Bush to Congress: Renew NCLB this year

President Bush wants to add elements to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that will ensure the competitiveness of American students by strengthening math and science education-but he also is making another run at giving poor students private school vouchers, a move a Congress controlled by Democrats appears ready to block.

The White House on Jan. 23 unveiled details of the president’s proposals for overhauling NCLB, which is up for renewal this year. Bush also briefly touched on NCLB in his State of the Union address, urging Congress to renew the education law this year.

After a great deal of buildup leading up to the State of the Union that it would focus heavily on domestic issues, only 203 of the speech’s 5,510 words dealt with education. Nearly half of Bush’s speech-some 2,500 words-focused on the war on terror, seeking to persuade the Democratic Congress to give his controversial strategy for Iraq a chance to work.

On NCLB, Bush said: “Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act-preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.”

Bush said the task before Congress now is “to build on this success-without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform.”

“We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools-and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose something better,” he said. “We must increase funds for students who struggle-and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future, and our country is more competitive, by strengthening math and science skills.”

He concluded: “The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children-and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.”

The administration’s proposal calls for giving vouchers-called “promise scholarships” in the president’s parlance-to students in schools that persistently fail to meet progress goals set by the federal law.

“This is not for every kid in America. This is for those kids who are trapped in the absolute worst schools that just don’t seem to be capable, or willing, to make the changes necessary to serve those students well,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan said before the president’s State of the Union address.

The administration tried to include such a measure in NCLB when it was first signed into law five years ago. Democrats, then in the minority party, blocked the effort.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who became chairman of the Senate committee overseeing education when Democrats took over Congress this year, said he would work to keep vouchers out of the education law.

“We need new and creative ideas for helping our schools to improve and our students to succeed. Instead, the president has proposed more of the same,” Kennedy said. “Once again, he proposes siphoning crucial resources from our public schools.”

Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat who chairs the House committee overseeing education, called the voucher proposal unacceptable. “It didn’t pass muster when Republicans controlled the Congress, and it certainly won’t pass muster now that Democrats do,” Miller said.

NCLB seeks to ensure that all children can read and do math at grade level by 2014, which has placed unprecedented demands on schools. They have been required to step up testing, raise teacher quality, and place more attention on the achievements of minority children.

Besides promoting vouchers, the administration is calling for other changes to the law. One would require states to publish a report card showcasing how students do on state tests compared with the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous national test. Such a move could put pressure on states to strengthen their assessments and standards.

The administration also wants to make tutoring more widely available, by ensuring that school districts notify parents of their options under the law. In addition, Bush wants to expand the Teacher Incentive Fund, which supports efforts to reward teachers who raise student achievement and work in needy schools; expand the Striving Readers program, which targets literacy instruction in grades 6-12; and increase funding for Title I in high schools, to ensure that more students graduate on time. According to the Alliance for Excellence in Education, only about 70 percent of students graduate from high school on time-and only about half of minority students receive a high school diploma in four years.

To prepare students for success in the new global economy, Bush wants to incorporate the educational elements of his American Competitiveness Initiative-which he unveiled in last year’s State of the Union Address-into the reauthorization of NCLB.

The administration aims to increase the rigor of math and science classes by training more teachers and making Advanced Placement (AP) classes available to more students in these disciplines. Bush also wants to create an Adjunct Teacher Corps of talented professionals who will share their expertise in the classroom, and he wants Congress to enact the recommendations of the National Math Panel he formed last year.

In addition, states are required to add science testing in three grade levels by 2008, and the president wants the renewed education law to specify that all students will achieve proficiency in science by the 2019-20 school year.

The president’s proposals in the area of competitiveness are likely to get a much warmer reception on Capitol Hill than his call for vouchers. Shortly before Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Address, House Democrats introduced a plan of their own to keep America competitive in the new global economy. The Democrats’ plan made improved education its centerpiece and called for incentives for students to pursue careers in science and technology (see story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5978).

Besides renewing NCLB, Bush urged lawmakers packed into the House chamber for his State of the Union address to send him legislation helping more Americans afford health insurance, reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and overhaul immigration laws.

