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Aldine ISD Takes $1 Million Broad Prize

The use of a social networking tool proves pivotal in the selection of the Texas district to receive the annual honor.

Aldine Independent School District (TX) was recently named the recipient of the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education, a distinction that carries with it $1 million in college scholarships for students.

In Brief

WE HAVE A WINNER Representatives from Texas’ Aldine Independent School District accept the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

A panel of judges for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which administers the annual prize, selected Aldine from among the 100 largest urban school districts in the United States. Foundation representatives said that Aldine outperformed districts with similar economic demographics in reading and math; demonstrated high proficiency in reading and math among economic and ethnic/racial subgroups; closed achievement gaps; proved that academic proficiency does not have to be predicted by family income level; and adopted districtwide policies that set "clear, rigorous expectations for teachers and principals" and provide "easy access to instructional resources and student performance information."

Panelists selected the winner based on student performance data analyzed by Massachusetts-based education consultancy SchoolWorks, which also conducted on-site interviews.

Aldine is the 66th-largest school district in the country, with more than 60,000 students and 4,000 teachers in 72 schools. More than eight out of 10 students in the district qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and 31 percent are English language learners.

According to the information released by the Broad Foundation, technology has played a significant role in Aldine's success, in particular its use of Triand, an online social networking tool that focuses on curriculum design, instructional delivery, and assessment.

Using the tool, teachers work in teams, going over frequently missed test questions and evaluating how their instruction could be altered to help students better demonstrate knowledge of the subject. Evaluations are based on reports generated through Triand, which in turn reflect assessment data collected from core subjects throughout the school year.

In addition, school leaders are required to use the tool to review teachers' lesson plans on a weekly basis. They also review assessment data to identify students with special needs, and then use the information to develop "targeted staff development in schools where problems were detected." A more thorough explanation of the district's practices can be found here.

The more than $1 million in scholarships awarded to Aldine ISD will be distributed to students entering two- or four-year colleges and universities according to academic performance and economic need.

To read this article in its entirety, visit here.

Green Spot

EDUCATORS AWARDED ENVIRONMENTAL PD COURSES

The National Environmental Education Foundation and The Weather Channel awarded 19 high school teachers across the nation with the 2009 Classroom Earth Professional Development Grants. Funding from the grants will allow the winners to take two online graduate-level courses offered by the Environmental Education and Training Partnership through the University of Wisconsin- Steven Point. The classes will focus on environmental education, defined by the foundation as "the process, activities, and experiences-- across disciplines-- that lead students to have a greater understanding of how the earth's resources and natural systems work and interact with each other and with human-made systems."

Teachers applied for the grants through Classroom Earth, a website dedicated to increasing the incorporation of environmental education in high schools. The site, created by the National Environmental Education Foundation and The Weather Channel, offers a variety of resources to teachers, including updates on green news and events, a library of environment-related content for lesson plans, and funding and professional development opportunities.

To see a list of the grant winners, visit here.

:: Awards and Contests

GOOGLE OFFERS FREE EDUCATION APPS. Google has announced the release of Google Apps Education Edition, an ad-free version of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, and their integrated tools. The hosted service, which features communication and collaboration tools such as e-mail, document sharing, group calendars, and websites, is available at no cost to all K-12 schools and districts. Schools that sign up for Google Apps Education Edition by July 2010 will also receive Google Message Security, powered by web and e-mail security company Postini, at no charge. For more information, visit here.

SIIA RELEASES UPDATED ANTI-PIRACY VIDEO. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has released a sequel to its 1992 anti-piracy video and cult hit, "Don't Copy That Floppy." Like the original video, "Don't Copy That 2" uses humor and rap to shed light on the serious consequences of pirating copyrighted works, but has been updated for the 21st century. "Don't Copy That Floppy" star MC Double Def DP (Digital Projector) is back for the new video, and he continues his rap crusade against software pirates in the digital age. "Don't Copy That 2" can be viewed by anyone here, on YouTube, or on iTunes. SIIA also plans to release an extended version of the educational video to K-12 classrooms later this year.

:: Industry News

MICROSOFT HONORS INNOVATIVE EDUCATORS. At its Innovative Teachers Forum in Mountain View, CA, in late August, Microsoft honored US educators who creatively and effectively teach with technology. At the event, close to 40 teachers presented their original classroom projects to a panel of judges from NASA, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, and the Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology in competition for the US Innovative Teachers Award. The winners were Autumne Streeval and Harriet Armstrong from Columbus East High School (IN) for their Industrial Revolution Tic Tac Toe project, which can be viewed here. The two women will represent the US in November at the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum and competition in Brazil. For more information, visit here.

This article originally appeared in the October 1, 2009 issue of THE Journal.

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