Sunday, September 30, 2007

Electric Light Orchestra - Hold on Tight

Get Ready, Get Set, GO!


The Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward

Illustration by James Yang

Published: September 30, 2007

AT first blush, the iPhone from Apple, the new microprocessor family from Intel and the ubiquitous Google search engine have nothing in common. One is a gadget, one is an electronic part and one is a service.

Yet all of these products — much acclaimed for their creativity — depend on obscure process innovations that, while highly complex and lacking glamour, are an essential part of establishing a winning edge in commercial electronics. Indeed, the success of Apple, Intel, Google and scores of other technology companies has as much or more to do with their process innovations as the products that inspire loyalty among fans and admiration from foes.

First, a definitional detour. Processes are the stuff in the proverbial “black box,” the alchemy unseen by consumers or the inelegantly termed “end users” who buy computers, cellphones, cameras and all manner of digital devices and services.

Snazzy products are the stuff of legends, romanticized by “early adopters” and skewered by neo-Luddites. Yet while these products bring glory to companies, novel processes are often more important in keeping the cash registers ringing.

The proof of this proposition is that while companies often spend millions to advertise and market new product designs and innovations, they guard intensely the details of their process innovations.

Consider the question of Google’s greatest business secret. Is it the algorithms behind its search tools? Or is it the way it organizes vast clusters of computers around the globe to answer queries so quickly? Perhaps predictably, Google won’t disclose the number of computers deployed in its vast information network (though outsiders speculate that the network has at least 450,000 computers).

I believe that the physical network is Google’s “secret sauce,” its premier competitive advantage. While a brilliant lone wolf can conceive of a dazzling algorithm, only a superwealthy and well-managed organization can run what is arguably the most valuable computer network on the planet. Without the computer network, Google is nothing.

Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, appears to agree. Last year he declared, “We believe we get tremendous competitive advantage by essentially building our own infrastructures.”

Process innovations like Google’s computer network are often invisible to the public, and impossible to duplicate by rivals. Yet successful companies realize that maintaining competitive advantage depends heavily on sustaining process innovations. Great process innovators often support basic research in relevant fields, maintain complete control over the creation of every aspect of a product and refuse to rely on outside suppliers for important components. Certainly, there are exceptions to these patterns, but even companies like Apple that buy essential processes on the open market nevertheless invest in gaining a working knowledge of the technologies and an understanding of their future arc.

Intel treats its process innovations as a competitive weapon, striving to create a “new generation” every two years. That enables the company’s chips, even if there were no changes in their design, to perform better and cost less to make.

Consumers are usually blind to the importance of novel processes. Even when they learn about these innovations, they tend to think only of the product itself.

“The average consumer doesn’t care what processes are used,” says Mark T. Bohr, an Intel physicist who oversaw what is arguably the most important advance in decades in the technology for making microprocessors, the brains inside computers and other digital devices.

Faced with ever-faster chips that threatened to explode into flames, Intel searched desperately for new processes to make microprocessors. Enter hafnium, a rare metal. Designers led by Mr. Bohr in Hillsboro, Ore., chose hafnium to replace silicon oxide, the venerable insulator in chips and a material used in making glass. Mr. Bohr also helped to identify new materials, whose identity Intel is keeping secret, for the crucial transistor “gates” that sit atop a chip’s insulators.

On Nov. 12, Intel will begin shipping its first chips using the new processes. Gordon E. Moore, Intel’s co-founder, recently declared that the hafnium-and-gate process innovations should allow his so-called Moore’s Law, whereby chips grow ever faster and less expensive, to hold true for some time.

Despite the enormity of the achievement, Mr. Bohr is relatively anonymous, even within Intel. “The work of process development comes second to creating new designs for chips,” he says. Not surprisingly, when Intel starts shipping the new chips, neither the hafnium nor the gates innovations will be trumpeted as selling points. Rather, Intel will emphasize how customers can benefit from using the chips.

If process innovations are unheralded, consumers may misunderstand the nature of technological change.

“Process innovation tends to receive less attention from the informed public for the same reason that incremental innovation tends to receive too little attention: it is more difficult to encapsulate in a press release or photo opportunity,” says David C. Mowery, a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a scholar of technological change.

“Process innovation, even more than most product innovations, also tends to realize its economic potential through a lengthy process of incremental improvement based on learning by doing and other types of learning,” he added. “So ‘breakthroughs’ in process engineering are, if anything, even rarer than in product innovation.”

As a result, process gurus are resigned to playing in the shadows, leaving fame, if not fortune, to others. John Feland, human interface architect at Synaptics Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., knows this enduring truth of invention. He helps design arrays of sensors that drive the touch screens in the newest cellphones like the Prada from LG. Such touch screens are earning raves from consumers, yet Mr. Feland is essentially an invisible man.

“My job is to make our customers look like heroes,” he says philosophically. Then he sums up the special role played by fellow members of the process tribe: “We are like Q to James Bond.”

G. Pascal Zachary teaches journalism at Stanford and writes about technology and economic development. E-mail:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NOW That's MUSIC to MY Ears! (Coming on Home to YOU?)

Sweet Home Alabama

Alabama Students Have Open Access to a New World of Learning
By Mark Gura
Head south to Ozark City, Ala. -- population 15,119. This "City for All Seasons" boasts a Wal-Mart Supercenter, two Dairy Queens and a Goodrich Tire dealer. Mayor Bob Bunting calls Ozark "the best kept secret in the South, for that matter, the best small city in the United States."

Hometown hyperbole? Not when it comes to education. True, Ozark only has one high school, one middle school, two elementary schools and an early childhood education center. But it does offer its students world-class opportunities to learn. This is something its residents couldn't have dreamed of a few years back. Now, however, as part of Alabama's Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide (ACCESS) program, Ozark's Carroll High School distinguishes itself as more than the home of the Eagles football team. Students at this school experience material and challenges that some of the best schools in our nation's largest cities would be hard-pressed to set before their students.

Up there on the Ozark school system's sparse Web site, sitting proudly above links to the school calendar, bus routes and code of conduct is its mission statement. It's a statement that is echoed on Web sites across the nation. "Ozark City Schools is committed to providing a positive learning environment that encourages all students to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, morally and socially." A lofty sentiment, but how does a small, rural town like this actually go about providing that?

The answer is ACCESS, Alabama's exemplary distance learning initiative. Unlike virtual school initiatives that attempt to replace or supplant brick and mortar schools, ACCESS builds on the state's existing real world education system, enhancing, enriching and taking it to places never previously imagined.

"The driving philosophy behind ACCESS is to provide all Alabama high school students with the same opportunities to excel," says Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. "Using technology to provide those opportunities not only increases the rigor of instruction, but it also acclimates students to the use of technology and prepares them for a 21st century workforce."

The Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) is the networking technology partner for the ACCESS project. ASA is working to upgrade the Internet connectivity to participating schools and school systems through the Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN). "ASA works very closely with the schools to assure that every school system has an equitable level of network connectivity that will allow them to deliver and receive courses at a very high level of consistency and quality," says Alabama Supercomputer Authority CEO Randy Fulmer. "This is especially important to our most rural school districts and in meeting the goal of ACCESS to allow students equitable access to courses."

ACCESS has placed high-end interactive video conferencing equipment in participating schools, enabling students to connect with some of the best teachers around the state through synchronous sessions. It also offers asynchronous Web courses. ACCESS has placed tablet PCs in the hands of students and invites them to download a variety of specialized learning software, including collaborative note-taking, student response tools, content replay, an interactive lab simulation program and an equation plotter with calculus features.

The result is a powerful new set of learning experiences available to students. These new courses vastly increase student contact with inspired, adept teachers, advanced and specialized content and to one another ? a vital dimension to 21st century learning. This emphasis on collaboration, teaming and social skills mirrors the environment students will enter after graduation. Dr. Joseph B. Morton, Alabama's superintendent of education says, "By leveraging existing resources and expanding ACCESS distance learning, we will deliver a broad range of courses to students statewide, including our hardest-to-serve areas. It will help bring 21st century classrooms into all high schools in Alabama."

