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An Eventful Week

Before turning to the news, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday weekend. We all have so much for which to give thanks!

It's been a busy news week.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a $1.5 billion increase in the E-Rate spending cap, the first increase in E-Rate funding since the program's inception in 1997. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on December 11.

Congress passed and the President signed into law the Child Care and Development Block Grant of 2014. The legislation had broad bi-partisan support.

President Obama and Sec. Duncan hosted a gathering of superintendents - recognized for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning - at the White House this week. A centerpiece of the event was the signing - both actual and virtual of the Future Ready Digital Pledge.

The K-12 OER Collaborative, an initiative led by a group of 11 states with the goal of creating comprehensive, high-quality, open educational resources, released a Request for Proposals to create open educational resources (OER) supporting K-12 mathematics and English language arts. Read More »

CEM Wrap Up, ESEA Flexibility Renewals

October was Connected Educator Month (CEM). The organizers report that more than 800 organizations participated, including almost everyone who had participated in 2013 and many new companies, organizations, states and districts. In early November, organizers reported that 940 events and activities had been listed on the CEM calendar. There were also a number of events and activities that took place "off-calendar. More educators and others were reached around the world every day (15-16M) via Twitter alone than all of CEM 2013 (14M+). Though the level of activity will slow, organizers will continue to promote new events and other key activities on the calendar.

Tech & Learning magazine announced the winners of the 2014 Tech & Learning Awards of Excellence. The magazine has been recognizing outstanding ed tech products for over 30 years, both new offerings and significantly updated products that help educators in the business of teaching, training and managing with technology. All entries are given a rigorous test-driving by qualified educators in several rounds of judging. See the complete list of winners in the Announcements section of today's newsletter.

The Department of Education doesn't seem to be intimidated by the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate. This week, it published its new guidelines for renewal requests of ESEA Flexibility. The waiver program is not looked on with much favor among most Republicans (and a share of Democrats). Congress could short circuit the waiver process by finally acting to reauthorize ESEA. But passing a truly bipartisan bill, one that the President will sign, will not be easy. Read More »

Election Results

EdSurge and Digital Promise announced the inaugural winners of the “Digital Innovation in Learning Awards.” There are a lot of awards and recognition programs in our industry, but I must say the names of these awards stand out from the pack – like the Walk the Walk Award which was won by S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools. Dr. Dance was one of the speakers at this year’s EdNET Conference and his passion for teaching and learning was evident. You can view the panel discussion Dr. Dance participated in here.

On Monday, Nov 17, SIIA is hosting a webinar on the Student Privacy Pledge. More than three dozen leading K-12 school service providers have signed the Pledge since the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) launched it in early October. If you’re wondering if this is something your company should consider, this is your chance to learn more about the Pledge. The webinar will provide background and context, explain the dozen specific pledge commitments, share the perspectives of signatory companies and education leaders, and address questions about the Pledge and the signature process. As I said several weeks ago, the Pledge is a proactive effort to focus attention on school service providers "good behavior," detailing industry practices that not only meet but go beyond existing federal requirements. You can find more information and register here.

And then there are the election results… Read More »

CCSS Materials, Apple's ConnectED Initiative

Capstone chose the perfect venue - the School Library Journal Leadership Summit - to debut "School Libraries Matter: The Changing Role of the School Librarian," a short film it produced with the help of educators across the nation. Watch the film at http://bit.ly/1nzvID3.

Educators are getting access to more Common Core materials. Achieve released 50 lessons rated Exemplar (well-aligned with the Common Core and ready for immediate use in classrooms) or Exemplar if Improved (aligned, but require some improvement in one or more dimensions of the rubric). The materials were submitted by states, districts, partners and educators and were reviewed and rated by the EQuIP Peer Review Panel, a group of expert reviewers who have been trained to apply the EQuIP Rubrics and quality review process. Publishers and developers might want to check out some of these reviewed lessons to get an idea of what characterizes highly-rated materials.

ASCD announced the Common Core Resources Project on iTunes U. The Project is a curation of instructional resources and assessment sample items that will help educators successfully implement the CCSS and teach effectively using iPads. The project features 23 iTunes U courses designed by teacher teams comprised of Apple Distinguished Educators, members of PARCC Educator Leader Cadres, and ASCD teachers.

