker of software that allows users to run Windows-based applications on Macintosh machines. Some educators say they fear the move could hinder their ability to support a cross-platform computing environment in their schools.

Microsoft purchased the technology of the privately held company for an undisclosed amount on Feb. 19, citing its potential to help current Microsoft customers easily migrate to new operating system platforms while continuing to leverage investments in their existing applications.

The move could harbor serious implications for schools, however, because it calls into question the future of Connectix’s Virtual PC for Mac product—a popular tool among school customers that enables users of Apple Computer’s Macintosh platform to run Windows-based applications, access PC networks, exploit certain Windows-based internet features, and share files with PC users seamlessly.

The software is particularly useful in schools, which often contain a mix of Windows and Macintosh computers, as a way to ensure that users of different platforms can swap files easily and use the same applications.

According to Microsoft, the more than 1 million schools and businesses that depend on Connectix’s Virtual PC for Mac to provide interoperability between various PC and Mac computers have little to fear.

“Microsoft is committed to the continued development and sales of Connectix Virtual PC products,” said Tim McDonough, director of marketing and business development for Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit. “[Our] goal is to provide the best Office software for the Mac platform, making it seamless for teachers and students to communicate with their Windows counterparts.”

Still, some educators question whether Microsoft is sincere in its pledge to develop and support a product that essentially enables customers to make better use of a chief competitor’s operating system.

“As a user of Virtual PC in my school to run a Windows-only program on Macintosh [computers], I am concerned that this product might not be supported under Microsoft ownership,” said Christine McIntosh, a library media specialist and school technology coordinator for Bernheim Middle School in Shepherdsville, Ky.

“The program has allowed my school, which is cross-platform, to run a program that is state-mandated,” she added. “While our state technology master plan called for all state-adopted programs to exist on both Macintosh and Windows platforms, the solution for running this program on all computers was the use of Virtual PC on the Macintosh side.”

Microsoft insists the move is in no way intended as a first step toward phasing out Virtual PC for Mac. The deal, it said, was intended to fulfill the growing demands of its customers.

Through the acquisition, the Redmond, Wash.-based software company also acquired rights to several other Connectix brands, including its Virtual PC for Windows software and its not-yet-released virtual server product unit.

Virtual PC for Windows gives current Windows customers a tool to migrate to Windows XP or Windows 2000 Professional operating systems more easily, Microsoft said. The product also supports legacy applications and provides a slew of other resources, including technical support, increased call-center access, and education and training programs.

Microsoft said it also plans to continue developing the virtual server product. In beta-testing before the acquisition, Connectix’s virtual server technology was found to consolidate multiple Windows NT 4.0 servers and their applications onto a single server system, Microsoft said, thus driving down costs and increasing efficiency. The product is scheduled for release before the end of 2003.

As for the 100 employees at Connectix, the future is uncertain. For now, the company will continue to build and support its virtual machine technology, said Maryann McGregor, vice president of marketing and communications for Connectix. However, Microsoft will assume full control over Connectix when a transition period ends Aug. 15.

See these related links:

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

Connectix Corp.
http://www.connectix.com

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Commerce expands eligibility for ‘.edu’ domain name

Beauty, theological, and distance-learning schools will be among the educational institutions that soon will share online real estate with the likes of Yale and Princeton.

The Commerce Department on Feb. 11 approved the expansion of the “.edu” domain name to allow usage by schools with postsecondary distance-education programs, as well as specialty and training programs such as the Connecticut Institute of Hair Design and the American Film Institute.

Critics complain the expansion will cheapen the internet neighborhood for its present occupants—generally four-year institutions and community colleges.

“Somebody who goes six months to a beauty school, I would not consider in the same league as somebody who’s even been two years at a community college,” said Ralph Meyer, a retired administrator at Princeton University. “There’s too much dumbing down already.”

Mike Murphy, director of marketing for Phoenix College in Phoenix, Ariz., said the expansion could confuse prospective students into equating not-for-profit colleges with proprietary training schools.

