Witness the search for extraterrestrial life at this NASA web site

The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew Feb. 1 hasn’t deterred NASA from its search for new worlds. This search is being conducted over the next 15 years through a series of NASA missions using the most sensitive instruments ever made. On the agency’s “PlanetQuest” web site, students can learn all about these instruments and the missions they are being used in. Students can find out how scientists discover new planets and determine whether a planet is habitable, search an “atlas” of planets to see what planets have been discovered thus far (there are 102), or tour a multimedia gallery. Resources for teachers and focused learning activities for students also are provided.

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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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Qwest probe rocks Ariz. wiring project

The indictment of four Qwest Communications officials in connection with a project to wire all of Arizona’s classrooms to the internet will not affect the project’s completion, state officials say—though they admit they were stunned to learn of this latest development.

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 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 pricier 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.

See these related links:

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

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

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Calendar

April

April 2-3
Minneapolis. Connected Classroom Conference
. This conference, sponsored by Classroom Connect, is held in 10 cities each year as a forum for educators to discuss the incorporation of technology and the internet into classroom instruction. Individual workshops are structured according to skill level for beginner, intermediate, and advanced, with several workshops for all levels. Hands-on labs also are available at an additional cost. Contact: (800) 638-1639 http://proflearn.classroom.com/ ProfDev/Conferences

April 3
Cumberland, Md. Accessing the Fundamentals: Accessible Information Technology in Education
. Sponsored by the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, this conference is comprised of two concurrent sessions: Accessible Distance Learning and Accessible Software Evaluation and Procurement. Registration is limited to 100 people. Contact: (800) 832-4827 http://www.mdtap.org

April 11-15
Anaheim, Calif. National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) 82nd Annual Convention and Exposition
. Educators who attend this show will be invited to participate in full-day learning workshops, concurrent discussion sessions, and exhibits featuring the latest innovations for school administrators. Featured topics include data-driven decision making, improving the quality of urban schools, and the betterment of national early-childhood programs. Contact: (800) 386-2377 http://www.naesp.org/conventions.html

April 16-19
Dallas. National Business Education Association (NBEA) Annual Convention: “Educating for Success in Business and Life.
” K-12 instructors, college administrators, and NBEA members are invited to this event to explore technology’s impact on education by participating in hands-on computer workshops, professional development seminars, and general discussion sessions focused on preparing students for success in the business world. Contact: (703) 860-8300 http://www.nbea.org/conffanm.html

April 23-26
Portland, Ore. Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) Annual Conference
. Now in its 32nd year, this conference brings teachers, principals, and administrators from Oregon and other northwestern states together to discuss the coordination of activities related to the instructional use of computers and other school technologies. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss equality in technology education, promote the use of successful best practices in technology integration, and debate proficiency standards for top-notch ed-tech programs in schools. Contact: (360) 650-4760 http://www.ncce.org/index.html

May

May 8-10
Anaheim, Calif. Computer Using Educators (CUE) 2003 Spring Conference:
“Providing the Tools.” Educators are invited to participate in free, hands-on technology sessions at this event sponsored by CUE, a California-based nonprofit organization supporting the integration of technology into the classroom. Attendees will observe best practices in ed-tech integration via student-led demonstrations and discuss ways to collaborate on their technology efforts with institutions of higher learning. They’ll also be able to purchase access to the conference exhibit hall, where the latest technologies will be on display. Sign up five teachers from your school and one administrator goes to the show for free. Contact: (510) 814-6630 http://www.cue.org

May 14-16
New York City. Education, Technology, and Curriculum Summit 2003.
Sponsored by the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, this conference features the theme “New Models for Individualized Instruction.” It will focus primarily on 12 hot-button topics in K-12 education, spanning from adequate yearly progress and the digital divide to testing, assessment, and professional development. Contact: (888) 464-9950 http://www.edtechsummit.org

June

June 18-20
Pottersville, N.J. edACCESS Technology Conference: “It’s All About Communication.”
Sponsored by edACCESS, a national association of administrative professionals at small schools and colleges, this 12th annual conference gives educators and administrative computing personnel the chance to address some of the more common problems in the ed-tech arena. Through a number of hands-on activities and peer-to-peer discussions, stakeholders will be encouraged to test new solutions to today’s technology challenges. Contact: (413) 774-1422 http://www.edaccess.org

