Study: On average, charter schools do no better than public schools

More evidence is in that charter schools – at least on average – do no better than regular public schools, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Middle-school students who were selected by lottery to attend charter schools performed no better than their peers who lost out in the lottery and attended nearby public schools, according to a study funded by the federal government and released Tuesday. This is the first large-scale randomized study to be conducted across multiple states, and it lends some fuel to those who say there is little evidence to back the drive for more charters. But the study also found more nuanced evidence that the charters that work best are those serving lower-income students, especially in urban areas…

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Can legislation fix America’s science and technology gender gap?

A slew of recent studies show that the problem for women in math and science is related to something both larger and more nuanced: culture, Newsweek reports. In 1972, when Mae Jemison was just 16 years old, she arrived at Stanford University, where she intended to pursue a degree in engineering. But it wasn’t long after arriving in Palo Alto that she learned that the university’s science departments weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about her as she was about them. In one of her freshman science classes, she recalls, the professor looked at her like she was “bonkers.” “I would ask a question, and he would look at me like it was the dumbest question and then move on,” she says. “Then a white guy down the row asks the same question, and he says, ‘Astute observation.’ It makes you start to really question yourself.” In the nearly four decades since, Jemison has proved repeatedly that she deserves a place at the table. She graduated from Stanford with a double major in chemical engineering and African and African-American studies, got a medical degree, and eventually became the world’s first woman of color to go to space. She is, without a doubt, exceptional…

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Hulu launches $10 video subscription service

Online video site Hulu, under pressure from its media company parents to generate a bigger profit, launched a subscription service Tuesday with complete access to back episodes of popular television shows, the Associated Press reports. For $9.99 a month, subscribers can get the entire current season of “Glee,” “The Office,” “House” and other shows from broadcasters ABC, Fox and NBC, as well as all the past seasons of several series. The popular, ad-supported web site will continue to have a few recent episodes for free online. In a surprise move, however, paying subscribers will get the same number of ads as users of the free website. Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar said keeping ads was necessary to help keep the subscription price low…

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Stores see Google as ally in e-book market

Independent bookstores were battered first by discount chains like Barnes & Noble, then by super-efficient web retailers like Amazon.com. Now the electronic book age is dawning. With this latest challenge, these stores will soon have a new ally: the search giant Google, The New York Times reports. Later this summer, Google plans to introduce its long-awaited push into electronic books, called Google Editions. The company has revealed little about the venture thus far, describing it generally as an effort to sell digital books that will be readable within a Web browser and accessible from any internet-connected computing device. Now one element of Google Editions is coming into sharper focus. Google is on the verge of completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to representatives of Google and the association…

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Financial aid rising faster than tuition

An annual survey of independent colleges, released Tuesday, finds that students may pay a little less to attend college this fall, even as colleges charge more, The Washington Post reports. Student aid spending will rise by 7 percent in the coming academic year, according to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Published tuition and fees will rise 4.5 percent. Tuition inflation has slowed during the downturn: this is the second consecutive year of tuition increases in the 4-percent range. During the 10 years prior to the recession, sticker prices rose an average 6 percent a year. But the average student actually spends a bit less now than before the recession, because of unusually large bumps in student aid budgets. Institutional aid rose 9 percent in the 2009-10 academic year…

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SafetyWeb helps parents monitor their children’s online activity

SiteofWeek063010A new site that launched last month, SafetyWeb.com, aims to simplify online safety by helping parents guard their children’s online safety, identity, and reputation. The fee-based service monitors the web to deliver reports and immediate alerts on irregularities and dangers associated with kids’ and teens’ online activity, giving parents an opportunity to intervene if they suspect their kids’ safety, identity, or online reputation is at risk. With children using cell phones, laptops, iPads, and friends’ computers to go online, the service monitors what social networks children are using, rather than the device itself. By delivering reports informing parents what their kids are doing online (such as posting comments, videos, and pictures), as well as what is being said about them online, the service gives parents the ability to define acceptable online behavior for their family. SafetyWeb was founded by Michael Clark and Geoffrey Arone, who have worked on web sites that service more than 200 million register users combined; as an entrepreneurial engineer behind Photobucket, Clark prevented millions of questionable photos and videos from being posted online. http://www.safetyweb.com

