Education Week - October 16, 2013 - (Page 12)

DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology FROM LEFT: Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vinny Tennis/Daily Local News/AP Pa. Tech Director Tackles Racist Texting by School Leaders CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 already-underway criminal investigation into the district, and allegations from Mr. Hawa’s lawyer that the IT chief was pressured to compromise the security of the district’s computer network and has been harassed as a whistleblower. Keith R. Krueger, the ceo of the Consortium for School Networking, or cosn, described the still-unfolding scandal as a cautionary tale. The popular practice of issuing mobile devices to district employees, Mr. Krueger said, has resulted in a growing need for professional development on acceptable technology use, continued examples of school officials who behave illegally or inappropriately in the digital arena, and an easily accessible data trail that has placed greater responsibilities on IT staff members, who must balance their other professional obligations with new legal requirements to preserve data and records. “The best way for districts to handle [the new challenges] is good education and policies ahead of time,” Mr. Krueger said. “Those are easier to deal with than a situation that explodes on the front page of the newspaper.” Inappropriate Behavior Other examples of inappropriate behavior using district-owned digital technology, said Mr. Krueger, have included unauthorized long-distance calls, “sexting” among staff, and predatory behaviors directed from adults to minors. In March, for example, a New York City special education teacher was fired after he was discovered using a district-owned email account to arrange sexual encounters via the website Craigslist. Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of aasa, the American Association of School Administrators, said that many district chiefs now carry two smartphones in order to split their professional and personal communications. “If you don’t want public eyes on it, then don’t use a publicly owned device,” he said. For the vast majority of conscientious superintendents, Mr. Domenech said, that approach is a commonsense way to keep district business separate from messages with a spouse, for example. But Mr. Como, the 67-year-old educator who led the Coatesville Area School District from 2005 until his resignation Aug. 29, used a district-owned device for his inflammatory conversation with Mr. Donato. Portions of the pair’s electronic exchange were published by the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., last month. Dozens of times, the men used a racial epithet in reference to Coatesville students and staff members who are African-American. In one exchange, the IT director, Mr. Hawa, who is Lebanese-American, Tablet-Computing Initiatives Suffer Major Setbacks By Benjamin Herold Two large-scale efforts to put digital devices in the hands of students, including the largest deployment to date of the much-publicized Amplify tablets, have been halted because of a variety of problems. In the 73,000-student Guilford County, N.C., school system, officials announced this month that they have suspended the use of tablets and related equipment provided by Amplify, an independent subsidiary of the global media conglomerate News Corp. According to a news release issued by the district, “about 10 percent of the district’s 15,000 devices have been returned to Amplify due to broken screens,” and there were also reported problems with some device cases and overheating battery chargers. I n Te x a s, m e a n w h i l e, t h e 70,000-student Fort Bend school district scrapped a 19-month-old initiative to deliver an interactive science curriculum via iPads issued to students, dubbed iAchieve, after a consultant found that “the program fell short of its mission due to a combination of unrealistic goals, insufficient planning and project management, lack of consistency with existing fbisd curriculum-development standards, and poor contract-management practices.” Leslie Wilson, the chief executive officer of the Mason, Mich.-based One-to-One Institute, a nonprofit 12 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 16, 2013 | organization that supports districts in implementing 1-to-1 computing programs, said she was dismayed to hear of the setbacks. “These were absolutely avoidable situations,” Ms. Wilson said, citing research on 12 years’ worth of 1-to-1 programs in more than 2,000 school sites nationwide. “As a school leader, you’ve got to do your due diligence and get a strong foundation in place before you spend a dime on a device.” Safety Concerns Guilford County Superintendent Maurice O. Green said in a statement that his district remains committed to its 1-to-1 initiative, financed with $30 million in federal Race to the Top district funds and $5 million in supplemental grants. The district is the largest client to date for Amplify. In March of this year, the New York City-based company unveiled its new tablet, which features an open platform and controls and data tools for teachers. The device can be paired with preloaded curriculum and related resources. Superintendent Green said he made the decision to temporarily suspend the program because of safety concerns associated with the broken screens and other hardware problems. Guilford County students were allowed to take their devices home. In an email, Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Amplify, said the issues appeared to be anomalies. was the object of multiple derogatory slurs used against people of Middle Eastern descent. Samuel C. Stretton, the lawyer for Mr. Hawa, said his client was “sickened” to read the messages and reported them to the district’s deputy superintendent, Teresa Powell. Ms. Powell has since alleged that she has been harassed since helping make the messages public and is also a client of Mr. Stretton’s. “I don’t know if there’s a clear policy, but [Mr. Hawa] did the right thing, the only thing he could have done under those circumstances,” Mr. Stretton said. Mr. Domenech of the Arlington, Va.based aasa described as “inconceivable” both the content of Mr. Como “We want to work with Guilford to more closely understand” the unusually high breakage rates at some schools and other problems, wrote Mr. Hamilton. He added that roughly 20,000 Amplify devices are currently being used nationwide by seven school districts. Elsewhere, wrote Mr. Hamilton, the brokenscreen rate for Amplify devices is roughly 2 percent. (Larry Berger, the president of Amplify Learning, the company’s curriculum division, is a trustee of Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week.) In Texas, the Gibson Consulting Group, based in Austin, last month prepared for the Fort Bend district a scathing assessment of its 1-to-1 rollout. Fort Bend Superintendent Charles Dupre ordered the review

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 16, 2013

Sequester May Linger, Some Fear
Parent-Sparked Charter Faces Challenge to Deliver
Pa. Texting Furor Shows Difficulties Facing IT Leaders
Educators Launch Startups; See Steep Learning Curve
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Teachers Use Social-Emotional Programs to Manage Classes
Ind. Districts, AG File Suit Over Federal Health-Care Law
Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports
Mass. Enterprise Targets Inadequate Preschool Facilities
Blogs of the Week
Tablet-Computing Initiatives Suffer Major Setbacks
Charter-Campaign Aftershocks Continue
Texas Race Flags Education Issues On 2014 Electoral Horizon
School-Related Cases Factor in Supreme Court’s First Week Back
Lights On, Nobody There As Ed. Dept. Weathers Shutdown
Blogs of the Week
KEVIN MEUWISSEN: Teachers as Political Actors
ANDRE BENITO MOUNTAIN: Easing Social Studies Through Turbulent Times
JUDY WALLIS: A Call to Teachers: Don’t Forget the Joy
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DEBORAH STIPEK: Using Accountability to Promote Motivation, Not Undermine It

Education Week - October 16, 2013