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AASA News of the Nation

Hot TopicsLeadership Matters
Superintendents in the NewsAASA News


  Hot Topics 


The Death Star of American Education
Education Week, Jan. 10
BETHESDA, Md. -- Education historian and New York University Professor Diane Ravitch, an outspoken opponent of the decade-old No Child Left Behind Law, is now warning flatly that NCLB must die to save American schools. And she adds on an Education Week blog that proposed compromises on the issue in Congress and the White House remain a major threat to schools. ‘ … Now, with the active support of the Obama administration, the NCLB wrecking ball has become a means of promoting privatization and community fragmentation,’ writes Ravitch to a fellow education specialist. ‘NCLB cannot be fixed. It has failed. It has imposed a sterile and mean-spirited regime on the schools. It represents the dead hand of conformity and regulation from afar. It is time to abandon the status quo of test-based accountability and seek fresh and innovative thinking to support and strengthen our nation's schools.’

Featured Success Story on AASAConnect
Superintendent Tom Trigg of Blue Valley, Kansas, was determined to give his students an advantage in their postsecondary education and professional careers. He did this by developing a program that focused on emerging economic markets and workforce development and by engaging students in real project work for real businesses using real tools of the industry. Read story here. Submit your story here.

F.C.C. Lifeline Program To Help Bridge Digital Divide
Huffington Post, Dec. 9
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission has announced a plan to expand broadband Internet access by modernizing a program that provides discounted telephone service to low-income Americans. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says he will overhaul the agency's ‘Lifeline’ program, which has helped defray the cost of basic telephone service. A pilot program will also be launched that will change Lifeline to focus on reducing the monthly cost of broadband service and digital devices and improving digital literacy. ‘Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity in the 21st century,’ Genachowski said. One-third of U.S. households still do not subscribe to broadband Internet at home, a disparity experts refer to as the ‘digital divide.’ The chairman said cost savings from internet expansion could be used to increase digital literacy training at libraries and schools.

10 Hot Spots in Early Ed for 2012
New America Foundation, Jan. 12
WASHINGTON -- The mixture of a hotly contested presidential race and public schools issues could fire up a hotspot for early education this year, according to the Early Ed Watch blog of the New America Foundation. ‘Polls show voters rank education relatively low on their list of issue priorities, but as primary season draws to a close and the general election begins in earnest, education is sure to come up in debates between President Obama and the eventual Republican nominee,’ according to the analysts. ‘At that point, will the GOP move to the center on school reform, or will it continue to harshly criticize federal school improvement efforts?’ Among other key issues, they predict, will be competitive grant programs with a focus on Early Ed. Another: How successfully will states implement their Race to the Top promises?

Quality Counts 2012: The Global Challenge: Education in a Competitive World
Education Week, Jan. 12
BETHESDA, Md. -- A new national report out this month takes a critical look at the nation’s place among the world’s public education systems. Focus of ‘The Global Challenge: Education in a Competitive World’ is an eye on providing policymakers with perspective on the extent to which high-profile international assessments can provide valid comparisons and lessons. The Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) study examines effective reform strategies here and abroad that have gained traction and may be replicable. It highlights political and social challenges policymakers will face in improving American education to meet the demands of a 21st century work force. Included are commentaries by educational leaders from around the globe -- Byong-man Ahn of South Korea, England’s Sir Michael Barber, Pasi Salhberg of Finland and Margaret Spellings from the United States.

   Leadership Matters 


Chester Upland School District Out of Money. Can Others be Far Behind?
Tredyffrin-Easttown Patch, Jan. 9
CHESTER, Pa. -- The Chester Upland School District is broke. CUSD says that, with no funds on its balance sheet and no help from the state, it will be unable to pay teachers this month unless emergency funds arrive immediately. The cash crisis also means no funds for electricity or heating in the district’s three high schools and six elementary schools. To satisfy the payroll crunch, CUSD needs $7 million immediately and approximately $20 million to finish the school year. In mid-December, the school board and teachers union asked the state Department of Education for an advance 2012 emergency funding of $18.7 million. On December 24, the district got word from Harrisburg that the request was denied. Teachers have promised to stay on the job for as long as they can, but CUSD depends on the state for 70 percent of its funds.