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Texas School District Selects Motorola’s 802.11n WLAN for Reliable, High-speed Classroom Connectivity

North East Independent School District upgrades wireless to enhance e-learning capabilities and bring streaming video curriculum to 66,000 students across 70 schools

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. – June 28, 2010 – The Enterprise Mobility Solutions business of Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT) today announced that Minntek Solutions, a leading systems integrator and member of Motorola’s channel partner program, is deploying its 802.11n wireless LAN (WLAN) and AirDefense Infrastructure Management solutions across K-12 schools at North East Independent School District (NEISD) in San Antonio, Texas. The Motorola solution will provide a reliable and secure wireless infrastructure to support the district’s goal of transforming the classroom into a wireless media environment by delivering high-speed voice, video and data streams to different device types and high densities of users without interruption.

The second largest school district in the San Antonio Area, NEISD has more than 70 schools and magnet programs, with an expected fall 2010 enrollment of 66,000 students. The district offers a web-based curriculum and provides students with technology resources to conduct research, complete assignments and communicate with others to complement their learning experience.

“NEISD is committed to building 21st century classrooms that enhance instruction through the use of technology in real-world applications, while offering workforce- and college-ready skills to better prepare students for the future,” said Richard A. Middleton, NEISD superintendent. “We were looking to upgrade our existing wireless network to a solution that would offer increased bandwidth and provide campus-wide, high-speed coverage to support the growing use of video and other multimedia applications in the classroom. Motorola and Minntek Solutions delivered a cost-effective solution that not only supports our immediate needs, but also serves as the backbone for building the classroom of the future.”

The 802.11n wireless network being deployed by NEISD leverages Motorola’s AP 7131 access points (AP), managed by Motorola’s award-winning RFS 7000 controllers, to provide reliable and secure connectivity in classrooms and throughout the district’s facilities. Optimized to handle high user density, the wireless solution provides superior voice, video and data handling capabilities, delivering crisp and clear multimedia to students, teachers and staff over a Wi-Fi network. Built-in mesh capability allows NEISD to easily extend network coverage to hard-to-wire places, such as portable classrooms, without the expense of digging trenches to pull cables.

To manage such a large, distributed network that will consist of more than 5,000 802.11n APs across the district when fully implemented, NEISD selected Motorola’s AirDefense Infrastructure Management solution, a powerful holistic WLAN management tool that simplifies and automates network management to give IT administrators better visibility into their network, its performance and efficiency. The solution ensures compliance with policies and consistency in configuration, while reducing device- and model-specific expertise required by network administrators. The AirDefense solution provides NEISD with a uniform view into network security and performance, ultimately reducing the amount of administrative time required to manage the WLAN.

“NEISD was in need of a robust wireless network that could handle the delivery of large streams of voice, video and data to multiple devices in a single classroom setting,” said Bill Rogers, president, Minntek Solutions. “The Motorola 802.11n solution offers superior multimedia handling capabilities, is easier to manage and troubleshoot and offers a much lower total cost of ownership than competitive solutions.”

The Motorola network offers the flexibility to support personal devices, e-textbooks, smart boards and videoconferencing. Increased Web 2.0 capabilities will enable students to collaborate inside and outside the classroom to gain a deeper understanding of content, access experts in the field and find tools to demonstrate creativity – all while serving as a foundation for NEISD’s future e-learning initiatives. The solution will be deployed in roll-out fashion across the district, with one middle school already fully integrated, and another handful to be completed over the summer. Once fully deployed, NEISD will have installed nearly 5,000 802.11n APs across elementary, middle and high schools across the district.

“K-12 is a growing market for WLAN, and as education becomes increasingly digital, school districts are turning to 11n as a reliable solution that helps future-proof their infrastructure investment and ensure delivery of multimedia content to classrooms and across campus,” said Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager for Wireless Network Solutions, Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions. “Motorola’s innovative wireless solutions are helping educational institutions around the world transform the learning experience for students, teachers and staff, and NEISD is at the forefront of this trend.”

