Great Britain’s BBCNews.com reports on a speech by British Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, in which Kelly called on schools to use technology to make it easier for parents to access data related to children’s education. The speech was given at the British Education and Training Technology show, the largest school technology conference in Britain.
cNet’s News.com reports that MSN, Microsoft’s consumer internet site, will be testing features that allow users to search the contents of blogs and make full use of RSS feeds. MSN wants to let its users include RSS feeds on their MyMSN pages so they can follow their favorite blogs without having to leave Microsoft’s site. The decision is evidence of how much traction RSS has gained.
The Daily Review of Towanda, Pa., reports that local superintendent Ray Fleming says the failure of local school officials to equip four elementary schools with computer labs hurts students when they reach high school. The students from these four schools lag behind their peers when it comes to computer literacy, but the district is committed to rectifying the situation.
Is your school counting on money from the eRate this year? Now you can keep up with the goings-on at the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the outfit responsible for administering the $2.5-billion program, through this latest online resource. The site is a collection of training presentations intended to help school leaders and service providers understand the many facets of the complex telecommunications program. Current topics include general updates and new initiatives, invoicing, technology planning, Form 470 changes, competitive bidding, program compliance, service provider perspectives, Form 471 changes, eligible services, Program Integrity Assurance updates, audits, invoicing, appeals, and commitment adjustments. Each audio segment is recorded by an SLD staff member and is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation intended to help explain the selected topic. The presentations are provided through the SLD’s WebEx site. Though the service is free, it requires registration. Using the site as a gateway, visitors also can log in to live training sessions and hear their questions addressed by SLD staff members in real time. If not already installed, users will need to download a WebEx player to participate in the sessions. Instructions for getting started are available on the site, along with a schedule of upcoming presentations.
Using the same type of data-analysis software employed by schools to track the progress of students and ensure they are meeting all relevant standards, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is launching an effort to catch cheating on standardized tests.
Officials will hire an outside expert to review security measures and build a tracking system to monitor test-score irregularities that could signal cheating, according to reports released on Jan. 10.
“We have zero tolerance for cheating,” Texas Education Agency Commissioner Shirley Neeley said in a statement released before a news conference.
The changes are in response to a Dallas Morning News investigation that found strong evidence that educators at nearly 400 schools statewide helped students cheat on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). The newspaper study identified schools whose test scores swung wildly from poor to stellar.
The agency’s announcement breaks with a previous policy of trusting school districts to police themselves. TEA officials had said they investigated cheating allegations only when a district requested it or when they received credible eyewitness evidence of cheating.
Neeley reminded educators of the consequences of cheating on the TAKS test, which could lead to the revocation of a teaching license and up to 10 years in prison, because falsifying testing documents is a third-degree felony.
“Texas educators understand that cheating on the test can be a career-ending move,” Neeley said in the statement.
Texas education policies on student accountability became the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law enacted after then-Gov. George W. Bush’s election as president in 2000.
Texas Education Agency
The London Daily Mail reports that a new study by scientist Robert Winston finds that children who spend excessive amounts of time watching television or playing computer games are less likely to develop methods of concentration that actually help them in school. In addition, kids who are addicted to computer games are staying up later and depriving themselves of necessary sleep that is vital for their development.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Atlanta’s school board has approved six technology-related contracts. These deals amount to more than $11 million and will be included in the application for eRate funding the board must submit by Feb. 17. The major deals are with Integrated Communication Networks, a company that will install wireless networks throughout the city’s schools, and BellSouth, which will install a VoIP phone system. (Note: This site requires registration.)
The Associated Press, in a story carried by Yahoo!, reports that Microsoft has released two crucial security fixes, including one that addresses a major vulnerability in the Windows XP Service Pack 2. The security flaws can be found in all Windows versions since Windows 98 and would allow hackers to take control of an unsuspecting user’s computer.
cNet’s News.com reports that Yahoo has released its own desktop search program to compete with the products offered by rivals Google, Microsoft and Ask Jeeves. The Yahoo software can be integrated to work as a toolbar with Microsoft Outlook.
Reuters reports that Sinclair Broadcast Group is investigating whether or not it was used by political pundit Armstrong Williams as part of a propaganda campaign in which Williams received $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind law. Williams had interviewed ED secretary Rod Paige on Sinclair stations in what now appears to have been an orchestrated effort.