Microsoft high: Philadelphia and the software giant combine to create the "most unique education structure in the world".HAVE YOU EVER HAD AN IDEA so good that you know if you can just tell the right person, they'll agree and it will happen? That, more or less, was the script when the CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. of the School District of Philadelphia The School District of Philadelphia is a school district based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that includes all public schools in the city of Philadelphia. Established in 1818, it is the eighth largest school district in the nation. , Paul Vallas Paul G. Vallas is the new superintendent of the Recovery School District of New Orleans in Louisiana.
He first gained fame as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). , met with Microsoft more than a year ago.
Vallas asked if Microsoft would consider building a school with the district. Microsoft said maybe, and 15 months later, ground has been broken. In two years, Philadelphia will unveil what is expected to be the "most unique educational structure in the world," according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chair James E. Nevels.
"There was the whole idea of answering the question, 'What if,'" says Mary Cullinane, Microsoft Partners in Learning program manager. "This was a great opportunity to demonstrate public-private partnerships Public-private partnership (PPP) describes a government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. These schemes are sometimes referred to as PPP or P3. .... We really want to raise the bar as to what's expected as the norm for education."
What the partners have come up with so far is a $46 million high school that will serve 750 children. Dubbed dub 1
tr.v. dubbed, dub·bing, dubs
1. To tap lightly on the shoulder by way of conferring knighthood.
2. To honor with a new title or description.
3. the "School of the Future," its goal is at once both simple and complicated. The simple part is that the school will aim to create a replicable model for improved instructional development through the use of technology. The hard part will be translating that sentence into a living and breathing school.
With ground recently broken, a few key tenets have been decided, says Cullinane. The school will feature one-to-one computing, the building will be completely wireless, and there will be a broadband school-to-home connection. Students will also be able to use "smartcards" for everything from the cafeteria to the interactive learning center being built in the middle of the school.
While the paperless environment being created may seem like a revelation, the biggest change is the school--and its curriculum--are being designed around research and development.
Because teachers and administrators will have up-to-date access to students' assessments, in effect a "digital dashboard (software) digital dashboard - A personalised desktop portal that focuses on business intelligence and knowledge management.
Microsoft's version has a launch screen including stock quotes, voice mail and e-mail messages, a calendar, a weather forecast, traffic information, ," both partners hope to embed em·bed also im·bed
v. em·bed·ded, em·bed·ding, em·beds
1. To fix firmly in a surrounding mass: embed a post in concrete; fossils embedded in shale. research and development methods into the daily curriculum, Cullinane says.
A less trumpeted part of the project offers the district some real back-office help. Web-based procurement and online tools to track human resources The fancy word for "people." The human resources department within an organization, years ago known as the "personnel department," manages the administrative aspects of the employees. and payroll management could save the district a significant amount of money, both sides say.
Cullinane points out that while both Microsoft and the district employ a large number of employees, Microsoft's cost of maintaining its workers is lower than Philadelphia's. "This is a huge opportunity to see how they're managing their finance and their space," Cullinane says. "It's a great opportunity to modernize the back-office.
In addition to the promise of being chock-full of technological devices, the high school promises some high-tech design features as well.
The building will be eco-friendly, using natural lighting, water conservation and recycling. The structure is being built in accordance with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Green Building Rating System. Cabinets will be made from the trees that were cleared to make room for the school.
One of the typical school space problems, having a big auditorium that can fit the whole school but is rarely used, was addressed by architects, Cullinane says. The back of the auditorium will have seats on hydraulics hydraulics, branch of engineering concerned mainly with moving liquids. The term is applied commonly to the study of the mechanical properties of water, other liquids, and even gases when the effects of compressibility are small. . These seats can turn around to create a smaller classroom that can be used frequently.
A Curriculum Working Committee comprised of district members, Microsoft workers, members of the community and international education experts will hash out Verb 1. hash out - speak with others about (something); talk (something) over in detail; have a discussion; "We discussed our household budget"
talk over, discuss exactly how the school runs.
As for deciding which devices make the cut, Cullinane says, "Everybody and their brother are saying they have the best of the best.... Research and development will be a key component [of what we choose]. It's not the gadget (1) Slang for any hardware device, typically small. Synonymous with "gizmo."