Motorola offers a comprehensive portfolio of indoor and outdoor wireless network solutions that enable colleges, universities and K-12 institutions to enhance learning through technology and prepare students to enter the mobile workforce. Working seamlessly together with learning devices and applications, Motorola’s solutions include indoor wireless LAN, outdoor wireless mesh, point-to-multipoint, point-to-point networks and voice-over-WLAN solutions, along with powerful software tools for wireless network design, best-of-breed security, management and troubleshooting. Motorola makes the all-wireless campus a reality by providing cost-effective solutions that deliver clear and reliable voice, video, multimedia and data, leading to an enhanced modern learning environment, improved campus security and overall productivity gains for faculty and staff. To learn more, visit http://www.motorola.com/education.

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About Motorola
Motorola is known around the world for innovation in communications and is focused on advancing the way the world connects. From broadband communications infrastructure, enterprise mobility and public safety solutions to high-definition video and mobile devices, Motorola is leading the next wave of innovations that enable people, enterprises and governments to be more connected and more mobile. Motorola (NYSE: MOT) had sales of US $22 billion in 2009. For more information, please visit www.motorola.com.

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Extron Introduces New Lightweight Handheld Wireless Microphone for Use in the Classroom

Anaheim, California (June 29, 2010) – Extron Electronics is pleased to introduce the new VLH 102 Handheld Microphone, an infrared wireless microphone with a cardioid capsule and durable polycarbonate enclosure for use with Extron VoiceLift® classroom sound field systems. VoiceLift Microphone Systems create a sound field within the classroom so that students can hear the instructor over ambient noise levels. Designed for student use in the classroom, the easy-to-hold lightweight VLH 102 microphone features an anti-roll collar to keep the microphone from rolling off flat surfaces and helps prevent the IR emitters from being blocked during use. The VLH 102 is ideal for use in applications that require a pass-around microphone for student presentations and secondary microphone applications such as team teaching and guest speakers.

“This new handheld microphone extends the functionality of the VoiceLift System and encourages student participation in the classroom,” says Casey Hall, Vice President Sales and Marketing for Extron. “The VLH 102 can be added to existing systems or be purchased as part of a dual mic system.”

Additional features include an On/Off/Mute switch to silence the mic for private conversations or when not in use and an auxiliary input jack to allow playback from audio devices like MP3 players through the system. The mic includes a single, AA-sized, long life 2500 mAh NiMH battery that provides 8 hours of talk time. The battery can be conveniently recharged in the microphone using an external charger or the VLC 202 Desktop Charging Station.

Visit our Web site at www.extron.com for more information.

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Feds: Make eReaders accessible to all students

Some colleges have agreed to abandon Kindle pilot programs because of accessibility issues.

Some colleges have agreed to abandon Kindle pilot programs because of accessibility issues.

The federal government will help schools and colleges using eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle to comply with laws giving students with disabilities equal access to emerging education technologies, officials announced.

The Departments of Education and Justice stressed the responsibility of colleges and universities to use accessible eReaders in a letter published June 29, after more than a year of complaints from low-sighted and blind students attending colleges that have piloted eReader programs.

Many eReaders have a text-to-speech function that reads words aloud, but the devices lack menus that people who are blind or have low vision can navigate.

Russlyn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department (ED), said ED officials would watch for eReader programs cropping up in K-12 schools and higher-education institutions. Technical assistance will be provided on a “case-by-case basis,” she said, and the government will be “responsive” to any IT decision makers bringing eReaders to their school or campus.

Most of the complaints have come from colleges and universities that have launched pilot programs using the Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX, including Pace University, Princeton University, Case Western University, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Ali said.

Ali said ED officials “were not in the business of endorsing any product,” and there are no plans to publish a list of acceptable eReaders because the technology is evolving so rapidly.

“I can imagine a list becoming obsolete very quickly,” said Ali, who added that federal officials have not received any complaints about the Apple iPad since its introduction in April. “While these devices are changing, the principles and the laws do not.”

Ali said, “It is our understanding [that Amazon] will be coming out with a fully accessible” eReader, although she wasn’t aware of a time frame. Amazon did not respond to an interview request by press time, but a March 2009 post on the company’s official blog declared the company is working on a more accessible Kindle and looks “forward to making it available in the future.”

Pace, Case Western, and Reed College in Portland, Ore., announced in January that they would not use the Kindle DX eReader under terms of an agreement reached early this year with the Justice Department.

Arizona State University ended its Kindle pilot this spring after the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind filed a discrimination lawsuit. The settlement did not involve payment, but ASU pledged that it would “strive to use devices that are accessible to the blind” in future eReader programs, according to a university statement.

