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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 »

Digital Learning Day and More

Today is Digital Learning Day (DLD). This is the fourth celebration of the event, created in 2012 by the Alliance for Excellent Education. More than 1,000 local celebrations across the country have been registered on the DLD site.

At 1 PM Eastern, the Alliance will host Digital Learning Day Live!, a one-hour live broadcast from the Teaching & Learning conference in Washington, DC, to an in-person audience of more than 3,000 teachers and administrators as well as hundreds of thousands of educators who will be watching online. The broadcast will feature the stories of four innovative districts-Baltimore County Public Schools, Houston Independent School District, Huntsville School District (AR), and Vista Unified School District and include national leaders in education technology. It's always fun to listen to districts talk about the ways they have used technology to empower and support teachers and learners. Read More »

EdReports Releases First Reviews

More fuel to splash on the simmering fire of discontent around the alignment of instructional materials to the Common Core standards appeared this week. When it launched in August last year, EdReports described its mission as producing free reviews of instructional materials focused on alignment to the Common Core and other indicators of high quality. Its first collection of product reviews was released this week. You've probably seen the resulting headlines declaring that the materials were, for the most part, found lacking.

In fact most of the 20 products, from 9 publishers, were never fully reviewed, not having made it past the first "gateway" which evaluated the extent to which the product focused on appropriate grade level work and was coherent (made strong connections between the mathematical content). Only seven products made the cut for Gateway 2 where reviewers considered the rigor of the materials and evaluated connections to the mathematical practices. Only one product made it to Gateway 3 where the review reviewed focused on how well products support teachers in reaching all students and their ease of use in the classroom. Read More »

Net Neutrality, ESEA

Regulatory decisions and legislation continue to move forward.

The Federal Communications Commission approved net neutrality rules on a 3-2 partisan vote this Thursday.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the Student Success Act today on a purely partisan basis.

The Senate HELP committee continues to work toward fielding a bipartisan reauthorization bill, but it's slow going. Read More »

A Research Accelerator

Education Week reported an interesting story this week about a new organization designed to bridge the gap between educators and companies developing educational products. Education leaders continue to report difficulty with vetting educational products. They are skeptical about alignment claims, wary of company-sponsored efficacy research and frustrated with the complexities of running pilots and ensuring that their feedback on products is heard and implemented. The Jefferson Education Accelerator plans to build a network of educators, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors who will work together to evaluate, research, improve and implement high-potential ed tech. Read More »

News Roundup

It was a busy week all around with a lot of activity on the Hill, though it's all still very early stage for the most part. For now, stay aware, lobby a bit if you like and keep an especially wary eye on the data privacy initiatives.

On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee marked up its ESEA reauthorization legislation and passed it out of Committee on a partisan basis. No real surprises here.

Thursday the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing to explore the use of new technology in the classroom and examine the need to modernize the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The President is moving forward on his commitment to ensure K-12 student data is used only for educational purposes. The White House announced that Rep Luke Messer (R-IN) and Rep Jared Polis (D-CO) will introduce legislation to fulfill that promise in the House. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also intends to pursue bipartisan legislation.

Sen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2015, a reauthorization of the original EETT that was defunded in 2011. Since then ed tech supporters have made a number of attempts to pass new legislation that would create a funding stream dedicated to educational technology. Read More »

FY16 Budget Request, House ESEA Reauthorization

As promised, President Obama delivered his FY 2016 Budget request on Monday. The overall FY 2016 request for the Department of Education totals $70.7 billion, up 5.4% from FY 2015. In many ways it seems more like a wish list than a real budget plan. For one thing, it does not deliver a balanced budget, a non-starter for the Republicans who now control Congress. There are a few areas where the President's request is likely to be well received (supporting manufacturing, medical research) and others that might at least open a dialogue around the issues (tax reform, cybersecurity), but there doesn't seem to be much in the K-12 education budget that falls in either category. There may be some hope for increases to Title I and I.D.E.A. Read More »

Budget Realities

President Obama is expected to release his FY 2016 Budget Request on Monday and those in the know say that he will ask for a $2.7 billion increase in education spending. That is more than double the $1.3 billion increases President Obama proposed for FY2015 and well outside what might be expected under the budget cap imposed by the Budget Control Act. Despite that proposed increase, I would be surprised to find big bumps in proposed funding for the core education programs - Title I, I.D.E.A, ELL funding. Read More »

Assessment in the Spotlight

Reauthorization is moving ahead. The Senate is taking the lead for now, with Sen Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) saying he hopes to complete committee markup of his draft bill by the end of February. The bill would then move to the Senate floor for debate, which Alexander expects to last at least two weeks. Rep John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee says he plans to have reauthorization legislation passed by the end of March. The House legislation will be based on the Student Success Act that passed the full House last year. Committee markup is expected to start in the next several weeks. Read More »