Denise Oliver, education and outreach director for the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, agrees. She says, "It has been gratifying to me as an educator on the 'network side' to watch the connectivity piece of ACCESS develop." She adds, "Working at a very rapid pace, the Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) is collaborating closely with the Alabama State Department of Education and the governor's office and is upgrading connectivity to the schools so they can deliver interactive video conferencing and online courses to students. This connectivity upgrade will enable teachers to incorporate a media enriched curriculum into interactive video conferencing and online classes and enable students to receive the best possible distance learning experience."

Access Granted

Carroll High students can now choose from a body of courses that rival the offerings of any school, anywhere. While Spanish is the only foreign language taught in-house, through ACCESS students can now study Chinese, French, German and Latin as well. Offerings like advanced placement (AP) calculus, AP English literature and composition, AP macroeconomics, and marine science are courses now available that the school could only dream about staffing or equipping on its own. With ACCESS, students can learn these subjects from some of the best teachers and in the company of a cohort of bright and diverse peers from throughout the state.

Not only does ACCESS support high achieving, academically-oriented, college-bound students, it offers remedial courses in reading comprehension, math, science and social studies, as well as electives in career and technical studies.

Advance to College

Alabama, like many states, is focused on providing more advanced placement courses to more students. Many educators see AP courses as vital indicators of the quality of education that students receive. Not only do they give college-bound students a leg-up on their higher education experience, allowing them to earn college credits for a nominal fee, they are considered great preparation for success in college. Furthermore, the presence of an AP program in a school is seen by many as enriching the general learning environment, something that benefits the school far beyond the limits of the courses themselves.

Advanced placement programs can be expensive to develop and maintain for a number of reasons that include staffing and professional development. The Alabama State Department of Education's e-newsletter, Alabama Education News, stated in May 2007: "Although the number of students taking AP courses in Alabama is increasing, a disproportion exists between the volume of students who take AP courses in more affluent school systems and those in rural and inner-city systems." In fact, while statewide Alabama has 168 high schools in 94 school systems that offer AP courses, more than 200 Alabama high schools do not offer any AP courses at all. The state understands that of the many ways it might plan to address this issue, one that's likely to produce far-reaching results in a short amount of time is its ACCESS program.

Just Getting Started

As inspiring as the new reality for students established by participation in ACCESS is, it is likely that we are merely seeing the prow of a vessel that Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama State Department of Education are building. Even as the first few cohorts of students ride ACCESS to 21st century competence, the bulk of its promise remains to be realized. "I first saw the potential of distance learning when I visited Troy University in Alabama," says Gov. Riley. "Troy teaches students across the globe through distance learning, and it made sense that we could apply the same technology in our high schools. We brought together representatives from all aspects of education and asked them to design a program that would provide students across Alabama the opportunity to take a full college-prep curriculum, advanced placement courses, foreign languages and electives. We launched our 24 pilot sites in January 2006, and the expansion continues at a rapid pace."

ACCESS was officially launched in 2004 with funding starting in the fall of 2005, and with the success of the pilot programs the plan is to establish 21st century classrooms in every Alabama high school. "Our goal is to put an ACCESS Distance Learning lab in every high school by 2010," says Gov. Riley. "We are well on our way, and with the passage of this year's budget, we will be in nearly half of all Alabama high schools in just three years." Plenty of students are taking advantage of the opportunities ACCESS has to offer. "During the current fiscal year, 10,000 students will take courses through ACCESS," adds Gov. Riley. "Next year, nearly 20,000 will have that opportunity, and we will add 100 new high schools. We are extremely proud of our progress."

In addition to the expanded body of class offerings and professional development tools, the plan includes the development of a learning objects repository ? a collection of text, HTML files, digital videos and more ? and an overall commitment to strengthening the state's high schools through distance learning. In other words, ACCESS is not seen as an add-on or a technology initiative, but a mission-critical strategy to develop and improve the state's core education program.

One exceptional aim of the program is its stated intention to "Expand the number of students served to reach the goal of giving every high school student (with priority given to schools and students with the greatest need) the opportunity to take at least one distance learning course during high school." This objective is quite visionary as it reflects an understanding that when it comes to using technology in the delivery of educational experiences, the students' interaction with the technology is as much part of the learning experience as is the traditional accredited curriculum being covered.

Learning Happens on Both Ends

An area of concern that all states face is the challenge of attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers, particularly in rural districts. The introduction of online courses taught electronically by teachers, or e-teachers, is a way to combat the shortage. Hiring and training e-teachers as well as providing support for facilitators and schools are essential components that Alabama has addressed by establishing three support centers, said Melinda Maddox, director of technology initiatives for the Alabama Department of Education. These support centers are essential to the success of the ACCESS program.

Another outcome from the ACCESS program has been the changes seen in the teachers on-site. The technology coordinators at the ACCESS schools have noticed that after teachers were trained to instruct students remotely through technology, they became more apt to use technology in their day-to-day lessons in the classroom, according to Maddox.

Follow 'Bama

In a world where virtual high schools are becoming common, success stories with this much impact and significance are rare. The Alabama example is not just one of a promise made, but of a promise kept. The disparity of access to high quality education is a defining issue that has persisted and frustrated countless individuals and kept our society from developing its greatest asset, human capital. Alabama has done the hard work of developing a relevant, appropriate program to address this need, and has built the infrastructure and done the outreach needed to make it work. "Without a statewide network, implementation would have been much more complicated and some students would still be waiting to take distance learning classes," says Oliver. "Strong infrastructure means strong delivery and a guarantee to the student that they will get the best quality of service possible. This guarantee has a direct impact and long-term benefit to the school district, but most importantly, to the student. Reaching down into Alabama's most rural and economically challenged areas and providing the same opportunities for the students there, in terms of connectivity and access, truly does enable ASA to play a significant role in closing the digital divide."

Seeing the great potential of distance learning, Alabama has taken aim and hit the bull's eye with ACCESS. "This is an exciting time to be in education and the field of educational technology," says Maddox. "In just two short years, I have watched the Alabama's ACCESS Distance Learning program grow from Gov. Riley's vision [of providing] every high school student in Alabama with the opportunity to take a wide range of courses to a detailed implementation plan. We're now beginning to see the results in high schools throughout the state. The most rewarding aspect is receiving messages from students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents about how exposure to knowledge and ideas through the available technology is changing their futures."

ACCESS does more than level the playing field for students in Alabama. It establishes a valuable model on which school systems everywhere can do the same. A tremendous number of stakeholders were involved in creating such a program. Thus, representatives from all these groups needed to be included in the planning phases, and a consensus had to be reached about very difficult issues to ensure successful buy-in. The strong, continued partnerships between the governor's office, the State Department of Education, the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, Alabama Public Television, higher education institutions and school districts who continue to oversee, plan and improve the program is key to the success of the initiative. "ACCESS is revolutionizing the way we teach our students," explains Gov. Riley. "We are especially excited about the blended model of both video conferencing and Web-based courses that the program employs. We can tailor the program to the individual needs of the students. That is what sets Alabama apart."

ACCESS can show the world that metropolitan areas are not the only places that embrace technology. Students coming from all locales need to have adequate technology training and the ability to learn at their maximum potential. Maybe now the rest of the nation can spread the word about the not-so-secret success in the south.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Reality Check: The URGENCY of the DIGITAL EMERGENCY!

Dismantling Detroit

Published: September 28, 2007


TO get to the auto plant that I’ve been drawn to for much of the last year, I drove, on my lunch hour last Monday, past an auto plant that members of the press had been drawn to for a full 45 minutes. As I drove east from midtown Detroit along I-94, the Ford Freeway, I could see a helicopter ahead, circling the General Motors Detroit/Hamtramck assembly plant — “Poletown,” in these parts.

TV news crews were parked outside it, to cover the strike that had begun at 11. I exited the freeway to see a dozen or so strikers, a handful of Detroit police officers and a couple of people holding tape recorders interviewing a couple of others holding picket signs. The United Auto Workers had called a national strike against G.M., and Poletown, for the press, was the place to be.

Back on the Ford Freeway I continued east, past the abandoned Packard plant, empty for half a century now, on my way to a more recently shuttered factory just up the road. I was pretty sure there’d be no TV crews at the Budd Detroit plant. Built in 1919 by the Liberty Motor Company and bought by the Budd Company in 1925, it had been a parts supplier, producing brake drums, wheels (old-timers still call it “Budd Wheel”) and auto body stampings for the major car companies. For eight decades, it supplied jobs to the city and the industry that drove the expansion and symbolized the strength of the American middle class — a class, the striking U.A.W. workers rightly asserted, that they were proud to belong to and didn’t want to see disappear.