June 23-28
Honolulu. World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia, and Telecommunications (ED-MEDIA) 2003.
The Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education invites educators and technology experts from across the globe to discuss several major topics, including technology infrastructure, tools and content applications, new roles of the instructor and learner, human-computer interaction, best practices, and universal web access. These and other topics will be addressed through a number of channels and networking activities, including tutorials, interactive presentations, discussion sessions, and keynote speeches. Contact: (757) 623-7588 http://www.aace.org/conf/edmedia

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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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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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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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How to empower—and retain —your tech support staff

In today’s increasingly complex technology environment, tech support personnel are a vital part of any school system. Yet these essential employees often are overlooked and almost certainly are underpaid, when you compare their salaries in a typical school setting with the money they could earn in the private sector. Keeping your support staff happy requires empowering them professionally, giving them ample opportunities to advance their skills and their careers—which, in turn, will pay dividends for your schools.

Our school system has moved from a mainframe environment with self-developed applications featuring hard-coded business logic and edits to a client-server environment using off-the-shelf software packages. In our legacy student information system, we maintained fewer than 500 users, compared with the 10,000-plus users we currently support. Today, we are no longer reactive and limited to reciting the moribund answers from manuals to support legacy applications; instead, we are proactive and act much more like consultants, providing advice and best business practices to many “clients.” Thus, our challenge was to professionalize our support team to better reflect our changing technologies and expanding roles.

Our first goal was to define our support activities clearly, ensuring that our technical employees were treated equitably and were afforded the same intrinsic rewards as other employees in the enterprise. We wanted to establish a system that recognized professional activities and encouraged self promotion and identification. That’s not to say material rewards aren’t paramount, for they are; rather, it reflects the reality of current budget cycles and acknowledges the lengthy processes that may be involved in changing grades and job classifications.

I recommend that you study the requirements for teacher recertification in your district and state to better understand and emulate staff development opportunities for your tech support personnel. In our case, we developed the matrix you see below as the core document to create career ladder opportunities for our team. I hope you’ll find this matrix to be easily adaptable to the circumstances and positions that exist in your own districts.

Ultimately (and deservedly so), we moved all of our specialists to the top of the career ladder—and, as a result, our schools and offices are better served and our customer satisfaction has increased. Another added benefit is that we often use the matrix in our interview process, both to help candidates understand what we do and as a tool for applicants to rate themselves and their skill set.

Here are eight more ideas to help you ensure that your tech support employees get the respect they deserve:

  • Update job descriptions to reflect new technologies and concepts, recognizing that many descriptors will need to be broad rather than narrow. For example, “supports web-based applications” and “writes scripts for web-based applications” has more longevity than “writes Java scripts.”
  • Make sure each employee keeps an updated portfolio of professional resources and time spent in professional development. Notify all employees of professional development opportunities and ask for feedback after each activity, so that only high-quality and meaningful training is provided.
  • Require attendance at conferences or vendor demonstrations as a way to stay on top of industry developments. Subscribe to and make available professional journals and articles, and share all resources whenever possible. Local and national user groups are another excellent way to encourage support employees both to gain and to share their professional knowledge.
  • Find a liaison or partner in human resources to support you in your cause, and ask this person to look in the professional literature for model job descriptions. Lobby effectively and gain an honest reputation as an advocate for your support employees. The information technology (IT) field is rich in descriptions and duties; job postings and listings are also good sources of information.
  • Encourage support employees to earn the certifications that are available from Microsoft, Apple, A+, and others. Encourage flexible scheduling to give support employees the chance to attend classes and seminars—including education classes outside the IT field, so they can become familiar with the unique vocabulary and requirements of education and thus better support the school system’s core mission.
  • Give support employees the opportunity to pair up with teachers and office staff to see firsthand how administrative and instructional applications are used. Invite school-based employees to spend a day at the central district office to understand the IT “big picture” and decision-making processes.
  • Professionalize the telephone demeanor and dress of employees to ensure that your IT department conforms to the values of your organization, regardless of whether they have client contact. At a minimum, use polo, denim, or other logo shirts to build recognition and pride while adhering to today’s business casual dress. Try to use a special shirt, logo, or pin to recognize excellent client service.
  • Form a representative group, council, or task force to study the issues and suggest ways to empower and professionalize the support employee. Provide template language and mentor each employee in resume development and updating.

