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News of the Week

A few items from this week's news:

The Gates Foundation announced it will be wrapping up its Global Libraries program over the next three to five years.

The Verizon Foundation announced that the Thinkfinity site, which it has supported since 2007, will no longer host partner content or the educator community.

A draft of proposed national legislation - Protecting Student Privacy Act - designed to help safeguard the educational records of students is now available for review.

Funds for Learning is conducting a survey to gather the opinions of administrators and school technology leaders about the current state of the E-Rate program. Read More »

Student Attitudes about Testing, 12th Grade NAEP Scores

NWEA and Grunwald Associates LLC have released Make Assessment Matter: Students and Educators Want Tests that Support Learning. The new report is a follow-up to a 2012 study and report, For Every Child, Multiple Measures. The 2012 report presented the views of educators and parents. This time around it's the student perspective that has been added. There's a lot of really detailed information here. One finding that's getting a lot of press coverage is that only 29% of students say that have heard of the Common Core State Standards, and fewer still (20%) say they have heard about new state tests that will be used next year. It's also very interesting that the percentage of teachers who believe that too much time is spent on preparing for and taking or administering tests has dropped from the levels found in the earlier research. Among administrators the drop off is even sharper. On the 2013 survey, 40% of administrators say that students spend too much time preparing for and taking assessments compared to 57% in 2011. Read More »

Big Data Report, Indiana Adopts New Standards

In January, the President asked John Podesta, his Counselor, to lead a wide-ranging review of "big data" and privacy—to explore how these technologies are changing our economy, our government, and our society, and to consider their implications for our personal privacy. Podesta, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the President's Science Advisor John Holdren, the President's Economic Advisor Jeff Zients, and other senior officials spent the last three months exploring the issues and on Thursday delivered their report and recommendations to the President. Read More »

Survey of Technology Use, InBloom Fades Away

Tech company digedu released the results from a recent survey it conducted among K-12 classroom teachers. One aspect of the findings that has caught people's attention is that only 24% report that technology's effect on student achievement in class is strongly positive. At the same time teachers report positive effects of technology on student engagement (92%), student participation (90%) and even on the teaching experience (82%). It would seem that more engagement and participation should result in some degree of improved performance. Read More »

School Libraries, SAT Redesign

It will come as no surprise to learn that school libraries have taken significant cuts over the past five years. The American Library Association's new report, "The State of America's Libraries 2014," cites a 2103 the National Center for Education report that shows that school library spending on books and audiovisual materials decreased by an average of 10.5% from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011. As worrisome is the fact that from 2006 to 2011, the number of school librarians declined more than the number of other educators. The total number of school librarians decreased less than 1% in 2007-2008, 1.1% in 2008-2009, 2.3% in 2009-2010, and 4.3% in 2010-2011. It's often the school librarian who is helping other teachers get up to speed on new initiatives, showing teachers how to make videos to use in flipping classrooms, leading district- or school-wide efforts to evaluate materials for use under the Common Core and helping students gain the technology literacy skills they need to be effective learners. I understand why it's easier to cut a librarian than a classroom teacher. I just believe that schools should not have to make such choices. Read More »

Speak Up Findings, Field Tests and Youth CareerConnect Grants

Project Tomorrow hosted a Congressional Briefing on Tuesday at which it released its new report, "The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students' Activities and Aspirations" and discussed findings from the report and the Speak Up 2013 survey. CEO Julie Evans did a great job of presenting the report’s highlights and drawing out their implications. The report represents the views of 325,279 K-12 students representing over 9,000 schools and 2,700 districts nationwide. As always there's a lot of detail in the report. I want to focus on two main results. The report makes an important distinction between what students do in schools under the leadership/guidance of classroom teachers and how they use mobile technology outside of school to support their own learning activities. Read More »

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.

Read More »