Links:

White House

http://www.whitehouse.gov

State of the Union 2007

http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/index.html

“Building On Results: A Blueprint For Strengthening NCLB” (Bush’s proposals)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/initiatives/education.html

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Students envision ‘digital dorms’ of the future

What will the typical college dorm room look like in the year 2020? On-demand supplemental lectures available in every room, or maybe translucent solar panels on dorm windows to charge laptops that weigh less than a three-ring binder?

With technology advancing at an exponential rate every year, Gradware.com–a San Diego-based supplier of discounted software and hardware for students, teachers, and schools–is asking students to share their visions for the future of technology on college campuses. The three student responses the company deems best will qualify for a college scholarship worth $1,000, $500, or $250. In addition, Gradware says it will publish up to 50 of the top essays in book format and distribute these to college presidents, technology research and development firms, and journalists in the national media in June.

“We want to bring back the notion that U.S. colleges and high schools are important breeding grounds of technological innovation and cultural creativity,” said Spencer Sakata, Gradware’s chief executive officer. “This is a chance for creative, forward-thinking students to brainstorm the coolest gadgets they can think of. No rules, no limits–we’re really looking for some crazy ideas here. Technology can be very cool when it enhances campus life.”

Sakata said he hopes education officials will find the essay compilation useful as they plan their future needs for campus technology. “They’re going to be intrigued by the ideas that students have,” he predicted. “Students are using technology differently, and it’s … changing their priorities.”

Sakata said creative thinking is of paramount importance in the contest.

“The first thing we want to do is foster innovation at the college level and have students think about technology and how it relates to everyday life, and we want them to think big about it in ways that are more integrated into their lifestyle,” he said. 

Today’s student entrants just might dream up tomorrow’s “it” technology, Sakata said.

“I think the future innovations will come from ideas that students have now,” he said. “We’re looking for how technology applies to your lifestyle, not just point solutions that aren’t integrated in any way. Technology is starting to really converge, is getting cheaper, and is becoming more widespread. Now we [should] focus on how to use [it] in a way to benefit us, not just technology for technology’s sake.”

The contest could act as a springboard for a new generation of “smart homes” as students get older, Sakata continued. A “digital dorm room” and the technology used in it, he said, could easily be extended to homes.

In the immediate future, Gradware’s essay contest could inspire college planners to integrate technology in new and exciting ways, said Judy Marks, associate director for the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

“I think this contest should be very interesting to see what the students are thinking of,” said Marks. “Universities have attempted to network and create wireless environments and everything that goes along with that.” 

Marks said many college dorms are undergoing an immense redesign, and not just in terms of technology: “Mostly it’s their kitchens, bathrooms, and the dormitories themselves have enormous services that they’re offering kids, and amenities that you couldn’t imagine would be in dormitories.” (See “21st-century dorms ‘up the ante'”.) 

The 2007 Gradware National Essay Scholarship, “The Digital Dorm Room of the Future,” is open to all undergraduates and college-bound high school juniors and seniors in the United States. The scholarship contest details are available on the Gradware web site from now until the competition deadline, March 16.

Sakata said he expects a lot of responses from IT and design majors, as well as English and writing majors. “This kind of contest doesn’t require technical knowledge–it requires imagination,” he said.

There are no need-based or GPA requirements to enter. Essay applicants must be 28 or younger as of the scholarship deadline. Students must submit an essay no longer than 750 words describing their vision of the “digital dorm room” in the year 2020, and what campus life should be like with the power of emerging and future (not yet invented) technologies.

Links:

Gradware

http://www.gradware.com

2007 Gradware National Essay Scholarship: “The Digital Dorm Room of the Future”

http://www.gradware.com/scholarship.asp

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

http://www.edfacilities.org

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Youth voices

Realizing that education initiatives, no matter how forward-thinking, run little chance of succeeding without buy-in from the learners they’re intended to help, NASA invited four teams of students to its Jan. 17 Education Partnership Summit. The students, part of the NetGeneration of Youth (NGY) Cyber-journalism Program, were there not only to participate in discussions, but to gain professional experience as journalists, interviewing program participants and taking news of the event back home to their communities.
 
Throughout the day-long event, students used their time to work as professional journalists, interviewing keynote speakers and other summit participants about the importance of STEM education and the value of educational partnerships in readying students for success in the global workforce. Capitalizing on their affinity for technology, many students used video and digital cameras to document the event; others came armed with pen and paper, prepared to write news stories for dissemination back home.
 
