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Report Cards for Teacher Prep Programs

An intriguing headline about improving teacher prep through report cards sent me to the Department of Education web site to learn more. It seems Tennessee, a Phase I Race to the Top winner, was able to leverage its funding to support the implementation of a 2007 legislative mandate to create a report card designed to evaluate the effectiveness of all state-approved teacher preparation programs. Report cards have become a routine accountability tool, but what I find interesting here is that they seem to be serving their purpose of helping teacher prep institutions improve their programs. The report card data allows schools to open a dialog about what is working or not working in their teacher prep programs. The article on the website reports on several instances of program improvement spurred by report card results. Given that Schools of Education have been slow to respond to calls for change, this seems like a promising development. Read More »

Commercial Support for Schools

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake. I neglected to report that last week the Consortium for School Networking honored our own Vicki Bigham as their 2014 Private Sector Champion. This award recognizes one member each year that has made significant contributions to advance education technology. This is an award for the person who goes "above and beyond" and anyone who knows Vicki knows that describes her to a T. Vicki does a lot as a CoSN volunteer - helping with the annual conference, supporting the CETL certification program and developing the annual CoSN Horizon Report K-12 Toolkit - but this award recognizes Vicki's ultimate talent: connecting people. It's the touchstone of her professional and personal life. CoSN recognized Vicki for connecting companies to the association's work. She does the same for us in her work on the EdNET Conference and as the Snoop. Congratulations, Vicki on a well-deserved honor and thanks for all you do to keep us connected. Read More »

CoSN's K-12 IT Leadership Survey

I’ve been in Washington D.C. most of the week so this will be a short note. I started out at the SIIA Ed Tech Government Forum and then moved on to the CoSN Conference. Both events were excellent – good content, interesting attendees, good networking, as well as the chance to catch up with many longtime friends and make new ones. Though the events serve different aims and audiences, some common themes emerged. Of course, there was the ongoing talk about Common Core implementation and the pending Common Core Assessments. Among newer topics, E-rate reform and its timing was on everyone’s minds as was the rapidly escalating concerns over students data privacy. I was also struck by how often educators touched on the challenges they face in trying to evaluate both more traditional Common Core related materials and the flood of apps and social media tools that seems to increase daily. Everyone wants to be sure they are purchasing or accessing the most effective resources, but the job of determining curricular relevance, standards alignment, technology compatibility and overall usefulness is daunting, especially for smaller districts where there are fewer people to share the work load. Read More »

More Moves on Limiting Testing

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to limit the number of federally-mandated standardized tests that states are required to administer. HR-4172, the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, was introduced last week by Rep Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Rep Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The legislation proposes replacing the yearly testing required in Grades 3-8 with grade span testing. The change would roll federal testing policy back to pre NCLB levels of once in grades 3-5, once in grades 6-9. Testing once in grades10-12 is the current standard, so no change is needed. The National Education Association has endorsed the bill. Likelihood of passage is slim.

The Common Core Implementation Panel, appointed by New York Gov Cuomo, has delivered its recommendations on the course of the state's Common Core Standards implementation, some of which also center on testing.

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New E-Rate Public Notice; FY 2015 Budget Proposal

The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Public Notice seeking focused comment on E-Rate modernization. Having considered the more than 1,500 comments and ex parte filings in response to the E-rate Modernization Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), the FCC is now seeking input around three issues: (1) How best to focus E-rate funds on high-capacity broadband, especially high-speed Wi-Fi and internal connections (2) Whether and how the Commission should begin to phase down or phase out support for traditional voice services in order to focus more funding on broadband (3) Whether there are demonstration projects or experiments that the Commission should authorize as part of the E-rate program that would help the Commission test new, innovative ways to maximize cost-effective purchasing in the E-rate program. Read More »

Nepris Matches STEM Experts to Classrooms; More on Student Privacy

I don't often write about a single product, but since I didn't make it to either FETC or TCEA, I took the opportunity to see a demo of Nepris and talk with Sabari Raja. Sabari is the founder and driving force behind Nepris. What most struck me as I watched the product demo was that Nepris really does make life easier for busy classroom teachers. Nepris is an online platform that makes it easier for teachers to bring STEM industry professionals into their classrooms, connecting lessons to the real world. When teachers have a curriculum topic, activity or student project that would benefit from an industry connection, they submit a request and the Nepris system finds an industry expert with the skills that match the request and schedules an interactive, web-delivered session. Industry professionals can engage in a discussion with students, do a demonstration, help guide student projects or evaluate final student deliverables. This is definitely NOT a solution looking for a problem. Teachers will welcome this tool which eases the process of reaching out to STEM experts, saving time and energy on both sides of the equation. Read More »

School Privacy Zone Summit, States Revise CCSS

Just a few notes about upcoming events and some recent news.

Common Sense Media is hosting the School Privacy Zone Summit on Feb 24, bringing together key stakeholders and policymakers to develop core principles and best practices to safeguard student privacy.

Monday is also the last day to submit comments on the new $250 million competition to build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs, designed to support of President Obama's call to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Go here and scroll to the end of the document to find the comment box.

The FL State Board of Education adopted relatively minor revisions to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and renamed them the Florida Standards. The biggest changes involved the addition of calculus standards and the requirement to teach cursive writing at the 4th and 5th grades. The Indiana Department of Education released a draft of the new Indiana College and Career Ready Standards posting them for public comment. Read More »

LRMI, DQC Policy Brief

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is seeking input from publishers and educational content developers about if and how they are currently tagging or describing their content with metadata. A companion survey seeks similar input from states and districts, asking if and how they are currently using education metadata. LRMI wants to gauge general LRMI awareness as well as gain a more in-depth understanding of the way both communities are using metadata and how the organization can best advance the LRMI project. Both surveys are short, taking an estimated five minutes to complete. The surveys are available online at and are open now through Friday, February 21, 2014.

The LRMI group fielded a set of surveys like this last year, so it will be interesting to see how much aware ness and usage has grown. Read More »

Progress on Connect-Ed

The first steps to realizing the Connect-Ed goal of getting high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into every American classroom were taken this week. The Federal Communication Commission announced that it will dedicate an additional $2 billion of E-Rate funding over the next two years to support broadband networks in schools and libraries, effectively doubling broadband spending. That doesn't necessarily translate to an increase in overall E-Rate funding. Details are still to come, but the FCC says the additional dollars will come from "reprioritizing existing E-Rate funds to focus on high-capacity Internet connectivity, increasing efficiency, and modernizing management of the E-Rate program." It seems likely that a significant portion of the promised $2 billion will come from redirecting unspent money from previous years to the broadband initiative. As of January 31, 2014, the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) estimated that there was some $600 million from previous years that could be brought forward into Funding Year 2014. Read More »

Tech Tools Abound at FETC

This is one of those weeks when you will find stories posted at the News Alert web site - some higher ed headlines, a few announcements and multiple releases from the same company - that don't appear in your e-mail issue. With the Florida Educational Technology Conference in progress there was an unusually heavy volume of announcements this week. The same is likely to be true next week as well, as the action moves to Austin for the Texas Computer Education Association.

The rapid influx of mobile devices in American classrooms is not without challenges. Teachers find themselves managing a wide variety of devices, while trying to use them effectively to support student collaboration and information sharing. At FETC a number of companies introduced solutions designed to help teachers accomplish these goals. Read on... Read More »