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Friday, March 30, 2012

President Clinton's El Dorado Promise

Former President Bill Clinton will give the keynote speech at the El Dorado School District's sixth annual Academic Signing Day, during which more than 300 graduating seniors will receive El Dorado Promise scholarships. The event is set for 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, in the El Dorado High School Wildcat Arena.
The El Dorado Promise is the $50 million scholarship program available to all qualifying El Dorado School District graduates that is funded by the Murphy Oil Corporation. Last year, 90 percent of the Promise-eligible students attended college -- far higher than either the state's or nation's college-going rates. Over the past five years, 997 El Dorado High School graduates have used the money to attend 57 colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Video helps with understanding of new learning standards

Maybe you've heard of the Common Core State Standards, maybe you even are already aware that they are being implemented in grades K-2 in all Arkansas public school classrooms this year. (Grades 3-8 follow next year, and grades 9-12 the year after that.)
If, however, this is news to you, or if you would like to know exactly how the Common Core State Standards are changing instruction, the Arkansas Department of Education recently posted a new video that does a great job of explaining what the new standards are, why they are important and how they are changing teaching practices in the three grades. A state education official offers the big picture view, but the most vivid descriptions of the changes taking place come from a principal and three K-2 teachers. You can watch it here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy Spring Break

Spring break is here for Arkansas public school students and personnel. First Class Communication, LLC, wishes everyone a safe and happy week!

Monday, March 12, 2012

To be wired or not to be wired?

Geez, should that even be a question anymore when it comes to students and learning? Technology is an integral part of most everyone's working and nonworking life. It's not that schools necessarily teach kids how to use technology; it seemed like my children were born knowing how to double click, and that was years ago. It's knowing how to integrate that technology into expanding and integrating knowledge. Plus, that's how kids learn. It's what the vast, vast majority of them know.
So it was funny to read an editorial in Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which the writer was gnashing his teeth over the idea that the Fayetteville School District would allow students to bring their "computer devices" to the classroom. I agree, it would be better for the district to supply said computer-devices to eliminate the potential for status-type differences, but being afraid of students being distracted by what they can do on their iPads is silly. Good educators know how to keep their classes engaged, and that's every bit as challenging in a paper-only classroom. A bored student will be as distracted by a fly crawling on the ceiling or thoughts of what he'll do after school.
According to the principal in a San Jose, CA, high school that has supplied iPads to its students, "The richness and potential here is much greater than just e-books The students have embraced the idea that learning happens not just in class but at home and anywhere else they can go online. The iPad's not some magic pill, but seeing students collaborate on them seems to add more life to the learning process." That quote, by the way, is found in a news article in today's Dem-Gaz.
I wish the newspaper's editorial writers could make it out to the classrooms in Cross County or any of the other school districts in Arkansas that have embraced and are using technology in exciting ways to enhance student learning. It's hard not to be impressed.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Good advice for the (higher ed) middle

Visiting academician Rich Demillo offered some great advice for higher education institutions last night while lecturing at the Clinton School of Public Service. When you get down to it, it's the same advice  a good communicator offers her clients -- determine your values, find what differentiates your institution from others and then plan and act in accordance with those values.  In short, be innovative while remaining authentic to who you are.
While that's good advice for any organization, in his book, Abelard to Apple, Dr. DeMillo targets his lesson specifically to the thousands of colleges languishing in "the middle," the term he ascribes to institutions who are not among the elite (Ivy League, top research universities) nor are they one of the  new and experimental higher ed institutions.
Too often, the institutions in the middle are trying too hard to mimic those schools above them in this hierarchy rather than finding and building on their own strengths, which must involve a focus on teaching undergraduates. Those who don't switch course, he said, are likely to fail.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We're Showing Off (well, one of us is)

First Class Communication founding partner Dauphne A. Trenholm has an artistic eye and a way with a camera, and her work will be featured with other local photographers' at Little Rock's Gallery 26 from March 17 to May 12 in the "Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Club Presents" show.
Dauphne's series of photos were taken with an inherited Minolta X using Kodak HIE infrared film during a girls' trip along the famed Route 66. See a couple of them here -- they're really captivating!
Dauphne's love of photography started with her first camera, a second-hand Kodak Instamatic. She  photographed classmates, dolls, backyard 'wildlife' and anything else she could capture with the small, black box.
Dauphne would love for readers of Extra Credit to stop by and say hello during the opening reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 17. If you can't do that, we hope you are able to make it by to see the show.
Gallery 26, located at 2601 Kavanaugh, is open from 10 a.m to 6 pm. Tuesday through Saturday.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Higher Ed News Bits

Congratulations to Arkansas State University and Tim Hudson, who will become chancellor of ASU, according to today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Hudson is vice chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and, before that, was a special assistant to the chancellor at the University of Houston System.
On the other side of the state, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has selected Eli Jones, dean of Louisiana State University's E.J. Ourso College of Business, to become dean of the UA's Sam M. Walton College of Business. He will also hold the Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair in Business.  He replaces Dan Worrell, who will return to teaching and research at the college.
And, finally, what's to become of colleges and universities in this new world that's ever more virtual? That's the topic of a Clinton School of Public Service lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, when Rich DeMillo of Georgia Institute of Technology talks about his book, Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities. Reservations for the lecture, which will be held in Sturgis Hall at the school, can be made by calling 501.683.5239 or emailing

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Surprise -- good principals DO make a difference

Sometimes it's nice when good research does no more than confirm what conventional wisdom tells us all along. I think that's the case with a just-released study from the National Bureau of Economic Research called "Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals."
The researchers used public school data from Texas -- which allowed them to study a large sample of 7,420 principals work from 1995-2001 for 28,147 yearly looks at principals -- to determine if the quality of principal leadership in fact did make a difference in student performance.
The answer -- as one would hope and probably expect -- is, yes, it does. The one twist is that it makes much more of a difference -- read that as positive impact -- in schools with higher poverty rates than it does in schools where students are more advantaged.
The study incorporated many measures and strategies to isolate the principal's impact on student performance from other factors that principals can't control. The main outcome measure used was students' standardized test scores and the quality of principal was judged by data showing personnel management traits. For instance, a good principal was one whose low performing school experienced a higher rate of teacher turn over, as long as more effective teachers were being hired to replace less effective ones, or whose high performing school had little teacher turn over, thus retaining top educators.
The study is available for download for $5 (or for free to certain groups such as journalists and government workers) at the National Bureau of Economic Research.