The Budd plant — latterly, the ThyssenKrupp Budd plant — helped shape the contours of Detroit’s 20th century. Literally: in the 1950s, Budd Detroit built and assembled the body of the iconic, two-seat Ford Thunderbird. Last December it closed, and this past summer I spent much of my free time at the plant, observing workers from General Rigging disassemble it.

I wasn’t “press,” not here. In the Budd plant, “press” means stamping presses, and many of them still stand, a couple of stories high, in numbered lines of half a dozen presses each. A Spanish auto supplier, Gestamp, has bought 16 Line for one of its Mexican plants. A couple of Mexican engineers from Gestamp, along with German engineers from Müller Weingarten, the press maker that Gestamp contracted to oversee the 16 Line’s installation in Mexico, have been observing the disassembly. “Their role is to stand there, in awe, and hope they can put it back together when they get it to Mexico,” said Duane Krukowski, General Rigging’s electrical foreman.

If the picketers I’d passed a few miles back, with their demands for job security, were trying to counter the effects of globalization, Francis Blake Sr., the owner of General Rigging, embraced it. In addition to Mexico, press lines had gone or were going to India and Brazil. “None of it’s staying here,” Fran said, “here” being not just Detroit, but America.

Fran’s foreman on the Budd Detroit dismantling is Matt Sanders, an affable fellow in a Stars-and-Stripes hard hat. General Rigging had just completed a smaller job at a plant in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, owned by Tower Automotive, the bankrupt auto parts supplier, and had moved on to another Tower plant in Kendallville, Ind.

This process has been likened to the clear-cutting of a forest. The forest, in this case, spreads through parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York State, and goes by the name of the American Rust Belt. Whether anything will grow back is unclear. What is clear is that dismantling America’s industrial infrastructure has become a growth industry.

“I get no pleasure from taking these places apart,” Matt said to me more than once this summer, exhaling cigarette smoke. Tower Automotive’s new owner, Cerberus Capital Management, also owned the Chrysler assembly and engine plants that bookend the Budd plant. Despite himself, Matt couldn’t help but speculate on which stamping plants Cerberus might decide to close.

While the Big Three seek to shed workers, Matt is always looking for bodies. “When can you start?” he asked when we first met. Some of the older guys on the crew are former U.A.W. members, and the younger guys, in an earlier era, might well have been Big Three workers. Yet even they seemed to realize that by working the Budd job they were part of something historic. Still scattered about the plant were Frisbees and buttons bearing the logo for U.A.W. Local 306, and this message: “I Believe in Budd Detroit.”

“See you Saturday?” I said to Matt on my way out. “I’ll be here,” Matt said.

On my way back downtown, I saw that the picketers in front of Poletown remained, but the news crews had departed. A day and a half later, the strike would be over, and among the reported U.A.W. concessions was the acceptance of a two-tier wage structure, one that could pay new workers as little as $12 to $15 an hour. That means that a young worker starting out could conceivably make as much taking an auto plant apart as he could working in one. It’d be dirty work, occasionally dangerous and done without union backing, much like auto work had been before the U.A.W.

“I want to be here to take this apart,” Duane, General Rigging’s electrical foreman, said to me this summer. He considered the Budd plant holy. “I used to work at Ford’s,” he said, applying the possessive, as working-class Detroiters do, “and I got laid off from Ford’s. What they did was, they built a new assembly line. One day, we went over for a tour of the new line, and they showed me a machine that was doing my job. This was in 1979. They turned the lights out, and the machine was still doing the job. So I said to myself, ‘Now I need to learn how to build machines.’ Which is why I’m here taking them apart. Because I know how to put them together. Now I’m 50 years old, and I wouldn’t give up being here for nothing.”

Paul Clemens is the author of “Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir.”

College and Workforce Preparedness meet 21st Century Skills (NCLB)
Contents Copyright 2007 eSchool News. All rights reserved.

Lawmakers step up NCLB renewal process

21st-century skills, data-driven instruction are areas of focus in new House draft proposal

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports
September 6, 2007

College and workforce preparedness, 21st-century skills, and the use of data to inform instruction are among the new points of emphasis in a draft version of a bill to reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Proposed by Rep. George Miller, Democratic chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and the committee's senior Republican member, Buck McKeon, the draft bill is a response to "two dozen hearings in D.C., a review of written recommendations from more than 100 education groups, and conversations with constituents and colleagues in Congress," the two lawmakers say.

The proposal calls for extensive revisions to the nation's education law. It would focus more on low-performing high schools in an effort to boost graduation rates, and it would offer greater flexibility in assessing and measuring school and student progress--especially for special-needs students and those just learning English. In addition, it would distinguish between schools that narrowly fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and those that significantly miss AYP goals.

"This draft is a work in progress, subject to change in the coming weeks as the committee moves a bill through the legislative process," Miller and McKeon write. "However, we believe it represents a starting point from which to receive input."

The draft legislation would create a Graduation Promise Fund, which would establish new resources for high schools with the lowest graduation rates. These resources would support data-driven instruction, staff collaboration and professional development, and individualized student support--including counseling services for students at risk of dropping out.

The House draft also would provide incentives for states to develop standards aligned with the skills needed for success in the 21st century, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaborative skills.

In addition, it would allow states to use more than a single test for accountability purposes. States could use multiple, state-developed tests taken at different points in time to measure AYP, and they could consider more than just reading and math test results. Under this scenario, for example, schools could get credit for student performance on history, civics, or science exams, as well as for improvement in graduation or college enrollment rates.

The draft bill also would let states include students' academic growth over time in their definition of AYP. To use such a "growth model," states would need to have in place a longitudinal data system that can compare the progress of the same students from year to year.

In addition, the proposal would treat schools that fail to meet AYP in only one or two subgroups differently from those that fail to meet AYP in several subgroups.

The draft creates two separate categories for schools in need of improvement: "Priority Schools" and "High Priority Schools." And it offers a range of intervention options for these schools, including formative assessments and data-driven instruction.

The House proposal also allow states to measure how well students first learning English are doing at acquiring language skills, instead of judging these students on standard reading tests. The substitute test would only be allowed, however, for two years after the law is enacted.

During that time, states would be expected to develop alternative tests for limited-English speakers--such as tests using simplified English.

The draft proposal would encourage states to develop foreign-language reading and math tests, and it would allow students to be tested in their native language for five years instead of three.

School officials nationwide have complained it makes no sense to give subject-area tests in English to students who don't know how to read English well.

However, not everyone likes this proposed change: It would take the pressure off schools to get kids up to speed quickly in English, says Amy Wilkens, vice president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for poor and minority kids.

"It's too long," Wilkens said, referring to the newly proposed grace period. "That seems to me a terrible disservice to those kids and these families."

Reaction from some other education groups to the draft proposal was more encouraging.

"Chairman Miller and ranking member McKeon, along with their colleagues and staff, should be applauded for creating an open process and dialogue on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "The staff discussion draft marks a true step forward for high school reform at the federal level."

Wise said his organization looks forward to working with Congress "to ensure that this reauthorization includes the best policy for our nation's high school students." But he added that, regardless of any proposed changes to NCLB, adequate funding is "critical to the success of school improvement efforts."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NSF ITEST STEM Grant Initiative

Published Online: September 25, 2007
Published in Print: September 26, 2007

Engineering a Blueprint for Success

A rapidly growing program aimed at propelling more U.S. students toward engineering careers is attracting recruits beyond the usual pool of prospective high school talent.

Amid the clicking of computer mice and muted consultation, Wheaton High School teacher Marcus Lee’s class of 11th and 12th graders pored over the electronic blueprint for a four-story building they were designing on their desktops. The calculations for each floor needed to be set just right if the structure was to stand on its own.

“What we want to do is lay a foundation,” Mr. Lee explained. He was addressing the students in his civil-engineering and architecture class, but he could just as well have been talking about the goal of his school’s Academy of Engineering—and that of Project Lead the Way, the national curriculum it uses.