“They provide a valuable service for students they serve, but we don’t think there’s anything to gain by blurring the two types” of institutions, he said.

For many years, the “.edu” domain name had been restricted to four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

In 2001, a university technology consortium took over management of the suffix and expanded eligibility to Phoenix and other community colleges, which are accredited by the same six regional accreditation agencies as four-year institutions.

The technology consortium, Educause, then recommended further changes to include schools approved by the 28 specialty accreditation organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These include the Distance Education and Training Council, as well as the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council and the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

Some foreign schools such as London Business School and think tanks such as the Brookings Institution got their “.edu” names before restrictions took effect and could keep their names, though they would not be eligible today, even with the latest expansion.

Steve Worona, Educause’s director of policy, said about 95 percent of the responses during a public-commenting period were in support of the change. He said the board considered the objections but felt on balance an expansion was warranted.

About 7,500 “.edu” domain names have been assigned to about 6,000 schools. Educause is now compiling lists of newly eligible institutions, and these should be able to obtain new domain names in mid-April.

Mark Gross, chief executive of the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, said the expansion should help his member schools gain standing.

“We all do different things, serve different needs of the consumers, but this begins to put all education in the same place, where it belongs,” Gross said.

Michael P. Lambert, executive director of the Distance Education and Training Council, said the change would end discrimination against certain distance-education programs.

“Consider yourself: Would you go to a dot-com school when you can go to a dot-edu one?” he said. “We think it’s a wonderful way of leveling the playing field.”

See these related links:

New “.edu” Eligibility
http://www.educause.edu/edudomain/eligibility.asp

Distance Education and Training Council
http://www.detc.org

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Students turn tables on teachers with faculty rating sites

For University of Idaho student Brandon Jank, scheduling classes each semester requires two essential tools—a course catalogue and an online connection.

Before he registers, Jank, a sophomore computer science major at Idaho, taps into RateMyProfessors.com to “see how teachers are rated, see how hard their classes are, see what kind of teacher they are and how they fit into my paradigm.”

Such web-based evaluations are the bane of some high school and college faculty. But students are using the sites to avoid tedious instructors and classes with—as one entry on ProfessorPerformance.com put it—”tests that were like having your arm cut off by a cold, rusty spoon.”

An instructor who made John Swapceinski’s life miserable at San Jose State University provided the inspiration for RateMyProfessors.com.

“She was a real ogre. It made me realize that my life for those three to four months would have been a lot different if it hadn’t been for her,” said Swapceinski, now a software engineer in northern California.

“If I could have looked [her] up on the web, I could have avoided all that.”

Started in 1999, Swapceinski’s site now has nearly a half-million evaluations for more than 113,000 professors at 2,401 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

A related site, RateMyTeachers.com, posts evaluations from middle and high school students and is even more popular: It contains more than 770,000 evaluations of more than 135,000 teachers from nearly 10,000 schools nationwide.

Swapceinski, who doesn’t earn a profit from the advertising-free site, said 60 percent of the college postings are favorable to faculty. Kasey Kerber, the founder of ProfessorPerformance.com, estimated that up to 70 percent of that site’s evaluations are positive.

But the American Association of University Professors gives a failing grade to those and other teacher-rating sites, some of which are specific to a single school. The traditional in-class evaluations used by most colleges and universities are good enough, the AAUP said.

“One purpose of student evaluations is to help the faculty to identify general problems and work toward dealing with them,” said AAUP spokesman Jonathan Knight. “These kind of postings will inevitably focus on student gripes and have no credibility. The purpose it should be designed for, helping the quality of education, is completely lost.”

Kerber disagrees. “Our site is no different from the evaluations provided at the end of the semester. The only difference is that students aren’t allowed to see those evaluations,” he said. Both online and institutional evaluations are unsigned.

