Latinos slam Texas offensive against ethnic studies

Texas has become the next battleground over ethnic studies, the Huffington Post reports. Latino activists are protesting a bill filed by Conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick that would disqualify ethnic studies courses from counting toward core history requirements. SB 1128 would instead require students to take general surveys of U.S. and Texas history in order to graduate. Opponents of the law have likened the Texas measure to an Arizona law used to dismantle a controversial Mexican American Studies program in Tucson.

“We’re here to snuff out Dan Patrick’s SB 1128,” Tony Diaz, also known as “El Librotraficante,” told HuffPost Live last week from the Texas legislature, where he was lobbying against the bill. “We’ve learned from our brothers and sisters in Arizona how hard it is to get a law off the books, so we’re here to nip it in the bud.”

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Digital learning MOOC now open to school leaders

Participants will study the elements necessary for a successful digital learning transition.

Enrollment opens today for a first-of-its-kind Massive Online Open Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed) that will help school district leaders make the shift to digital instruction in their schools.

This free online course is offered by the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) in partnership with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. A component of AEE’s “Project 24” initiative and the first of a series of MOOC-Eds planned by the Friday Institute, the course was first announced during Digital Learning Day in February.

Titled “Digital Learning Transition,” the course will examine how the effective use of digital learning can help school districts meet educational challenges, including implementing college- and career-ready standards for all students and preparing teachers to make effective use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Running from April 8 through May 24, the seven-week course is designed for school and district leaders, including superintendents, principals, curriculum directors, technology directors, financial officers, instructional coaches, lead teachers, and others involved in planning and implementing K-12 digital learning initiatives. Participants should expect to commit between two and four hours each week, but there will be opportunities for those who want to invest more time and explore issues more deeply, AEE says.

Participants will study the elements necessary for a successful digital learning transition, develop a set of goals for digital learning aligned with desired student outcomes, and create an action plan to meet these goals.

(Next page: More information about the course)


Report: ESEA reauthorization could be trouble for waiver states

A reauthorized ESEA should consider that federal waivers created a wide range of accountability systems.

A new report surveying states that have applied for and received No Child Left Behind waivers finds they are worried that reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could hinder progress painstakingly made in school reform over the past year.

The report, released by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), notes that last year Education Secretary Arne Duncan began to grant states waivers on key NCLB accountability requirements. The waiver guidelines let states depart from some of NCLB’s more strict requirements, such as judging school performance against a goal of 100 percent of students reaching reading and math “proficiency” by 2014, and implementing specific interventions in schools that fall short of performance targets.

However, states with approved waiver applications must meet several new requirements that relate to standards and assessments, accountability systems, teacher and principal evaluation, and reductions in administrative burden.

As of press time, 34 states and the District of Columbia have received NCLB waivers.

And while many states are satisfied with the NCLB waivers and their revised requirements, many worry what will happen to their new school reform policies if ESEA is reauthorized. The waiver guidelines state that if Congress completes the reauthorization and the president signs it into law, the education secretary may terminate the waivers if they are superseded by the reauthorization provisions.

(Next page: States’ major concerns)


Making Agile Learning Spaces to Support 21st Century Instruction

As the capabilities of smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices encourage new approaches to teaching and learning, this paper presents research to support a complementary change in approach to planning, designing, and implementing more creative and flexible learning spaces.


Student who got kicked out of college over ‘Hot for Teacher’ essay sues for $2.2 million

A former student at Oakland University in the suburbs of Detroit is suing the school for over $2.2 million after he was kicked out in September 2011 for penning a salacious essay entitled “Hot for Teacher,” the Daily Caller reports. Joseph Corlett, 57, a builder who now resides in Florida, filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, reports the Detroit Free Press. He claims the public university violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression. He says he also suffered mental anguish and humiliation when he was forced to leave the school. The suit names the school’s board of trustees and two high-ranking officials as defendants. When Corlett wrote the essay, he was majoring in writing and rhetoric and working toward a bachelor’s degree. The class at issue was English 380: Advanced Critical Writing. The comely blond instructor was Pamela Mitzelfeld…

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Monitoring kids on Facebook? That’s so 2009.