Often referred to by its acronym, PLTW is a rigorous four-year program of honors-level math and science, plus engineering, culminating in at least precalculus and advanced science classes, along with an intensive, hands-on collaborative engineering project. The curriculum is produced by Project Lead the Way Inc., a 10-year-old, Clifton Park, N.Y.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of American college students who study and ultimately work in engineering fields.

The program has swiftly grown to include about 2,200 schools in 49 states. Last school year, 175,000 students were enrolled in PLTW classes nationwide.

Shane R. Stroup, the director of Wheaton High’s Academy of Engineering, gives the rigor of PLTW’s curriculum much of the credit for the success his students have had so far.

Members of the academy’s 26-student class of 2007—its first graduating class—went on to study in mechanical, electrical, nuclear, and other engineering fields at such selective universities as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University, claiming more than $1.6 million in scholarships. Eighty-nine percent of Wheaton High’s 1,325 students are members of racial or ethnic minorities, and 41 percent receive free or reduced-price lunches.

“I think the reason was because of the Project Lead the Way curriculum,” said Mr. Stroup. “It prepared these students.”

It’s a familiar refrain that the United States is critically short of students prepared to perpetuate the nation’s decades-long pre-eminence in science, engineering, and the mathematics critical to both.

But when it comes to doing something about it, educators who have studied the alternatives say there’s no one else offering as much rigor in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math education to as many students as Project Lead the Way.

“What we found was that PLTW offers the best curriculum out there,” said Bart Aslin, the director of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation in Dearborn, Mich. “It’s a pipeline vision to let as many students as possible see the excitement of science, technology, math.”

The Technical Track

Students at the Project Lead the Way program at Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, Md., can choose from among several sequences of courses designed to prepare them for the postsecondary study of engineering.
Click on graphic below to see the Grade 9 - 12 curriculum.

NOTE: The curriculum also calls for freshmen and sophomores to take physical education, and for seniors to take an engineering-related college course, elective, or internship.

PLTW was singled out by the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences in its oft-cited 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which recommended that the program serve as the national model for expansion of science and engineering education.

Still, the program is neither cost-free nor easy. Because of the hands-on nature of many PLTW classes, implementing the curriculum can cost up to $95,000 per school depending on what computer equipment and facilities a school already has. Robotic equipment and automated manufacturing machinery required for PLTW elective courses, such as Computer Integrated Manufacturing, can cost tens of thousands of dollars more.

Schools or districts must also pay for the specialized two-week summer training for teachers at one of PLTW’s 30-plus partner colleges and universities. The per-teacher cost of the required course varies, but can exceed $2,000.

To the teachers who attend—70 percent of whom have previously taught career and technical education, and may not have any formal engineering training—the cost may feel like the least of it. Mr. Stroup, the Wheaton High engineering-academy director, called the training “boot camp.”

“These classes are very hard-hitting,” concurred Renny Whittenbarger, an engineering teacher at Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tenn. “PLTW will fail you. … You have to pass their exam before they let you [teach].”

At Wheaton High School, a clutch of adults filtered into Mr. Lee’s darkened class early one recent Monday morning, watching as the students compared notes on their building project. The students were showcasing the kind of collaborative effort that PLTW emphasizes, in lieu of the “eyes on your own paper” style of learning that prevails in many classrooms.

“What’s really impressive to me is to see the kids helping each other out—you never see that at the university level,” whispered James W. Sturges. “That’s how we work in engineering.”

Mr. Sturges was visiting in part because he’s the president of the Montgomery County school district’s advisory board on careers in engineering, scientific research, and manufacturing technologies, but also because he is the director of mission assurance at the Bethesda, Md.-based aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp.

“We’re the biggest employer of engineers in the United States,” said Mr. Sturges, who is himself an engineer. “If we can’t get [enough of] those, it’s going to affect our business.”

Student Sephar Simon uses a measuring device known as a digital multimeter to gauge resistance during the class.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

Those same concerns gave rise to the project that would become PLTW.

In the 1980s, Richard Blaise, now a vice president of PLTW, was the director of occupational education for the Shenendehowa Central School District in Clifton Park, N.Y. To help expand his district’s technology education offerings, he reached out to local industry leaders, including Richard C. Liebich, now PLTW’s chief executive officer and the chairman of its board of directors, to form a technology advisory board.

Mr. Liebich, a former president of Houston-based Sysco Foods, was then running Transport National Development, an industrial cutting-tool manufacturer in Orchard Park, N.Y.—one of several similar companies he would eventually head as CEO and chairman.

Mr. Liebich was having trouble hiring engineers, “and it became apparent then that, yes, we need to do something,” said PLTW spokeswoman Crickett Thomas-O’Dell.

Funding the nascent idea through Mr. Liebich’s Clifton Park-based Charitable Venture Foundation, Mr. Blaise and his staff were able to field-test what would become PLTW at upstate New York middle schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By the 1997-98 school year, when PLTW was spun off to become a separate nonprofit group, high schools piloted the program, and by 2000-01, over 300 schools in more than 25 states offered the curriculum.

Project Lead the Way is now self-sufficient, running on revenues from the licensing of PLTW software and the sale of teaching tools to schools, Ms. Thomas-O’Dell said.

David Waugh, a dean emeritus of the University of South Carolina’s college of engineering who has observed PLTW with interest but is not involved with the program, attributes much of its rapid expansion to the fact that while many precollegiate educators recognize the importance of engineering, few teach the subject.

“So many people in high school have very little idea about what engineering really is,” said Mr. Waugh, a past president of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Society of Professional Engineers. “They have science classes, and they’ll encounter things like chemistry and even physics, but with engineering, they don’t encounter anything. That’s sort of where it ends.”

By contrast, PLTW puts engineering firmly in the foreground, and it mixes lots of projects into the curriculum.

Ninth grader William Mendoza works on a class project as part of a pre-engineering program at his Wheaton, Md., high school that follows a curriculum from a national initiative called Project Lead the Way.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

“We make it fast-paced and hands-on,” said Steve Clariday, the career education director at Cleveland High in Tennessee.

As part of a Cleveland High PLTW engineering class, students work in teams to build cardboard boats that they’ll race in the school’s swimming pool. But first they have to calculate how many cubic feet the boat should be, how fast it will sink, and other factors on their own; the only equation they’re given is that one cubic foot of cardboard will sustain 60 pounds.

“They get frustrated,” Mr. Clariday said, “but they get to know the math.”

Cleveland High students also have designed tools to help people in their community, including a can opener with an extra mechanical advantage to help a woman with arthritis, and a rake that a one-armed man can use comfortably.

Along with other nations’ more-aggressive prioritization of technical education, raw population trends do not favor future American pre-eminence in engineering.

According to projections by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s directorate for education, India will produce more than twice the number of American and European college graduates combined by 2015. China will have even more.

The United States “cannot build a workforce of just white males in engineering,” said Laurie Maxson, the director of Science Technology & Engineering Preview Summer Camp Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.—a transition between PLTW’s middle-school-level Gateway to Technology program and its high school curriculum.

“They’re focusing on all groups—all groups in this country are underrepresented when it comes to engineering,” the University of South Carolina’s Mr. Waugh said of PTLW.

According to data gathered on behalf of PLTW in 2005-06Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader by the evaluation firm TrueOutcomes Inc. of York, Pa., the program has had some success in recruiting students of color.

White students still account for more than 70 percent of PLTW students. But they’re only slightly overrepresented in PLTW classes compared with the enrollment of the schools in which they operate. Hispanics also are slightly overrepresented in PLTW classes, relative to the populations of their schools.

African-Americans are underrepresented by about 20 percentage points in PLTW classes, compared with their share of their schools’ overall enrollment—“not where we want to be,” said Carolyn Helm, PLTW’S pre-engineering curriculum project director.

“But we’re doing a heck of a lot better than colleges,” in whose engineering programs African-Amerian students are even more underrepresented, she said.

The program has had trouble attracting girls, who make up only 17 percent of PLTW classes. “We really have a hard time getting females involved,” Ms. Maxson said.

Yet Project Lead the Way has made strong inroads among two other groups that are not always well represented in STEM fields: the less-well-off and the academically unspectacular.