Like many professors, Patrick Thorpe hasn’t read the critiques of the biology classes he teaches at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Nor does he take the ratings seriously, though there’s “a little happy smile” next to his name, Thorpe noted. That means his ratings are good. Since 1999, Grand Valley’s students have posted 23,000 rankings on Swapceinski’s site—nearly 5,000 more than any other school.

Angela Bickford, a chemistry and physics professor at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., doesn’t object to the generally upbeat reviews for her classroom performance.

But she believes RateMyProfessors.com’s invitation to rate instructors on another matter—sex appeal—makes the site less credible.

“Class is easy, and she’s soooooooo sexy!!” volunteered one of Bickford’s students, assigning her the web site’s symbol for attractiveness: a hot chili pepper.

Said Bickford: “To me, that’s not taking me seriously, so I don’t put a lot of stock in it. When I get my other student evaluations, I don’t get silly comments like that.”

Before posting a rating online, both web sites review the critiques to remove offensive and potentially libelous content.

Even so, Swapceinski said that each week brings another threat of legal action from an aggrieved professor.

“It’s amazing,” he said, “the number of professors with Ph.Ds who just don’t get the concept of the First Amendment.”

See these related links:

RateMyProfessors.com
http://www.RateMyProfessors.com

RateMyTeachers.com
http://www.RateMyTeachers.com

ProfessorPerformance.com
http://www.ProfessorPerformance.com

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Use this site to track the development of the atomic bomb

On Dec. 6, 1941, the U.S. government pledged $2 million to the Manhattan Project, charging scientists with the task of developing the world’s first atomic bomb. Four and a half years later, President Harry S. Truman ordered the deployment of two such bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 170,000 Japanese civilians. While the bombings are credited with bringing a quick and decisive end to World War II, they remain two of the most horrific and deadliest attacks ever committed in modern warfare. Now, thanks to this web site created by Doug Prouty of California’s Costa County Office of Education, students can follow the historic development of the U.S. atomic weapons program from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to those two fateful days in August 1945 when so many lives were lost. The site provides students with a timeline following the gradual development of the bomb, as well as information about the physics of atomic energy. There are also resources to conduct follow-up research assignments, complementary lesson plans, and historical biographies profiling some of the major players of the atomic era.

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2003 AASA meeting focuses on how to do more with less

Despite the commencement of Mardi Gras festivities just a few blocks down the road—or maybe owing to these festivities?—school superintendents by and large didn’t appear too jazzed for the 2003 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference in New Orleans Feb. 20-23, judging by the relatively poor attendance (3,400 paid registrants, only 100 more than last year’s post-Sept. 11 turnout) and sparse traffic in the exhibit hall.

Still, those who did attend the conference were treated to several solutions designed to save schools money and make the job of senior school executives easier.

Though the official conference theme was “Leadership in Changing Times,” the unofficial theme was how to do more with less—a reaction to the increased accountability in K-12 public education spurred on by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and also the serious budget shortfalls affecting states from coast to coast.

In the opening general session, AASA Executive Director Paul Houston compared the situation faced by public school superintendents today with that of the fishing vessel Andrea Gail in the movie The Perfect Storm: As in the movie, a confluence of events—each challenging in its own right, but abundantly more taxing when experienced together—threatens to capsize the best efforts of school leaders today.

Nevertheless, school leaders cannot use a lack of resources as an excuse for failing to meet the rigorous demands of NCLB in ensuring that all students succeed, conference speakers repeatedly intoned.

This idea was epitomized by 2003 Superintendent of the Year Award winner Kenneth Dragseth of the Edina School District in Minnesota, who quoted from Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech in accepting his award:

“‘It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who … spends himself in a worthy cause …'”

Reaching ‘universal proficiency’

Stressing that the goals of NCLB were embraced by school leaders long before there was any legislation to mandate them, AASA President John R. Lawrence introduced a new term for “adequate yearly progress,” the benchmark for meeting the law’s tough new requirements: “universal proficiency.”

Shortly thereafter, keynote speaker Samuel Betances, a sociology professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, expressed in practical terms why it’s more important than ever to ensure that all students achieve universal proficiency.