Students With Smartphones Study More Often
Digital Trends, Dec. 3
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maybe we should think again about all the time that your students are spending (and, perhaps, NOT wasting) on their smartphones. While more teenagers and college students are utilizing tablets and smartphones in their daily lives, one study finds that students with access to these devices may be studying more often. Based on a recent study from the online student assistance site StudyBlue, students with access to smartphones work on material for classes approximately 40 minutes more per week than students without access to a smartphone. This was tabulated from the combined data of nearly one million StudyBlue users over the Fall 2011 semester. The study found no correlation to higher grades due to increased study time, but it showed that students that use study applications on mobile devices are three times more likely to track progress of grades for tests and class assignments.

Three Ways to Help Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation
New York Times, Jan. 9
NEW YORK -- So you want to help students learn to motivate themselves? Here’s some very sound advice from teacher and author Larry Ferlazzo in a guest blog on the New York Times’ ‘Learning Network’ Education site. The last thing you want to do, he says, is pay them to do the work. But Ferlazzo has three simple tactics gleaned from experts to inspire confidence in your charges: (1) Concentrate on praising effort instead of intelligence, (2) Teach young people the long-term benefits of understanding and developing self-control, and (3) Assign a 15-minute writing activity on values to build confidence. ‘I was a community organizer for 19 years before becoming a high school teacher nine years ago,’ he writes. ‘ The ideas in this post are just a few ways that we might move from what organizers call ‘irritation’ — challenging people to act on our goals — to ‘agitation’ — challenging them to act on their goals.’

U.S. Faults State’s Progress on Race to the Top Goals
New York Times, Jan. 10
NEW YORK – Despite significant progress, New York State has ‘hit a roadblock’ and has not yet complied with the goals that it set when applying for financial help through the Race to the Top program, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This is one of three states, including Hawaii and Florida, on the federal watch list because they have not met their promises. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said New York has failed so far to put in place a planned database to track student records and to adopt a system to evaluate teachers and principals. One of New York’s problems is logistical -- the state has 713 school districts, regional education consortiums and charter schools that have signed up for the program, and every one of them has to adopt all of the changes promised by the state. State Education Commissioner John King Jr., said in a statement that the assessment was ‘disappointing, but not discouraging.’ Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will not broker attempts to get agreement on assessments. ‘I can’t negotiate 700 union contracts,’ he said.

   Superintendents in the News 


K-12 Funding Perpetuates the Inequity of Opportunity
Rebel 6 Rambling, Jan. 7
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -– Superintendent David Britten of the Godfrey-Lee Public Schools District here pulls no punches. ‘Let me be clear about my position,’ the retired U.S. Army officer writes in a recent blog. ‘There is very little equity of opportunity in our (the nation’s) K-12 system when it comes to education and making a better life for one’s self.’ Britten is a passionate advocate for proportionately higher school spending on low-income, English-language-deficient and other deprived students to help them make up for the head-start owned by children with advantages in life. Why, he asks, if an affluent district can afford to have parents foot the bill for technology, does it continue getting nearly $300 more per pupil in combined state and local funding than his district? ‘They have more, so they get more? Is that it?’ wonders Britten, who is also assailing Michigan’s governor and Republican-led legislature for cutting overall funding on K-12 education.

State Supreme Court Again Rules Basic Education Is State Duty
Issaquah Press, Jan. 10
ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled 7-2 that the legislature has consistently failed to live up to Washington’s Constitutional mandate to fully fund basic public education for every child. Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen says he is cautiously optimistic over the decision, but that much work has to be done to change the current funding formula. ‘At the very least, it (the ruling) provides a pretty clear standard to lawmakers about their ability to further cut K-12 services during this upcoming legislative session,’ he said as lawyers poured over the Jan. 5 ruling. But, Rasmussen added, ‘It will take some serious reform before we get a funding system that comes close to covering the actual cost of a basic education in this state.’ State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn praised the decision, adding that ‘further cuts are out of the question.’

