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Flexibility for the CCSS

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan announced expanded flexibility for schools, saying that the Department is "open to requests for flexibility with the deadline for implementing new systems of evaluating principals and teachers. States that request and are given this flexibility can delay any personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new assessments for up to one year, until 2016-17." The decision came in response to a number of requests from individual state superintendents, from national associations representing administrators and school boards, from the Learning First Alliance, and considering the views of CCSSO, all of whom have advocated recently for more time to ensure that the implementation of the CCSS and the new Common Core Assessments be done correctly. Of particular concern was the use of results from the new assessments for high-stakes decisions, like school accountability, sanctions for students and teacher and principal evaluation systems. Read More »

ESEA Reauthorization, Children's Media Use

I'm not sure what's worse, no legislation from Congress or too much. Certainly in the case of ESEA reauthorization, which I still don't see happening anytime soon, we have a sudden abundance, with two bills introduced in the Senate and one in the House. The bills are even more partisan this time around. In 2011 the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a bill (that never made it to the floor) that garnered support from three Republican members. This time around the Strengthening America's Schools Act (SASA), introduced by Sen. Harkin (D-IA) passed out of committee on a party line vote of 12 to 10. Ranking committee member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had introduced his own version of a reauthorization bill - Every Child Ready for College or Career Act - which was rejected on another party line vote of 12 to 10. Read More »

ConnectED

On Thursday, President Obama announced ConnectED, a new initiative aimed at connecting 99% of America's students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years. The president timed his announcement to coincide with his visit to the Mooresville Graded School District. Mooresville is heavily invested in technology and digital learning and has been getting positive student achievement scores since launching the Digital Conversion Project. To reach the goal of high-speed broadband connectivity for all schools, the President:

  • called on the Federal Communications Commission to update the E-rate program to build out next-generation broadband (at speeds no less than 100Mbps and with a target of 1Gbps) to, and high-speed wireless within, schools and libraries
  • directed the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get this technology into classrooms and provide teachers with training and support to effectively use it;
  • asked for the support of businesses, states, districts, schools and communities
  • Read More »

    News Roundup

    Just a few news items of interest this week. Last week the Census Bureau reported a drop in per-student public education spending for FY 2011, the first such decrease since the Bureau began gathering data in 1977.

    • The 50 states and the District of Columbia spent $10,560 per student in 2011, down 0.4% from 2010.
    • The top spenders were New York ($19,076), the District of Columbia ($18,475), Alaska ($16,674), New Jersey ($15,968) and Vermont ($15,925).
    • Total K-12 expenditures totaled $595.1 billion in 2011, down 1.1% from 2010. This is the second time total expenditures have shown a year-to-year decrease, the first time being 2010.
    Nothing here will surprise anyone who has marketed to schools over the past several years. With only a few exceptions, the 2011 fiscal year for school systems in all states began on July 1, 2010, and ended on June 30, 2011. While school systems were still spending ARRA money during the 2010-11 school year, the influx of stimulus dollars was not enough to make up for budget cuts that states were making to cope with the weakened economy. I've been researching school district budgets recently and it's not unusual to find that any given school system cites significant revenues declines. For example, Colorado's Cherry Creek School District reported an $18 million cumulative decline in revenue between 2009-10 and 2012-13. But things do appear to be slowly getting better. … Read More »

    Data and Privacy

    There's a lot of attention being concentrated right now on various aspects of data. Part of the push back about too much testing has to do with growing parental awareness that each test administration generates a lot of data points about their children. When that sat on aggregated score sheets in a district office or when individual performance reports became part of a child's cumulative record, there was less concern, but as technology allows more manipulation and analysis of data and storage shift from a file cabinet to the cloud, anxieties mount. Parents not only want reassurances about what schools are doing with that data, some are beginning to question whether lots of it even needs to be gathered. Recent changes to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and pending changes to Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) have made the schools more anxious about compliance and interpretations vary on just what anyone, much less the educational vendors, can do with personally identifiable data. Two new reports look at different aspects of data. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) published "Transforming Data to Information in Service of Learning." The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) released "Data-Driven Innovation - A Guide for Policymakers: Understanding and Enabling the Economic and Social Value of Data." Read More »