By 2005, Betances said, we’ll have an estimated 158 million people in the work force in the United States—but this figure is about 10 million shy of how many people actually will be needed then. One reason for this projected shortfall is that America is “getting older,” he said: In the 1950s, there were 17 working people for every retiree; today, there are only three people working for every retiree.

To make up the difference, he argued, schools will need to do a better job of preparing traditionally underserved poor and minority students to become skilled workers and productive members of society—despite the fact that many of these students are at a distinct disadvantage.

“For the first time, schools have to be successful with those who are learning-ready and those who are not,” he said.

One way to help close this gap, he said, is by creating “community homework centers” that are open after school and in the evenings, where students can get the extra help they need from skilled tutors. Another idea is to hire the best and brightest students to help tutor those who are struggling.

Technology can help school leaders ensure universal proficiency, too—and some of the companies exhibiting at the conference demonstrated software designed to help educators pinpoint students’ precise skill levels and identify those children in need of extra assistance.

The National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE), a nonprofit research and development organization based in Schaumburg, Ill., introduced DataPoint, a set of web-based software tools aimed at helping school leaders make more informed decisions using student achievement information. Educators can use the program to import, access, and manage data for individual students or groups of students; conduct point-and-click queries based on specific criteria they define; quickly analyze data and calculate statistical comparisons; and generate reports and graphs.

Another conference exhibitor, Levings Learning of Oklahoma City, demonstrated its web-based assessments in math, English, science, social studies, and fine arts for students in grades 3-12. Levings has designed its assessments to align with each state’s standards of learning. With the company’s PASS Plan, educators can find out how students are progressing at any time during the year by testing students online and getting instant feedback.

Of course, simply identifying students who need extra help is only half the battle. Several exhibitors displayed software designed to bring struggling students up to speed with their classmates. Among these was Building Reading Skills, a brand-new remedial reading program created through a partnership between Albert H. Brigance and Failure Free Reading of Concord, N.C., that targets at-risk and special-needs students in grades four and up.

Building Reading Skills is an interactive program that delivers instruction in reading vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension through a series of short, well-sequenced lessons. The software incorporates the voice of a human instructor and is designed to appeal to even the most reluctant readers by connecting reading to students’ real-life experiences.

Creating successful partnerships

Another key to doing more with less is for superintendents and other school leaders to foster partnerships with members of the business community that can bolster the core mission of their respective institutions.

In a session titled “Maximizing the Benefits of Business and School Partnerships,” former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Carlton Curtis, vice president of external relations for Coca-Cola Co., presented a set of eight “Guiding Principles” to help school leaders form successful alliances with private-sector companies. Both are members of the Council for Corporate and School Partnerships, a nonprofit organization established in 2001 to forge stronger ties between the business and school communities.

The group’s eight Guiding Principles are:

  • School-business partnerships must be built on shared values and philosophies.
  • Partnerships should be defined by mutually beneficial goals and objectives.
  • Partnership activities should be integrated into the school and business cultures.
  • Partnerships should be driven by a clear management process and structure.
  • They should define specific, measurable outcomes.
  • They should have support at the highest level within the business and school and concurrence at all levels.
  • They should include detailed internal and external communication plans that clearly illustrate the expectations of all parties.
  • They should be developed with clear definitions of success for all partners.

Over in the exhibit hall, several companies were showcasing programs that exemplify the spirit of school-business collaboration.

Dell Computer of Round Rock, Texas, announced that Canadian software firm Corel Corp. has joined as a partner in Dell’s TechKnow program, a nationwide initiative that provides computers, software, and training to disadvantaged middle school students. Corel is providing 1,000 copies of its CorelDRAW Graphics Suite software to participating districts, giving TechKnow students access to standards-based software for graphic design, page layout, image editing, and vector animation. Corel also will help develop the program’s curriculum, Dell said.