It has been my experience that the more accurately and effectively you can articulate the role of support employees, the more willing colleagues and clients are to support you in the effort to upgrade their positions. The ability to attract and retain high-quality employees goes far beyond salary, benefits, and work environments; these are things we often have little control over. What we can control for ourselves and for others is the extent to which technology support positions are seen as an integral part of a school district’s operation. Remember that you don’t just support technology—you enable business processes and ultimately support student achievement.

Alan S. Brody is the coordinator of the Information Technology Functional Application Support Team (IT FASTeam) for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. He can be reached at alan.brody@fcps.edu.

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Personalized learning services stand out at FETC 2003

In search of tools to help them meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), thousands of educators came to the 23rd annual Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) Feb. 4-6 in Orlando. What they found was an evolution in thinking, from one-size-fits-all technology solutions to customizable, online services tailored to the individual student needs.

Despite a bleak fiscal landscape, attendance at this year’s event was estimated at more than 12,000 educators, vendors, and other stakeholders—an increase of some 20 percent over the previous year, according to conference producers. Attendees who eventually made their way out of the sun and into the exhibit hall at the Orange County Convention Center got to test-drive new technology solutions from more than 500 educational vendors, take part in any of 200 sessions, and network with colleagues during any of 67 hands-on workshops.

While such products as the Tablet PC and personal digital assistant (PDA) arrived on the ed-tech scene with great corporate fanfare, it is the less publicized, internet-based applications used to create personalized assessments and individualized learning experiences that might provide the clearest indication of what the future holds for technology in America’s schools.

Online assessment

Scantron Corp., the company whose name for years has been synonymous with the bubble-style scoring sheets used on most high-stakes tests, is touting one such program. The company’s ParSYSTEM 6.0 product suite consists of several components designed to help educators pinpoint the strengths and weakness of individual students.

Scantron administers online assessments to students and then uses its technology to break out data on such assessments at state, district, class, or individual levels. The results, which are password-protected, can be accessed by teachers and administrators in real time, then used to decide which subject areas teachers need to emphasize in class or even to students individually. The scores come complete with graphs and charts to illustrate where each student, class, or school stands in relationship to others.

According to Bill Tudor, Scantron’s executive vice president, the technology will be particularly useful as schools search for ways to meet the new standards of accountability put in place by NCLB. “The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that schools measure each student’s grade level progress, and in a large district the sheer volume of student data associated with this kind of testing can pose an enormous management challenge,” he said.

In a demonstration for eSchool News, Tudor showed how the technology was able to aggregate data to illustrate achievement gaps between different demographic and socioeconomic groups, letting educators know immediately how much work needs to be done in what subject areas, and making sure each school and every student is performing at satisfactory levels under the new law.

Larry Bolinger, principal of Merritt Brown Middle School in Panama City, Fla., called Scantron’s new system ideal for preparing students for major high-stakes tests. “This is the best diagnostic tool I’ve come across in terms of accuracy and reliability with the FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test],” he said. “You can access real-time, accurate data and then use [the data] to adjust instruction individually by student.”

To provide even more immediate testing results, Scantron also offers ParSYSTEM as part of its Classroom Wizard tool. The Wizard enables teachers to administer online tests using handheld devices and then collects the scores immediately from students for real-time assessment. Scantron houses all the data recorded for each school customer online, so school leaders don’t have to worry about the problem of long-term storage. The company said it can schedule up to 2 million online assessments a day.

‘Intelligent’ instruction

Educational service providers are using the internet to do more than just personalize assessment data. Many companies also are turning to technology to provide customized curricula aimed at encouraging students to take a more active—or, perhaps, interactive—role in their education.

During the conference, educational publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston made available its Quantum Artificial Intelligence Tutors for students in need of help with chemistry and other science concepts. The programs’ artificial-intelligence (AI) technology enables students to go online from school or at home to practice how to write equations and complete formulas. What separates Holt’s AI technology from other internet-based tutors is that it helps coach the learner to the correct answer by pointing out individual mistakes and providing clues that evoke critical thinking skills based on these mistakes. The more well-versed a student becomes with the subject matter, the more complex the reasoning used by the technology becomes.

