Petition calls for more eRate funding

An online petition asks the FCC to increase the availability of eRate funds.

The federal eRate program, which helps schools and libraries connect to the internet, should receive more funding so that more schools and libraries can serve not only students, but community members as well, eRate compliance firm Funds For Learning wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In an open letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning, requests that the commission increase the available funding in the eRate program.

In the letter, Harrington explains that schools and libraries, especially those in the nation’s poorer communities, rely on the eRate program as “the financial backbone that enables them to keep their sophisticated and expensive telecommunications networks up and running.”

“The eRate program has been hugely successful,” said Harrington. “However, with demand outpacing the available funding, it is time to consider how much more funding and regulatory support the commission should allocate to the eRate program, as the increase in funding, or lack thereof, will determine whether any schools or libraries get left behind.”

“Classrooms across the nation are benefiting from technologies supported by eRate funds,” said Cathy Cruzan, president of Funds For Learning. “We made this letter available for public support because the eRate program not only affects schools and libraries, but everyone in the community. Education is crucial to improving students and their communities and when they benefit, the nation benefits.”

Since the program began in 1998, demand for eRate funds has increased by 108 percent, from $2.36 billion in 1998 to $4.65 billion in 2011. However, despite the increase in demand, the available funding has remained nearly the same. From 1998 to 2009, the available eRate funds were capped at $2.25 billion per year. The cap was indexed to inflation starting in 2010, resulting in $2.27 and $2.29 billion in available funds for 2010 and 2011, respectively.

“What was barely adequate funding 14 years ago is not nearly sufficient now, and tomorrow it will merely be a drop in the bucket,” said Harrington. “That is why the eRate program desperately needs an infusion of new funds today.”

According to Harrington, the timing for the request could not be better. He explained that the newly FCC-designed Connect America Fund “needs a fully funded eRate program to succeed.”


Forget flashcards, schools adopt new method of teaching from abroad

When it came time to help her first-graders through a tricky subtraction problem, Rosalie Carr reached for a new arsenal of colored chips, base-10 bars and mighty “number bonds,” the New Haven Independent reports. The hands-on math problem-solving took place this week in Carr’s first-grade classroom at the Fair Haven K-8 School on Grand Avenue. The new tools emerged as Carr and other elementary teachers try out a new method called Singapore math. In effort to get New Haven kids up to speed with their international counterparts, and in stride with a national Common Core State Standards initiative, the city is rolling out Singapore math to all classrooms in grades K to 5, starting this year with grades K to 2. The method is based on a curriculum introduced in 1992 in Singapore’s public schools. Teachers take a slow pace, focusing on thorough understanding of the fundamentals of math, with multiple approaches to the same problem…

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Teachers publish their own textbooks

When David Rockwood, a teacher at Payson High School in Utah, decided to combine two of his areas of expertise–athletics and psychology–into a new course, he ran into one major roadblock: There were no sports psychology textbooks targeted to a high school audience, U.S. News reports. So, he decided to write one himself. Rockwood is reportedly one of a handful of high school teachers nationwide who have written textbooks for their classrooms. There are many reasons a teacher might write a textbook: for niche courses, such as sports psychology, for which a suitable book doesn’t exist; to self-publish supplementary material for a class; or because sudden curriculum changes can put widely used textbooks out of date. In Marietta, Ga., for instance, Laura Speer wrote a textbook that aligned with new math standards the state implemented that combined algebra, geometry, and statistics topics into one course. Textbook manufacturers decided it was too expensive to produce books specifically for schools in the state, so she took matters into her own hands…

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Ohio schools fail to meet No Child Left Behind standards

Ohio plans to ask for a federal waiver to circumvent academic failure in 40 percent of the state’s public schools this year, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. All of the nation’s public schools are mandated to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, under the guidelines of the No Child Left Behind Act. Last year 50 percent of Ohio’s school districts failed to meet the minimum educational goals, according to the Enquirer. The 2011 national failure rate was the highest since the legislation took effect 10 years ago. Here are some facts about Ohio’s academic results and the No Child Left Behind Act…

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Opinion: Why community schools are part of the answer

If there was a hearing that the D.C. Council should not have allowed to be cancelled at the last minute, as happened last week, it would be on this: creating community schools, says Valerie Strauss, columnist for the Washington Post. Why? Because community schools are part of the answer when it comes to effective school reform. Community schools focus not only on academics but also, through partnerships with outside organizations, child and youth development, family support, health and social services, and community development. Using public schools as hubs, community schools bring together many different partners to provide a range of opportunities for students and their families during class time and when class is over—and even on weekends. The idea sounds like something of a no-brainer when it comes to schools in high-poverty areas where families often live without the basics…

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Apple and Google independently developing wearable, reality augmenting smartphones

Some of us are quite attached to our mobile devices, much to the chagrin of anything and anyone that isn’t a smartphone screen. Apple and Google are reportedly looking to change that, Digital Trends reports. They want to integrate our smartphones into daily life better by developing wearable mobile devices that act more like a window to the real world, rather than a screen. According to the New York Times Bits blog, Apple has been secretly working on a wearable computer, much like the wrist worn iPod Nano, which will integrate Siri. The NYT sources say that a small number of Apple employees have been rounded up for “conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices.” One device the company is toying with was described as a wrist worn “curved-glass iPod…”

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AT&T drops $39B bid to buy T-Mobile; ‘duopoly’ averted

The two companies would have controlled almost 80 percent of the cell-phone market had the deal gone through.

AT&T Inc. is hanging up on its $39 billion bid to buy smaller wireless provider T-Mobile USA, nearly four months after the U.S. government voiced concerns that it would raise prices, reduce innovation, and give schools and other customers fewer choices.