Global communications company Sprint Corp., with world headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., highlighted its Empowered Education initiative, another example of a successful school-business partnership. Through this program, Sprint is working with schools to create customized internet “interfaces,” or gateways for delivering a wide range of educational services to teachers, parents, students, and other community members, using the power of the internet to empower stakeholders in the educational process.

Document services company Xerox Corp. was at the conference to publicize a little-known program called FreeColor-Printers, which is designed to remove the cost barriers associated with high-speed color printing. Participating schools receive a free printer, a three-year service agreement, eMail and telephone support, and access to a members-only web site that includes ideas for using the printer in classroom projects—a $4,500 value. In return, they must provide monthly usage reports and purchase ink and maintenance kits from the program’s web site. The company hopes that once participants see the value of the printers, they’ll order more at the regular price.

Another exhibitor, CDI Computers of Ontario, gives schools the opportunity to save as much as two-thirds of the cost of new computers. CDI supplies refurbished Tier I computers to schools at a fraction of the cost of brand-new machines. Most of the company’s computers—which include brands from manufacturers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, Sony, IBM, and NEC—are returns from two-year lease agreements, and all are subjected to rigorous quality checks and are backed by three-year warranties.

International control-technology company Honeywell, based in Morris Township, N.J., promoted its Energy Savings Performance Contract, an innovative business model through which Honeywell will upgrade a school’s or district’s energy management systems. In return, schools pay for these improvements with the savings they realize in energy and operating costs, which are guaranteed to meet or exceed project payments.

See these related links:

American Association of School Administrators
http://www.aasa.org

2003 AASA Annual Conference & Exposition
http://www.aasa.org/nce_2003/index.asp

National Study of School Evaluation
http://www.nsse.org

Levings Learning
http://www.levingslearning.com

Failure Free Reading
http://www.failurefree.com

Coca-Cola Co.
http://www.coca-cola.com

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

Corel Corp.
http://www.corel.com

Sprint Corp.
http://www.sprint.com/education

Xerox’s FreeColorPrinters program
http://www.freecolorprinters.com

CDI Computers Inc.
http://www.cdicomputers.com

Honeywell International
http://www.honeywell.com

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Students keep community´s eye on schools with low-cost cable program

Caught between the looming hammer of new federal regulations and a deepening school budget crisis that is cutting the very programs needed to make sure that kids really aren’t left behind, chances are you’re not going to have any more money to communicate with parents and promote your schools.

If you’re looking for a new, cost-effective way to use the birth mother of new media—cable television—you might want to tune into an innovative program called “Eye on Rockwood.” Created by students under the auspices of the Rockwood (Mo.) School District’s communications department, the program puts a positive spotlight on students and schools.

“The stories can really be about anything,” says Tom Booth, a broadcast journalism specialist who works on a standard teacher contract. “I tell my students and our teachers to look for unusual classes, hobbies, skills, talents.”

Recent segments have included a middle school Victorian ball with period costumes that incorporated lessons from social studies and language arts classes, a high school that hosted a drama camp for elementary school students, and a parent volunteer who uses a pet parrot to calm and relate to troubled kids as they wait to see a school counselor.

An early childhood special-education program that is helping preschoolers start kindergarten on par with their non-disabled peers also has been featured, along with the requisite blood drives, fundraisers, and school musicals. Because the program’s purpose is to show parents and the community how well Rockwood students, teachers, schools, and the district are performing, negative or sensational stories really haven’t been an issue.

“We let students know up front what the purpose is, and that it’s part of the district’s communications department,” says Booth. “We really don’t get into anything controversial.”

Booth currently has a stable of 27 reporters from the district’s four high schools. In addition to gaining valuable, hands-on experience in tracking down stories, conducting interviews, and producing news segments, students may receive one-half practical arts credit for 75 hours of participation.

The student journalists also are given eight hours of release time each month so they can cover events during school hours. To keep students focused academically, however, most release time is for a half-day or less at a time.

Each school is equipped with identical camera packages, which include a SVHS (“super-vee”) Panasonic with a light kit and a set of microphones (wireless, handheld with the Eye on Rockwood logo and a clip-on). Booth also has a similar equipment package, which he brings to various shoots.

