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Librarians Are Key

I am so looking forward to EdNET this year. It will be wonderful to reconnect with long-time friends and industry colleagues as well as to meet new people and learn about new organizations who working on education solutions. Safe travels everyone. See you in Atlanta.

I was at an event at the local grade school this week that reminded me about what a gift a good librarian is to a school's teachers and students. I think we sometimes forget about the amazing things that librarians/media center specialists do to support learning at their schools. Librarians are at the heart of the school information network. They know a lot about what's going on in individual classrooms. They distribute catalogs with personal notes pointing out resources just right for the next unit a teacher is planning. They forward e-mails to the "right" people and introduce teachers to new products of all sorts. The library is often home to the school's maker space.

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2015 E-Rate Analysis

Funds for Learning has published its analysis of funding request data for E-Rate funding year 2015. In FY2015, there were 27,132 applicants for E-Rate funding. They requested a total of $3.92 billion. Category 1 requests (Internet access, leased data lines and phone service) totaled $2.25 billion. Category 2 requests (purchase, maintenance or operation of on-site networks) totaled $1.67 billion.

Of the 27,132 applicants, 91% submitted funding requests for voice telephony services, 81% for Internet access and data lines, and 39% for Category 2 services (e.g. Wi-Fi and other internal connections). Category 2 demand was greatest for switches and routers, Wi-Fi equipment and data cabling.

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Analyzing Classroom Assignments

The U.S. Department of Education has hired its first ever open education adviser to lead a national effort that, in the Department's words, "will expand schools' access to high-quality, openly-licensed learning resources." Andrew Marcinek will work in the Office of Educational Technology reporting to OET's director, Richard Culatta. Marcinek will be responsible for helping both K-12 and higher education connect with teaching, learning and research resources that are freely available to anyone over the web. Though the Department has long been a champion of OER, actually hiring someone to promote OER comes as something of a surprise, at least to me.

Now that PARCC has set (and released) the cut scores for its English/language arts and math tests in grades 3-8 (high school scores were set earlier), states are beginning to report results. Illinois and Ohio have released preliminary test score reports.

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TNTP Report on Teacher Development

I've revisited "The Mirage" report from TNTP on teacher development several times, trying to decide what I want to say about it. You will remember that it was released last month and many of the headlines about the report went something like this: "Time and Money Spent on Professional Development Is Largely Wasted." TNTP studied teacher development in three large school districts and one charter school network. Rather than examining a specific type of professional development to determine its effectiveness, TNTP worked backwards, first identifying teachers who had improved significantly over a two-year period and then looking for development experiences they had in common. Researchers used a broad definition of "professional development" to include efforts carried out by districts, schools and teachers themselves. Read More »

Connected Educator Month and more...

Just a few things that readers may want to know about:

October is Connected Educator Month, the fourth 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.

Applications are now open for the Software and Education Industry Association's 2015 Innovation Incubator Program. SIIA is looking for early-revenue stage ed tech companies with products or services that are innovative and unlike any others on the market.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is taking a number of steps to ensure a better testing experience for its member states in 2015-16, including an outside evaluation of the quality and performance of its open source test-delivery platform.

The FCC is making progress on bringing broadband to rural America. This week, the FCC announced that with the exception of Verizon, the price cap carriers accepted 95% of their Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II allocations. Read More »

PDK/Gallup, Education Next Polls

There's been a lot of attention devoted these past few weeks to two public opinion polls - the PDK/Gallup and Education Next. PDK released the results of its 47th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools last week. With its long history, this poll can provide a lot of historical context, allowing readers to see how opinion has changed over time. Education Next released its ninth version of its national poll the week earlier. Education Next asks alternative questions on the same topic in order to determine the sensitivity of opinion to new information and particular wording. Much of the press coverage has focused on the differences that the polls found in support for the Common Core and around questions related to testing. While there are differences, a careful read of the way the questions were posed and even the answer options offered helps explain a lot of what the supposed disagreement. Even question order has an impact. If you're really interested in this sort of thing, you will want to go directly to the survey documents to get the most unbiased perspective on the issues covered. Read More »

Rapid Cycle Tech Evaluations

The Department of Education is seeking proposals from entities interested in developing a systematic approach to evaluating educational software applications purchased with Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) program funds. Educational software applications are defined as applications, platforms, and other tools implemented in an educational setting. The solicitation, for what the Department calls Rapid Cycle Tech Evaluations (RCTE), is an attempt to address the problems schools are having sorting through the avalanche of apps to find those that have some evidence of working. The idea is to help develop protocol tools for conducting rapid cycle evaluations of apps that practitioners, developers, and researchers can use beyond the scope of the 16-month evaluation project. Read More »

School Starts, NY Test Scores, NGSS

Ready or not, vacation is over and the 2015-16 school year is upon us. As someone who never entered a classroom until after Labor Day, mid-August starts still seem a bit strange to me, to say nothing of one of our local high school districts that started school on August 11. MDR's data show that roughly 25% of schools open sometime between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 and another 25% sometime after Aug. 31. Though every state has a number of early and late opening schools, early openings are concentrated largely in the South (AL, GA, KY, LA, MS, TN) and Midwest (IN, MO, OK, NE) along with AZ, HI, NM and roughly 45% of California's schools. The majority of schools in MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, VA, WA and WI open after Aug 31. The next few weeks will be full of the excitement, tinged with anxiety, which all new beginnings bring. Hopefully the anxiety recedes and the excitement grows as teachers and students share the learning journey. Read More »

Teachers and Data

Results from two new surveys related to student data were released in July. Lexia Learning surveyed teachers at ISTE about their ability to access, interpret and use student data, while T.H.E. Journal surveyed K-12 education decision-makers on the use of data and its impact on student learning in their schools and districts and produced a very useful infographic that displays the results. And back in June the Gates Foundation released "Making Data Work for Teachers and Students," based on the responses of more than 4,600 teachers about the digital tools available to help them collect and use data to tailor and improve instruction for individual students.

High level takeaways:

Teachers almost universally agree that data is an important tool, especially in light of their desire to personalize student learning

Teachers believe that many of the tools they currently use do not deliver information fast enough, efficiently enough or clearly enough to make it easy for them to use the data to make decisions about instruction.

The majority of teachers are not comfortable connecting data to instruction. Read More »

AIM Expenditures, News Items

MDR released its annual accounting of public school districts' spending for all instructional materials (AIM), confirming that the school market is finally in recovery. Total AIM expenditures for K-12 public schools were $11.8 billion in 2013-2014, a 9% increase and the first increase in AIM spending since 2007-08. Though still not back to pre-recession levels, this dramatic increase pumped over $964 million into the school materials market. AIM is defined as all supplies and materials used for instructional purposes, including textbooks, instructional supplies, books, magazines, and newspaper subscriptions purchased for the school library, educational media and software, but excluding hardware technology. Read More »