The Quantum Tutors are part of Holt’s Online Learning Program, which also provides interactive, online access to any number of the company’s educational textbook titles. By accessing the books online, students not only get to read the information printed in the hardcover editions; they also get access to links for additional study and various other resources related to the subject matter. Plus, the online versions save them from having to lug heavy textbooks to and from school each day, said Pam Nelson, the company’s senior vice president of marketing. Now all kids have to do is go home, log on to a computer, and pull up the night’s assignment.

Bridging the communication gap

Just as technology can be used to personalize learning and make curricula come alive, it also can be employed to bridge the communications gap between stakeholders, making learning more intimate for everyone involved—from teachers and students to parents and administrators.

At least, that’s what the people at Aspire Learning Corp. have attempted to do. More than a student information system, Aspire’s internet-based suite of teaching, reporting, and communication tools focuses on customizable technology applications that are easily integrated into a school system’s existing infrastructure—and are just as easy for educators to use.

“Aspire is designed for the teacher who is intimidated by technology,” said Scott Collins, the company’s head of marketing.

By logging onto the Aspire Learning System, educators get access to a number of communication features designed to include parents and other stakeholders in the business of educating their children. From their computers at home or at work, parents can compose messages to instructors, access school calendar information, peek at real-time grades, and even take a look at what assignments are due on a given week.

On the teacher side, educators can communicate with parents by conducting surveys to gauge opinions about a particular program or idea before its implementation. They can also create an accessible web site library used to store relevant educational links and tap into online quiz, test, and grade assessment features, as well as an online grade book and attendance ledger.

The communication tool can be accessed from school or home directly through the school’s web site without installation of any additional hardware or software, according to Aspire President Andy Little.

During FETC, Aspire also announced a partnership with CCV Software Inc. to provide a trial version of the Aspire Learning System to schools at no cost by way of a program called Test Drive.

A paradigm shift

The shift in excitement from sleek new hardware products to comprehensive, internet-based applications and assessment tools at FETC 2003 is representative of a paradigm shift in educational technology. Now that most schools have had access to internet-connected computers for years—and many already are abandoning traditional desktop machines in favor of portable laptops and wireless handheld devices—the questions no longer center on what types of hardware solutions are needed, but rather on how technology can be used to provide bona fide proof of achievement in schools.

Several vendors and educators interviewed by eSchool News agreed that by cutting down on the amount of paperwork teachers and administrators must process in schools, technology is freeing up more time for individualized instruction and placing the emphasis where it needs to be: in the classroom, with the students.

Of course, that’s not to say eye-catching new hardware solutions went unseen at this year’s show. The folks at Gateway Inc., for instance, said they received a great deal of interest in a number of products, including their flat-panel plasma display screens, as well as several laptop computer models and another much inquired-about device: the Tablet PC.

After watching one demonstration of how certain models of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Compaq Tablet PC technology are able to record voice and then transform these voice recordings into text, special education teacher Gayle Mamer said she couldn’t wait to see the value of this technology at work in her classroom. “It was really cool,” she said. “You know, the way it records speech and then turns it into text.”

Empowering educators

But while a number of hardware companies were touting their various nuts-and-bolts solutions, Dell Computer Corp. placed its focus on equipping students and teachers with the skills and planning tools necessary to use technology effectively.

Fresh from the Jan. 24 Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Literacy Summit in Washington, D.C., executives from Dell announced plans to promote a new technology planning architecture, which the company hopes will help educators meet the accountability demands of NCLB while equipping students with the skills they’ll need to be successful in the 21st century.

The Dell School Architecture enables the company’s school customers to take advantage of a number of new services, including customized technology planning, yearly progress reports on student achievement, and professional development programs aimed at helping educators understand how their Dell systems can be used in a classroom setting.

In an interview with eSchool News, Scott Campbell, Dell’s director of K-12 services, said the idea is to change Dell’s image in the marketplace from vendor to partner. Industry partners, he said, are able to play a critical role in helping schools reach their achievement goals.

