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Coping With Katrina
Find out how educators can get or give assistance.

A Fort Lauderdale parking lot is blasted by blowing sand and rain as Hurricane Katrina makes landfall along the southeast coast of Florida on August 25, 2005.

School districts around the country immediately and graciously opened their doors for the hundreds of thousands of students affected by Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, many businesses large and small have stepped up to provide assistance for kids stuck in public facilities as well as to host schools. If your district’s students are displaced, or if your district is looking for ways to help, turn the page:

The American Education Corporation is offering free academic assessment assistance. Schools receiving displaced students may use this site to administer online assessment tests from the company’s integrated curriculum management system, the A+nyWhere Learning System. The online tests are available for use with displaced students in mathematics, reading, and vocabulary for grades one through 12.
www.amered.com

Children in Janet Thorne’s kindergarten class at Northwestern Elementary School in Zachary, Louisiana, in September 2005.

OfficeMax is helping the School, Home, and Office Products Association (SHOPA) Kids in Need Foundation ship thousands of school supply kits containing necessities such as notebooks, glue, and crayons to schools across the country that are accepting displaced students. OfficeMax is also donating $50,000 to help the SHOPA Kids in Need Foundation replenish school supplies needed for evacuated children.
www.kidsinneed.net

Schools worldwide want to donate books or cash from their Scholastic Book Fairs profits to help the victims of Katrina. Scholastic Book Fairs will match One for Books donations with a donation of up to 300,000 books to Kids in Distressed Situations. K.I.D.S. will then distribute the books to children, schools, and organizations affected by the hurricane.
www.scholastic.com/bookfairs

Local education reseller Sprysoft Corporation coordinated the donation and installation of 25 different children’s software titles often used in schools—from Sunburst Technology as well as Inspiration Software—at a shelter at the Austin Convention Center in Texas.
At press time, the companies were working on plans to donate software to host districts.
www.sprysoft.com

A young Katrina survivor is evacuated from the Superdome in New Orleans.

Amazing Kids! has started a pen-pal program, Amazing Kids! Pen Pals for Hurricane Victims. Students and classrooms are signing up to become pen pals of children and teens affected by the hurricane. Find more information and register online.
www.amazingkids.org 

District-Level Tech Spending Keeps Increasing

Money and technology apparently do talk, according to the 2005–06 National Technology Assessment released in September by Quality Education Data, Inc. (QED), a market research and database firm (and a wholly owned subsidiary of Scholastic). During the past school year, districts that had all schools meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind act spent significantly more per student on technology compared with districts in which at least one school did not meet AYP requirements.

The National Technology Assessment also found that about half of all districts surveyed expect to mount a major technology initiative or upgrade effort focused on desktops, laptops, and handhelds during the next 24 months. Almost 40 percent of districts expect to launch an infrastructure/networking initiative, and 18 percent will focus on storage or warehousing efforts, both of which support districts’ efforts to respond to requirements set forth in NCLB.

“School districts across the country continue to make significant investments in technology that support students, educators, and administrators,” says Andy Lacy, general manager of QED. “In particular, districts that are meeting the AYP requirements are committing even greater financial resources for technology expenditures to ensure that schools continue to have the resources they need to supplement instruction, monitor progress, and compile important data on student performance.”

QED randomly selected public school districts from its National Technology Assessment database, and more than 7,000 respondents (district technology coordinators) participated in the survey between December 2004 and May 2005.  When assessing overall technology use in their school districts, 61 percent of respondents consider their districts to be mainstream; 26 percent assess their districts as being an early adopter of technology; and 13 percent rate their districts as behind the curve in technology use. For the full report, go to www.qeddata.com.

MOVERS & SHAKERS

Carl Cohn, a former Long Beach (CA) Unified School District superintendent, began as head of San Diego City Schools.

San Francisco School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman announced she would resign at the end of the 2005–06 school year.

Mark Roosevelt began his tenure as the new superintendent of Pittsburgh (PA) Schools.

Eric J. Smith resigned as superintendent of Anne Arundel (MD) Schools after three years.

Maryland state education officials hired Harry Fogle, a former school administrator in Carroll County, Maryland, as administrator of special education in Baltimore.

Cleveland schools Chief Executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced in August she would leave her position as soon as a replacement can be found.

Valencia Douglas has accepted the position as Nyack (NY) schools superintendent and begins this fall.

Making One-to-One Add Up
A laptop for every student and teacher is a great idea in concept. The reality of managing it can be tougher.

by Alexander Russo

John Sawder, 15, of Kempton, Pennsylvania, is one of 13 Kutztown High School students charged with felonies. The charges were later dropped.

The past few months have not been very promising ones for advocates of one-to-one school computer initiatives.

>> In late August, Cobb County (GA) Superintendent Joseph Redden was forced to resign due in large part to the controversy surrounding the district’s plan to spend revenues from a sales-tax increase to give laptop computers to teachers and high school students—a plan that was suspended by court order this summer.

>> In Broward County, Florida, the district abandoned a $275 million plan to provide computers for every student after a rash of thefts and inconclusive results from a pilot evaluation.

>> In Kutztown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, the district’s take-home laptop initiative for high school students resulted in a series of problems with student misuse, which eventually led the district to press for felony charges against a handful of teenagers, charges that were dropped after a public outcry.

>> The sale of 1,000 four-year-old iBooks for $50 each in Henrico County, Virginia, generated an estimated turnout of 5,500 people and led to crowd violence that resulted in at least 17 injuries.

It’s not that take-home initiatives don’t work—or are going away anytime soon—but rather that there are lots of things that can go wrong with them, especially during the early stages. Even with the recent setbacks, laptops are a small but fast-growing part of most districts’ instructional programs, according to a recent report from the education research firm Market Data Retrieval, having jumped from 13 percent to 17 percent of all computers during the past year.

A partial list of potential pitfalls includes student misuse, theft and loss, repair and dispute-resolution conflicts with vendors, networking issues (because most laptop initiatives rely on wireless connections throughout a school), concerns about cost, and instructional effectiveness.

The need to communicate the benefits of a one-to-one program to parents and community members is one of the clearest lessons of the Cobb County experience. The tax referendum used to pay for the laptops referred only to the need to “refresh” computers in the district—not to give new laptops to everyone.

The importance of having a strong security and sanctions program in place ahead of time is highlighted in the Kutztown saga, in which passwords were not protected adequately and the district’s in-house disciplinary policies proved ineffective.

The Broward County experience shows the wisdom of piloting and evaluating one-to-one programs before rolling them out district-wide. In part due to thefts and repair costs in the pilot evaluation (which is continuing), the county decided that most of the benefits of laptops could be provided through in-school access for now.

Going slowly may be the most important advice, says Jeanine Gendron, director of instructional technology for Broward County. “We’re learning some good lessons from the pilot,” she says, including the need for a lot of up-front planning and project management, professional development for teachers, tracking devices, coordination with law enforcement for safety, and good filters to protect students from inappropriate sites.

In the meantime, Cobb County officials are revamping their plans and appealing the court ruling, and will probably end up providing laptops to students in school through computer carts, according to spokesperson Jay Dillon. “We’ll still use technology,” he says, “just not in that exact way.”

Photo of Hurricane Katrina: ©Mike Theiss/Jim Reed Photography/Corbis
Photo of classroom: ©Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Photo of child in bus: ©Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis
Photo of John Sawder: © Rick Smith/AP