PLATO Learning unveils new science education software

PLATO Learning Inc.’s two new science curriculum products, PLATO Physical Science and PLATO Multimedia Science Simulations, might give educators a leg up in addressing new federal science testing requirements that will take effect beginning in 2007.

PLATO Physical Science uses sophisticated computer animation and multimedia instruction to address standards-based scientific concepts at the middle-school level. It was developed for use as a self-study tool in classroom or credit recovery programs, in teacher presentations to introduce concepts, for test review, as a supplement to GED instruction, or to complement textbook lessons. Each lesson is aligned with state standards and the guidelines set by the National Science Foundation and other organizations. The curriculum also features a sophisticated test-item bank linking exam questions to specific, standards-based objectives for pre-testing and mastery assessments. Subscriptions to PLATO Physical Science range from $100 to $300 a year.

PLATO Multimedia Science Simulations, with levels for both intermediate and advanced instruction, were originally developed by New Media, a United Kingdom company acquired by PLATO Learning in December 2003. The interactive, multimedia simulations bring invisible and hard-to-understand concepts to life, ensuring a positive teaching and learning experience. The product also provides an alternative to in-class lab experiments that can be costly, unpredictable, and often time-consuming. PLATO Intermediate Multimedia Science Simulations, targeted to students in grades 6-9, costs $4,400 for a building license. PLATO Advanced Multimedia Science Simulations, for students in grades 10-12, costs $2,00 for a building license.

(800) 44-PLATO http://www.plato.com

Measure student progress with these assessments from Pearson Education

For the 2004-05 school year, Pearson Education has launched a series of formative assessment products designed to forecast student growth toward state performance standards. The Progress Assessment Series (PASeries) was developed to provide educators in grades 3-8 with better ways to measure student progress and tie assessment to classroom instruction, Pearson says.

PASeries assessments are scientifically valid, reliable, and research-based benchmark tests designed for completion in one class period. They can be administered either on paper or online, with quick electronic reporting of results. “Using the tools in these innovative assessment products, teachers can now map instruction directly to learning needs and meet the ultimate goal of testing–improving student achievement,” said Douglas Kubach, president of Pearson Educational Measurement.

The PASeries Reading, one of the first two products in the line, uses the scientific Lexile Framework for Reading, from MetaMetrics Inc., to match reader ability and text difficulty, allowing easy monitoring of student progress. The PASeries Mathematics uses the Quantile Framework for Mathematics, also from MetaMetrics, to evaluate student progress. The Quantile scale is similar to the way that Lexiles measure reading ability.

Each PASeries Reading assessment includes a screening test for placement and three progress monitoring tests for each grade level. PASeries Mathematics assessments include a screening test for placement, six progress monitoring tests for each grade level, and diagnostic tests by strand with item analysis reports. PASeries assessments are priced per student, per year based on the volume purchased.

(800) 627-0365 http://www.PearsonProgress.com

Manage your school’s daily operations with help from The Education Edge

The Education Edge, a new student information solution for independent and private schools from Blackbaud Inc., manages a school’s daily operational needs, such as developing class schedules, recording grades, generating transcripts, and sharing information among key offices. The Education Edge also provides administrators with vital information they need to assess both student and school performance, Blackbaud says.

The solution integrates student information collected from all offices across campus, while also providing web-based communication tools so parents and teachers can collaborate more effectively to benefit each student. Teachers use The Education Edge to enter grades, notes, and homework assignments from anywhere they can access the web. The software offers an easy-to-use interface without sacrificing the technical and functional depth required to support critical reporting needs.

Once the system is installed, Blackbaud staff work closely with schools to ensure they effectively leverage the company’s technology to support and streamline their unique processes. Some early adopters of The Education Edge include the Buckley School, a K-12 independent school in Sherman Oaks, Calif.; the Bronx Preparatory Charter School, a 350-student middle and high school in Bronx, N.Y.; and Central Catholic High School, a college preparatory school in Modesto, Calif. Pricing for The Education Edge begins at $5,500.

(800) 443-9441 http://www.blackbaud.com/educationedge

Secure both Windows and Macintosh computers with the aid of Drive Vaccine

Drive Vaccine, from Horizon DataSys Inc., is a cross-platform security solution designed for schools requiring optimal availability and functionality of their public-access computers. Regardless of what a user does–including erasing files, installing software, downloading viruses, or tampering with desktop settings–workstations running Drive Vaccine will roll back to their original configuration upon restart. They will be perfectly configured and available for the next user without the need for IT troubleshooting, the company says.

“What sets Drive Vaccine apart from its competitors is its cross-platform capability. It is the only product in its class that works on both Mac and Windows operating systems,” said Lyle Patel, Horizon DataSys director of sales and marketing.

Drive Vaccine is ideal for school districts, colleges, and universities that have some combination of PC and Mac workstations, Patel said, because it offers remote management capabilities for both platforms. Drive Vaccine costs $39 for a single-user license, and volume discounts are available. Educational pricing starts at $22 and becomes cheaper with higher license volumes.

(888) 553-9433 http://www.drivevaccine.com

Stop spam in its tracks with this software from MicroWorld Technologies

Although many internet users now delete spam before opening it, these unwanted eMail messages still steal bandwidth when passing through school or district servers. MicroWorld Technologies Inc. claims its X-Spam software is more effective at catching spam compared with other anti-spam solutions, including free and paid programs.

X-Spam, the company says, is highly intelligent software that uses an advanced heuristic filter engine combined with two proprietary features–Regular Expressions and Meta Tests–that refine spam identification to an art. Regular Expressions are rule sets to identify spam, and each one has a score associated with it. When eMail messages are tested for spam, each time they test positive for a rule, this score is added to the total. Only when the total reaches a certain threshold value is the mail identified as spam. Meta Tests allow users run further-refined tests to identify spam. The tests allow users to combine multiple expressions with qualifiers like and, or, = , >,<, and so on. With these tests, X-Spam blocks the unwanted mail before it enters the mail server.

A one-year subscription to X-Spam ranges from $2.27 per user for 2,500 users to $7.20 per user for 10 users. Multi-year pricing also is available.

(248) 848 9081 http://www.mwti.net

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