Students are responsible for finding, researching and writing the stories. They also interview their subjects and handle the on-camera stand-ups and story introductions and wrap-arounds.

Booth handles most of the videography and editing, using a non-linear system from Avid Technology. He also schedules student videographers, who can check out their school cameras from a designated administrator on campus. Although he’s willing to work with interested students, he’s found that most simply don’t have the time that video editing and production requires.

Booth meets with his reporting team about once a month and maintains frequent contact through eMail and on-site camera work. The finished program runs 30 minutes and airs on a two-week schedule on the local cable channel for Charter Communications. Typically, Booth includes four news segments, along with a two-minute “blooper” piece at the end. A standard logo opening and closing with credits also is included.

At the end of each school year, Booth presents each student with a personalized newsreel on VHS tape. In addition to sharing the good news about students, teachers, schools, and the district, the teenagers have found that it puts a positive eye on them as well. The newsreels have helped Rockwood graduates get into some of the nation’s top journalism schools, according to Booth.

“Normally, journalism students at Mizzou [the University of Missouri at Columbia] have to put in a couple of years of coursework before doing anything at the local TV station that is manned by students,” says Booth. “One of our students was able to start doing volunteer stuff right away as a freshman because of the experiences he had in Rockwood.”

Booth says he finds working with young people deeply satisfying after logging more than 20 years in newsrooms and corporate public relations offices. “This is just a perfect match, it’s really refreshing,” says Booth, who has a bachelor of arts degree in English and a master of arts in communication.

Districts interested in starting a similar news show need to invest in high-quality equipment, Booth says, noting that the Panasonics he and the students use are configured similarly to those found in local television newsrooms. “The district has really been behind the program financially, in terms of getting us good gear and good editing systems,” says Booth. “So often you’re given the little camcorder and everybody wants NBC.”

Booth also said that he feels the program would benefit from some additional structure. “I come from a different environment, so I’m used to doing a program, not supporting a class,” says Booth. “I think it would help keep the students motivated if we had a little more structure and met more often as a class, so that’s something I’m working on for the future.”

See these related links:

Rockwood School District
http://www.rockwood.k12.mo.us

Avid Technology
http://www.avid.com

Nora Carr is senior vice president and director of public relations for Luquire George Andrews Inc., a Charlotte, N.C.-based advertising and public relations firm. A former assistant superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, she is nationally recognized for her work in educational communications and marketing.

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eSN honors 2003 ‘Tech-Savvy Supes’

Ten of the nation’s top superintendents received a special tribute for their outstanding leadership in the field of educational technology Feb. 23.

The occasion was eSchool News’ third annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, sponsored by Gateway Inc. At a private ceremony held in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference in New Orleans, this year’s award winners accepted plaques and some well-deserved praise for guiding their districts effectively into the Information Age.

In recognition of technology’s growing influence on the nation’s schools, eSchool News launched its annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards program in 2001 to publicize school district CEOs who have demonstrated a remarkable vision for implementing technology to meet their district’s educational goals, and to encourage other school leaders to follow suit.

As K-12 educators come to rely on computers and the internet to help them deliver instruction, track student progress, and aid in decision making, an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to improve education has become increasingly important for today’s superintendents.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of our Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners this year also were finalists in their respective states for AASA’s Superintendent of the Year Award, as—in keeping with the theme of this year’s AASA conference, Leadership in Changing Times—today’s school leaders must have a thorough understanding of how to harness technology’s power to transform education in the 21st century,” said eSchool News Managing Editor Dennis Pierce.

He was referring to Donna Peterson of the Kenai Peninsula School District in Alaska and Tom Scullen of the Appleton Area School District in Wisconsin, both of whom were selected by AASA to represent their states in the organization’s Superintendent of the Year Award program.