Program organizers said having students from NGY on hand helped accomplish two main goals of the summit. For one, it gave the students an opportunity to add their input to the ongoing discussion, submitting ideas for what NASA and other organizations could do to strengthen their relationships with schools; secondly, it gave the students a chance to hone their real-world competencies and engage in a unique brand of learning–the kind that could only take place beyond the four walls of the classroom.

“It’s about one word: relevance,” said Patrick Alarcon, a science teacher at Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) in Stamford, Conn. and a mentor to a team of two student journalists from his school. “Through [the NetGeneration of Youth Learning Community] we are going to try and capitalize on this idea of partnership to take the students out of the classroom so that we can transcend the textbook to give them experience in the workplace while they are learning the material.”

By working as journalists to cover the event, Alarcon said, participating students were able to share their insights with a core group of educational decision-makers–and, perhaps more importantly, learn how to communicate what they’ve learned to their parents and friends back home.  

“If you cannot communicate the information you have, then you haven’t learned anything and you are not making society better,” he said. “The whole idea is to bring meaning for what the students are doing in the classroom. Once they understand that, and they know where they are going to go with what you are teaching, it becomes so much more fun.”
 
Sean Zhao, a student journalist from the AITE team out of Stamford, said the value of the experience was immeasurable.

“This program taught me that I should go out and discover what I want to do in life, as opposed to simply sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher say ‘learn this’ or ‘learn that,'” he said. “I think that to be able to go out and touch the things you like to learn, as opposed to just listening to what your teachers are saying, is very important. It’s very entertaining, and you learn better that way.”

His teammate, Erronique Whyte, has participated in NGY civic activities for two years. Her experiences have convinced her that teachers can improve the quality K-12 classrooms by using technology and multimedia to engage tech-savvy learners; digital resources also could be used as a tool to help students organize and retain important information better, she said, regardless of whether they choose to go into science or math, or some other field. Whyte, for example, says she wants to become a lawyer. 

 “I think it’s good to have technology incorporated into the classes and the lesson plans, so that [school] can be more enjoyable for the students,” she said. “Personally, I can’t learn if I’m not interested in it.”

Zhao said he’d like to see teachers emphasize a greater depth of knowledge across all disciplines–to focus on cultivating the kinds of higher-level thinking skills that will enable students to address the problems they’ll likely encounter in the business world.

Ronnie Lowenstein, who founded NGY in 1999 with a commitment to media literacy, civic engagement, and youth expression, said the program is about empowering youth voices across America.

“NGY affiliates with youth serving organizations to cultivate youth leadership appropriate for the Digital Age,” said Lowenstein, an independent consultant and writer who specializes in educational partnership building.

NGY is the youth component of the Education Technology Think Tank, a national collaborative of business and civic and government sector representatives committed to improving educational opportunities for traditionally underserved communities.

Participating students came from four different institutions: the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in Stamford, Conn.; Blake High School, part of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland; Centers for Youth Development from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Polytechnic University, also from Brooklyn.

Links:

Education Technology Think Tank
http://www.et3online.org/

Net Generation of Youth
http://www.et3online.org/programs/ngy.cfm

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NASA to focus on educational partnerships

Looking to attract more students to careers in technical disciplines such as science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM), a group of educators, policy makers, students, and officials from NASA and other government agencies convened outside Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17 for a first-of-its-kind summit aimed at fostering sustainable educational partnerships.

The government space agency used the day-long event, called the NASA Education Partnership Summit, to lay out a new educational framework intended to help NASA work more effectively with schools, while furthering its mission of preparing today’s students for success in the 21st century. Held at the University of Maryland Inn and Conference Center in College Park, Md., the event took place just a short drive from the agency’s Goddard Flight Center–one of 10 regional NASA research facilities throughout the United States.

Schools face a daunting challenge in preparing students for a changing workforce, one where co-workers are as likely to reside in cities halfway across the globe–in Beijing or Nepal, for example–as they are to work in offices down the hall. To meet this challenge, summit participants said, it’s imperative that schools adapt to a changing landscape. Fortunately for educators, it isn’t a burden they need shoulder alone; future employers also have a vested interest in seeing students succeed, participants noted.

“When you have a great partnership, it’s amazing what you can accomplish,” said Joyce Winteron, NASA’s assistant administrator for education.