“Technology does not teach, it enables us to teach,” Campbell said. “Dell is not just a vendor anymore, we’re a partner.”

Another company that believes the first step to effective technology integration starts with empowering educators is Macromedia Inc. One of the industry’s leading providers of web development software, Macromedia was on hand at FETC to showcase its Contribute product.

With Contribute, educators who have only a basic understanding of web page design can update, customize, and develop their own interactive web pages, which are linked to the school’s server and made accessible from its home page. The program works by supplying a template, which is created by the school’s web master, for teachers to work from. Once the template is created, the Contribute software lets teachers access the pages and make changes by adding text in simple text boxes and copying images from an image library or other resources directly onto the page. The program evens lets educators cut and paste Microsoft Word and Excel documents onto the template while keeping the formatting intact.

“It really allows you to do things in terms of building a community, which we’ve wanted to do but haven’t yet been able to do,” said Kim Cavanaugh, an author and web design instructor for Florida’s Palm Beach County School District.

Cavanaugh, who has been using Macromedia’s software for years, said educators in his district have welcomed the new product because it allows them to integrate the use of the web in their classrooms more fully without seeking constant support from already busy IT staff.

An air of sadness

Back on the exhibit floor, amidst the high energy and activity surrounding the arrival of so many new product announcements, technology demonstrations, and press conferences, there also was an air of sadness at this year’s show.

Still reeling from the tragic loss of seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia, representatives from NASA were on hand to remind educators that the need for high-quality science and technology instruction in America’s schools continues, and that NASA is committed to helping schools groom young scientists for future missions.

The shuttle, lost Feb. 1, was launched into space Jan. 16 from the Kennedy Space Center, one hour south of the convention site.

“NASA wants to inspire the next generation of explorers,” said former teacher Shannon Ricles, coordinator and producer of the award-winning NASA Science Files—a free, interactive web site for students. “You can’t get them more excited about math and science instruction than you can by doing it using space as a backdrop.”

In light of the tragedy, Ricles said NASA is working hard to generate continued excitement for its educational programs, most of which are offered at no cost to schools.

More news from the exhibit floor

Apple Computer announced its spring line of iMac computers, featuring two new models. The new 17-inch widescreen model features a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 processor with faster processing capability and more memory, as well as a faster 4x SuperDrive for playing and burning both CDs and DVDs and internal support for AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless technologies, all for $1,799. The second model, which comes with a 15-inch, flat-panel display, features an 800 MHz G4 processor and is priced at $1,299. Apple also announced lower pricing on its eMac line of consumer and education computers.

http://www.apple.com

Corel Corp. demonstrated its new web-based product, Corel Classroom. Delivered by Element K, a provider of online training services, this fully interactive training program provides professional development courses for educators to master Corel’s WordPerfect and CorelDraw applications. http://www.corel.elementk.com

CrossTec Corp. demonstrated its NetOP School technology. The program allows instructors to monitor the work of students at every PC or lab in a given classroom. The ability to see each screen on a single monitor helps educators keep their students on task while they work. The application also lets teachers take full control over each student’s screen individually or as a class, giving teachers the ability to use one person’s work as an example or demonstrate the steps of a given exercise in real time. With NetOP, students who do not understand a particular technology concept also can send private instant messages to the instructor’s computer. A classroom suite for one teacher and 10 students costs $895. http://www.netopusa.com

Curriculum Associates launched its BRIGANCE Screens Online Scoring Service. This entirely web-based service lets educators run customized academic skills reports on kindergarten and first-grade students to help ensure that appropriate accountability and intervention measures are put into place at a young age. The company offers free training for the screening service at http://www.brigance.com. http://www.curriculumassociates.com