Following a brunch of eggs benedict at the legendary Arnaud’s restaurant in the French Quarter, Pierce talked about the importance of technology in helping school leaders meet the rigorous demands of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“With proper planning and leadership, technology can help you make better decisions and ensure that every child meets rigorous standards for learning, as you and your colleagues in other forward-looking districts are demonstrating,” he said. “It can help you pinpoint every student’s exact skill level, deliver supplemental instruction targeting each child’s specific curricular needs, and compare student data across all subjects, grade levels, or socio-economic backgrounds. It can do all of these things and many more, perhaps limited only by the vision of senior school leaders such as yourselves.”

Pierce also outlined what he called the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective School Technology Leaders,” noting that each award winner was chosen because he or she exemplifies these traits.

Following Pierce’s remarks, Paige Scott, an account executive from Gateway, handed out the awards. This year’s winners, in alphabetical order, are:

Kenneth Bird, Westside Community Schools, Nebraska. At the state level, Bird helped develop Nebraska’s comprehensive K-12 State Technology Plan. At the local level, he is known as a visionary who uses technology to keep parents, staff, and students engaged in the work of educating each child. The Westside Schools system also is recognized as Nebraska’s virtual high school.

Kenneth Eastwood, Oswego City Schools, New York. After eight years with the Oswego City Schools, Eastwood has transformed a technologically depressed school system into a nationally recognized model for technology integration. For teachers to have standards-based lessons that incorporate technology, he created a web site that has everything teachers need to be successful. To extend the learning day, he gave teachers and students the ability to do school work from home by installing application servers that provide access to the district’s software from home via the internet.

L. McLean King, Lemon Grove School District, California. King spurred the creation of the “Connected Learning Community,” a complex network of high-speed connections providing voice, data, and video streaming capabilities to more than 4,600 students in all eight schools across the district, as well as to other community agencies. To ensure that technology is used to its full advantage, every teacher completes 120 hours of professional development courses. In a district where 65 percent of all children receive free or reduced-priced lunches, King has used technology to foster student improvement by closing the achievement gap.

Wilfredo Laboy, Lawrence Public Schools, Massachusetts. Since his arrival in 2000, Laboy has both implemented and aggressively streamlined technology in his financially challenged district. He has used technology to align the district’s curriculum with Massachusetts state standards, developed a tool for assessing student achievement against these benchmarks, launched a computer-based, after-school initiative that teaches reading via computers to students who need supplemental instruction, and provided continuous professional development for teachers.

Frank P. Mancuso, Warren County Technical School District, New Jersey. During his 12-year tenure, Mancuso has transformed the district from a single-style learning environment to a student-centered environment in which all students have a chance to succeed. With the help of numerous grants, the district has provided its staff of 50 and student body of 400 with 300 multimedia computers, 24-hour-a-day internet access, and two fully interactive television classrooms linked to locations throughout the world through a video portal.

Donna Peterson, Kenai Peninsula School District, Alaska. In her three years as superintendent, Peterson has turned a district serving 9,800 students spread across 26,000 square miles into a model of ed-tech innovation, enabling it to overcome its unique geographical challenges. To increase network speed, she helped secure 100 miles of fiber-optic cable. She arranged for the installation of 2,700 new personal computers and has instituted key changes to close the opportunity gaps for students.

Tom Scullen, Appleton Area School District, Wisconsin. Every school in the district has internet-connected computers in its classrooms, a technology staff-development trainer, and new student-management software that is empowering students, parents, and educators with access to real-time information. Scullen also spearheaded the installation of a fiber-optic backbone through a creative, multi-town cooperative effort, and he oversaw the implementation of two virtual charter schools this past fall.

Kaye Stripling, Houston Independent School District, Texas. Determined to put powerful technology into the hands of educators, Stripling secured grants to provide 12,000 laptops to teachers and administrators at no cost to the district. Under her leadership, the district’s web portal has been completely revamped to become a more useful tool, and teachers have access to online resources such as a data disaggregating tool that allows them to analyze student test data and plan for students’ success.

