From the Editor RSS Feed

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 »

The Educator's Dilemma, Technology Counts

"The Educator's Dilemma: When and how schools should embrace poverty relief" from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation is sure to annoy a number of people. The paper takes on one of the long running debates between school reformers and poverty relief advocates over what it takes to close the achievement gap. Michael and his co-author Julia Freeland argue that this is a false dichotomy. Based on a theory of Christensen and his Harvard colleagues-the theory of interdependence and modularity-they argue that schools "must integrate backward beyond just core academic delivery to design and distribute a range of nonacademic supports." That will upset a lot of traditional school reformers, but the authors suggest two key conditions. It's not just a matter of giving low income students more services but of designing and delivering services in an interdependent manner that allows the school to control the mix and type of services offered to each student. And the driving force behind this backward integration has to be addressing the achievement gap. The paper profiles community schools, Harlem Children's Zone, KIPP and SEED Schools and how they have integrated backward into the nonacademic realms of low-income children's lives. It's an interesting theory. Read More »

Teachers on Data, Diplomas Count

The Gates Foundation has released the latest report in its Teachers Know Best series. "Making Data Work for Teachers and Students" is 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. You can take the traditional route and download the entire report to see how teachers answered questions about their behaviors and beliefs, the specific occasions in which they use data to guide student learning and the challenges they face. Teachers also described and rated current tools and offered advice on ways to make digital tools more effective for teachers and students. Read More »

Personalized Learning

An interesting report was released last week. "Technology-Enabled Personalized Learning: Findings and Recommendations to Accelerate Implementation" summarizes the findings from last year's Technology-Enabled Personalized Learning (TEPL) Summit which was hosted by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University in collaboration with Digital Promise, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA). Leaders from the education industry, associations and nonprofits, and university and K-12 education attended, working together to identified potential solutions and models that might help scale the implementation of personalized learning through technology. The report includes their recommendations. Read More »

FY 2016 Budget Progress and More Privacy Legislation

The federal FY 2016 budget process is now well under way. Last week Congress passed a joint budget resolution, the first such resolution in five years. It includes what is known as a 302(a) allocation that sets a total amount of money for the Appropriations Committees to spend, which is $1.017 trillion for FY 2016. Once the 302(a) allocation is set, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees set 302(b) allocations which divide the $1.017 total appropriation among 12 subcommittees, each of which deal with a different part of the budget. Those subcommittees then decide how to distribute funds within their 302(b) allocations. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education allocation for FY 2016 is $153 billion, $3 billion lower than the FY 2015 total. As I've said earlier, under this scenario flat funding for the Department of Education would be good news. Certainly there's no room to accommodate the $3.5 billion increase included in the President's FY 2016 budget request. It's likely that a number of subcommittees will have difficulty crafting their appropriations bills in light of their tight budget allocations. The President has threatened to veto any spending bills that come in at sequestration levels, setting up the potential for a drawn-out battle between Congress and the administration down the road. Read More »

Speak Up Student Data

A few weeks ago, Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, presented the Speak Up 2014 National Findings for Students at a Congressional briefing. Speak Up 2014 gathered responses from 431,231 K-12 students representing over 8,000 schools and 2,600 districts in the United States and around the world. Later releases will look at educator and parent data. The student data offers a glimpse of not only what students are doing with technology in their classrooms, but also what they think about those activities, what they would like to be doing, and how they use technology and digital resources outside of school. Read More »

Competency-Based Education, IMS Initiatives

Competency-based education seems to be gaining real traction in the higher ed space. Kaplan University is making a personalized Competency Report available to all 42,000 of its online students. The report provides ratings along a six point scale (No Progress, Introductory, Emergent, Practiced, Proficient, Mastery) of the skills and knowledge students demonstrated throughout their course of study. It includes how the student applies the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors required to execute work-related activities and projects. The report will stand side-by-side with the University's more traditional graded transcript. The vast majority of Kaplan University students are adult. The Competency Report attempts to provide employers with information more closely tied to skills they may be seeking in potential employees. Read More »

Student Privacy, Digital Learning Report Card

The "Student Data Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015" was formally introduced in the House this week. The bill is sponsored by Rep Luke Messer (R-IN) and Rep Jared Polis (D-CO). The bill, which in its original form was considered by many to be too "vendor friendly", has undergone significant changes. The definition of "covered information" has been expanded to include metadata and other information that is generated when students use vendors' products. Vendors would be required to delete student data within a year of ceasing the provision of services to the student or his or her educational institution and within 45 days of receiving a request from an educational institution or a parent. They would also need to disclose all third parties with whom the share student information, as well as getting those third parties to agree in writing not to use the disclosed information for any new purposes, make any further disclosures and maintain reasonable security measures. The bill also includes the usual requirements that vendors not sell student information or use it to target students with advertising, maintain reasonable security, and make notification in the case of a data breach. The bill gives enforcement powers, including the right to impose penalties to the Federal Trade Commission. Read More »

ECS Resources, Personalization

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) has been busy these past few months as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. ECS is a national organization created to serve the needs of the states. It brings together governors, state legislators, K-12 and higher education department chiefs and other education leaders, tracking state policy trends, providing unbiased advice and creating opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another. Recently it has released a series of Policy Analysis and Education Trend reports on a variety of subjects. These reports are tightly focused and typically backed up by a related database that details policy or actions across the 50 states. They serve as great starting points if you want to explore a new market or think through a new marketing approach. Read More »