Senior Jessica Steinmann, bottom at right, and junior Marcos Rego work on computer-generated building designs during their civil-engineering and architecture course.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

According to the TrueOutcomes data, the program is available at schools across the economic spectrum, but is represented especially well at schools that serve free or reduced-price lunches to more than 70 percent of their students.

“We don’t have money for college,” said Jessica Steinmann, a 16-year-old senior in Wheaton High’s engineering academy. “This is a way out.”

A Haitian immigrant, Ms. Steinmann now plans to study aeronautical engineering in college.

Andrew Kim, a 17-year-old Korean-American senior in the Academy of Engineering, came into the program in 9th grade as a special education student with poor grades. Now he is breezing through honors-level classes and hopes to study mechanical engineering at either MIT or the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“My dad actually didn’t want me to go to Wheaton High School,” said Mr. Kim, recalling his father’s fears about “thugs in the hallways.” The school is the poorest in mostly affluent Montgomery County, Principal Kevin E. Lowndes said.

Senior Andrew Kim, second from right, works with Richard Sutton during their class in engineering design and development at Wheaton High’s engineering academy. Mr. Kim, who started out with poor grades, plans to study mechanical engineering in college next year.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week

But Mr. Kim said the academy’s rigor has won his father over, and now his younger brother, a 9th grader, has joined the program.

If PLTW hewed to the usual strategy of putting high-rigor academic programs only in well-to-do areas, said Mr. Sturges, the Lockheed engineer and advisory-board president, “you wouldn’t put this [engineering academy] in a high-FARMS [free and reduced-price meal system] area, you’d put it in a no-FARMS area.”

Mr. Lowndes, the Wheaton High principal, said “the most impressive thing” about the engineering program is what it does for average students. “It’s teaching them through a cohort how to be successful in school and why it’s important to take the rigorous courses,” he said.

As Lynne M. Gilli, the program manager of the Maryland Department of Education’s career and technical education instructional branch, put it: “We are not trying to recruit the best and brightest” for PLTW pre-engineering programs. “We’re trying to recruit the top 80 percent.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Simply: Imgagine YOURSELF here!

In Focus Image

In Focus

Nurturing Creativity: 2007 MacArthur Fellows

They include a biomedical scientist, a blues musician, a forensic anthropologist, an inventor, a medieval historian, and a spider silk biologist. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. Each received a phone call from the Foundation with news of $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.

“The MacArthur Foundation supports highly creative individuals and institutions with the ability and the promise to make a difference in shaping and improving our future,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “These new MacArthur Fellows, extraordinary men and women of all ages and in many fields, honor and inspire us with their talent, their courage, and their deep commitment. With the gift of time and unfettered opportunity to create and explore, we are confident that the Fellows will follow their hearts and their minds wherever they lead, making new discoveries and making a difference in the world.”

Recipients this year include –

  • Mercedes Doretti, a forensic anthropologist unearthing evidence of crimes against humanity and of immense human losses omitted from the historical record;
  • Cheryl Hayachi, a spider silk biologist revealing the architecture, properties, and function of spider silks and the possibilities of developing new synthetic materials;
  • Stuart Dybek, a short story writer borrowing from the Old World yet emerging from the New World to feed the imaginations of contemporary Americans;
  • Saul Griffith, an inventor engineering innovations spanning optics, high-performance textiles, and nanotechnology to benefit the world;
  • Mark Roth, a biomedical scientist experimenting with new clinical procedures for temporary reduction of metabolism to provide much needed time for surgeons;
  • Dawn Upshaw, a master vocalist stretching the boundaries of operatic and concert singing and shaping and redefining the landscape of contemporary music;
  • Jonathan Shay, a clinical psychiatrist/classicist drawing parallels between ancient texts and modern accounts of battle to treat combat trauma;
  • Paul Rothemund, a nanotechnologist folding DNA to create complex shapes and patterns that provide a platform for building nanodevices of the future;
  • Lisa Cooper, a public health physician improving medical outcomes by analyzing and developing new approaches to patient-physician communications; and
  • Shen Wei, a choreographer drawing from Western dance traditions and Chinese opera, acrobatics, and martial arts to create bold and visually arresting dance-theater.
The Fellows selection process begins with formal nominations. Hundreds of anonymous nominators assist the Foundation in identifying people to be considered for a MacArthur Fellowship. Nominations are accepted only from invited nominators, a list that is constantly renewed throughout the year. They are chosen from many fields and challenged to identify people who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. A 12-member Selection Committee, whose members also serve anonymously, meets regularly to review files, narrow the list, and make final recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Including this year’s group, 756 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the program in 1981. Meet the 2007 MacArthur Fellows.

The Media, The Message and The Messenger! 21st Century Digital Style!

Worship Goes Big-Screen and Hi-Fi, With Direct-Deposit Tithing

Technology Raises Fears of a Lost Reverence

By Virgil Dickson and Catherine Rampell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 25, 2007; A01

At First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Prince George's County, parishioners who don't make it to church on time are directed to an overflow room to watch the Sunday service on a huge projection screen. If they can't make it to church at all, they can catch the service online, anytime.

The Church at Severn Run in Anne Arundel County has a wireless network in its cafe that lets parents work and peruse the Internet while waiting for their children to finish Sunday school. And at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia, fancy lighting, rock music and occasional applause spice up spirited sermons.

The stepped-up use of technology has changed the way people worship in a way that some parishioners and experts like and others don't.

"I think God would be pleased with this," said the Rev. Grainger Browning Jr., pastor of the 10,000-member Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington. "I don't think that God would want us to try to evangelize like Jesus did 2,000 years ago."

Or would he? Critics of high-tech churches contend that the big screens, flickering lights and Internet take away from the traditional atmosphere. They also say that some churches are using so much high technology that they look and feel more like entertainment venues than houses of worship.

"I feel like it's too much and it takes over the worship," said the Rev. Dorothy LaPenta, pastor of the 150-member Hope Presbyterian Church in Mitchellville. "People will just be sitting there, their eyes fixated on the screen. They're waiting to be given something instead of participating."

Robert Defazio, 62, a member of her congregation, agrees. "If a minister is worth his salt, he is going to be able to get the message across by what he says, not by what he shows," he said.

Statistics bear out the high-tech trend. Last year, churches spent $8.1 billion on audio and projection equipment, according to Texas-based TFCinfo, an audiovisual market research firm. Today, 80 percent of churches integrate elaborate video and audio systems as well as an array of online materials into their worship services, and at least a dozen magazines cater to the high-tech pious.

Sixty percent of churches have a Web site, and more than half send e-mail blasts to their congregants, according to TFCinfo. Houses of worship often offer downloads of their services, and some send families recordings of special services involving their children. Central Synagogue in Manhattan mails CDs of bar and bat mitzvahs to its members, said Executive Director Livia Thompson.

Scholars and religious leaders say churches are ramping up their use of technology for a variety of reasons. Often, the leaders say, churches purchase sophisticated sound systems to accommodate elderly congregants. Projection devices are popular, too, for older people and those who find it easier to read lyrics and Scriptures on a screen rather than from a hymnal or Bible.

But mostly, leaders are hoping that all the high-tech equipment will help lure more people to their pews and make their places of worship more interactive and user-friendly.

"Introduce a projection screen, Web sites, podcasts and an e-mail newsletter, and the church grows," said Scott Thumma, a sociology professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut, which studies trends in American churches. "This is not church like your grandparents did it. This has something to say about life today."

During a recent sermon at St. Paul's Collegiate Church in Storrs, Conn., worshipers sent text messages to the cellphone of the lead pastor, Benjamin Dubow, the substance of which he then integrated into his sermon.

"Prayer is supposed to be a conversation," Dubow said. "We did this to help people engage in the conversation live during the service."

Carl Reeder, technology director at Reid Temple AME Church in Prince George's, said high-tech equipment is a priority at his house of worship. The 6,000-member Glenn Dale church has a state-of-the-art audio studio and a video production room that use the same equipment that major television stations use. Sixteen volunteer producers, directors and electricians operate the equipment for the church and reproduce its worship services on CDs and DVDs.

"It takes a lot of skilled people to make it all happen," Reeder said of the work that goes into putting on a Sunday service.

