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Monday, February 11, 2002

Pertinent Columns

Jacques Steinberg has a good column in yesterday's New York Times, Cleveland Case Poses New Test for Vouchers (free registration required), about the coming Supreme Court test of Ohio's school voucher law. Steinberg points out that over 99% of those students using vouchers there attend a parochial school making the case a good test of whether it is "outright government aid to parochial schools"...that..."violates the Constitution's separation of church and state." Arguments before the Supreme Court begin February 20.

An AP column appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle describes the pros and cons of state tax credits for students attending private schools. AP's Martha Raffaele writes in As alternative to vouchers, states offer tax credits to offset private school costs that six states now offer education tax credits, including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Most of the programs include tax credits to individuals or businesses that offer private school scholarships. The column notes, "Voucher opponents, who have traditionally argued that government-subsidized scholarships take money from the neediest public schools, have similar concerns about education tax credits."

While an Associated Press posting is headlined Bush: Education Key to Opportunity, Richard Rothstein's latest New York Times column, Linking Infant Mortality to Schooling and Stress (free registration required), points out that other critical factors must also be addressed beyond our public schools. Rothstein writes of the Bush focus on education, "But if it is false, it is dangerous to ignore social and economic problems in the hope that, with better schools, the problems will take care of themselves." Rothstein goes on to discuss a number of problems that the current federal initiatives do not adequately address.

PowerSchool gets a mostly "thumbs up" in Bill Cissel's PowerSchool gets mostly raves from local families on the Rapid City Journal. The column deals with teacher, student, and parent reactions to the online grade posting function of PowerSchool.

The Tin Cup Syndrome

Lacking any new postings of relevant software to download and evaluate today, I spent my "webtime" finishing a column I'd begun several weeks ago. The Tin Cup Syndrome doesn't break any new ground or offer any insightful solutions to the problem of keeping Mac sites afloat financially. It's just my take on what has been going on recently on the Mac web. (Had you been wondering what the heck that Tin Cup affiliate ad had to do with education?)

John H. Farr's latest Grack! column on Applelinks has a humorous comment on subsciption-based sites and some dazzling photos as well.

Software Releases and Updates

Yahtzee XOf course, just minutes after writing "Lacking any new postings..." above and uploading my column and this page, I ran across a couple of relatively new OS X freewares. Neither has much to do with education, but all work and no play makes one...? Yahtzee X v1.01 (345K) is Peer Allen's "first attempt at any type of a releasable program." I gave it a really quick trial, and it would appear that Peer's initial foray into the freeware world may be a big success.

Roasted Software has released the freeware game, Aqua Mines (178K) for Mac OS X. From the ReadMe file: "It is the belief of Roasted Software that every platform should have a free mine sweeper type game." Hey, I'm a believer!

In the OS X not-so-free, but oh-so-cool category is CocoaTech's SNAX 1.2.3 (1 MB) update. SNAX is an OS X file browser done right. The Applications menu lists your applications! What a novel idea. Somebody should tell Apple. Unfortunately, I blew this week's discretionary income on a cool mug and tote bag (to annoy the Windows crowd at school) from the Low End Mac Store.

TaxCut

On Saturday evening, I finally received a response from CustomerService@TaxCut.com to my query about Macintosh state versions for TaxCut. Unfortunately, it was again a canned message saying, "Your input has been forwarded to the proper personnel at H&R Block World Headquarters."

If you have suggestions, news ideas, etc., please .

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Pertinent Columns

The current issue of the quarterly Electronic School has a wealth of excellent articles. I found Purchasing Pitfalls and Technology Nightmares to be well written and informative. All of the articles appear to be free of platform bias.

On the other hand, ZDNet guest columnist Bob Shier tells How schools are tricked into using PCs--when Macs are better. Shier describes himself as "an instructor of computer literacy in an all-Windows environment." It's a good read.

Yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News carries Dina H. Portnoy's plea, Put Money in Classrooms! It's just a short rant about some abuses in the state takeover of Philadelphia's public schools.

SchwabLearning.org Updates Site

I received the following email announcing some improvements in the already excellent SchwabLearning.org site. If you're unfamiliar with this site, it's an excellent resource for parents and educators dealing with children with learning disabilities.

Dear Readers,
 
SchwabLearning.org has been refreshed! We're very excited to bring you the following changes, designed to make our site more visually appealing to you and to enhance the way you find information.
 
Here are some of the changes you'll see...
 
* Fun icons and more color! We've expanded our use of color to better accent different areas of the site. We've also added a shading of colors to distinguish different areas on individual pages.
 
* In addition to our 1-Identifying, 2-Managing, and 3-Connecting navigation, we now have 4-Tools! Under Tools, you'll find features like our LD Web Calendar, information on Assistive Technology, Quizzes, and all of our free publications.
 
* Articles are easier to find! The new information design system now has three levels of navigation instead of two. Each level of navigation further categorizes articles so that it is easier to find articles in a particular area of interest. For example, the article "2001 Tax Benefits" is in 2-Managing (1st level), Home & Family (2nd level), Financial Information (3rd level). Also, when you see a "More >>" at the end of any category such as "Financial Information," that means there are additional articles listed. Simply select "More >>" for a complete listing of all articles under that category.
 