(2) A mini application that resides on a computer desktop or personal home page, typically found in the Windows environment. of the moment."
As the project progresses, Cullinane says Microsoft's Partners in Learning program will create discovery briefs. These briefs will explain the methods and practices being used in Philadelphia so these ideas can be replicated in other districts.
Still a Neighborhood School
In the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of trying to create the most technologically advanced school in the country, the district is also trying to keep its jewel as just a neighborhood school. Located in West Philadelphia, near the city zoo, the new school will get three-quarters of its students from the surrounding neighborhood. The other spots will be filled by a citywide lottery, but applicants will need no special grades or test scores to apply.
The school will open to 10th graders the first year, then add a grade per year for three years.
"This is not a magnet school magnet school
A public school offering a specialized curriculum, often with high academic standards, to a student body representing a cross section of the community. ," Nevels emphasizes. "We want to make sure access to this school is as broad as possible."
When asked if creating this school would make others in the 214,000-student district feel left out, Nevels says, "This is one of those situations where you have to make a public policy decision.... If we do not dare to dream, we will have failed our students."
Cullinane says the biggest misconception mis·con·cep·tion
A mistaken thought, idea, or notion; a misunderstanding: had many misconceptions about the new tax program. about the project is that people keep asking her, "What's the one thing you're going to do to make this [school] different? That's the wrong question," she says. The changes planned in this school are "all pieces of the pie. When you do all of these things "These Things" is an EP by She Wants Revenge, released in 2005 by Perfect Kiss, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Music Video
The music video stars Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. Track Listing
1. "These Things [Radio Edit]" - 3:17
2. , then you'll achieve success."
What's in a Name?
Poets and writers have long pondered the meaning of names, but in the cold, hard reality of school budgets, the question can be summed up in two words: For Sale.
In the case of the jewel-to-be in the School District of Philadelphia, the price tag is a big one. For $5 million, a company can affix affix v. 1) to attach something to real estate in a permanent way, including planting trees and shrubs, constructing a building, or adding to existing improvements. its name above the front door of the high school being built in partnership with Microsoft.
The district announced its naming plan in November, and it didn't stop at the front door. Individual classrooms are also up for sale (for about $25,000 each), while other sections of the school, such as the auditorium and the gym, can be had for a price.
Actually, Philadelphia went down this path in 1997, offering roughly the same deal to potential sponsors. While no one bit on the $5 million item then, the district did receive a total of $7 million for selling naming rights Naming rights are the right to name a piece of property, either tangible property or an event, usually granted in exchange for financial considerations. Institutions like schools, places of worship and hospitals have a tradition of granting donors the right to name facilities in to various school sections. For instance, Wachovia kicked in $750,000 to put its name on an auditorium
The natural question in this case is: How come Microsoft isn't snapping up this. offer?
While the Seattle-based software giant gives away hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and product each year, this project is different. Because Microsoft wants to see the model of the "school of the future" replicated in other urban districts, it decided early on it would not contribute any money to the district.
When asked about the naming program, Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chair James E. Nevels laughed, but said, "We have no policy in place, but we're open to entertaining [offers]."
Even if the district has buyers for each room in the school, it wouldn't come close to offsetting the building's price tag. Philadelphia is spending $46 million to build the school for 750 students.
But Wait, There's More
Not content to build what it is calling "The School of the Future," Philadelphia is looking to create "classrooms of the future" in 50 of its schools.
The idea for updating the classrooms came directly from the partnership with Microsoft. according to Philadelphia officials. The plan is expected to cost $75 million in the next year.
While the items that will be in the new high school have yet to be determined, the ideas about the classrooms throughout the city are more fleshed out.
Each classroom will likely be wireless, from its clocks to digital cameras, whiteboards, and an audio-enhancement system that will allow students in the back row to hear the teacher clearly. The classes are also expected to include some sort of one-to-one computing platform See platform. .
Two types of schools schools being renovated and schools that have been neglected comprise the list of those getting the new high-tech classrooms. School District CEO Paul Vallas says the plan to create these classrooms is expected to spread to all of the district's 270-plus schools in the years to come.
Wayne D'Orio is editor-in-chief.