Still, Reeder said his church is mindful of its mission. "We don't want the technology to take over worshiping God," he said. "If you misuse the technology, you lose focus."

Loss of focus is not a concern at Glenarden Church of Christ, where technology is limited, on purpose. But Pastor Johnnie Barton has admitted to using a visual aid. "Occasionally I may use a whiteboard," Barton said. "Sometimes it's helpful to explain things."

James B. Twitchell, an English professor at the University of Florida, also cautions against having too much technology in church.

"One of the problems is that with video technology, you don't watch the pastor, you watch the screen, where he appears like a movie star 20 times bigger than reality," said Twitchell, author of the book "Shopping for God: How Christianity Went From In Your Heart to In Your Face."

Thanks to technology, Twitchell added, even the old practice of writing a check or slipping cash into an envelope and dropping it into the tithing bowl is disappearing. "These churches use direct deposit, so there is none of that reaching into your pocket to get your money out," he said.

There are other concerns about high-tech churches. Quentin Schultze, a communications professor at Calvin College in Michigan and author of the book "High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely," contends that if not used properly, the fancy lighting and audio systems can distract from the reasons for going to church.

"The congregation has to understand what worship is: dialogue," Schultze said. "If technology is used as a crutch to create entertainment, that turns the congregation into consumers, and that's deadly from a spiritual standpoint."

If churches are not careful, Schultze added, they could drive away worshipers.

LaPenta said the members of her church are mindful of the potential turnoff. She said her church recently received a donated projector, which members use for presentations during Bible study and business meetings. But LaPenta said her congregation is wary of making the projector a regular part of the Sunday service.

"I think if you have that as a criteria, you are shaping worship around the media as opposed to media and worship," LaPenta said.

Browning, the Ebenezer pastor, said he is not worried about losing worshipers. His concern, he said, is staying relevant in an age when Americans are constantly being stimulated by BlackBerrys, video games and high-definition television. "In the mind-set of the congregation, they may not think we are being current," he said.

Those who find the projection screens, elaborate lighting and booming audio too much can always stay home and go online, where they will find a growing number of religious sites, many of them operated by churches.

The 12,000-member McLean Bible Church, for example, is planning to launch an Internet "campus" featuring video services with music and messages and an online offering. The campus will have chat rooms where people will be able to connect before and after two Sunday services.

"We believe in the local church, and at the same time we believe in leveraging technology so that we can have maximum impact," said Michael Hurt, director of community campus development for McLean Bible Church.

Again, critics wonder about the Internet church.

"It is a substandard substitute, when you compare it to what God intended," said Michael Hall Sr., pastor of the 125-member New Beginnings Community Ministry Center in Bowie. "How can we break bread? We're not going to have dinner over the computer."

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Detroit HS tech stars get backers
Principal Patricia Pickett, Superintendant Connie Calloway, Rev. Jesse Jackson. PHOTO BY JACKIE BARBER
Principal Patricia Pickett, Superintendant Connie Calloway, Rev. Jesse Jackson. PHOTO BY JACKIE BARBER

By Eric T. Campbell

The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT - Leaders from the education, faith-based and labor communities came together in front of the Northwestern High School student body Thurs., Sept. 14, to announce the creation of the Northwestern High School Success Project.

The assembly, held in Northwestern�s auditorium was part of the Rainbow/PUSH Third Annual Community Symposium.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams, Detroit Schools Superintendent Connie Calloway and U.S. Representative John Conyers addressed the students.

The "Success Project" was initiated by a partnership of Northwestern Alumni with the Michigan Labor Constituency Council, the UAW, International Union, New Detroit Incorporated and the Rainbow/PUSH coalition.

Honorary Chairs and committee members include a long list of Detroit community leaders and activists. The five-year pilot program seeks to identify specific educational and structural needs at Northwestern and to raise a $500,000 fiduciary fund for the school to "augment their academic program over a five-year period", according to the symposium guide booklet.

The program also stresses the need for "community wide mobilization" to support student's scholastic needs and improve Detroit high school graduation rates.

"They've raised over $90,000 for us to augment our programs, organizations and clubs, to have a holistic approach, a community approach to transforming," Northwestern Principal Patricia Pickett told the Michigan Citizen. "We're going to try and develop a clean, safe learning environment with rigorous instruction. We're all stakeholders, continuously learning."

Northwestern High School was chosen to pilot the program in part because of its potential to incorporate an extended academic structure. The curriculum at Northwestern already includes nine advanced placement classes, four computer laboratories, two libraries and one of the only Planetariums located in a Michigan public school.

Dr. Shedrick Ward is the facilitator of the AIM program at Northwestern, which identifies and nurtures students from the ninth grade on and offers scholastic options based in technological fields.

"To bring the teachers together across areas to perform a unified approach" that's the American transformation of the high schools so that the kids are connected to places like Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, General Motors, who have their challenges in this global network," Dr. Ward told the Michigan Citizen in his office. "But young people still have some responsibility in understanding what that challenge is going to be when they leave high school."

In addition to the morning assembly, the Community Day Symposium also included a luncheon and town hall meeting, at which participants discussed and reviewed elements of the "Success Program".

The day ended with a black tie gala and fundraising dinner at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Keynote speaker Judge Greg Mathis has strong ties to the "Success Program" through his National Youth and Education Crusade, which focuses on issues of crime and education.

But the day was best exemplified by the gathering of the student body in the high school auditorium on Grand Boulevard, during which wisdom was passed from generation to generation in the spirit of community uplift and educational advancement.

"We are now the conscience of this country," congressman and Northwestern High graduate, John Conyers told the listeners. "We are now holding hands with the 6.6 billion people in the world and we can all make a difference."

Keynote speaker Rev. Jesse Jackson paid tribute to Northwestern High and its role, even beyond the neighborhood.

"You have such a sterling history and heritage of impacting our world by lessons taught and learned from this school," Jackson began.

He focused directly on the students in the building and their responsibility to uphold the advancements made by those in the Black community.

"We're going another way, against the odds, we at Northwestern, are going to higher ground," the audience repeated with Jackson. "We shall lift ourselves, and our community, our city, our state, by the power of our minds. We change our minds, and the whole world changes. We must first change our minds to change the world."

The Milford Powerhouse Project

The Milford Powerhouse (click-on "powerhouse" on left-side)

Powerhouse (Virtual Tour)

The Pettibone Creek Powerhouse blog-site

Milford Powerhouse Renovation Committee
NEXT Meeting: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 7:00PM (Informal Presentation)

Friday, September 21, 2007

LISC FUNDING (Seminal Conversations)

LISC and KIPP Schools Partner to Bridge Facility Gap for Underserved Students

6 Oct 2005 - New York, NY

$1 million loan is first step in developing facility infrastructure for charter schools First fund beneficiary KIPP Academy Houston provides relief for Katrina victims

New York, NY - As the first step in a long-term partnership to improve charter school facilities for students nationwide, LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has provided KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) with a $1 million loan to establish the KIPP Early Stage Revolving Fund that will help to build and renovate facilities for KIPP Schools nationwide. The KIPP charter schools of Houston—the first recipients of financing through the Fund—have partnered with the Houston Independent School District and Teach For America to start a sc hool open to Katrina refugees. LISC will support the investment with $150,000 in grant funds that will help individual school projects across the KIPP network of schools.

LISC and KIPP believe in helping schools to help themselves when it comes to facilities. LISC's grants and loan will compel schools to become more involved and literally invested in acquiring their facilities. The $1 million loan from LISC's Educational Facilities Financing Center (EFFC), along with a loan from Raza Development Fund, will finance KIPP's short-term needs for temporary classrooms, renovation projects, and bridge financing.

"We are extremely grateful to LISC for this critical investment in our new facilities fund. This support by LISC represents not only an investment in blueprints, bricks, and mortar, but a down payment on the education and future of thousands of KIPP children," says KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg.