Seeking to improve its relationship with schools and, in turn, boost interest in STEM education, NASA has announced a new “Education Framework.” The framework concentrates on four key areas of involvement: to inspire, engage, educate, and employ.

Administrators have fashioned the framework in the form a pyramid designed to work from the bottom up, starting with inspiration. The space agency says it will focus its partnership efforts on engagement and formal education in elementary and secondary schools, gradually shifting the emphasis to the job market in college and university settings. The goal, according to NASA, is to build strategic partnerships focused on improving knowledge and understanding of STEM education; to attract and retain more students in the STEM disciplines; and, ultimately, to pump more highly qualified workers into the new global economy.

Partnering for change

“With the new framework, we’re pulling NASA together to become one solidified unit as an agency education effort,” said Bernice Alston, NASA’s deputy assistant administrator for education, in an interview with eSchool News.

In partnering with schools, NASA is looking to serve as a conduit for improving education, giving teachers and students a better understanding for the types of skills that 21st-century employers need and demand.

“We’re reaching out to all sectors,” said Alston. “We’re reaching out to industry, government, nonprofits, community-based organizations. We’re reaching out to everyone, because we don’t have all of the answers and we think that we can do a much better job if people who have vested interests in their communities can have a say about how we improve STEM education.”

Through its initiatives, the space agency seeks to provide schools with a range of benefits they otherwise would not have access to. For example, NASA invites schools to explore distance-education opportunities so that scientists from any one of its 10 regional facilities can share their knowledge and understanding with students. The space agency also promotes site visits and teams up with outside organizations to offer summer camps and project-based learning opportunities designed to give students a feel for what it’s like to work in the profession.

The Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp is one such example. Harris, a former astronaut, physician, and accomplished businessman, founded the initiative in conjunction with the Houston Independent School District, the University of Houston, and Southwestern Oklahoma State University as a way to enhance opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

The two-week residential summer camp hosts middle and high school students at some of the nation’s top universities, providing them with an opportunity to hone their math and science skills in hopes of securing better jobs.

This year, with the help of NASA and ExxonMobil, Harris says, the camp will expand from two locations to as many as 20 campuses nationwide. Without the support of willing partners, he said, such growth would have been impossible.

So what makes for an effective educational partnership? Ideas are good, said Alston. But they have to be sustainable; the key is to develop relationships that last.

“We have to come together and do more with what we have,” she said. “We need to ask, ‘How do we develop our workforce–and how do we do it well?'”

It’s an important question, says author and long-time educational researcher Willard Daggett. Unfortunately, finding an answer might be more difficult than many people realize.

Daggett, whose organization–the International Center for Leadership in Education–is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and others to identify the nation’s 20 top-performing schools, says the best educational partnerships hinge on one key factor: communication.

“Do you really know what’s on the mind of K-12 educators in this country?” Daggett asked a room full of NASA administrators during the summit. He added: “Because until you know what’s on their mind and they know what’s on your mind, you’re never going to be really good partners.”

Once an effective dialogue is in place, Daggett said, schools can begin working with partner organizations such as NASA and others to refine the current educational system, making it more relevant for a new generation of digital learners, the likes of which U.S. classrooms have not seen before.

“Kids today are being wired differently because of an intense and ongoing interaction with technology,” said Daggett. At home, they play video games and chat with friends on cell phones or via eMail. They listen to music on digital MP3 players and do their shopping on the internet. Technology is woven through almost every facet of their daily lives–that is, until they get to school, said Daggett, who added: “It’s almost as if, when kids come to school, we break them of the habit.”

Where some schools are working actively to embrace technology as a means of better preparing students for a changing future, he said, most institutions have been slow to adapt.

Not that it’s an easy task, he acknowledges. In an era when sweeping education reforms, such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act, have educators focusing more on standards and assessment than innovation, change can be a risky proposition for some institutions, particularly those with limited resources.

That’s where partnerships with groups like NASA and others can help, says Daggett. By tapping the expertise of scientists, engineers, and other professionals, he said, schools can work to meld real-world relevance and rigor into existing curricula, though it must be done carefully.

Given the myriad requirements and mandates currently facing schools, Daggett said, partners should not simply give educators another chore to do; rather, the challenge is to help balance the daily pressures of increased accountability with the potential benefits of change.

