Steubenville school superintendent indicted for obstruction in teen rape case

A school superintendent has been indicted on charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence by a grand jury investigating the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, by two football players, reports the Washington Post. Several other adults were indicted on lesser charges. The state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?” The indictments stem from a case earlier this year when two Steubenville High School football players — members of a team that was held in great esteem by the community — were found guilty March 17 of raping a West Virginia girl…

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Teachers, technology & talent: Could education be an untapped investment opportunity?

My mother was an English teacher. My Father an art teacher. My sister is a modern languages teacher. One could say that the ABCs are my DNA, the Huffington Post reports. Yet I opted for a career in business – not education. I chose to pursue the lure of success in the private sector over service in the public sector. But with the global education system on track for what some say will be a revolution driven by demographic shifts and technological advances, what once seemed like a divergent career path may in fact be starting to converge. Few doubt that we face an impending crisis in education – 57 million kids are out of school. Too many who are in school drop-out or remain barely literate due to poor quality schools or teaching…

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How (and why) teachers should have multiple Twitter accounts

Connected educators are learning, sharing, and connecting on Twitter, Edudemic reports. No big earth-shattering news there. But what’s the proper way for a teacher to get started? We’ve answered that question in our Teacher’s Guide here. There is, however, an interesting question that many must consider at some point in the time on Twitter: How many accounts should I have as a connected educator? Should I do it all from one account because that’d be easier? In other words, should I share photos of my classroom, tips and tricks with other teachers, interesting blog articles, and maybe even some school-wide announcements?

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5 data-driven ways to prevent the achievement gap

Take a look around your classroom, We Are Teachers reports.  What do you see?  Future scientists?  Mathematicians?  Writers and lawyers?  Artists and singers?  Each of your students comes to you with unique skills and talents and one of the best things about being a teacher is watching kids thrive as they are given opportunities to explore and learn within the realm of their own individual gifts. But what happens when these individual differences lead to gaps in achievement?  And is there anything teachers can do to make sure that each of their students—regardless of innate talents, socio-economic background, race or gender—stays on pace with the norm?

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5 things to be thankful for in education

This Thanksgiving it’s important to remember what goes right in education and why we should be thankful

thankful-education-thanksgivingAs most in the education arena know, it’s not always gold star stickers and apples on the desk—more often than not it’s the bad education news that gets spread like a wildfire. However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the editors of eSchool News thought it would be a good idea to be thankful: to take some time to name what’s good in education.

From recent legislation to national trends, education over the last year has taken major strides worthy of everyone’s pride—changes such as reinventing curriculum to implementing entirely new methods of delivering content for whole schools and districts.

And sure, we’ve heard about the tablet initiatives that face severe problems, or limited funding that poses challenges to ed-tech initiatives, but overall, teachers, administrators, and national stakeholders have never worked harder, and this Thanksgiving we’re thankful we’re in the education business.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Your answer may be included in one of our holiday features!

(Next page: Things to be thankful for in education)

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Foreign language instruction meets a critical need

teaching6Across the United States, foreign language programs are shrinking or disappearing altogether as school leaders face budget concerns and competing priorities.

According to an article in Forbes magazine, for instance, the percentage of public and private elementary schools offering foreign language programs declined from 31 percent in 1997 to 25 percent in 2008.

Advocates of foreign language instruction say online programs can help offset this decline. That’s important, they say, because learning a foreign language is an important skill as our society and our workforce become increasingly global.

According to a study conducted this year by International Data Corp. and commissioned by Microsoft, “bilingual/multilingual” ranked No. 8 on the list of skills most desired by U.S. employers.

That’s a reflection of the fact that most businesses today have employees and/or customers around the globe—as well as the critical importance of communications skills to employers. (In fact, “oral and written communications skills” ranked No. 1 on IDC’s list.)

But foreign language skills aren’t just important for employability; they’re also critical to U.S. security interests.

Last year, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations issued a report, titled “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” that called the decline in foreign language instruction “a national security issue.”

“The lack of language skills and civic and global awareness among American citizens increasingly jeopardizes their ability to interact with local and global peers or participate meaningfully in business, diplomatic, and military situations,” the report said.

The U.S. isn’t producing enough foreign-language speakers to staff important posts in the Foreign Service, the intelligence community, or American companies, the report noted. It cited a separate report from the Government Accountability Office that found the State Department faces “foreign language shortfalls in areas of strategic interest,” leaving the U.S. “crippled in its ability to communicate effectively with others in diplomatic, military, intelligence, and business contexts.”

