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The Principals' Office Blog

Computers in the Classroom

In the September/October 2007 issue of Principal magazine, authors Richard P. Lipka and Thomas M. Brinthaupt argue in their Speaking Out article that schools should think twice before implementing laptops—or other technology—in the classroom. The authors describe the downside of introducing technology into schools, such as hidden costs, operational malfunctions, and managing students' differing technological knowledge.

What problems has your school faced in integrating computers and other emerging technology in classrooms? Do they do more harm than good to the school in the long run?

Teachers Told to Chip In for School Electric Bill

In Michigan, one school district has implemented a “pay to plug” policy and another district is considering doing the same, which would require teachers and other school staff to pay a fee for plugging in personal desk clocks, lamps, fans, and other electronic devices to help offset rising electricity costs. According to a Detroit Free Press article, Grosse Pointe Public Schools initiated the measure last spring, while Chippewa Valley Public Schools is deciding whether it should too, beginning as soon as this fall.

Budget cuts and subsequent tight budgets are the driving forces behind this policy, which is estimated to offset or save each district between $25,000 and $45,000 per year in electric costs.

The Grosse Pointe school district put the same policy into practice a few years ago but rescinded it after strong negative reactions. However, the district is willing to try again.

NCLB Changes Curriculum and Instruction

The Center for Education Policy released a report this week that analyzes the changes in curriculum and instruction time since the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “Choices, Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era” finds that since the enactment of NCLB, 62 percent of school districts increased the amount of time spent in elementary schools on subjects that are tested for accountability, while 44 percent of school districts cut time on science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch, or recess.

Read the full report to learn about the other findings and recommendations, which include staggering requirements to include tests in other academic subjects.

Putting PE to the Test

Texas just added a new exam to its curriculum—a fitness test for all students in grades 3-12. The Dallas Morning News reported that starting next year, students will be measured on aerobic endurance, body fat, flexibility, and muscle strength. To pass, students must score better than seven out of 10 peers in their age and sex group. Students who fail, however, will not be penalized. Texas education officials say the test results will help guide state research into possible links among physical health and student achievement, school attendance, and discipline problems.

In many schools across the country, PE has taken a back seat to such academic subjects as reading, math, and science. But as more and more children nationwide are identified as overweight or obese, Texas will bring PE more to the forefront and will become the first state to comprehensively gauge students’ physical health.

The first round of tests will be next spring. We’ll have to wait and see what the final score is, and whether other states will follow suit.

Share your Humorous Stories

School is out, and now is the time for reflection. Instead of only gauging the success of the teaching and learning going on in your schools, also think about all the funny episodes that occurred this year. Chances are that you will soon be laughing out loud.

Share your funny stories with fellow principals by submitting humorous anecdotes about school life for publication in Principal magazine. Include your full name, title, and address and send your favorite stories to publications@naesp.org. If your story is published, we’ll send you a copy of the magazine and a pencil that says “I’m a funny principal!”

New Team in Place

July 1 marked the beginning of the 2007-2008 term for NAESP’s newly elected board members. New president Mary Kay Sommers of Fort Collins, Colorado, will lead the team, which includes Nancy Davenport as president-elect, and newcomers Linda Chamberlin as Zone 3 director, J. Edward Pollard Jr. as Zone 4 director, Juli Mary Kwikkel as Zone 6 director, and Mark Terry as the Foundation director for middle-level schools. We’re excited to have these accomplished principals on the NAESP Board of Directors and look forward to what they have in store for the next three years.

Welcome!

A Future of Global Collaboration and Project-Based Learning

NAESP members and staff continue to revisit the strategic issues introduced in the Vision 2021 process—including the need to prepare students to be global citizens. Rich Datz, general manager of Education World, a Web site that offers  practical information for teachers and administrators, thinks that schools will soon follow the lead of corporations that routinely learn in global, project-based teams. Datz is following the expansion of project-based work among international companies and predicts that in six to 10 years it should also be common for principals, teachers, and students to use global virtual networks to collaborate in learning. For example, Datz finds that teachers already collaborate extensively in curriculum development.How schools prepare students to be global citizens is emerging as one of the top strategic issues in NAESP’s Vision 2021 project. Principals will be leading schools that prepare students to be global citizens for an interconnected and collaborative world. When today’s elementary school students join the global workforce, they will need to be experienced in working with teams that span geographic boundaries.

Datz recommends that principals start preparing students for global collaboration by creating projects with other schools within the district. The same skills and technologies, once developed, can be extended to schools anywhere. Datz is less certain about the urgency for American students to acquire a second language to succeed in a global workplace because English is the language of business for people everywhere. But he agrees with the Vision 2021 focus group participants that cultural competencies will be vital.  Schools have a role to play in helping children unlearn stereotypes and in preparing to live and work in a culturally diverse society. This demographic change is happening faster, Datz says, than either businesses or schools recognize.

NAESP leaders recognize the need to help principals prepare to create a positive educational culture that draws on the strengths of diverse cultures and languages. Do you agree or disagree with Datz’s observations?

The Gender Shift

Just over a decade ago, more male principals could be found at the helm of public elementary schools. But today, according to the most recent stats from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are more female principals leading public elementary schools. Between 1993-1994 and 2003-2004, the percentage of female public school principals increased from 41 percent to 56 percent in elementary schools. There was also an increase in female secondary school principals—from 14 percent to 26 percent—although the majority of high school principals are still male. The majority of female principals in private elementary schools stayed the same at 68 percent (with about 34 percent leading private secondary schools).

During this same period, the number of K-12 principals in the U.S. increased from 104,600 to 115,000. You can read more NCES stats on principals at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2007/section4/indicator34.asp.

Doing Whatever It Takes, Part II

According to the numerous comments on the earlier post about activities that principals undertake in the name of student motivation, principals can get pretty creative when it comes to inspiring students to put forth their best efforts. But none of the comments included giving out cold, hard cash, as is the proposal for a special program in New York City schools. Participants of the program could earn up to $500 for doing well on standardized tests and showing up for class, The New York Times reports. The privately funded incentive program, which would start this fall, would also include cash payments for parents who provide stable environments for their school-aged children by, for example, keeping a full-time job and having health insurance. Opponents of the plan argue that students must develop an appreciation for learning for learning’s sake, and cash incentives do not instill this value.

Is NCLB Working? Part II

We received some terrific comments on the Principals’ Office in response to the recent posting “Is NCLB Working?” One commenter said that Jack Jennings, the CEO of the Center on Education Policy (CEP), cautioned against jumping to any conclusions about the CEP report (Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind?) saying that “it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove causality between state test score trends and NCLB.”

So the Principals’ Office went straight to the source. Jennings is quoted in the CEP press release as saying that: “The weight of evidence indicates that state test scores in reading and mathematics have increased overall since No Child Left Behind was enacted. However, there should be no rush to judgment as there may be many factors contributing to the increased achievement.”

The CEP report also says that student achievement in reading and mathematics have increased overall since the passage of NCLB, but leaves the door open about whether it’s all due to NCLB or NCLB and other factors such as increased learning, teaching to tests, more lenient tests, scoring or data analyses, and changes in the populations tested.

The bottom line, as we mentioned in last week’s post, is that only 13 states have enough data to compare rates of improvement before and after the law was passed. Tell us what you think. Is NCLB working in your school? With the reauthorization looming, we’d like to hear your thoughts on this most important education legislation.

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