Though the quality of education in the nation’s schools continues to show modest gains, Daggett says, our current system is not equipped to handle the diverse and ever-changing needs of today’s tech-savvy learners.

“The problem is that our schools are what they used to be,” said Daggett. “And our kids are telling us that they are bored out of their ever-loving minds.”

Creating a global citizenry

Though technical skills likely will play an important role in positioning today’s students for success in the future workforce, they aren’t the only tools kids will need. As technology continues to erode geographic barriers, further expanding the reach of the new global economy, students also will have to become wise to the ways of the world–a world that, for all intents and purposes, is far larger than the one their parents grew up in.

“Global trends are shaping the context in which our students are learning,” said Vivien Stewart, vice president of education for the Asia Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating and improving Asian-American relations worldwide.

Stewart, who is considered an expert on how the rise of China, India, and other Asian nations is changing the U.S. economic landscape, said it’s imperative for schools to teach “global competencies.”

“Most economists don’t agree on much,” said Stewart, “but they do agree on one thing: Thirty years from now, 50 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product will come from China, India, and Japan.” That’s up from 18 percent currently.

“The relative weight of the U.S. is shifting, and we are going to have to work harder to maintain our economic predominance,” noted Stewart.

And students must be prepared. Apart from ramping up education in the STEM disciplines, she said, schools also have to improve cultural education efforts, ensuring that American students have the relative historical and social knowledge to work effectively with co-workers and colleagues from other parts of the world.

In a recent study presented by the Committee for Economic Development, titled “Education for Global Leadership,” researchers reported that a chief concern of many U.S. employers is hiring workers who are comfortable conducting business in a cross-cultural environment.

As companies continue to expand globally, Stewart said, there will be an increasing demand for workers who speak more than one language, as well as educated employees who are sensitive and respectful of cultural disparities. Across the globe, marketing messages and products must shift to make allowances for various interpretations. To compete, she said, companies–and their employees–must remain sensitive to, and aware of, such differences.

“We definitely need to ramp up math and science,” said Stewart, “but we also need mathematicians and scientists who can function in this new global environment.”

In many other countries, she said, students begin learning foreign languages in elementary school. In Australia, 25 percent of students now learn to speak an Asia language. Yet here in the U.S., most children do not begin learning foreign languages until high school.

“When students graduate, they are going to be working in other countries, so why not expose them to other countries while there are studying?” asked Stewart.

Just as strategic educational partnerships can benefit schools as they seek to improve STEM education, they also can be used to give today’s students a more worldly understanding, said Stewart. For schools that really want to get ahead, the challenge is to develop programs that combine the importance of STEM with cross-cultural sensitivity and communication. 

“The challenge is to give students enough of a sense of knowledge to function and operate effectively in other cultures,” she said. “There is a new skill set that is needed.”

Next steps

To understand these issues and how NASA can work with schools to prepare students for the challenges ahead, the agency has commissioned a series of “Futures Panels.”

The panels–composed of academics, scientists, and other concerned stakeholders from a variety of geographic locations–will meet throughout the year to discuss potential partnerships, explore new opportunities, and foster an ongoing dialogue at each of NASA’s 10 regional research centers.

At the end of the year, the group will release a report detailing its discussions and offering suggestions for how NASA can work with schools to accomplish its educational mission.

Links:

NASA

http://www.nasa.gov/

Asia Society

http://www.asiasociety.org/

International Center for Leadership in Education

http://www.daggett.com/

Education Technology Think Tank

http://www.et3online.org/

Net Generation of Youth

http://www.et3online.org/programs/ngy.cfm

Committee for Economic Development

http://www.ced.org/

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MONTGOMERY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SIGNS THREE-YEAR CONTRACT WITH STI TO PROVIDE ONLINE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

STI, a leading provider of education data management systems, announced today that Montgomery Public Schools in Montgomery, Ala. has purchased a three-year subscription to STI Assessment, the web-based formative assessment system. District plans to use the system to facilitate data-driven instruction as part of its ongoing efforts to increase student achievement and meet adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"Our goal is to empower our teachers with real-time data and provide concrete measures of how students are progressing toward meeting state and national standards," said Michael Lenhart, assistant superintendent for Montgomery Public Schools. "With the information that teachers can access through STI Assessment, they are able to make instructional changes in a timely manner and help students continue on a path of learning and achievement."

