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Monday, January 13, 2003

State Cuts + No Child Left Behind Underfunding = Education Funding Disaster

A USA Today editorial, Cash shortages in states threaten education fixes, while not absolving states of financial responsibility, concludes "the federal government is holding states responsible for education reforms they haven't received money to fund."

The New York Times Sam Dillon writes in Schools Ending Year Early to Cut Costs that "Thousands of America's districts are grappling with extraordinary midyear budget cuts as state governments face deficits that stem from falling tax revenues." He goes on to relate a number of funding induced education horror stories:

...half the school districts in the state [Oregon] prepare to slash anywhere from a few days to more than a month from the school year to cut costs.
 
In California, where the law bars districts from laying off teachers after the year begins, schools are planning mass dismissals of janitors, cooks and other support workers to cope with $700 million in budget cuts.
 
In most states, laws require a minimum of 180 instructional days. So hard-pressed districts are saving money in other ways. "They're cutting personnel through attrition, suspending building plans, eliminating sports and other extracurricular activities, not cleaning their buildings," said David Griffith, a spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The Los Angeles Times' Edward Chen in Education Reform, One Year Later, notes that while President Bush continues to congratulate himself over No Child Left Behind, liberals such as Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representative George Miller who helped craft and supported NCLB say Bush is gutting funding for the law.

"The president's proposed $1-billion increase in what he claims is his top domestic policy priority leaves over 5 million needy children behind," Kennedy said. Miller said that, based on what Bush has indicated, the administration's 2004 education budget would fall "more than $6 billion short" of the $18.5 billion called for by last year's law.
 
"The success of the [law] is at a crossroads," Miller added. "We are, most assuredly, leaving millions of children behind."

What's That?

Spherule from Apollo11When I saw the Astronomy Picture of the Day for Sunday (1/12/03), A Spherule from Outer Space, I wondered if it was some kind of close-up of the moon's surface. When I got down to reading the description, it turned out to be a microscopic glass bead taken from a lunar soil sample. When you have a few idle moments (or need a photo to dress up an otherwise rather drab web posting:-), the Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive and Science@NASA are always a good choice. Friday's Science@NASA posting, Weekend Movie Guide ... NASA Style, is an interesting review of the IMAX documentary, Space Station 3D.

Misuse of E-rate Funds

John Schwartz writes in Schools' Internet Subsidies Are Called Fraud-Riddled in The New York Times that the "E-Rate program has helped connect thousands of schools and libraries to the Internet, but it may also be enriching unscrupulous contractors, according to a report" by the Center for Public Integrity.

About the Washington Teachers' Union Scandal

Washington Post staff writers Valerie Strauss and Justin Blum relate how the Washington Teachers' Union scandal occurred in Apathy and Secrecy Filled Teachers Union, Many Say. They write, "Those who might have raised red flags did not speak out until the money had vanished: the union's parent, the American Federation of Teachers; the union's own three-member board of trustees; its 21-member executive board; its membership; and U.S. Labor Department regulators."

Massachusetts Charter News

While definitely not a major news story of the day, School-farm plan faulted in Waltham caught my eye, as I was once a part-time farmer and used to joke with another teacher-farmer about starting such a farm school as this story relates. The article relates the plan of Alyssa Whitehead-Bust to start a grade 6-12 charter school "that would blend a college-preparatory mission with the hands-on, practical experience of running a farm." Students would tend the farm, sell the crops, and care for animals along with activities all linked to academics. Boston Globe staff writer Anand Vaishnav notes that "City and school leaders in the Boston suburb denounce it as a fiscal drain and an unwelcome guest." Sad...it sounds like fun.

Another Vaishnav column, Charter schools face backlash around state, tells of fierce infighting over the possible approval of new charter schools in Massachusetts. "State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll, who said many school chiefs view charter schools as ''piranhas. It's become very, very negative.'''

Shari Rudavsky of the Globe shares how charters and public schools are working together in Charter, district teachers take pages from each others' books. Rudavsky writes of the Project for School Innovation in which teachers share best practices with one another.

PBS Series: A History of US

As noted here last Monday, the PBS series Freedom: A History of US begins soon -- tonight on many public television stations around the country. Mac writer and educator Mark Marcantonio writes of the ten book Joy Hakim series, "These are the best books written for kids on American history. I use them as my primary teaching material, although the budget wouldn't allow me to buy the series for each student."

The PBS site has full descriptions of the series, along with teaching guides, games and activities, and each of the sixteen episodes in an online webisode version.

Digital Photography and Megahertz

A column last week by Rob Galbraith, In pro digital photography, megahertz matters, concludes, "What's there to say but the obvious: The fastest dual processor Mac has been soundly thumped by one of the fastest single processor PCs. If this report had included a dual processor PC, the PC's margin of victory could have been even greater."

