A Closer Look at "Failing" Schools
Do schools considered "failing" under No Child Left Behind have more or less technology than the average American school? This intriguing question, asked by Market Data Retrieval in their recent Technology in Education 2003 report, yielded interesting numbers. In terms of dollars, districts with failing schools spend more on technology: 41 percent exceed more than $90 per pupil for technology, compared with 35 percent of all schools. But their teachers are less skilled — and less likely — to use it. One telling stat: in 25 percent of "failing" schools, the majority of teachers are technology novices. That's compared with 18 percent of all schools.
Rx for Math and Science
Computer visionary Alan Kay's assertion that today's math and science curricula are out of step with the real world drew mixed reaction from our online poll respondents. Fifty-two percent agreed. The remaining 48 percent took some umbrage with Kay's remark. This from one educator: "If his assessment is true, then what am I doing with all of the trundle wheels, rulers, boxes of blocks, ad infinitum? I spend an enormous amount of time tying curriculum to the real world."
When we asked readers their view on Radio Frequency Identification Devices — tiny tracking chips that can be embedded in anything from a library book to a student's backpack — 59 percent told us they seemed like a feasible security tool for schools. Forty-one percent, however, were less convinced. "Cheap, miniature technology allowing anyone to 'track' anyone else for any reason is profoundly disturbing to me," commented one QuickPoll taker.
Every Thursday I get an e-mail from Checker. Checker, as he calls himself, is actually Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Ohio-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and chief author of their Education Gadfly newsletter. Gadfly doesn't even begin to describe the opinionated Finn. In one column, for example, he lays out six arguments why school boards are "an anachronism and an outrage." On the subject of teacher preparation, he asks: "how many states will have the vision and the gumption" to experiment with alternative programs? Finn, whose dazzling resume includes high-level stints at the Department of Education and some of the top research institutes in the nation, has an obvious reform agenda that includes charter schools, outsourcing, and other types of schools choice. Whether or not you agree with his views, his provocative commentaries will make you think. www.excellence.net/foundation/gadfly
Blogs may not get much buzz in the media any more — hey, even President Bush has one — but when it comes to K-12 classrooms they're still considered an emerging technology. Enter the Educational Bloggers Network, an online home for a small but passionate subculture of educators interested in harnessing Web logs for teaching reading and writing. Here you're as likely to hear from the community about obscure technical tools — such as SubEthaEdit, software that lets multiple users simultaneously edit a document — as you are about a high school that publishes their student newspaper in Web log format. You can also read about the group's recent face-to-face gathering in San Francisco, edBlogger 2003, where they shared best practices and discussed the future of digital writing. If you're a blog-loving educator, or think you might want to be one, punch in www.ebn.weblogger.com.
Read other articles from the January Issue