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| NEWS | CURRICULUM MATTERS
If you missed Steven Spielberg's film "Lincoln" at the cinema, you might be able to catch it at your local school sometime soon.
That's because copies of the movie will be distributed for free to all middle and high schools in the United States, both public and private, when it's made available on DVD, the entertainment company Participant Media announced this month.
Actually, schools will get a special DVD package with an "educator's guide" to help teachers develop lesson plans about Abraham Lincoln and that time period, a press release said.
The educational outreach is a joint project funded by Participant Media, along with DreamWorks Pictures and Fox/News Corp.
"We received letters from teachers asking if it could be available in their classrooms," director and producer Steven Spielberg said in a press release. "We realized that the educational value that 'Lincoln' could have was not only for the adult audiences—who have studied his life in history books—but for young students in the classroom as well."
The announcement came the week of Lincoln's birthday, and as the nation is still in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Spielberg film, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, chronicles the president's efforts in early 1865 to win congressional support for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
How accurate "Lincoln" is from an historical perspective is no doubt a topic that could be debated, and debated, but I've seen a few articles suggesting that many historians see it as generally on target.
—Erik W. Robelen
| NEWS | DIGITAL EDUCATION
U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is proposing the creation of an advanced research program within the U.S. Department of Education designed to cultivate breakthroughs in learning sciences and technology that could benefit schools—an idea modeled in part on a highly touted effort in the defense industry.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education would seek to identify and nurture advances in learning and applied sciences that can be used to create new technologies, develop and test new technologies, and speed up "transformational" technological advances in education, according to Miller's legislation.
The idea comes in large part from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known in federal, scientific, and military circles as DARPA, said Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The congressman, in a statement, said the education program would function like a "venture-like capital program." The proposed agency, dubbed ARPA-ED, would be led by a director, who would be appointed by the secretary of education, and an advisory panel made up of experts from science, engineering, and other fields.
The secretary, in consultation with the panel, would have the power to award grants and enter into other agreements to test or put in motion projects that could benefit schools.
DARPA was created in 1958 to improve national security with breakthroughs in technology, weapons, and other areas. Many of its projects have been unorthodox and high-risk. It is often credited with having spawned the development of the Internet, as well as with advances in satellite technologies, high-speed computers, radio systems, and many other areas.
Daren Briscoe, a spokesman for the Education Department, told Education Week that the department supported the concept. He noted that the department called for funding ARPA-ED through its fiscal 2013 budget.
| NEWS | DISTRICT DOSSIER
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee have raised the stakes in an already-pitched battle for control of the Los Angeles school board by giving more than $1.2 million to an education reform group that is backing a slate of three candidates aligned with Superintendent John Deasy in the March 5 election.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg's eye-popping $1 million contribution was brokered in part by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who, along with Los Angeles-area billionaire and philanthropist Eli Broad, is keen to ensure that the policies of Superintendent John Deasy won't be dismantled by candidates who are backed by United Teachers Los Angeles. StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based education reform organization founded by Rhee after she left Washington, gave $250,000.
The donation actually went to the Coalition for School Reform, a Los Angeles-area group that favors policies that Deasy has pushed since he became schools chief in the district two years ago: revamped teacher evaluations based in part on students' test scores; and acceleration of the process for getting rid of poorly performing teachers and principals.
The group is supporting Mónica García, the school board's current president, and two other candidates, one of whom is challenging sitting board member Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and first-term incumbent. That's the most hotly contested seat, as Zimmer, a Teach For America alumnus, is often the swing vote on the board who is not reliably aligned on every issue with either Deasy or the ULTA.
The teachers' union, along with other influential local labor unions, is supporting Zimmer's re-election bid.
Outside cash from wealthy donors flowing to local or state-level school board races appears on the uptick. Last fall, a race for a local school board seat in New Orleans brought in more than $150,000 for a single candidate backed by national education activists who favor a certain brand of reform. The most notable outside donor in that race was Joel I. Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City schools, who, of course, worked for Bloomberg.
But Los Angeles, as the nation's second-largest school district, with more than 650,000 students and more charter schools than any other, presents a far larger stage. While big spending in school board races (among local sources) is not a new phenomenon in Los Angeles, the average school board race in the United States remains a modest endeavor.
—Lesli A. Maxwell
Vol. 32, Issue 22, Page 11