To read the full news release, go to http://www.sti-k12.com

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Kids’ TV faces new internet restrictions

CNET reports that the Federal Communications Commission has decreed that during broadcasts of television shows aimed at children 12 years and under, cable and broadcast operators are not allowed to display web addresses that link to commercial content. These new rules went into effect January 2, and came about because regulators were concerned that children’s programming was essentially becoming one big billboard with addresses to web sites which are solely commercial ventures. This practice was perceived as a sneaky way of getting around the 1990 Children’s Television Act, which stipulates that every hour of children’s programming may only have 10.5 minutes of advertising during weekends, and 12 minutes during weekdays…

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BAY COUNTY SCHOOLS CHOOSES STI ASSESSMENT

STI, a leading provider of education data management systems, announced today that Bay County School District in Panama City, Fla. has selected STI Assessment for its online formative assessment tool.

Bay County School District will implement STI Assessment throughout the district to enable educators to gather data on student progress toward state and national standards. "Districts across the country are turning to technology for a fast, reliable way to measure student learning and for a tool that can spark a dialogue among administrators, teachers and parents around helping students progress," explained Lendy Willis, executive director of curriculum and instructional services for Bay County School District. "STI Assessment provides our teachers with a crucial diagnostic tool that allows them to pinpoint student strengths and weaknesses so they can adjust instruction to meet student needs. Assessment reports can easily be viewed by parents on the web to give them the information they need to get involved."

To read the full news release, go to http://www.sti-k12.com

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Discovery Education Unveils Discovery Education ThinkLink Assessment

Orlando, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2007)–Discovery Education today extended its expansion into the assessment market with the launch of Discovery Education ThinkLink Assessment, reinforcing the division´s commitment to providing educators with the best tools to improve student achievement. This suite of assessment products stems from the powerful, proven ThinkLink Learning formative assessment services that help educators improve student learning and predict how students will score on high-stakes achievement exams.

The tests within the ThinkLink Assessment suite of products are created specifically to match student proficiency requirements as defined by each state´s unique No Child Left behind plan. In 2004-2005, 92 percent of ThinkLink schools maintain or improved adequate yearly progress status (AYP). One school district, Birmingham City School Districted, reported gains of 50 percent in two years in grade 8 math and 27 percent in grade reading after implementing ThinkLink.

In 2007, Discovery Education ThinkLink Assessment is expanding its services to 21 states and Washington, D.C.–an increase from eight in 2006. The states include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Discovery Education acquired ThinkLink Learning in April 2006, expanding the business unit´s high-quality products and services to include formative assessment. Founded in 2000 at Vanderbilt University, ThinkLink pioneered a unique approach to formative assessment that uses a scientifically research-based continuous improvement model that maps diagnostic assessments to state high-stakes tests. Benchmark Assessment, from ThinkLink, assesses student progress toward meeting state standards for reading/language arts, math, and science. The assessment products powered by ThinkLink are proven to predict performance with up to 80-90 percent accuracy.

"The introduction of Discovery Education ThinkLink Assessment reinforces our goal of helping educators engage and measure 21st century learners," said Jaqueline Shrago, senior vice president, Educational Assessment, Discovery Education. "We are excited about expanding our reach to 21 states and Washington, D.C. in 2007, giving us an opportunity to enable even more educators to use technology to monitor student progress toward meeting state academic standards."

About Discovery Education

Discovery Education is a division of Discovery Communications, the leading global real-world and knowledge-based media company. The leader in digital video-based learning, Discovery Education produces and distributes high-quality digital video content in easy-to-use formats, in all core-curricular subject areas. Discovery Education is committed to creating scientifically proven, standards-based digital resources for teachers, students, and parents that make a positive impact on student learning. Through strategic partnerships with public television stations across the country, its public service initiatives, products, and joint business ventures, Discovery Education helps educators around the world harness the power of broadband and media to connect their students to a world of learning. For more information, visit www.discoveryeducation.com.

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Latest Release of Follett´s Destiny Helps Districts Make Data-Driven Decisions

MCHENRY, IL–January 24, 2007–District administrators will have an easier time
making effective, data-driven decisions thanks to the new Report Builder being introduced with the latest version of the Destiny Resource Management Solution" from Follett Software Company.

