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Education Roundup: New iPad App Revolutionizes Textbooks

In this week's roundup: Apple teams up with textbook publishers to create iBook 2 for iPad.

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Welcome to the High School Notes weekly roundup of education news. Every Friday, you'll find out what's making headlines around the Web. 

Digital textbooks 

Apple unveiled the iBooks 2 app for the iPad on Thursday, which may lighten the load in students' backpacks. With iBooks 2, which is now available for free through the iTunes App Store, students will have access to interactive E-textbooks, which will include features such as movies and digital note-taking. Apple teamed up with publishing giants McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which make up more than 90 percent of the American textbook market, for the project.

Apple also announced that any iPad user can write one of these interactive E-textbooks through a free tool called iBooks Author. And with the iTunes U app, teachers can build an interactive syllabus that could send students directly to the assigned page in an E-textbook. Teachers can also use iTunes U to make online courses with video, documents, podcasts, and books.

Teacher troubles

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the state's teachers union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), an ultimatum Tuesday. The union has 30 days to drop its 2011 lawsuit, which was filed because the union believed the state's teacher regulation guidelines too heavily weighted standardized tests. If NYSUT doesn't meet Cuomo's demand, then he says he will change the state's teacher evaluation law himself, through a budget amendment.

Meanwhile, in Boston, hundreds of teachers rallied this week to speed up a contract negotiation process that has lasted for roughly 20 months. Since their previous contracts expired in August 2010, the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) and school officials have been trying to agree on new contracts, but have run into issues as the union is requesting about $116 million in salary increases. The Boston School Department is proposing $32 million.

Standardized testing

In an attempt to curb cheating on standardized tests, the Department of Education is asking the public for help. On Tuesday, the Department announced it's seeking "information about best practices that have been used to prevent, detect, and respond to irregularities in academic testing." The data will be collected through a series of questions, which "interested members of the public" may respond to by February 16.


Experts believe more high schools nationwide will begin to lose their accreditation for reasons such as poor academic performance, dysfunctional school governance, and financial fraud, reported USA Today. Terry Holliday, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, thinks the standards for accreditation have become more rigorous because the business community expects more skilled workers out of high school. Losing accreditation can lead to state takeover of the school, students leaving, and a disadvantage for college applicants from that school.

No Child Left Behind

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimates that by the end of the January, the first set of states that requested waivers from No Child Left Behind should officially be approved. In September, President Barack Obama announced that states—especially those considered to be "failing"—could be waived from key requirements of the legislation. Since then, 11 states have applied for waivers.

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