“Technology can be a driving force in making equal educational opportunity a reality,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Given what technology now makes possible, no student should be the denied the opportunity to benefit from an enhanced educational experience based simply on a visual disability.”

Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, said the organization was pleased with the federal government’s focus on the accessibility issue, adding that NFB officials will keep close watch as eReaders become more common on college campuses.

“We feel very strongly that eBooks are going to catch on very fast in higher education, and if we’re not vigilant about it, blind students will be left behind,” he said. “There’s no good reason eBooks should be inaccessible to blind people. … This technology has the potential to benefit everybody, but it won’t benefit everybody if it’s not properly designed.”

Danielson said there’s a good reason that federal education officials haven’t logged complaints about Apple’s iPad: the large menu screen is far more accessible than other eReaders.

“The iPad is considerably closer to an eReading solution that will be effective for blind students than other products are out there,” Danielson said. “I don’t know whether it’s perfect or not, but Apple has clearly thought about accessibility and made and effort to improve it.”

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School libraries pummeled as budget crisis worsens

librarians say few people understand how involved they are in classroom learning and school technology.

librarians say few people understand how involved they are in classroom learning and school technology.

School librarians fear another round of budget cuts in districts across the nation could severely impair students’ development of information literacy and other key 21st-century skills.

As the school budget crisis deepens, administrators have started to view school libraries as luxuries that can be axed, rather than places where kids learn to love reading and do research.

No one will know exactly how many jobs are lost until fall, but the American Association of School Administrators projects 19 percent of the nation’s school districts will have fewer librarians next year, based on a survey this spring. Ten percent said they cut library staff for the 2009-10 school year.

A trip to the school library might be a weekly highlight for children who love to read, but for kids from low-income families, it’s more of the necessity than a treat, according to literacy experts and the librarians who help kids struggling in high school without a home computer.

Unlike the overflowing bookshelves of wealthier families, 61 percent of low-income families own no age-appropriate books, according to a 2009 study commissioned by Jumpstart on “America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap.” They depend on libraries to keep them from falling behind in school.

While the American Association of School Librarians says some states like California, Michigan, and Arizona have been hit especially hard, a map of cutbacks on the organization’s web site shows jobs are disappearing across the nation.

“We’re doing a disservice to our kids, especially those in poverty, if we don’t have the resources they need,” said association president Cassandra Barnett, who is also the school librarian at the Fayetteville, Ark., High School library.

Because few state or federal laws mandate school libraries or librarians, and their job losses are small compared with classroom teacher layoffs, library layoffs might seem minor to some observers. But librarians say few administrators or parents understand how involved they are in classroom learning and school technology.

“We have really cut off our noses to spite our face, because we are denying access to the very resources we say our kids need,” Barnett said.

Rosemarie Bernier, president of the California School Library Association, says she doesn’t know how students doing complex online research projects could complete their assignments without the guidance they get in school libraries.

“The people who control the purse strings are out of touch. They don’t understand what the kids really need,” said Bernier, who is the librarian at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.

She spoke of a student with a first-period English class who came to her in tears because she didn’t have enough time to transfer and reformat the essay she had written on her cell phone. Because she doesn’t have a computer at home, the student’s cell phone is her only hope of completing assignments that need to be typed.

The number of California school libraries that won’t have teacher librarians next year is changing daily, but she says many students will be surprised next fall when they find their school library closed or staffed by someone who can check out books but not help them with their school work.

Los Angeles eliminated all its elementary school librarians a few years ago and has left next year’s staffing of middle school libraries up to the schools. Of 77 middle schools, about 50 have found the money to pay for a teacher librarian, according to Esther Sinofsky, who is in charge of libraries for the district.

Sinofsky, a former school librarian, says Los Angeles Unified School District recognizes the connection between student achievement and school libraries, but the district is also struggling to close a $640 million budget gap for the 2010-11 school year.

Teacher-librarians have been disappearing from Michigan schools gradually over the past decade, with a drop of nearly 1,500 to not quite 500 since 2000, according to Tim Staal, executive director of the Michigan Association for Media in Education.

Those who remain are doing the jobs done by two or three people a few years ago.

Gigi Lincoln, the librarian at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, Mich., since 1973, was told she would have to leave the library and start teaching French because the district needed to make drastic cuts in the middle of the school year.

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