Testing Solution

A column in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, The Science of Learning, tells of the Linscott Charter School buying into Scantron's Performance Series Assessment online testing. The column lists the price tag for both a cart of 14 iBooks and the software at $16,000.

Devotion for January 12-18, 2003

Zach Wood's weekly devotional for this week is Our Misunderstanding of Holy. Zach also maintains an archive of previous devotionals.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Number of Children Medicated Increases

An Associated Press posting by Lindsey Tanner, Psychiatric Drug Use Surges for Children, relates a recent review of research data indicates a tremendous increase in the "number of U.S. children and adolescents on Ritalin, antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs surged between 1987 and 1996."

No Child Left Behind

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Norman Draper continues the flood of recent columns reporting concerns of many school officials due to the No Child Left Behind legislation. In Federal law poses costly education questions, Draper writes that "many states are in financial straits and fear No Child Left Behind represents another costly federal program they'll have to pay for. They also fear that the law could unfairly tag many schools as failures."

The Boston Globe's Michele Kurtz in Law could label half Mass. schools deficient tells that "In Massachusetts and other states, officials are expressing concern that the federal law may oblige districts to spend more on new programs than the Bush administration is willing to provide, leaving states, cities, and towns to pay the rest." Kurtz relates that John Jennings, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy, said that states "generally said that they expect 30 percent to 80 percent of their schools to be labeled needing improvement."

School Lunch

Emily Gersema relates in the Associated Press posting, Don't blame school lunches for child overweight kids, says agriculture secretary, that Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in an interview last Friday, "We cannot blame obesity on child nutrition programs in this country." While the "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine argues that school lunch is partly to blame for young people being overweight," Veneman stated, "The bulk of the eating decisions, or the buying, is done by the parents." The physician's committee alleges that school meals reflect government support for farm programs, rather than healthy eating choices for children.

Elizabeth Becker and Marian Burros tell that school officials in Opelika, Alabama and a few other communities "decided that nutritious school lunches were non-negotiable" years ago. While providing more fruits and vegetables and reducing fat costs more, "parents backed them up, consistently voting for increased financing." In Eat Your Vegetables? Only at a Few Schools, Becker and Burros relate that the Opelika-like situations are unique, as most school meals feature prepared foods over healthier and more expensive "home cooked" alternatives.

School Violence

Greg Toppo relates in USA Today School violence hits lower grades. The subhead of Toppo's column relates "Experts who see violent behavior in younger kids blame parents, prenatal medical problems and an angry society; educators search for ways to cope." The column is a good read, as Toppo columns usually are. It's good to see Greg's byline appearing online again after a period of absence when he apparently moved from the Associated Press to USA Today.

New from SchwabLearning.org

New on the SchwabLearning.org site this week is Inattentive AD/HD: Overlooked and Undertreated?

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2

EdNews 030108You may recall that I featured an ad all last week for an Amazon.com sale on Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 for $34.99 after rebates (offer expired 1/12/03). I'd run across the details of the sale from a Deal-Mac posting. I've been quite satisfied with the original release of Photoshop Elements and used it extensively last spring when Anne and I were in Cleveland and I had to rely on an iBook and a Toshiba Satellite for my computing chores. The only drawback to my using Elements more was that it didn't run natively under OS X. Elements 2 fixes that and again comes on a hybrid disk. This time around it carries both Mac OS 9 and X versions, along with the Windows version.

My copy of Elements 2 came in Monday, but I just got around to installing it and giving it a quick test drive Tuesday evening. I only tested a couple of features, but I wasn't disappointed.

Adobe has improved the browser considerably. While the previous browser felt rather slow and clunky running under either Mac OS 9 or in the Classic box of OS X, this time around it's fairly quick. Images quickly display as thumbnails before being resized to a slightly larger view. I found Element's browser still to be slightly slower than the one incorporated in Thorsten Lemke's GraphicConverter, but definitely usable now.

Elements web optimization is good, but no better or worse than that of GraphicConverter. One nice feature of the browser, however, is that the Elements' browser does not undo the web optimization of photos whereas GraphicConverter returns pictures to their full size when viewed in its browser.

Elements 2 Browser

GraphicConverter Browser

Adobe also heralds their new "quick fix" feature. I found the quick fix to be more selective and specific than the old "Instant Fix" in Adobe PhotoDeluxe. I'd played a bit with the picture below last weekend and did another round with Elements 2 last evening. I first selected a small portion of the photo on which to concentrate. After cropping, I used Quick Fix to first sharpen the focus, adjust the contrast and backlighting, and finally did a color correction that may not have really helped. Anyway, the photos below show that the Quick Fix feature can clean up a fairly badly botched photo.

