Free online tech resources grouped by subject and device

A new website called K-12 Tech Tools features more than 1,000 free online technology tools. The tools are categorized by subject, grade level, and standards. Teachers can share their own tech tools, success stories, and can learn from one another. Subject areas include art, English, language arts, health, math, music, science, and social studies. The site’s “Etc.” category features links to resources pertaining to internet safety, kid-friendly search engines, YouTube and alternatives, educational games, social media tools, and time management tips. Users can view tips and resources based on which technology tool they are using, such as computers, iPods and iPads, and video.


Ex govs help launch Idaho education task force

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush visited Idaho on Tuesday to stump for public schools chief Tom Luna’s new education laws, saying similar changes are being implemented across the country and critics working to repeal the new laws should first wait for the results, the Miami Herald reports. Bush addressed a technology task force that was formed as part of Luna’s new education changes, which eventually will arm every high school student with a laptop while the state Board of Education considers making online courses a requirement for them to graduate in Idaho…

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37 percent of state graduates college-ready, data shows

Heightening concerns about the value of many of its high school diplomas, the New York State Education Department released new data on Tuesday showing that only 37 percent of students who entered high school in 2006 left four years later adequately prepared for college, with even smaller percentages of minority graduates and those in the largest cities meeting that standard, the New York Times reports.  In New York City, 21 percent of the students who started high school in 2006 graduated last year with high enough scores on state math and English tests to be deemed ready for higher education or well-paying careers…

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Learning disabilities can offer college admission edge

Can having a learning disability be an advantage when applying to college? Asks U.S. News & World Report. This probably sounds like a strange question, since most families no doubt assume that a learning disability is a negative when it comes to getting into colleges. But that assumption is wrong, insists David Montesano, a college admission strategist at College Match Educational Consultants, which has offices on the East and West coasts. The clientele at his college admission practice includes learning disabled students and he has seen how learning challenges can actually benefit students during the application process…

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L.A. schools halt sale of chocolate, strawberry-flavored milk on campuses

The L.A. Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday voted to stop providing chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk in school cafeterias as of July 1, the Los Angeles Times reports. The move makes L.A. the largest school system in the nation to pull flavored milks out of schools and is part of a larger push to make the food served at school more nutritious. L.A. Unified earlier banned sodas sales at schools…

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Update: Wis. lawmakers spare broadband program

The proposal would have forced the system to return millions in grants.

A controversial plan to cut $37 million in federal grant money from the University of Wisconsin system has been axed from the 2011-13 budget, according to a legislator involved with the process.

In a letter to a constituent, released to the State Journal Tuesday, state Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, said the program known as WiscNet will continue unaltered for the next two years while a study is conducted to evaluate the program.

“Through much discussion with my colleagues, and after hearing from you and other members of the community on this complex subject, I am pleased to announce that WiscNet will not be changed by the budget bill,” Severson wrote.

The decision should come as good news to the UW Board of Regents, who vowed last week to fight the legislation, which would also end WiscNet, a statewide internet provider.


How to cut special-ed spending without sacrificing quality

It is challenging, but not impossible, to reduce special-ed spending while increasing student achievement, a new primer says.

As school districts grow accustomed to doing more with less, special-education programs are dealing with their own unique set of challenges—and one expert has proposed several solutions to rein in special-ed spending without reducing program quality.

The recently published “Something Has Got to Change: Rethinking Special Education,” a primer from Nathan Levenson, a former superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Mass., and the American Enterprise Institute’s Future of American Education Project, offers practical solutions to tame out-of-control spending on special-education programs while serving special-needs students better.

Levenson, who is managing director of the District Management Council, argues that schools are often wary of cutting special-ed costs because they fear retaliation from the parents of special-needs students. Special-ed spending has increased steadily, sometimes without regard for program effectiveness. But through a handful of steps, school districts can increase the effectiveness of their special-education programs while cutting costs at the same time, he said.

“Nothing in special education is easy, but it is possible to make things better for students, especially while managing the budget better as well,” Levenson said, identifying rising special-ed costs as a huge challenge facing schools.

Funding pools are shrinking, and costs are predicted to rise faster in coming years—and still, “achievement for students with special needs isn’t good enough,” he added.

Special-needs students fall into two categories: a smaller group of students who have more severe disabilities and require more intervention and higher per-pupil expenditures, and a larger group of students with mild to moderate needs. But the number of students with severe disabilities is growing larger and at a faster rate.

The primer identifies four areas of best practices that can help schools reduce special-ed budgets and improve achievement.

1. Focus on reading and integration with general education.

This step can be counterintuitive, Levenson said, because the primary goal is to raise the achievement of students with special needs. But many changes must come from within general education, he said. Groups and committees such as the National Reading Panel have outlined effective programs to raise student achievement in reading; 40 percent of all special-needs students have reading difficulty.

“If we can teach kids to read, we’re going to change their lives for the better,” Levenson said, adding that English teachers and other general-education teachers should play a larger role in the delivery of educational services to special-needs students. In too many districts, Levenson said, “special-education teachers are asked to do all the heavy lifting; they’re the primary instructors for math, English, social studies, and science. … Special-education teachers bring a lot to the table, but they’re not math and English experts.”


Video: Innovators present their ideas on how to energize education

Innovative companies present their grade-A ideas for education.

In our recent story “Entrepreneurial ‘boot camp’ reveals ed-tech innovations,” we reported on how nearly two dozen people with big ideas for education received business advice as part of Kauffman Labs’ endeavor to spur school innovation.

Participants in the camp unveiled their ideas June 7 at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The 23 people who won a seat in Kauffman’s laboratory out of more than 1,000 applicants are spawning a wealth of ideas to invigorate the way schools work and how to educate children.

Now, Kauffman Labs has released a series of videos on each of the participants and their ideas. (The videos shown here are only a few of the many available at the organization’s website.)


Beth Schmidt’s company grew out of her desire as a teacher to help her 10th-graders in South Central Los Angeles. Her company helps connect students with donors, who then help them get into after-school and summer programs and pursue their dreams.

iCreate to Educate

Melissa Pickering of Boston and her growing company enable children to create moving picture lessons.


Michael Qin and Jerry Huang of Freemont, Calif., had experience in companies such as Google and Unisys. But it was their shared frustration as fathers trying to read with their children that spawned Childroad—a company that uses a Netflix-like format to deliver voiced-over children’s books online.