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O.W.L.S., Budget Deals and PISA

I may be easily amused, but I found myself smiling broadly as I read Waterstones' announcement of its O.W.L.S. delivery service - a fleet of specially trained owls that will deliver packages within thirty minutes of ordering. Even before reading Waterstones' tongue-in cheek Q&A about the service, I had visions of Ron Weasley's (Harry Potter's friend) rather unpredictable owl battering away at my bedroom windows rather than finding its way to the balcony where I would happily have set out water and birdseed (I don't do mice!). No launch date as of yet. Waterstones notes that it takes ages to train owls to do anything.

Perhaps we need to come up with an alternative delivery mechanism for crafting the federal budget and dealing with sequestration? Though there does now appear to be a small glimmer of hope in Congress for at least a short term budget fix and some relaxation of the sequester. Read on…. Read More »

Youth CareerConnect, Wavering on the Waivers

President Obama has announced a small grant program - Youth CareerConnect - focused on encouraging the scaling up of "evidence-based high school models that will transform the high school experience for America's youth." In his 2013 State of the Union address, the President addressed high school reform, talking about partnerships involving innovative high schools, colleges and employers aimed at graduating students better equipped for the demands of a high-tech economy. The President included $300 million in new funding at the Department of Education in his 2014 Budget request, but we all know that's not going anyplace. Funding for Youth CareerConnect will be coming from the Department of Labor who will use up to $100 million in revenues from the H-1B visa program to fund approximately 25 to 40 grants for individual or multi-site projects. Read More »

Preschool Legislation, Google Play for Education

Legislation that embodies the Obama administration's preschool for all proposal has been introduced on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the bill - the Strong Start for America's Children - in the Senate. Reps. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, and Richard Hanna (R-NY), co-chair of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus, did so in the House. For the most part the bills follow the general outlines of the President's plan contained in the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. They create a federal state partnership designed to provide high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten for four-year old children from families earning less than $47,000 a year. States would be required to match the federal grant, contributing 10% of the federal amount in the first year and a share equal to the federal amount by the 8th year. There's a strong commitment to quality in the bills. To qualify for the grants, states would have to develop early learning standards, aligned with their K-12 system, that are developmentally, culturally and linguistically appropriate and address all domains of school readiness, including physical well-being and social-emotional development. Read More »

News of the Week

Several interesting stories you will want to check out this week.

  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced the launch of its initial public offering of 18,250,000 shares of its common stock. The shares are expected to be priced between $14 and $16. Analysts expect the IPO to raise about $250 million.
  • Discovery Communications acquired Espresso Group Limited, a U.K. based publisher of primary school digital education content.
  • Knovation launched a new professional learning program for districts using its netTrekker digital resource library.
  • GlassLab announced the release of SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge, a game based on SimCity that has been designed as a classroom tool.
  • Read More »

    Implementation Is Key for CCSS

    Last week the Fordham Institute released a report - Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments - that examines what is being taught in English classrooms and how it is being taught. The research is an effort to determine what texts are being assigned to students, some of the ways teachers teach the English language arts, and whether the complexity of assignments changes as Common Core implementation ramps up. The work is based on a survey of 1,154 public school English, language arts, and reading teachers designed to establish a 2012 baseline that can be compared with the findings of a similar survey to be undertaken in 2015. The findings indicate that while teachers are generally supportive of the Common Core State Standards, as of March 2012, classroom practice was changing quite slowly. Read More »

    Campus Computing Survey, CoSN E-Rate Survey

    Casey Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, has shared summary findings from the 2013 Campus Computing Survey. Launched in 1990, The Campus Computing Project is the largest continuing study of the role of information technology in American higher education. Those of you who focus on the higher ed market know that the Campus Computing Survey is the benchmark for data and insight about IT planning and policy issues among U.S. colleges and universities. If this is your market, you'll want to download the PDF which includes a set of detailed charts and Casey's overview of some of higher education's IT current issues and challenges. Read More »

    Data Privacy, Resource Vetting

    Common Sense Media weighed in this week on the simmering debate over student data privacy. CEO and Founder Jim Steyer published an open letter addressed to 16 leading ed tech vendors, urging them to step up and develop industry-wide safeguards for the ways in which personal data gathered about students can be used. Steyer proposes three basic principles:

    1. Students' personal information shall be used solely for educational purposes.
    2. Students' personal information or online activity shall not be used to target advertising to students or families.
    3. Schools and education technology providers shall adopt appropriate data security, retention, and destruction policies.
    Read More »

    Connected Educator Month

    We're a third of the way through Connected Educator Month and there's a lot going on. Connected Educator Month (CEM) is part of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education's Connected Educator initiative. It's a way to both engage educators and model the power and variety of online communities and learning networks. Activities include webinars, forums, twitter hashtag chats, individual community guided tours, open houses, exhibits, online classes and courses, MOCCs, contests or challenges, collaborative projects and more. I've been able to participate in a few activities this week, though I missed the town hall and kickoff activities, which seemed especially rich. The activities I participated in drew moderate audiences, sometimes quietly taking in the main presentation, but several included lively back channel dialogs. "Listening in" is a great way to get a picture of what's on educators' minds right now. It's also a great way to gather ideas about setting up and running your own online community to support educators and establish your organization n as a partner in the ongoing effort to improve teaching and learning. The complete schedule of activities can be found at Read More »

    Beyond Reading and Math

    I really didn't expect to be writing about a government shutdown, but Congress has not been able to find a way to move beyond its deep divisions. The new federal fiscal year started on October 1 and most people expected that there would be a short-term Continuing Resolution in place by then. Continuing resolutions allow the government to operate while a longer-term solution is hammered out, holding funding level with that of the previous year. Compromise is in short supply in Washington right now and while the country (and the schools) can survive a few more days of this, if it escalates into an even more contentious debate around raising the debt ceiling, the consequences will be serious. It's the uncertainty that is so damaging. The economic recovery at the state level is still fragile and the schools never deal well with uncertainty. Hopefully this gets resolved quickly. Read More »

    EdNET 2013 and More

    Many of us will be gathering in Denver this Sunday to kick off EdNET and celebrate the Conference's 25th anniversary. I'm not sure where the summer went, much less this past month, but I look forward to seeing many long-time friends, hearing what our invited speakers have to say about the state of the market and taking the chance both to look back through the years and forward to what the future might hold.

    In my mail I see a reminder from SIIA (the Software & Information Industry Association) that the deadline for nominations for its venerable 2014 CODiE Awards is today, September 20. Education CODiE Awards showcase applications, products and services from developers of educational software, digital content, online learning services, and related technologies across the K-20 sector. This is a chance to get your products and/or services in front of potential customers, press, and partners. Check out the details here. After today, Friday, September 20th, the nomination fee will be increased and the deadline will be extended to October 4th.

    The Federal Communications Commission received 759 comments in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the E rate program. Comments can be accessed via the through the ECFS Search screen. Simply enter "13-184" in the Proceeding Number field, and push "Enter." Read More »