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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 »

ESEA Flexibilty Gets More Complex

ESEA Flexibility seems to get more complicated by the day. Of the 34 states that applied for a waiver extension, 22 states have been granted extensions for the 2014-15 school year. It seems likely that the remaining 11 extension applicants will get their extension letters soon, though Arizona and Oregon are ranked as "high risk," mostly because of problems with their teacher evaluation systems. Oklahoma became the only state to have its waiver extension request denied. Washington state had its waiver revoked back in April. Washington needed existing state law to be amended to require teacher and principal evaluations to include student growth on state tests. That legislation failed early in 2014. But now that the Department of Education has pushed back by one year the timeline for incorporating student growth on state assessments into the new teacher evaluation systems, Washington state education officials feel that the extra year may have allowed them to work out the legislative roadblock. Meanwhile, some news outlets are reporting that Oklahoma's governor is considering suing the Department of Education over its waiver denial. That has the potential to become a big problem. Read More »

Waivers for the ESEA Waivers

Somehow this piece of news slipped by me. In mid-August, Rep. John Kline, Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions have asked the Government Accounting Office to initiate an investigation of the ESEA Flexibility (waivers) initiative. In their letter to the GAO , the two Republican leaders asked the agency to study the criteria used for waiver determination, the changes states have made to comply with waiver requirements, the average time, resources and legislative action required to seek and maintain waiver approval, and some of the requirements surrounding implementation of the teacher and principal evaluation systems. Republican have long complained that the Department of Education has used the ESEA Flexibility initiative to establish new requirements that are not authorized by Congress and step well beyond the bounds of the current legislation. Kline and Alexander pointed out what they see as uneven application of the requirements as the Department goes about approving waiver extensions, especially around the new educator evaluation systems. Read More »

PDK/Gallup and EdNext Polls

Two polls were released this week examining the publics' attitudes about American education. Though a lot of attention has been paid to the half dozen or so question devoted to the Common Core Standards, both PDK/Gallup and Education Next (EdNext) cover a broader range of topics. PDK will be publishing the results of its 46th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools in two sections this year. The first, published this week covers American's opinions on the Common Core State Standards, student standardized testing, international comparisons, school governance, and school choice. A report scheduled for October will focus on teacher preparation and evaluation, support for reforming America's schools, student well-being, and preparing students for college and careers. In its eight version of its national poll, EdNext asked respondents about their knowledge of and evaluation of American schools, school spending, school choice policies, personnel policies, Common Core Standards and college readiness. The PDK/Gallup poll provides a lot of historical context, allowing readers to see how opinion has changed over time. EdNext probes more deeply on some questions, developing a context within which to understand the original "Agree" or "Disagree" response. Read More »

Teachers on the Common Core, State Broadband Activity

Education Week has released a new report, "From Adoption to Practice: Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core." The report is based on a survey of educators conducted during the 2013-14 school year. There are no surprises here; the survey confirms what Education Week reported last year and what has been found in several other survey of educators around Common Core-related issues. Essentially teachers are positively disposed to the standards, dubious about the new assessments and somewhat anxious about their own preparation, the resources they have available and the extent to which students are prepared to master the new standards or the assessments linked to them. The best news, and highly consistent with other such surveys, is that most educators believe that the Common Core Standards will improve their own instruction and classroom practice (46% agree, 23% strongly agree) and student learning (38% agree, 27% strongly agree). Read More »

Back-to-School News

The back-to-school stories have been popping up for several weeks now. Companies offering free access to their products, community drives to collect school supplies for children in need, volunteers helping to spruce up classroom or playgrounds. MDR's data show that by mid-August nearly 25% of U.S. schools will already be open with another 50% opening before the end of the month. Summer is quickly drawing to an end.

This week Chicago's Mayor Rohm Emanuel took advantage of a feel-good story to identify with teachers (our Mayor needs all the help he can get when it comes to Chicago's teachers). The Mayor announced that Google and Staples had fully funded every Chicago-based project posted in DonorsChoose.org. As a result, 363 teachers will receive $383,868 worth of classroom supplies ranging from paper, pencils and books to laptops, musical instruments and microscopes. You might be surprised to see how many teachers are asking for basic school and art and craft supplies on DonorsChoose. Read More »

Software Platforms and School Software Use

CDW-G issued a new infographic based on surveys of 175 IT professionals working In K-12 schools. The survey focused on gathering information about the platforms schools are using for both instructional and administrative purposes. Perhaps impacted by surging demand for support of mobile devices, the average school now supports three platforms for instruction and two for administration. Only 17% of districts use only one platform for instruction (Windows is most common), with 28% supporting two platforms (Windows, iOS), 27% supporting three (Windows, iOS and Android) and 28% supporting four platforms (Windows, iOS, Android and Chrome). On the administrative side, 34% of districts support one platform (Windows is most common), 27% support two (Windows, iOS), 17% support three (Windows, iOS and Android) and 22% support four platforms (Windows, iOS, Android and Chrome). Read More »

LRMI Survey Data

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), a joint project of the Association of Educational Publishers - the 501(c)(3) arm of the Association of American Publishers-and Creative Commons - released results from survey of educational publishers and educators designed to gather information about preferences, frustrations, and experiences with searching for and improving the discoverability of educational resources and content online. The Initiative appears to be doing a good job of raising awareness among educational publishers. More than four out of five publishers surveyed (83%) were aware of metadata tagging initiatives, and 72% were specifically aware of the LRMI. Read More »

Teacher PD, Principal Recruitment

Two interesting reports appeared recently. "Beyond Teacher Evaluation: Prioritizing Teacher Instructional Effectiveness with Meaningful Professional Development" was sponsored by School Improvement network and conducted by EdNexus Advisors, LLC. Based on surveys of states' departments of education about the professional learning component of their teacher evaluation policies, the study was designed to gain a better understanding of state policy on providing and funding meaningful teacher professional development tied to teacher evaluations. It highlights activates in Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and South Dakota, states that are making a significant effort to implement teacher support related to evaluations. The Fordham Institute released "Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement" examining how districts go about identifying talent, enlisting the best candidates for the job, and matching their distinctive skills and capabilities to the needs of specific schools, with an in-depth look at five urban school districts that have sought to improve their principal-hiring processes in recent years. Read More »