Relieved your kids aren’t posting embarrassing messages and goofy self-portraits on Facebook? They’re probably doing it on Instagram and Snapchat instead, the Associated Press reports. The number of popular social media sites available on kids’ mobile devices has exploded in recent years. The smartest apps now enable kids to chat informally with select groups of friends without bumping up against texting limits and without being monitored by parents, coaches and college admissions officers, who are frequent Facebook posters themselves. Many of the new mobile apps don’t require a cellphone or a credit card. They’re free and can be used on popular portable devices such as the iPod Touch and Kindle Fire, as long as there’s a wireless internet connection…

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Chicago schools order book on Iran out of some classes

The Chicago Public Schools ignited a controversy this week by ordering that “Persepolis,” a critically acclaimed graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran at the time of the Islamic revolution, be removed from some classrooms, Reuters reports. CPS Chief Executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett said on Friday that the district was not banning the book, by Marjane Satrapi, but had decided that it was “not appropriate for general use” in the seventh grade curriculum.

“If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms,” Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. She said the book had “powerful images of torture” and that the district was considering whether the book should be included in the curriculum of eighth through 10th grades…

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Carnegie Mellon, NSA seek high school hackers

Bored with classes? Carnegie Mellon University and one of the government’s top spy agencies want to interest high school students in a game of computer hacking, the Associated Press reports. Their goal with “Toaster Wars” is to cultivate the nation’s next generation of cyber warriors in offensive and defensive strategies. The free, online “high school hacking competition” is scheduled to run from April 26 to May 6, and any U.S. student or team in grades six through 12 can apply and participate. David Brumley, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said the game is designed to be fun and challenging, but he hopes participants come to see computer security as an excellent career choice. At a glance of its webpage, the contest seems lightweight…

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CoSN conference explores what it means to be an ‘audacious leader’

Finding the right balance between what we hold dear and what we must change “is the essence of audacious leadership,” said Michigan State professor Punya Mishra.

Transforming schools from places that deliver traditional, factory-era models of instruction to institutions that support engaging, personalized, and student-centered learning requires bold, audacious leadership—and that was the theme of the Consortium for School Networking’s 2013 annual conference in San Diego last week.

CoSN is a professional association for school district chief technology officers (CTOs), and its 2013 conference explored what it means for educational technology administrators to be “audacious leaders.”

“We need disruptive, innovative leaders to move 21st-century education forward,” said Jean Tower, CoSN board chair, in kicking off the conference March 12. Tower is also director of technology for the Northborough and Southborough Public Schools in Massachusetts.

During the opening general session, Lord David Puttnam—who worked for Great Britain’s Ministry of Education for several years and is now chancellor of the online Open University—said education in the Western world isn’t at a “Sputnik” moment today, referring to the mobilization around science and math instruction that occurred in the 1950s when the Soviets launched a satellite into space.

Instead, “we are at a Pearl Harbor moment,” he said—suggesting the urgency to act is even greater now than in the 1950s.

Lord Puttnam described what he saw during a recent trip to southeast Asia, where the governments of countries such as Vietnam and Thailand are making huge investments in their education systems and have developed a common vision for their future.

He said the sequester that will cut more than a billion dollars from federal education funding in the United States this year would never happen in those countries, because “it’s disruptive to where they want to be in five years.”

“Those southeast Asian countries I’ve been to, they love” the dysfunction in the U.S. political system that’s holding education back, he said. During another session later in the week, he noted: “Napoleon once said, ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.’ That’s how southeast Asia sees us.”

Anticipating future needs

Punya Mishra, director of the master’s degree program in educational technology at Michigan State University, said there is always tension between “what we hold dear and what we must change.” Finding the right balance between these ideals “is the essence of audacious leadership,” he said.

Mishra added that ed-tech leaders can’t be afraid to “wreck” things in leading change—the system is already “wrecked on some level,” he said. And he said audacious leadership requires looking farther into the future to anticipate needs.

(Next page: What crayons can teach us about planning for the future)