BENNETT NOW OFFERS PRAISE Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, who pronounced Chicago’s schools the worst in the nation 12 years ago, has become an admirer. Bennett testified at a House Education Workforce Committee field hearing on school reform flexibility at Jones Academic Magnet High. Prior to the testimony, Bennett noted, “There is no major urban school system in the United States right now that has a more ambitious plan, better leadership and a greater sense of accountability” than CPS.
The board will administer the 115-minute, multiple-choice test in October. Then, it will give test-prep companies under board contract, such as Stanley Kaplan and the Princeton Review, copies of student profiles, which will supplement the companies’ own diagnostic tests. In addition, information about student interests and career paths, also a part of PLAN, will be shared with guidance counselors so they can guide students toward the courses they will need.
Some educators and activists contend the board’s training had logistical problems that prevented council members from completing the courses, including inconvenient locations, confusion about who was required to take them and a lack of translators. However, most central office administrators and principals contacted by Catalyst cite illness, job conflicts or other personal problems as the main reason members missed training.
By the middle of July, the ISBE, in cooperation with CPS and attorneys representing some 53,000 CPS students with disabilities, is required to have specific numerical targets and benchmarks. Those will include the percentage of special education students in CPS who spend most of their day in a regular classroom and the percentage of students served districtwide in self-contained classrooms and separate public or private schools. Targets will be based on national averages, according to Designs for Change, a school reform organization that first documented illegal segregation of Chicago’s special education students in a 1991 report.
Held at the University of Illinois at Chicago on May 10, 1997, “Voices of Youth” was organized by a group of 10 high school students recruited by the Lindeman Center, an education and resource-sharing organization. The conference attracted 60 high school students from across the city. Participants teamed up in small groups to discuss their concerns and generate ideas for school improvement. They then presented their suggestions to peers and CPS administrators.
Board officials have dropped several controversial proposals and modified others since unveiling their wish list on March 17. For example, the original legislation would have allowed the board to establish a code of conduct for LSC members and to remove any members who failed to meet the code’s requirements; that measure was dropped. On the matter of principal retention, the School Board and the general superintendent would have been the only parties involved in deciding whether to overturn a council’s decision; the three-member panel later was added as a compromise.
Of the 22 schools contacted by Catalyst in April, 17 were juggling their budgets to retain their operations or business managers, and one was closing the position but planning to hire the operations manager in another capacity. Operations managers at two schools said they would not be retained; they cited less-than-sanguine relationships with their principals as the reason. Two schools were undecided.
Rashka teaches the class in Washington’s full-motion, two-way interactive video studio, one of seven in the Milwaukee Public Schools. The Marshall students hear and see everything Rashka says and does, thanks to the two cameras and microphone set up in the room. One camera is focused on Rashka; the other is a document camera focused on the long, complex equations the teacher writes out to illustrate the lesson.
Four years ago, the school started teaching environmental science and was looking for a way to bring more technology into its classes, says biology teacher Karen Baker. To suit its own special needs, the school adapted an interactive science activities program known as CoVis, which had been developed by Northwestern University.
Helen Hoffenberg, a teacher trainer from the district’s Department of Learning Technologies, begins by polling teachers about their use of computers. Most say they use computers for word processing. A few write e-mail letters to sons and daughters away at college. But almost all qualify their statements by adding that their use of computers has been helped along by spouses and younger children in the family.
Teacher Zone helps elementary school teachers and principals assimilate technology into their lesson plans with suggested lesson plans, tips for technology planning and funding, classroom Internet resources and more. This award-winning site also provides links to more education technology sites.
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Electronic School is an award-winning technology magazine published quarterly for K-12 school leaders as a supplement to The American School Board Journal. Through quality articles, public forums, news updates and product reviews, the site meters technological change in the classroom and offers advice on implementing technology in schools.
Part of parents’ frustration is the inequity among Detroit’s public schools. Some schools, such as the Dewey Urban Education Center in the city’s destitute Cass Corridor, have some of the country’s most progressive curriculums and most ambitious technology programs. Dewey has come from having no public address system or fax machines in the early 1990s to being one of the district’s lighthouse schools today. It has a full-time technology teacher and resource person, elective classes, training for all teachers and a curriculum-rooted program that few Michigan schools have attained.
Nationwide, technology experts advise school districts to spend at least 30 percent of their technology budget on teacher training if they want to make a difference in teaching and learning. Few districts come close to that percentage, though, and that shortfall shows in the way teachers react to using technology. An influential 1995 report from the federal Office of Technology Assessment, for example, reported that a majority of U.S. teachers describe themselves as inadequately trained to use computers. Neither are they confident that they can integrate technology into the curriculum.
Hi-Mount and Burdick are ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom. But throughout Milwaukee Public Schools, an ambitious vision of technology is beginning to take hold. It addresses access and equity, teacher training and student data management, partnerships with businesses and higher education. And at its center, it embraces the idea of technology as a tool of school reform, deeply integrated into all aspects of day-to-day teaching and learning.
“I was sitting next to a little boy who had a whole world going on in his desk with spacemen and stick figures and action heroes,” Gardner recalls of that day in 1991. “It occurred to me the world had changed, and the students had changed with video games and Nintendo, but education just wasn’t keeping up. Nor were we preparing students with skills for real life.”
While receiving little public attention, another part of SB 652 does get at the issue of lackluster performance; it would change the trigger for school probation to such things as an “absence of improvement” in reading and math scores and worsening attendance, dropout and graduation rates. This change would expand principal and LSC accountability beyond schools situated in the worst neighborhoods and having the least prepared kids and, therefore, the worst test scores.