Apple announced that 114 schools will receive ConnectED grants, fulfilling its $100 million commitment to ConnectED. Every student at the schools will receive an iPad, teachers and administrators will get an iPad and MacBooks, and every classroom will be equipped with Apple TV. Read More »

Bridging the Word Gap

Last week the White House, along with Too Small to Fail and the Urban Institute, hosted an event focused on bridging the word gap. We've known for 20 years that during the first three years of life poor children hear roughly 30 million fewer total words than their more affluent peers, putting them at a distinct disadvantage not only for school success but also for long-term health outcomes, earnings, and family stability. During the event the Administration announced a coordinated effort by the Department of Education (ED), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help parents address this critical issue. Read More »

Privacy Pledge

Last week, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) announced a K-12 school service providers Pledge to safeguard student privacy. A small leadership group supported the launch by signing the Pledge. Over the next several months, SIIA and FPF will solicit additional support from school service providers and work to make educators and parents aware of the Pledge and the industry's commitment to protect student privacy.

SIIA and FPF built the Pledge around a dozen commitments regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information, including not selling student information, not targeting advertising based on student behavior or profiles and using data only for authorized education purposes. These are all things most school service providers are already doing. The Pledge is a proactive effort to focus attention on "good behavior," detailing industry practices that not only meet but go beyond existing federal requirements. It is also meant to encourage service providers to more clearly articulate their practices. Transparency and clarity can go a long way in building trust among educators and parents. Learn more at http://studentprivacypledge.org/?page_id=45 Read More »

Educator Support for the Common Core

There are several surveys and polls making the news this week, focused on the implementation of the Common Core. Surveys are always subject to interpretation, but I think the message is pretty clear at this point. It's interesting to note that during EdNET the Common Core was hardly ever the focus of the discussion. It was, however, the assumed given, a defining element of classroom instruction and pedagogy. While the politics of the Common Core will continue to be divisive, classroom and district realities are more positive, focused on moving forward and getting the job done.

The teacher's voice is captured in "Teachers' Views on Common Core State Standards." This survey was fielded by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in July 2014, a follow-up to the third edition of the Primary Sources survey of America's teachers that was conducted in 2013.

Superintendents' views are represented in "Understanding Perspectives on American Public Education" based on a Gallup/Education Week survey, the second of three surveys Gallup has planned to track and understand superintendents' opinions on important topics and issues facing education.

"Common Core State Standards in 2014: Districts' Perceptions, Progress, and Challenges," from the Center on Education Policy, is based on a nationally representative sample of school districts in Common Core-adopting states. CEP has been conducting research on the Common Core with district leaders since 2009. Read More »

In the News

MDR's EdNET Conference kicks off this Sunday in Baltimore. The registration list shows healthy representation from both long-established education market companies and start-ups and entrepreneurs. I'm looking forward to seeing long-time friends and meeting the many new players. For those of you unable to attend, we'll be sharing information on trends and insights shared at EdNET in future issues of the News Alert.

Just a few things to be aware of this week.

Congress has passed a Continuing Resolution that will fund FY 2015 government operations through Dec 11, 2014. Funding levels essentially flat with those of FY 2014.

For anyone here in Chicago, Startup Weeekend Education kicks off tonight, Sept 26, at 6PM at National Louis University, the site of last year's successful inaugural event.

October is Connected Educator Month, the third annual celebration of professional collaboration, designed to help more educators get proficient with social media. It's not too late to get your message in front of participating educators.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education and Getting Smart have launched the My School Information Design Challenge, a national competition to rethink and redesign the way in which key data is presented on school report cards.

Read More »

Learning Games, PDK/Gallup

Today marks the last day of Operation Play, the weeklong game-based learning initiative. Organized by our friends at Filament Games, the event was designed to celebrate those innovative educators who are implementing game-based learning in their classrooms. It featured social media giveaways, a video case study series, educator podcasts, a game-based learning community and of course, learning games. Operation Play partners included BrainPOP, GlassLab Games, MIT's Education Arcade, Institute of Play, iCivics, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, GamesandLearning.org, WorkingExamples.org, the Gaming in Ed Conference of Learning Revolution.com and edWeb.net There's still time to get a glimpse of the goings on a the Operation Play Resource Center at https://www.filamentgames.com/operation-play . Read More »

Another CR; Cyber Security Awareness Month

The new federal fiscal year starts on Oct 1. That means Congress has to do something about the FY 2015 budget. No one wants to see a government shutdown in an election year. On Tuesday, Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution that would fund federal programs and services at the FY 2104 spending rate of $1.02 trillion until December 11, 2014. The bill was crafted to win support - there are no controversial riders or significant changes to existing federal policy - and was expected to pass in both the House and Senate. There are no changed to anything affected the Department of Education and its budget, so it will be business as usual for the next several months.
A vote was expected on Thursday, but the process is paused right now while Congress decides how to deal with the President's request for funding to support the effort to defeat the Islamic State militants. Congress will get this CR passed. The lessons of the last government shut down are still raw. It's likely that another CR would be passed before the December expiration date, leaving any final appropriations legislation for the new Congress to deal with in 2015. Read More »