The long-expected announcement left AT&T grumbling about a shortage of airwaves to expand its services, while scrappy competitor T-Mobile remains up for sale by German parent Deutsche Telekom.

The formal end of the deal was heralded by critics. No. 3 wireless carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. had feared “an undeniable duopoly” between the proposed new entity and current market leader Verizon Wireless. The two companies would have controlled almost 80 percent of the cell-phone market had the deal gone through.

“This result is a victory for the millions of Americans who use mobile wireless telecommunications services,” Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said. “A significant competitor remains in the marketplace, and consumers will benefit from a quick resolution.”

The Justice Department had sued on Aug. 31 to block the merger, and the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman came out against it last month. That prompted the companies to withdraw their FCC application while they strategized their next move.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said the announcement was “a bit of an anticlimax.”

“This is like receiving the divorce papers for a couple that’s been separated for years,” he said.

AT&T’s purchase of fourth-ranked T-Mobile, announced in March, would have made it the largest cell-phone company in the U.S. AT&T is now the second-largest wireless carrier, with more than 100 million subscribers, behind Verizon Wireless, with 108 million. Sprint has 53 million, followed by T-Mobile at 34 million.

T-Mobile has endured without much investment from its parent company and without the highest-end devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone. It offered value packages to customers who brought phones from other carriers. Regulators feared the loss of T-Mobile as a competitor would hurt consumers.

AT&T now will have to pay Deutsche Telekom $3 billion in cash as a breakup fee and give it about $1 billion worth of airwaves, known as spectrum, that AT&T doesn’t need for the continued rollout of its high-speed “4G” network.

It also will enter into a roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom so that AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s customers can use each other’s networks.

In pulling out, AT&T said the government’s attempts to block the deal do not change the challenges of the wireless phone industry. Cell-phone companies have been clamoring for more airwaves to meet growing demand for faster downloads on smart phones and tablet computers.


Ed tech unfunded in $1 trillion spending bill

A new federal spending bill has major implications for Pell Grant recipients.

Congress has passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending measure that continues funding for the Obama administration’s signature “Race to the Top” competition and includes a very modest increase in Title I funding for disadvantaged students. But an Obama proposal to create a new federal agency for ed-tech research and development received no funding in the bill.

The measure, which averted a possible government shutdown, funds 10 Cabinet agencies for fiscal year 2012. It awarded a slight increase to the Pentagon and veterans’ programs while trimming the budgets of most other domestic agencies. Democrats agreed to the cuts in exchange for dropping many policy provisions sought by GOP conservatives, such as attempts to block new rules aimed at preserving net neutrality and limiting greenhouse gases.

President Obama’s cherished “Race to the Top” initiative, which encourages state and local education reforms, will absorb more than a 20-percent cut, though Republicans wanted to kill the program’s funding altogether. Title I grants will be funded at $14.5 billion, and special education funding will receive $11.6 billion—virtually the same as last year.

Missing from the legislation was funding to create a new federal agency designed to pursue breakthroughs in educational technology. Obama requested $90 million for the agency’s first year in the budget plan he sent to Congress earlier this year.

Obama’s proposal would have created an Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED), with the goal of transforming educational technology just as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has transformed military technology. But the project wasn’t funded in the budget bill passed by Congress.

With the Enhancing Education Through Technology program having been eliminated last year, “that amounts to zero dollars of federal investments in ed tech” through the U.S. Department of Education, an educational technology advocate on Capitol Hill noted. “How is this preparing schools for online assessments in 2014?”

The maximum Pell Grant awards for low-income college students will remain at $5,550 for students beginning college in fall 2012, but Congress has tightened its requirements for the program under the new bill.


U.S. education is still the best in the world—but here’s what we can learn from others

The fact that we have to defend U.S. public education in the first place is puzzling.

“Learning Leadership” column, January 2012 edition of eSchool News—Defending public education in America is a daunting task. The fact that we have to defend public education in the first place is puzzling. Here we sit as the most powerful country in the world, with the largest economy, and the system responsible now and in the past for the education of close to 90 percent of our children is under attack. It makes you wonder how we ever became so prosperous.

Last year, I developed a PowerPoint presentation I named “The 95/5 Dilemma.” It is available on the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) web site at In it, I provide benchmark statistic after benchmark statistic that prove conclusively: America’s public school system today is the best it has ever been. Graduation rates are the highest. Dropout rates are the lowest. Reading and math performances on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are the highest. College attendance rates are the highest. The rigor of the high school curriculum is the strongest ever.

These results support America’s economic and political leadership in the world. Those of us who are fortunate to travel around the world are not surprised when our overseas colleagues refer to our school system as the gold standard and when parents in every corner of the world want to send their children to American schools.

Read more by Dan Domenech:

The key to doing more with less: Collaboration

Improving public education isn’t a mystery

New teacher evaluation framework promises to serve students, and educators, fairly

Last November, I was pleased to lead a group of educators and school board members to Vietnam and Cambodia as part of AASA’s annual international seminar. We were surprised to see that even a Communist country like Vietnam acknowledges the quality of an American education and that their students aspire to come to our high schools and colleges. Today, there are thousands of Vietnamese students getting their education here. The same can be said for thousands of other students from throughout the world.

One of the reasons we engage in these international excursions is to learn from what other countries are doing and to see if ideas can be imported to make our system better. It is interesting to note that, when the performances of our students on international exams are compared to the performances of students from other countries, we often simply look at the test scores but never bother to delve deeper into why the results might be higher for students in other countries. On our trips, we visit schools and talk to students, teachers, parents, and education officials. This is what we have learned.