The "hook" for me on buying the new version of Elements, even though I already have the 1.0 version, was the combination of it running natively under OS X and a great price. The base price was $84.99 with two Amazon rebates that totaled $50. I thought a net price of $34.99 was pretty good, but then I found an Adobe $30 upgrade rebate offer in the box! I'm not sure if the Adobe offer duplicates one of the Amazon rebates, but for a net price of $4.99, I'm going to risk a stamp on it. If you missed the Amazon offer and are a school employee, you can still get a good deal on Elements at the Academic Superstore.

I was still using version 4.4 of GraphicConverter for the work above, as I hadn't yet upgraded the excellent shareware to the new 4.5.x version. Even with a shiny new version of Photoshop Elements 2, I still consider GraphicConverter to be an essential tool on my Mac. When I checked prices Tuesday evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find the upgrade is just $15. Full single user licenses are now $30 (previously $35). 

Plow & Hearth

Friday, January 17, 2003

Lots of Ideas

Jeff Adkins wins the prize today for the longest column title for his current Mac Lab Report, More on Apple Education, Disk Images, Cloning Systems for the Classroom, a Low-Cost Education Mac, and OS X Server. Jeff tidies things up from several past columns with this one, but it also serves as a good index or pointer to his other columns on making disk images for classroom use, Xserve, and cloning iBook hard drives, if you missed some of them.

STS-107 Aloft

STS-107 launchScience@NASA's latest posting, Science that can't be done on Earth, concerns the "dedicated scientific research mission" of the space shuttle Columbia launched yesterday. Columbia's seven member crew is divided into two teams working 12-hour shifts to "allow research to take place 24 hours-a-day during the entire 16-day mission." The Shuttle Gallery already has 11 pages of thumbnailed photos of STS-107 Shuttle Mission Imagery, including the launch photo pictured at left/right. The high resolution version (3.9 MB) is really outstanding. The NASA Human Spaceflight home page has links to STS-107 Crew Goes to Work, the Welcome to the Stars program, and other related stories.

Another View of No Child Left Behind

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews does a perspective piece in this week's Class Struggle column, Federal Law's Effect: Raised Expectations. Jay sees some long-term positives coming from No Child Left Behind.

Has the Teacher Shortage Really Eased?

While several columns have appeared recently that report that the long-standing teacher shortage that afflicts many big city school systems has eased or ended, the Chicago Tribune article Teacher demand dips with economy may be more accurate. The Trib says teaching vacancies in Illinois dropped this year for the first time in five years. Trib staff reporters Stephanie Banchero and Barbara Sherlock write that " State education officials said the change could be partly attributed to a shrinking employment market that helped persuade teachers to stick with their current jobs." They add that state education officials "say the dip in vacancies may also be connected to budget constraints that have forced local school districts to eliminate open positions or avoid adding new ones."

Bush Takes Stand Against Affirmative Action

President Bush took a stand against affirmative action in a speech Wednesday where he urged the Supreme Court to hold the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy unconstitutional. In President Faults Race Preferences as Admission Tool, the New York Times' Neil A. Lewis writes that "The president's decision to intervene in the case was significant because the Bush administration was not legally involved and did not have to take a position" in the UMich case.

Beyond the PowerBooks: Items for Education at Macworld (at atttractive discounts)

While the new PowerBooks introduced at last week's Macworld Expo have deservedly garnered the lion's share of attention from the press, a number of other announcements and introductions took place that may be relevant to the education market. Apple Education's PR Manager, Josh Morgan, was kind enought to put together the product descriptions below and send them along.

Jaguar--X for Teachers

X for Teachers Program Extended
The X for Teachers program has been a resounding success, with over 300,000 teachers participating to date. Apple is pleased to extend the X for Teachers program through March 31, 2003. Apple will provide every K-12 teacher in the United States with a free copy of Mac OS X v10.2 "Jaguar" as well as free copies of Apple's digital hub applications, iMovie, iTunes and iPhoto, when they join the X for Teachers program. The program is designed to show teachers the stability and manageability of Mac OS X and how it gives them a powerful foundation for integrating technology into their classroom.

Keynote

Keynote
Apple's newly announced presentation application, Keynote combines Apple's legendary ease of use, professionally designed themes, and captivating images, enabling educators to dramatically enhance teaching and learning. Hit the ground running by importing existing PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop, QuickTime, and other media files into Keynote, making it the shortest distance between your lesson plans and an engaging classroom experience. Keynote is priced at $49 for education.

iLife

iLife
A suite of highly integrated digital media applications, iLife provides educators and students with the tools they need to power a classroom of the 21st century. iLife integrates Apple's industry-leading applications, enabling users to get the most out of their digital photos, movies, and music by organizing their media, creating school projects, and sharing them with others. iLife includes the latest versions of Apple's award-winning applications, including completely new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD, and the latest version of iTunes. The latest versions or iPhoto, iTunes and iMovie are available for free download at
www.apple.com. iLife is priced at only $39 for education.