The KIPP charter schools of Houston will be the first beneficiaries to receive Fund financing. In 2006, KIPP will expand from four to seven charter schools—four middle, two pre-K, and one high school. In addition, on October 3, the leadership of KIPP Houston in partnership with the Houston Independent School District and Teach For America, started a new school open to K-8 Katrina refugees. The school, named NOW College Prep (New Orleans West), will be housed in the former Douglass Elementary School. The NOW College Prep staff will consist of teachers from Phillips College Preparatory, the KIPP Transformation School in New Orleans, and Teach For America corps members—both displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

As documented in LISC's May 2005 study, the first comprehensive overview of public and private non-profit sources of facility financing for charter schools, most states, including Texas, do not provide charter schools with facility funding comparable to that of other public schools. Thus, charter schools face significant obstacles in developing and financing their buildings.

LISC and KIPP are working together to overcome such obstacles. "We look forward to partnering extensively with KIPP to help meet both the short and long-term facilities needs of the KIPP network of schools. KIPP is dedicated to providing a rigorous and rewarding academic environment, and we at LISC are proud to help it expand and improve the facilities that house these students," says Barbara Page, Vice President of Education Programs at LISC.

With this loan, the EFFC has approved more than $8 million of investment in four funds across the country and granted $750,000 for technical assistance and pre-development. These fund investments will help support nearly $160 million in facility financing for more than 65 schools over the next five years. In addition, LISC has approved $30 million in financing for 58 charter schools in ten states and the District of Columbia.

About LISC

LISC combines corporate, government and philanthropic resources to help nonprofit community development corporations revitalize underserved neighborhoods. Since 1980, LISC has raised more than $6 billion to build or rehab nearly 160,000 affordable homes and develop 25 million square feet of retail, community and educational space nationwide.

About the EFFC

The Educational Facilities Financing Center at LISC supports quality public charter and alternative schools in distressed neighborhoods. LISC founded the EFFC in 2003 to intensify its national effort in educational facilities financing. The EFFC pools low-interest loans and leverages them for investment in charter and alternative school facilities in order to create new or renovated school facilities for underserved children, families, and neighborhoods nationally. The EFFC is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, Prudential Insurance, and the U.S. Department of Education's Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program.

About KIPP

KIPP was started by teachers Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin in1994 in Houston, TX after completing their two-year commitment with Teach For America. In 2000, Doris and Donald Fisher, co-founders of Gap Inc, formed a partnership with Feinberg and Levin to replicate KIPP's success nationwide. KIPP now has a network of 45 public schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia and has been widely recognized for narrowing the achievement gap in public education and putting underserved students on the path to college. Ninety percent of KIPP alumni who were high school seniors this year earned acceptance to college.

Article Type: Press Release

SWEET! (UWSEM Agenda for Change Initaitive)

September 7, 2007

United Way for Southeastern Michigan

1212 Griswold Street

Detroit, MI 48226

Ref: UWSEM Agenda for Change “Educational Preparedness” Collaborative LOI

Agenda for Change Committee:

Communities to Schools Regional Digital Collaboratory

SKETCH of INTENTION “Pilot Project”: Create and develop a youth-based digitally networked community (networked two-way telecommunications) of inclusive entities to include schools, neighborhood and city community centers, human service organizations, various community capacity building organizations, public service organizations, arts and cultural organizations, business, industry and government.

Attributes of Aspirations (Limited Only by Our Combined Imaginations, Creativity and Innovation)

  • Community Interaction and Engagement

*Build deeper and richer community alliances. Build organizational leadership and capacity, service-learning and engagement vehicles for change from merely synergistic to systemic imperatives.

  • Educational Enhancement and Distribution Channels

*Utilize existing K-12 educational assets; teachers, pedagogy, curriculum, underutilized digital infrastructure, etc. Develop digital media and learning curriculum, pedagogy, distribution methodologies and modalities aligned with new 21st Century economic realities with a particular focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. Create connections to relevant real-world experts and working environments.

  • Youth Development and Leadership

*Create student-led, student-taught, project-based explorations emphasizing creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors that resonate with their world as they encounter it while also learning how to think instead of what to think.

  • 21st Century Skills for New Creative Economy Career Development

*Utilize digital technological innovations as a foundational element to further our youth’s interest in connecting socially to the world around them while coaching and facilitating conventional understandings (problem solving, critical thinking, cognitive discipline, creativity, innovation, collaboration, social responsibility) of how our great society works thereby enhancing our local, regional, state, national and global competitiveness in the urgent “brute-force to brain-force” transformation.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Old School Silo's of Irrelevance / DITCHED!

The New York Times
Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

September 16, 2007
Age of Riches

Bye, Bye B-School

MOST people who knew Gabriel Hammond at Johns Hopkins in the late 1990s could have predicted he would rise quickly on Wall Street. As a freshman, he traded stocks from his dorm room, making a $1,000 bet on Caterpillar. Soon after, he abandoned his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer and, upon graduation, joined Goldman Sachs as a stock analyst.

Three years into his new job, Mr. Hammond noticed something. Very few of his young co-workers were taking a hiatus from Wall Street to go to business school, long considered an essential rung on the way to the top of the corporate ladder.

So he, too, decided to forgo an M.B.A.. Instead, he raised $5 million and started his own hedge fund, Alerian Capital Management, in 2004. The fund now manages $300 million out of offices in New York and Dallas, and Mr. Hammond, 28, enjoys seven-figure payouts.

Like other young people on the fast track, Mr. Hammond has run the numbers and figures that an M.B.A. is a waste of money and time — time that could be spent making money. “There’s no way that I would consider it,” he says.

As more Americans have become abundantly wealthy, young people are recalculating old assumptions about success. The flood of money into private equity and hedge funds over the last decade has made billionaires out of people like Kenneth Griffin, 38, chief executive of the Citadel Investment Group, and Eddie Lampert, 45, the hedge fund king who bought Sears and Kmart. These men are icons for the fast buck set — particularly the mathematically gifted cohort of rising stars known as “quants.” Many college graduates who are bright enough to be top computer scientists or medical researchers are becoming traders instead, and they measure their status in dollars instead of titles.

Many of the brightest don’t covet a corner office at Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. Instead, they’re happy to work at a little-known hedge fund run out of a two-room office in Greenwich, Conn., as long as they get a fat payday. The competition from alternative investment firms — private equity and hedge funds in particular — is driving up salaries of entry-level analysts at much larger banks. And top performers at the banks make so much money today that they don’t want to take two years off for business school, even if it’s a prestigious institution like the Wharton School or Harvard.

The new ranks of traders and high-octane number crunchers on Wall Street are also a breed apart from celebrated long-term investors like Warren E. Buffett and investment banking gurus like Felix G. Rohatyn. What sets the new crowd apart is the need for speed and a thirst for instant riches.

“With the growth of hedge funds, you’re getting a lot of really smart people who are getting paid a lot very young,” says Arjuna Rajasingham, 29, an analyst and a trader at a hedge fund in London. “I know it’s a bit of a short-term view, but it’s hard to walk away from something that’s going really well.”

The shift has not gone unnoticed by administrators at some business schools. Richard Schmalensee, who was dean of the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management until June, chalked it up to the changing nature of money-making. In many banks and investment boutiques, traders with math and science backgrounds now contribute more to the bottom line than the white-shoed investment bankers who long presided over Wall Street. And traders tend to be less likely to go to business school.

“I don’t think you will see M.B.A.’s less represented in executive suites, but you may see M.B.A.’s less represented in the lists of the world’s richest people,” Professor Schmalensee says.

BUSINESS school has not fallen out of favor among the student population at large. The number of students who earned M.B.A.’s in 2005 was about 142,600, nearly twice the level in 1991. But as M.B.A.’s become more common, the degree seems to carry less prestige with people who land top-paying jobs in finance soon after college.

And recent upheavals in the financial markets don’t seem to be changing the thinking of these younger high-fliers and their employers.

Hedge fund managers are unlikely to punish their younger workers for any dip in returns this year, says Adam Zoia, managing partner at Glocap, a headhunter in New York. Management fees charged by funds — typically 2 percent — come in regardless of return levels and can more than cover large salaries for young employees at many funds.

“Most managers say, ‘If I don’t pony up a decent bonus, then I’m going to lose people,’ ” Mr. Zoia says. “It’d be short-sighted of them not to retain their good people.”

At funds that manage $1 billion to $3 billion, people with just a few years of finance experience will make $337,000 this year, Mr. Zoia says, and those with five to nine years of experience will average $830,000, up 6 percent from last year. These estimates include analysts and researchers but not portfolio traders, who can make much more because they sometimes share in profits.

