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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 »

ConnectHome

The President launched the next phase of his plan to expand access to high-speed Internet. Building on ConnectED, with its goal of connecting 99% of K-12 students to high-speed Internet in their classrooms over the next five years, ConnectHome aims to ensure that students also have high-speed access from their homes.

This is a relatively small effort. ConnectHome is focused on increasing Internet access for low-income families in 28 communities, including the Choctaw Nation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in collaboration with EveryoneOn and US Ignite, is working with private- and public-sector leaders to build local partnerships that will bring broadband, technical assistance, and digital literacy training to students living in public and assisted housing. Mayors in the identified communities have committed to reallocate local funds, leverage local programming, and use regulatory tools to support this initiative and the expansion of broadband access in low-income communities. Read More »

WA Opt-Out Statistics, Market Maps

On July 16, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, its bill reauthorizing ESEA, on an 81-17 vote. After more than a week of debate, the bill was not changed in any substantive way from its original format. None of the amendments focused on strengthening the bill's accountability features passed, though Democrats mustered 43 (including one Republican) votes for a fairly strong accountability measure. That's enough to block the passage of a conference bill that does not include more accountability measures. The bill now moves to conference to iron out the differences between the House and Senate version It will require careful negotiation to create a final bill that both chambers can pass. Read More »

ESEA Reauthorization, Common Core Test Results

Today's News Alert is very long, including as many of the news headlines that came out of last week's ISTE Conference as I could find. I've shortened headlines as much as possible to save space and for companies that made multiple announcements I only included the one I thought most news worthy in this e-mail edition. All the headlines can be found by browsing the various sections of the newsletter at ednetinsight.com or clicking through on the section you're interested in in this e-mail.

Having missed ISTE, I can only report on what crossed my desk (though a number of people I talked with reported high energy and big crowds, "more like the old days"). Platforms continue to proliferate. It's too early to tell how many platforms the schools will ultimately support, in part because the market continues to evolve. In the end, a platform vendor has to work hard at developing an complete ecosystem - the more you can access via the platform, the more people you have doing that and the more collaboration the platform supports -- , the more chance the platform has of becoming an "old standard" down the road. Read More »

Lifeline Expansion, FY16 Education Budget

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted along partisan lines to expand the Lifeline program by adding broadband internet service as a supported service. The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Report seeked public comments on a variety of questions about how best to modernize the Lifeline program so that all consumers can access advanced networks while increasing the program's accountability and efficiency. The FCC's call for comments raises a number of questions about how best to modernize the Lifeline program, including issues around identifying low-income households that include school children and ensure they are aware of and have the opportunity to participate in a broadband access program, adopting minimum service standards for both voice and broadband service, reducing subsidy support for Lifeline supported mobile voice-only service, and encouraging more competition to improve price and service. Read More »

Millennials' Tech Skills

There's a story going around in the ed tech press about millennials having low technology skills. The first time I saw the headlines I thought - that's not really news. But after two or three more appearances in my news feed, I checked it out. Change the Equation (CTEq), a coalition of corporate and education organizations committed to improving STEM learning for every child, commissioned the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to analyze raw data from the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), a household study conducted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Remember that millennials are the first generation of people who grew up with computers and the internet, the so-called digital natives. Millennials spend on average 35 hours per week on digital media. But CTEq's analysis found that 58% have low skills in solving problems with technology. An international comparison of millennials' performance on PIAAC's technology test ranked the United States last out of 19 participating countries. Read More »