AirPort Extreme

AirPort Extreme
With 802.11 wireless networks rapidly replacing wired school and campus network infrastructures, administrators need power tools to manage the network--and safeguard their investment in wireless technology. Using 802.11g, AirPort Extreme delivers advanced features to make wireless networking more flexible, compatible, and secure--not to mention phenomenally fast at 54 MBPS, compared with 11 MBPS from 802.11b. AirPort Extreme is the new turbocharged version of the cutting-edge technology that lets faculty, staff, and students connect to the Internet without wires, additional phone lines, or complicated networking hardware--from just about anywhere on campus. With advanced features such as remote management, wireless bridging, external antennas, wireless printing, and greater bandwidth, the AirPort Extreme base station is priced at $179 for education customers.

Final Cut Express

Final Cut Express
Final Cut Express features the same interface and workflow as the Emmy Award-winning Final Cut Pro, and is a robust and cost-effective editing solution for the classroom. For flexible, full-featured DV editing, Final Cut Express is the perfect combination of power, ease of use, and affordability. Final Cut Express can import existing iMovie clips and, as abilities and needs grow, students can upgrade to Final Cut Pro. This functionality makes Final Cut Express the best solution for students and teachers to create professional-looking digital video projects. Final Cut Express is priced at $149 for education.

(All product and boxshot photos above courtesy Apple Computer, Inc.)

Faster Wireless

As MacServerwe continue to work with our wireless iBooks at school, I find that AirPort Extreme, or the 802.11g standard, is truly droolworthy. It seems that no matter how fast the network may be on a given day, and it varies greatly with use, I'm always tapping my toe or drumming my fingers waiting for a connection or for directories and such to load. A recent upgrade of my classroom Power Mac 8550/200 MacServer to AppleShare 6.3 has given us a speed boost, but Apple's move in adopting the 802.11g standard will definitely pay benefits for educators buying new systems. While we can't afford to retrofit our iBooks or all of our wireless receivers, the upgrade has permitted me to switch our installation of All the Right Type 3.0 from single machine installations to a network install, centralizing the student record database.

OS X for our iBooks?

While I had been less than pleased with the software available for OS X and how some products ran in X's Classic box, a couple of developments may allow us to begin using OS X 10.2.3 as our default boot system soon. Bob Keller of Don Johnston Inc. asked me to check out a possible upgrade of Co:Writer 4000 recently. The beta I tested seemed to take care of some of the vexing problems of Co:Writer dropping the connection to its companion word processor under Mac OS 9.2.2. The tested version does not run natively under OS X, but I found it now runs reliably in the Classic box of OS X when paired with Microsoft Word 2001. It also worked well with AppleWorks 6, if AppleWorks was running in the Classic box. If not, Co:Writer appeared unable to cross the clipboard bridge between OS 9 and X. The iBook I was using this week for the test also had Craig Marciniak's SpellTools set as a system startup item. When I booted the Classic box of OS X, SpellTools appeared, where previously under OS X 10.1 (and 10.2?), it failed to function. While I can't find an equivalent to Word 98's Word Speak in Word 2001, SpellTools adds the critical readback function to the newer version.

Having "gotten lucky" with SpellTools, I quickly launched Roger Clary's Spell Tutor in the Classic box. I'd had good luck running Spell Tutor under the OS X public beta and the 10.0 release, but it broke somewhere along the line in 10.1. I found that Spell Tutor once again works under the latest update to OS X (10.2.3)! With Co:Writer, SpellTools, and Spell Tutor now functioning acceptably under OS X, my list of "essential applications" that have to run on our computers got a good bit shorter. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the OS 9 Launcher to run when using a restricted student account (multiple users under OS X). My kids are used to using the Launcher and I find it fairly easy to set up and replicate across our iBooks using Mike Bombich's excellent Carbon Copy Cloner.

I'm also just starting to see if the scripts I've written to mount CD disk images and then launch the appropriate application still work under X's classic box. I may need to rewrite them in X.

Science Cart

Speaking of iBooks, I haven't mentioned Apple Education's "new" Curriculum Mobile Labs recently. The big difference in these carts, as opposed to the original iBook Wireless Mobile Lab and the Mobile Digital Media Studio is that they each have 20 iBooks, along with subject software to match their description.

20 Pack Cart

(Photos courtesy Apple Computer, Inc.)

I'm also looking forward in the next few weeks at getting a look at Riverdeep's new Destination Reading and Destination Math software, which is included with the language and math carts.

Have a great weekend!

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