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Twelve school districts and state education agencies will receive grants totaling $10 million as part of IBM's continuing efforts to encourage technological innovation in education.

Grant recipients, including the Atlanta, Boston, and New York City districts, will use the money to develop applications such as electronic evaluation and assessment or to help overcome obstacles that stymie parental involvement in schools. the Armonk, N.Y.-based International Business Machines Corp. brings the tally of its three-year "Reinventing Education" campaign to $35 million.

"Each solution is aimed to create real solutions to very significant institutional barriers," said Stanley S. Litow, IBM's vice president of community relations, adding that use of the grants will be customized to address the specific needs of the recipients.

The South Carolina Department of Education and the Texas Education Agency will both be applying their grant money to implement IBM's data-warehousing solution, designed to help states review how schools are performing.

The Maryland Department of Education will use its grant to create a means of digitally assessing the portfolios included in high-stakes tests to provide a better link with classroom instruction.

Other grant recipients include the New York state education department and the Detroit; Durham, N.C.; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; and Rochester, Minn., school districts.

Nickelodeon's phone lines were buzzing during the youth-oriented cable channel's annual Big Help-a-Thon, an all-day broadcast during which 8 million children called in their promises to volunteer.

Callers pledged a total of 85 million volunteer hours during the broadcast last month, which was hosted by such celebrities as actress Whoopi Goldberg and rap singer LL Cool J.

"This is just another example of the power of kids," said Marva Smalls, the senior vice president of public affairs for the New York-based channel.

Those who called in to the program but did not know where or how they wanted to devote their service hours could consult with any one of Big Help's 23 partnering national service organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Youth Service America, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The Big Help-a-Thon was just one part of Nickelodeon's ongoing Big Help campaign, which provides outreach and information to encourage children to volunteer.

--JESSICA L. SANDHAM [email protected]

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