Destiny is the most widely used Educational Resource Management (ERM) system in U.S. schools. Destiny Version 7.0 features a Report Builder that employs an easy-to-use wizard interface. Nontechnical users can now view reports in HTML or export to XML format for easy import into a spreadsheet. District staff can easily edit, modify, sort and filter the reports and push them down so they can be used at each site. Sites share results with the district or with other schools, so all decision makers can analyze trends and make informed decisions. There´s no minimum or limit to the size of each report. The Report Builder works with all Destiny modules, and can even combine patron data from multiple modules into a single report.

"The new Report Builder in Destiny fully leverages all the data districts capture while managing their educational resources," said Follett Software Company President Tom Schenck. "With the reports that are now possible, district administrators can act directly to improve instruction, reduce waste and save budget dollars," Schenck said.

Follett has made a number of other improvements to the Destiny Resource Management Solution in this new release:

* Destiny Library Manager: The flagship product in the suite lets K-12 districts offer complete library management services to all schools from a single installation via any supported web browser. Plus, it offers tools to help connect the library and the classroom. Search functions in the program have also been improved, including a function that allows English-speaking students to search screens that have been translated to Spanish and French.

* Destiny Textbook Manager: This award-winning, easy-to-use system gives districts and
schools total control of their textbook inventory, increasing accessibility and accountability. Textbook Manager now also includes a forecasting feature that lets users see the anticipated demand for textbooks by comparing current usage with enrollment data.

*Destiny Media Manager: Designed to help districts make sure that students get the learning resources they need, Destiny Media Manager is one of the first browser-based solutions that allows teachers to search for, reserve and track all kinds of district instructional media, including software, videos, activity kits, manipulatives and more. The latest version provides an option for district media centers to configure delivery dates on a per school basis. This is ideal for districts that do not ship materials every day to each school.

* Destiny Asset Manager: Follett recently expanded Destiny with Asset Manager, which
provides browser-based tracking and management of all of a district´s fixed and portable assets.

The system optimizes access, availability and use of assets, and improves asset accountability throughout the district. Destiny Asset Manager helps districts improve their control of vital assets such as laptops, PDAs, AV equipment, band instruments, maintenance equipment and more.

About Destiny Resource Management Solution

Destiny Resource Management Solution is an integrated suite of browser-based applications that streamlines the control of instructional assets, allowing K-12 districts to devote more time and resources to student learning. The Destiny Resource Management Solution helps districts save time and money through central management of key resources, resulting in enhanced achievement, increased collaboration, and maximized investments and accountability for districtwide resources.

About Follett

Over the past two decades, Follett Software Company has evolved from being the largest
provider of K-12 library automation solutions to being the leading provider of Educational Resource Management (ERM) solutions. The company´s flagship product–Destiny Resource Management Solution –is an integrated suite of browser-based applications that centralizes management of library materials, media, textbooks and fixed and portable assets. The company recently acquired TetraData, the nation´s leading provider of data warehousing, analysis and reporting solutions for K-12 districts. Leveraging technology to streamline administrative tasks, drive accountability,
engage students and encourage achievement, Follett Software solutions are helping educators shape the future through data-driven decision making.

Follett Software is a subsidiary of Follett Corporation–a $2.2 billion, privately-held
company that provides products, services and solutions to the educational marketplace. Follett Corporation was founded in 1873 and has its headquarters in River Grove, Illinois. For more information, visit the company´s web site at www.fsc.follett.com or call 800-323-3397.

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Schools act to stop spread of cyber-bullying

The Wall Street Journal reports that cyber-bullying is proving to be an increasing problem for school administrators. As long as their have been children, there have been bullies, but now the anonymity of the web enables bullies to be bolder, nastier, and have a wider impact. Now, bullies can humiliate their target through instant messages, eMail, and other web forums. Parents increasingly call for schools intervene, but officials are torn between their desire help, and limits on their ability to intervene. Because of these factors, many states and school officials are taking bold action and crafting policies to help combat cyber-bullying. These new policies are incorporating language that allows officials to intervene even in off-campus incidents–provided it affects the school environment. However, the major challenge to these policies is the students have First Amendment rights that school officials can’t cross…

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