The Discovery Channel School and CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G) launched a new partnership geared toward helping students learn about technology. As a result of the agreement, CDW-G and Discovery will produce “All About Computers,” a set of technology-related curriculum materials designed for middle and high school students. As part of the roll-out, the products will be sent free of charge to 5,000 district-level technology personnel nationwide. Plus, an additional 50,000 posters depicting how wireless technology works will be shipped to technology specialists at middle and high schools. http://www.cdewg.com http://www.school.discovery.com/cdwg

eBook Systems unveiled its latest technology, FlipAlbum 5 Professional, which lets students and teachers create interactive photo presentations complete with video clips, sound effects, a searchable table of contents, and customized text. Unlike Micro-soft’s familiar Power-Point presentation tool, FlipAlbum organizes its presentations in the form of an interactive book, complete with turning pages and a unique bookmarking application, which lets the presenter skip easily to specific parts of a presentation. FlipAlbum books can be shared online or burned onto a compact disc. Once the albums are put onto a CD, they can be opened and viewed on any Macintosh or Windows-based platform, regardless of whether the FlipAlbum software is installed on that computer. http://www.ebooksys.com/ebooksys/flash.php

Generation Yes announced that teachers will be able to receive college credit for participation in the company’s Generation Y program. This unorthodox professional development model also meets a national call for 21st-century skills among students by using students to assist teachers in the integration of technology into classrooms. Teachers from anywhere in the world now can complete the program online through Washington State University’s Distance Degree Program. http://www.genyes.org

Intellitools hopes to ease the instructional burdens of overworked teachers by adding to its line of ReadyMade curriculum products. At FETC, the company announced two new additions to its suite of titles: Primary Literacy for grades K-2 and Lewis and Clark for social studies teachers in grades 3-5. All of the products in the company’s ReadyMade product line provide ready-to-use, technology-based lessons aligned to national education standards. http://www.intellitools.com

Kaplan K12 Learning Services introduced a number of products to help schools meet the accountability challenges leveled by NCLB. The Kaplan Achievement Planner is a software application designed to analyze high-stakes test results at district, school, class, and student levels. It also provides lesson plans aimed at closing existing achievement gaps. The Kaplan Reading Empowerment Program is another recently-released software solution that gives educators the ability to pinpoint specific reading needs of students through assessments based on Autoskill’s popular Academy of Reading software. The software lets educators track individual student progress, plan professional development workshops, and schedule one-on-one conferences to discuss student results. http://www.kaplank12.com

Kurzweil Educational Systems—maker of the Kurzweil 3000, a software application that converts text to audio for students with learning and visual disabilities—touted the latest version of its 3000 product as a potential test-taking aid for special-needs students. The 3000 comes with a variety of interactive features, including study aids, highlighting, note-taking, and writing supports. Students can scan in text from books and worksheets, then have the content read back to them, or they can use a web reading application to hear the text of web pages read while surfing the net. http://www.kurzweil.com

In a move to give schools more affordable access to eBook technology, Palm Digital Media and Lightning Source Inc. unveiled the Classics Collection. Students, teachers, and administrators now can have access to more that 500 classic eBook titles—from William Shakespeare to Virginia Woolf—for an entire school year. The books can be downloaded in less than a minute to all Palm-powered handheld computers, Pocket PC devices, and Mac and Windows desktops, as well as Microsoft Tablet PC devices and Dana computers from AlphaSmart. Licensing begins at $499 for the school year and gives schools unlimited access to the books. http://www.palmdigitalmedia.com http://www.lightningsource.com

PLATO Learning celebrated its 40th birthday this year at FETC. The provider of computer-based instruction also was pushing its K-3 FOCUS Reading and Language Program, which emphasizes the five components of reading as outlined by the National Reading Panel. K-3 FOCUS recently was reviewed and validated by the Florida Center for Reading Research. http://www.plato.com

SMART Technologies demonstrated a number of stylish new devices, including its Sympodium Interactive Lectern. Through a touch-sensitive screen attached to the lectern, teachers can annotate and give interactive presentations using a digital stylus. The stylus enables users to make real-time corrections to charts and tables. In addition, the company’s SychronEyes software puts educators in control of every student’s desktop. With SychronEyes, teachers can peek in on individual student monitors or freeze every computer in the classroom with a click of a button. http://www.smarttech.com

See these related links:

Scantron Corp.
http://www.scantron.com

Holt, Rinehart and Winston
http://www.hrw.com

Aspire Learning Corp.
http://www.aspire.com

Gateway Inc.
http://www.gateway.com

Hewlett-Packard Co.
http://www.hp.com

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

Macromedia Inc.
http://macromedia.com Consortium for School Networking
http://www.cosn.org

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

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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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