Larry Wallen, Pinon Unified School District #4, Arizona, was unable to attend the awards ceremony.

Youssef Yomtoob, Hawthorn School District 73, Illinois. When Yomtoob arrived seven years ago, he envisioned a learning environment with data-enhanced instruction tailored to the needs of individual students. To empower his vision, he budgets more than $100,000 a year for individualized staff development, and he instituted a program of evening technology courses in which parents and students can access technology and tap the know-how of the district’s most tech-savvy teachers. In addition, every Hawthorn teacher and administrator who pledges to improve technology instruction receives a laptop computer.

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Consider the role of leadership in the grant-seeking process

A recent article in the publication Education Week caught my attention because it points to an early sign of what might become a disturbing trend in educational grantsmanship.

The article, entitled “Wary Foundations Tie Grants to Leadership Stability” (Feb. 12), notes that some funders (mostly private foundations to date) have begun reserving the right to discontinue a multi-year grant award if the superintendent of the district that secured the award decides to leave before the project is completed.

I believe this article raises several important questions for districts across the country to consider before they choose to pursue grants from private funders. It also raises questions that can stimulate a healthy dialog among district proposal writers. I would like to raise some of these questions myself and invite you, the readers, to send me your comments. I’ll use your comments in a follow-up article that summarizes how some of you feel about this issue.

One of the questions this topic raises is whether it’s fair for funders to link the continued funding of a project to the district’s stability in leadership. To answer this question, you must consider the role of the funder and its relationship to the grantee.

A common problem in the grant-seeking arena is the failure to understand this relationship. By giving you an award, a grantor—either public or private—is making an investment in your district. In some cases involving national foundations and multi-year grants, this investment can be quite sizable.

William Porter, the executive director of Grantmakers in Education, a national network of charitable groups, is quoted in the article as saying ,”I think a number of foundations have felt that they’ve been burned.” Sadly, I understand Mr. Porter’s comments. Within the past few years there have been documented cases of school districts that received substantial grant awards from a variety of private foundations, yet did not carry out their projects as initially described in their proposals when the leadership of these districts changed.

Unfortunately, in these cases the funded initiatives seemed to be driven solely by one individual rather than by several people throughout the entire district. It is difficult to fault private funders for trying to protect their investment and for not wanting to have a project they support fall apart because of a change in leadership. But some people still wonder if the foundations are being too heavy-handed by tying their giving to stable school district leadership.

A related issue is the importance of the superintendent in the eyes of funders, and how important his or her role should be in guiding the implementation of grant-funded projects. It is a well-known fact that many school leaders today are changing jobs within a rather short period of time, and most of us probably could name a few superintendents who have been at more than one district during the past three years. So how do you, as a district proposal writer, ensure that the superintendent won’t leave before the project is completed? Obviously, you can’t—but you can use this issue to start conversations in your district about distributing leadership of a grant project throughout the entire school community.

By doing so, you can assure potential funders that a change in the superintendency will not automatically lead to the project’s demise. If the actions of these private foundations signal a trend, then I believe we must start these conversations if we plan to pursue funding from them.

What do you think? Drop me a line at Debor21727@aol.com and let me know.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.

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Stimulate a discussion of racism in America today with this PBS web site

On the morning following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Elliott&mdasha third-grade teacher from Riceville, Iowa—decided the time was ripe for a risk. What might it feel like to be black, she asked her class. It was a lesson her students would not soon forget. Now, more than 30 years later, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) celebrates Elliott’s courageous attempt to confront racial prejudice in the classroom with “A Class Divided.” The web site, which complements a Frontline documentary by the same name about Elliott’s remarkable “blue eyes/brown eyes” exercise, enables students to view the documentary in its entirety and provides resources to stimulate discussion about the state of racism in America today. It also contains a number of readings and links for students to conduct follow-up research. For teachers, there is an online guide with several lessons corresponding to the documentary. There’s even a discussion section where educators can seek answers to questions, as well as a published interview with Jane Elliott herself.

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