* Quick Access for searches! Our easy-to-use search tool is now more prominent on the site, making it easier for you to find information on a specific topic of interest.
 
We hope you'll find these changes make it easier and more enjoyable to use SchwabLearning.org.
 
Take care,
 
The Schwab Learning Team

Rather than run through the usual links to new columns, let me just give you the link for the Schwab Learning Online Newsletter.

Scienceman.com Makes Statement in Support of Alberta Teachers

Joe Martha's Scienceman.com has the following posted: "As a show of support, ScienceMan will cease updates while Alberta Teachers are on strike." Having been through a few job actions and one (failed) strike, I wish the Alberta teachers the best. Teacher strikes are nasty things for everyone involved. While Joe wrote the following in light of the Alberta situation, it could probably be applied to any of our states and school districts:

It is time for the government to re-assess priorities and provide the support that public education deserves. We cannot teach new curriculum, provide a wholesome, uncrowded environment students and retain quality teachers without investment.

OS X

For those of you who have suggested in emails that I'm a bit of a UNIX wimp (correct assessment), this update was written under OS X...after Explorer totally locked up my machine once, and then froze a bit later under Classic 9.2.2. While I've been slow to move to OS X, the time is coming when I'll have to make the switch. Unfortunately, I still can't use my printer (serial port Epson 850) or CD burner (ancient Ricoh MP-6200S) under OS X, so a total conversion will have to wait until Annie or I hit on Powerball.

Personal Note

I was advised today by an administrator, "You'd better watch using words like 'unethical' " [in your columns]. Heeding that tip, I removed the offending text from the conclusion of yesterday's column, The Tin Cup Syndrome. Remembering that the First Amendment is still in effect, I moved it here.

Online Resume!

Sadly, it's become pretty obvious to me that good old "Backwash Elementary" and I no longer share a common view of what constitutes a "Free, Appropriate, Public Education" (FAPE) as required by federal and state statute and court decision. Last week, I informed our superintendent orally and in writing (again) of what I believe are a number of violations of student IEPs and the potential for diversion of IDEA grant funds, illegally, into other areas. Other than my building principal and the special ed parents, I'm not sure anyone there shares my views. Of course, they're not the son of an attorney.

While I'd have to take a whopping big penalty as I'm not yet 55, I am vested in the Indiana Teachers' Retirement Fund, as I'll exceed their "rule of 85" (age plus years of experience) this summer. Depending on the outcome of a still unscheduled meeting (showdown?) this week, I'm going to have to decide whether I can remain on my current job in light of some practices that are in my view unethical, if not blatantly illegal.

If you know of a southeastern Illinois school that needs a slightly singed, but not burnt out, regular elementary or special educator (I have multiple Indiana licensing.) or Mac systems technician (southwestern Indiana and southeastern Illinois), please let them or me know.

I'm not terribly confident that the "powers that be" are going to suddenly wake up, recognize their jeopardy, and reverse their current collision course with a "denial of services" lawsuit or federal investigation of misappropriated special education funds.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

I'm taking an evening off. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Pertinent Columns

Two New York Times columns from yesterday discuss potential problems with current federally mandated education reform. Richard Rothstein's The Other Side of Choice: After Top Students Leave talks about the effects of stronger students leaving failing schools. Robert Pear notes, " President Bush's budget provided far less money than Mr. Bush promised when he signed a landmark education bill," in Democrats Criticizing Bush Budget on Education.

Computerworld reports: States seek independent review of Microsoft claims

Friday, February 15, 2002

Pertinent Columns

Ken Kashmarek was good enough to send along the URL to a FamilyHaven.com interview with Clifford Stoll, author of High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian. Mr. Stoll makes some interesting observations on the seeming headlong rush of many schools to computerized learning. While I don't agree with everything Mr. Stoll said, I really did like the following:

No, it's not computers that bother me. It's the culture of computing. It's this idea that says: If you're not online, if you don't have a website, if you don't have all sorts of computers in front of you, then the train of progress is leaving the station. And you are going to left in the past.

Joel Kurth of The Detroit News has an interesting column on Michigan's new alternative testing for special education students in Educators doubt value of testing for disabled.

TaxCut State

While I'm awaiting arrival of TurboTax Deluxe, I noticed that H&R Block's TaxCut state version for Indiana was released today. Bill Fox of MacsOnly had written last week to say he already had the California state version, so apparently, TaxCut is releasing the state versions as they get them done. So if you've elected to stay with TaxCut and can wait it out (and live in one of the states for which they produce a state version), your state version may be done soon.

Have a great long weekend!

The content on Educators' News this week has been varied, but totally lacking in any significant educationally related software releases or updates. What a bummer! I also introduced some of my personal trials from work that are now edging toward resolution. Then I lost one of my students to suspension/expulsion this week. If you're an educator, you know what kind of failure that feels like. Anyway, it's been a rotten week overall and I'm going to knock off web updates until next Wednesday. Call it a long President's Day celebration, if you like.

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