Three School Districts Will Merge Teaching Efforts
Lancaster Online, Jan 3
LANCASTER, Pa. -- Three local school districts -- Penn Manor, Hempfield and Manheim Township --plan to unveil an ‘open campus’ project next fall that is believed to be the first collaborative effort of its kind in Pennsylvania. Some students at the schools could be taught face-to-face, others online and still others through a mix of classroom and computer-based instruction. Tuition would be free and students could enroll in specialty courses such as Latin and Business Spanish that their home schools might not offer. And by taking classes at night or over the summer, they could earn a diploma faster than their peers. Across Pennsylvania, many school districts have their own cyberschools or contracts with outside companies or groups to offer online courses. But this is the first time districts have collaborated to offer their own courses taught by their teachers in online and ‘live’ formats to students from multiple districts. ‘Choice is coming whether we like it or not, and we need to get out in front of it," said Hempfield Superintendent Brenda Becker.

Shelby County Schools Chief Backed Firing of Teacher Accused of Molesting Students
Birmingham News, Jan. 12
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Former Shelby County Schools Superintendent Norma Rogers says she strongly recommended firing teacher Daniel M. Acker Jr. in 1993 after he was accused of molesting an 11-year-old student in 1991. But, she told the Birmingham News in an interview, there was no indictment and school board members voted unanimously to return him to the classroom. Acker Jr., 49, was arrested on Jan. 4 after a 12-year-old girl accused him of touching her inappropriately while she was in his fourth-grade class at Thompson Intermediate School in 2009, the year he retired. He has now reportedly confessed to molesting more than 20 girls during his career as a teacher in Shelby schools. Among the cases Acker has confessed to, police say, is the 1991 incident, for which he was charged on Jan. 13. Acker is being held in jail on $545,000 bond.

  AASA News 

2012 Chinese Guest Teacher & Trainee Program
Looking to initiate or grow your Chinese language and culture program? Apply now to host a Chinese guest teacher or trainee for the 2012-13 school year! Made possible through a collaboration between the College Board and Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the program serves hundreds of K-12 schools and districts. Take this unique opportunity to bring a native Chinese speaker to your students and be part of an exciting international exchange! Apply by Feb. 1, 2012 at
Our Magazine's New Look
After a year in the works, the redesigned edition of School Administrator magazine has made its debut. The January issue shows off the new look with more contemporary aesthetics and an updated color palette.

Among the new content sections are these:
  • The Ethical Educator - a monthly ethical dilemma with four expert analyses.
  • Best of the Blogs - short, pithy excerpts from our members' own blog postings.
  • State of the Superintendency – an info-graphic (pie chart, data table or graph) capturing an important finding from AASA’s 2010 superintendent study.
  • Legal Brief – practical counsel on a legal matter with a direct connection to the superintendent.

    The January issue is available online. Members should receive their print copies by mid-month.
  • January Issue: Collaborative Models
    School Administrator's January issue explores the workings of professional learning communities. Top district leaders in Sanger, Calif., and Scahumburg, Ill., share how they used collaborative models to transform their districts' low academic records, while noted consultant Richard DuFour summarizes best practices in districts with well-functioning professional learning communities. Also: a just-in-time PLC for administrators in Oakwood, Ohio, schools and an article on gauging a PLC's effectiveness. The issue is available online.
    Want To Earn Professional Development Credit at the National Conference on Education?
    Feb. 16-19, 2012, Houston, Texas
    Earn semester hours of Professional Development Credit from LMU Extension at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles by attending at least five hours at the National Conference on Education. Learn more at
    Making Your Budget Go Farther?
    Feb. 16-19, 2012, Houston, Texas
    Tip of the week from the National Conference on Education. Money saved means dollars back in your budget — innovative ideas, fresh approaches, and the latest products and services will inspire you to increase your district's efficiency. Learn more at
    The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning
    In The School Principal as Leader, The Wallace Foundation mines its decade of research and projects in school leadership to describe five key practices of principals who focus on improving teaching and learning. Download PDF here.
    Healthy Classroom and Cafeteria Environments
    Start the New Year off with AASA's Healthy Classroom and Cafeteria Environments virtual walk-through. Then, take AASA's Quiz on Healthy Classroom and Cafeteria Environments. For more information, visit
    Your Online Professional Development Network
    Enjoying the new year? Check out AASA Connect for all the news and ideas in education. Be sure your school is prepared for 2012!

    AASA Media Center

    The 3 Qualities Educators Need To Thrive in These Uncertain Times [13:15]
    Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies - how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Listen on radio now.


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