Dozens of young people (mostly male) who want to be, or already are, successful traders said in interviews that they relished the challenge of their jobs, in addition to the lofty paychecks.

But they also spoke as if a money-clock were ticking: many said they wanted to make as much money as fast as they could so that they could live in style later in life while doing less lucrative things like running a charity, working for the government, spending time with their families, or inventing new technologies. Some, of course, plan to stay in finance their entire careers, and they, too, are very focused on earning fat bonuses fast.

“The sales pitch of these private equity funds or these hedge funds is, ‘Come here, and you’ll make a million bucks in two years,’ ” says Gregg R. Lemkau, 38, managing director and chief operating officer of investment banking at Goldman Sachs, who passed up business school to stay at Goldman in the early 1990s when that choice was more rare.

And because today there are more self-made millionaires — and billionaires — than ever before, 20-something traders seem bolder in their monetary ambitions. Business school often does not fit into these plans.

“If you want to make the most money in the shortest period of time, you can’t be away from work for two years,” says Vitaly Dukhon, 30, who recently left the Fortress Investment Group in New York to join another hedge fund.

While in college at Harvard, Mr. Dukhon thought he would go to business school in his mid-20s, but in his first job on the Treasury desk at Deutsche Bank, he realized that the smartest people just a few years his senior were staying put. “I saw that people that had been working for 20 years did have M.B.A.’s, but people five to six years older than me were not going,” he says. “Going to business school is a way for people to try to open the door, to try to get into a company or hedge fund. But if you’re already there, it doesn’t make sense to go.”

Mr. Hammond of Alerian noticed the same trend while he was an analyst at Goldman Sachs. His co-workers who went to business school either wanted to change careers, or they were not doing well in their current jobs, he says.

Part of the shift comes as investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse have changed their tune on business school. Instead of pushing all their young employees into M.B.A. programs, banks are telling the best ones to stay put.

“We are the perfect training ground for people who want to have careers in finance,” says Caitlin McLaughlin, director of campus recruiting for Citi, the former Citigroup. Just 15 years ago, Ms. McLaughlin estimates, 85 to 90 percent of Citi’s analyst classes ended up attending business school. Now, she thinks that figure is closer to 50 percent.

Samir Ahmad, 25, has worked at Citi since college. This summer, he was promoted to associate, an M.B.A.-level position, in the fixed-income, currencies and commodities division. Despite advice from his older brother that he should attend business school, Mr. Ahmad says he cannot see what he would gain to justify the time. “If I were to spend two years at business school, I’d get an M.B.A. degree, but I think learning a different product or a different group here at Citi would be more valuable,” he says.

To be sure, business school can still be a valuable investment, especially for those who want to change careers. Most schools teach a well-rounded curriculum that exposes students to the full picture of the way the business world works. They are great places to make friends and connections that can help throughout a career. And the top business schools serve as a useful filtering system, placing a seal of approval on graduates that can help them find jobs.

“Most banking — and that includes private equity — is about deals and about relationships,” says Timothy Butler, director of M.B.A. career development programs at Harvard Business School. “That will always be M.B.A. territory.”

YET even some students at top schools like Harvard say the decision to go is tougher now than it likely was two decades ago. “We all struggled with it,” says Katie Shaw, 28, who is in her second year of business school there. “It’s not only, ‘Where do I go to business school?’ It’s also, ‘Do I go?’ ”

Ms. Shaw worked in private equity before business school and plans to return to a position in finance. In private equity, she says, an M.B.A. is valued because buying and selling companies involves relationships and company analysis skills. Still, most private equity firms used to require their young hires to leave to go to business school, and some are now letting talented ones keep working instead.

Headhunters for hedge funds and private equity firms say hedge funds, in particular, do not value an M.B.A. “I have some clients that will legitimately say, ‘An M.B.A. means absolutely nothing to us,’ ” says Tim Zack, principal of In-Site Search, a headhunting firm in Westport, Conn., that is a division of Chaves and Associates.

Mr. Hammond of the Alerian hedge fund recently hired someone from Carnegie Mellon’s business school because of that person’s engineering talent, not the skills he learned in business school. While Mr. Hammond says he understands why his new employee went to business school to move into finance, he would look less favorably on someone in an M.B.A. program who had left finance to go to business school.

If he were looking at someone who went to Harvard Business School after the two-year analyst program at Goldman, “I’d be suspicious,” he says. “I’d be saying, ‘What was it you were doing wrong that you couldn’t get a promotion at Goldman or did not pursue an opportunity with a private equity or hedge fund?’ ”

When young people on Wall Street consider the benefits of business school, Mr. Hammond says, the upside no longer outweighs lost salaries and bonuses they would have earned. He calculates the cost of going to a two-year business school to be at least half a million dollars for the average bank employee — $250,000 or more each year in lost salary, plus $50,000 a year in tuition and living expenses. For hedge fund employees, Mr. Hammond says, the number would be considerably higher.

The result, headhunters say, is that many of the best people in finance are no longer entering the M.B.A. pipeline. “If someone is doing well at a hedge fund, they absolutely do not encourage their employees to go off to business school,” says Mr. Zoia of Glocap.

Some young people are pursuing alternatives that can be completed without leaving their jobs. Some take the certified financial adviser tests or study part-time at night at schools like N.Y.U. that offer master’s degrees in subjects like financial engineering.

“There’s a real shift in assumptions as to what is going to make you a better applicant or a prospect for a job,” says Art Hogan, chief market analyst for Jefferies & Company, noting that he had seen an increased interest in young people pursuing a degree as a certified financial adviser at night rather than leaving their jobs for an M.B.A.

At the banks, there has been a push in recent years to keep top performers around after their time as analysts, the most junior position, ends. “Strong performers we want to keep at the firm for as long as possible,” says Julie Kalish, 28, head of United States recruiting for Credit Suisse. “The amount of analysts that we try to keep for the associate promotion process has grown over recent years.”

Admissions officers at top business schools say finance firms always try to hold onto their best employees when the economy is good. They say interest from applicants working in finance is not declining and their graduates still land a large number of top finance jobs. What administrators at business schools do not know — largely because their admissions and career placement offices are separate — is whether their students with a finance background are staying in that industry.

Recruiters at banks say a large number of the students that they are hiring from business schools are from an international background or are changing careers. These students are valuable, they say, but they come in with a different background from someone who has been in finance since age 22.

Jeffrey Talpins, chief investment officer at Element Capital Management, a small fixed-income hedge fund in New York, says he likes to hire people fresh out of school so he can teach them himself. Mr. Talpins attended Yale as an undergraduate but did not go to business school. If a young employee asked his advice on business school, he says, he would tell them not to go if they wanted to stay in finance. “I’d say, ‘You already have a great platform for a job in finance,’ ” he says. “If you’re a superstar, and you’re very good, you’ll grow very rapidly in this field.”

Eventually, these young people may want to raise money and start their own fund, suggests Thomas Caleel, director of admissions at Wharton, and that’s where an M.B.A. and the connections that come with it could help. “If you are trying to raise money for a hedge fund, you will need that network,” he says.

Mr. Talpins of Element said he had no trouble raising money for his hedge fund without an M.B.A. After all, he had a track record from Citi and Goldman Sachs to show to potential investors. In his corner of the world, where math equations are likely to be scrawled on white boards around the office and young people hold the purse strings to millions of dollars in investor money, it seems there is no point in going to business school just to punch a ticket.

In 2005, Trader Monthly named Mr. Talpins one of the top 30 traders under 30. “Youth is not wasted on this crop, any of whom could be a billionaire by 40,” the magazine said. “Or, then again, they could be belly up and bust.”

Mr. Hammond of Alerian, who was featured on the magazine’s list last year, said he has seen people go to hedge funds and get fired in six months “because they couldn’t hack it.”

But he says the risk is worth it.

“If you look at the really successful hedge fund managers — the Eddie Lamperts,” he says, “they’re all in their 40s now. They were probably making only low single-digit millions in their 20s.

“That’s why you do this,” he continues. “That’s why it’s so attractive, because the payoff of being the winner, the next Eddie Lampert, is so high.”