    The Games Have It

    Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of this year's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract awards. ED's SBIR awards program is run by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), providing up to $1.05 million to entrepreneurial small businesses for the R&D of commercially viable education technology products. This year more than half of the awards - 12 in all - went to games and game-related projects. According to the IES website, this year's game winners display several common elements:

    • Most include an adaptive component that auto-adjusts the game difficulty to the competency level of the player.
    • Most include rewards and competition to drive game play.
    • Several use story-based narratives to engage students.
    • Most include a teaching component that supports the implementation of the game as a supplement to or replacement for standard instructional practice.
    • Several include teacher dashboards, where formative assessment results are provided to the teacher in real-time to inform them of player status for further instruction and remediation.
    Read More »

    Mobile Device Research

    In case you had any doubts, mobility is a hot topic in the K-12 Market. Three major surveys have been released recently that look at various aspects around the use of mobile devices in education. One focuses on parents' expectations around mobile device use, another on student device ownership and use and the third on classroom use of tablets.

    • Grunwald Associates and the Learning First Alliance, with underwriting from AT&T, released The Living and Learning with Mobile Devices Study.
    • The Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey was conducted online reaching a national sample of K-12 and college students.
    • Project Tomorrow has begun releasing data from the 2012 Speak Up! survey, starting with From Chalkboards to Tablets: The Digital Conversion of the K-12 Classroom.
    Read More »

    Nation at Risk Anniversary, Common Core Under Attack

    Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk. The report was issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, formed by U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell. The report was controversial then and something of a surprise, the report pointed to flagging test scores and a weakened curriculum and questioned the ability of American schools to deliver a world class education. A nation at Risk initiated the ongoing national dialog about American education. It laid the foundation for the standards and accountability movements. It's possible to argue that we've never answered the serious questions the report raised. Certainly American education has changed a lot since 1983, but we continue to struggle with persistent achievement gaps and questions about the rigor of the curriculum and the preparedness of our teachers. Education Week published a series of articles on A Nation at Risk, including commentaries from five education thought leaders on what kind of progress we have made as a nation, and where work still needs to be done. And the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute created a video retrospective that features both people directly involved in the includes commentary from features includes comments from Lamar Alexander, Bill Bennett, Milton Goldberg, Margaret Spellings, Michelle Rhee, Diane Ravitch and Arne Duncan among others. Read More »

    STEM, States and Assessments, Start Ups

    The White House Science Fair was held this week. Here are some fun videos. The President also used the occasion to announce some expansions and new efforts under his Educate to Innovate Campaign. A new STEM AmeriCorps effort will place national service members in nonprofits that mobilize STEM professionals to inspire young people to excel in STEM education. This summer the Maker Education Initiative will launch the first-ever MakerCorps. These volunteers will give more young people the opportunity to design and build something that is personally meaningfully to them. As part of its $100 million commitment to the Educate to Innovate initiative, Time Warner Cable will launch a new effort in May 2013 to get kids and parents excited about STEM by highlighting the role these subjects play in sports. Discovery Communications is launching a new science-focused series to inspire the next generation of students, "The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius." More than 150 organizations have now come together in a coalition called 100Kin10. These organizations have made over 150 measurable commitments to increasing the supply of excellent STEM teachers; hiring, developing, and retaining excellent STEM teachers; and building the 100Kin10 movement. A new multi-year STEM mentoring campaign - US2020 - is being launched to get many more private companies to commit their science and technology workforce to STEM volunteering. You'll note that much of this STEM effort relies on the efforts of the private sector, with the President using the bully pulpit of the White House to focus attention and drum up interest. Read More »

    Broadband Petition, E-Rate, Digital Promise

    The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is asking for support for its White House petition to invest in classroom broadband connectivity to ensure that all students are ready for college and 21st century careers. The We the People platform at WhiteHouse.gov allows groups to post petitions seeking public support. If a petition garners 100,000 signatures within a 30 day window, it is guaranteed review by the White House. ISTE's petition argues that investment in K-12 school broadband infrastructure has lagged; even the successful E-Rate program cannot meet rapidly escalating school needs for increased bandwidth. ISTE asks for a national investment in school broadband connectivity to ensure that American students graduate equipped for success. This petition will expire on May 1 and there are a lot of signatures still to be gathered. If you agree with ISTE, go to the White House site (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/invest-classroom-broadband-connectivity-ensure-all-students-are-ready-college-and-21st-century/KFD2gCRj) and sign on. Read More »