What’s more, the report said, students’ failure to learn about global cultures also has serious consequences. A recent report by the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences noted that “cultural learning” and “cultural agility” are critical skills in the military.

These skills allow soldiers to “correctly read and assess situations they encounter,” the council’s report said. They also give soldiers “the tools they need to respond effectively and in line with the norms of the local culture” and help them “anticipate and respond to resistances or challenges that arise.”

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Experts: Don’t forget about IT infrastructure

Thoughtful planning and sustained professional development are key elements of any digital learning initiative, but experts say there are many other important aspects, too—including a robust network infrastructure.

A network upgrade is a “critical” part of a digital learning project, said Sam Farsaii, chief technology officer for Texas’ Coppell Independent School District, during a Connected Educator Month webinar. Coppell operates a one-to-one iPad initiative in its high schools, and the project is moving down to the middle and elementary schools as well.

The district maintained a “bring your own device” initiative before implementing its one-to-one program, Farsaii said. “We realized that [students] might have their own smart phone or laptop as well, so the network had to be built to carry that capacity beyond the devices we’re providing,” he said.

“Install as many wireless access points as possible—at least one per room,” recommended Josh Walters, one-to-one computing manager for Indiana’s East Noble School Corp. “Purchase as much bandwidth as possible.”

ENSC began its initiative with network connection speeds of 150 megabits per second. The district is currently at 355 Mbps and will move to a 500 Mbps capacity in fall 2014.

Walters, too, is trying to ensure that his district’s network is prepared for at least two devices per student.

“Most kids have a cell phone in their pocket and are bringing in an iPad, tablet, or eReader,” he said, “and you really want to plan on two devices per student.”

Besides ample and secure internet bandwidth, schools also need to determine what level of internet access is safe for students—and what methods should be used to ensure secure mobile access, said Alexandra Sneed, enterprise solutions marketing manager for Verizon Communications.

Content should be supported by a learning management system, Sneed said, so that student learning and collaboration can be extended into after-school hours.

“Make sure that all parties within the school environment are involved in planning,” she advised, “including, but not limited to, IT, finance, the superintendent, principals, department heads, teachers, and curriculum departments.” Leveraging the expertise of industry partners can help as well, she added.

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How do K-12 students want to learn?

Students are becoming used to reading content digitally, and very few don’t have some kind of online identity or account already, according to the latest Speak Up survey results. These findings have important implications for how students expect to learn in school.

The percentage of middle school students who said they own a personal eReader device more than doubled in the last year, from 17 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012. Only 4 percent of high school students and 7 percent of middle school students said they don’t manage any online accounts—and 12 percent of students said they own at least 20 different online accounts.

What’s more, 15 percent of high school students say they’ve taken at least one self-study online class, an increase of 50 percent since 2010. An additional 15 percent of high school students and 9 percent of middle school students have participated in an online class led by a teacher.

While the numbers are still small in terms of online class participation, “the interest in online learning is creating a new supply/demand problem for many schools and districts,” the 2013 Speak Up report said.

Four out of 10 students in grades 6-12 who have not taken an online class now say that they’d like to do so. Yet one-quarter of district administrators say that they cannot find enough teachers interested or qualified to teach online classes—and that’s holding up their expansion of online learning opportunities for students.

Students’ most frequent complaints about limits placed on their technology use at school are…

(1) School filters and firewalls block websites I need.
(2) I cannot access my social media sites.
(3) I cannot use my own mobile device in class.
(4) There are too many rules about using technology at school.
(5) I cannot use text messaging.

“I would say that kids should be able to use their phones in middle school,” a seventh-grade girl from Ohio said. “Whenever I’m doing schoolwork at home and I get stuck on a question, I just go on my phone and look it up. We should be allowed to do that in school, too.”

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Drumming to Success: Why teaching music matters

As an instrumental music teacher in the Philly School District, there is not much that I haven’t seen in school, the Huffington Post reports. I’ve had students involved with drugs, violence and gangs. I’ve had students who were living out of homeless shelters, students who have both parents in jail, even a student that had a father who committed suicide while he was at home. I’ve seen students swear at teachers and disrespect principals. I’ve seen food fights, flash mobs in the hallway, and I often see Philly police officers in school for various reasons. However, there is one common theme that I’ve experienced in inner city schools: All students love music. I’ve had so much success with the students that have been labeled as “failing.” Even some of the most at-risk students in school can find success in music…

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