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FY 2016 Budget Progress and More Privacy Legislation

The federal FY 2016 budget process is now well under way. Last week Congress passed a joint budget resolution, the first such resolution in five years. It includes what is known as a 302(a) allocation that sets a total amount of money for the Appropriations Committees to spend, which is $1.017 trillion for FY 2016. Once the 302(a) allocation is set, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees set 302(b) allocations which divide the $1.017 total appropriation among 12 subcommittees, each of which deal with a different part of the budget. Those subcommittees then decide how to distribute funds within their 302(b) allocations. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education allocation for FY 2016 is $153 billion, $3 billion lower than the FY 2015 total. As I've said earlier, under this scenario flat funding for the Department of Education would be good news. Certainly there's no room to accommodate the $3.5 billion increase included in the President's FY 2016 budget request. It's likely that a number of subcommittees will have difficulty crafting their appropriations bills in light of their tight budget allocations. The President has threatened to veto any spending bills that come in at sequestration levels, setting up the potential for a drawn-out battle between Congress and the administration down the road. Read More »

Speak Up Student Data

A few weeks ago, Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, presented the Speak Up 2014 National Findings for Students at a Congressional briefing. Speak Up 2014 gathered responses from 431,231 K-12 students representing over 8,000 schools and 2,600 districts in the United States and around the world. Later releases will look at educator and parent data. The student data offers a glimpse of not only what students are doing with technology in their classrooms, but also what they think about those activities, what they would like to be doing, and how they use technology and digital resources outside of school. Read More »

Competency-Based Education, IMS Initiatives

Competency-based education seems to be gaining real traction in the higher ed space. Kaplan University is making a personalized Competency Report available to all 42,000 of its online students. The report provides ratings along a six point scale (No Progress, Introductory, Emergent, Practiced, Proficient, Mastery) of the skills and knowledge students demonstrated throughout their course of study. It includes how the student applies the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors required to execute work-related activities and projects. The report will stand side-by-side with the University's more traditional graded transcript. The vast majority of Kaplan University students are adult. The Competency Report attempts to provide employers with information more closely tied to skills they may be seeking in potential employees. Read More »

Student Privacy, Digital Learning Report Card

The "Student Data Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015" was formally introduced in the House this week. The bill is sponsored by Rep Luke Messer (R-IN) and Rep Jared Polis (D-CO). The bill, which in its original form was considered by many to be too "vendor friendly", has undergone significant changes. The definition of "covered information" has been expanded to include metadata and other information that is generated when students use vendors' products. Vendors would be required to delete student data within a year of ceasing the provision of services to the student or his or her educational institution and within 45 days of receiving a request from an educational institution or a parent. They would also need to disclose all third parties with whom the share student information, as well as getting those third parties to agree in writing not to use the disclosed information for any new purposes, make any further disclosures and maintain reasonable security measures. The bill also includes the usual requirements that vendors not sell student information or use it to target students with advertising, maintain reasonable security, and make notification in the case of a data breach. The bill gives enforcement powers, including the right to impose penalties to the Federal Trade Commission. Read More »

ECS Resources, Personalization

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has been busy these past few months as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. ECS is a national organization created to serve the needs of the states. It brings together governors, state legislators, K-12 and higher education department chiefs and other education leaders, tracking state policy trends, providing unbiased advice and creating opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another. Recently it has released a series of Policy Analysis and Education Trend reports on a variety of subjects. These reports are tightly focused and typically backed up by a related database that details policy or actions across the 50 states. They serve as great starting points if you want to explore a new market or think through a new marketing approach. Read More »

Pew on Teens and Technology

Last week, the Pew Research Center released "Teens, Social Media and Technology Overview 2015", the first in a series of reports on teens' (ages 13 to 17) technology use. This report examines teens' access to and use of smartphones, basic cell phones, desktop or laptop computers, tablets, and game consoles. The data is examined by a number of demographics including age, gender, race and household income. Read More »

ESEA, FERPA, Ed Tech Developers Guide

The Senate HELP Committee has released its bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill (if you’re not up for 600 pages of text, try the summary). The general reaction from the various stakeholder groups, including the President and some of the civil rights community, has been, “It’s a good start.” In order to be bipartisan, the bill includes a number of compromises, which have been negotiated over the past few months between Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), without much input from the rest of the committee. Read More »

Musings

I and the technicians at my ISP have become great friends these last few days and it still feels like it's all glued together with chewing gum. With all the disruption, I won't pretend to have much to say today. I do have an apology to make to all the education leaders, visionaries, trendsetters and the developers and publishers of instructional materials who were honored as finalists and winners of the 2015 EdTech Digest Awards. When posting the story last week, I inadvertently copied the list from 2014 rather than 2015's new list. We caught the error pretty quickly, but if you not sure you saw the correct listing, check out the story here. It's a pretty amazing list of people and companies doing great work to support teachers and students.

I'm still on the lookout for Spring, which is in full bloom one day, just before the snow squalls set back in. I wish all of our readers a Blessed Easter and Passover and the joys of Spring. Read More »

White House Science Fair and STEM

On Monday, President Obama hosted the 5th White House Science Fair, featuring 36 exhibits manned by young scientists and engineers from across the country. Participating students had all previously won honors at a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, such as FIRST Robotics, the National eCybermission Competition, the Intel Science Talent Search, Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and the Google Science Fair, among others. This year's event included a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work. There's a video of the highlights at https://www.whitehouse.gov/science-fair, including a wonderful segment of the President interacting with a team of six-year old Girl Scouts who had created a battery-powered page turner for people who are paralyzed or have arthritis (and who seemed decidedly unimpressed by being at the White House). Read More »

FY 2016 Budget Process Begins

The House of Representatives will take up the FY 2016 budget resolution next week, following its passage Thursday by the House Budget Committee on a purely partisan 22 to 13 vote. The resolution – a Balanced Budget for a Stronger America – reflects the House’s aggressive deficit reduction and pro-defense spending stance. The House resolution promises to balance the budget by 2024 by cutting about $5.5 trillion of spending over the ten year period. While maintaining the Budget Control Act spending caps for FY16, going forward, the budget resolution lowers discretionary budget authority to $372 billion below sequester levels through 2025 and increases defense spending by $387 billion. It achieves this redistribution by making $759 billion in non-defense cuts. That makes for a pretty grim outlook for the education, social services and health care programs that fall into this non-defense discretionary spending bucket. Read More »