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ESSA Transition, Making

The Department of Education has issued an updated FAQ about transitioning to ESSA. For the 2016-17 school year, non-competitive grant programs will be funded and operate under the rules in place before ESSA was adopted. The Department will make FY2016 formula grant awards for the 2016-2017 school year in the same manner and using the same allocation formulas it did with FY 2015 formula grant funds. That means your Title I customers, along with ELL and the smaller formula-based programs should receive the same amount of funding they received in the previous school year (depending on the overall FY 20167 appropriation) and the programs should operate normally. The same is true for special education which operates under its own authorizing legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Read More »


The Department of Education has signed up 14 states and 40 school districts to support and implement elements of its #GoOpen initiative. You may remember that when the initiative was first announced back in October, only 10 districts had signed on to the basic challenge of replacing at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within the next year. Six districts already involved in using OER were named Ambassador Districts, committed to helping other school districts move to openly licensed materials. This latest announcements saw three districts added to the list of Ambassador Districts, with 21 new districts signing on to #GoOpen. Essentially districts commit to creating a team to plan implementation strategies, replacing at least one textbook with openly-licensed educational materials in the next year, and documenting and sharing their implementation process. Read More »

Broadening Procurement, ESSA Hearings

There was a really good article in eSchool News last week about the tensions between centralized purchasing versus one that puts power in the hands of principals and teachers. We've all seen the numbers coming out of recent work around procurement and the technology purchasing process. Digital Promise's work on procurement indicates that teachers and principals are only moderately involved. While district officials say they want teacher input for purchasing decisions, just 28% of superintendents agree with giving greater authority to individual schools and educators. Some of this is understandable. Central purchasing helps maintain a limited set of standards that the district must support and for which it should be providing PD. It can save districts money as volume purchasing equates to larger discounts or more "free" support. And it's the central office staff that has to answer to the School Board and to parents when an initiative goes badly off the tracks. Read More »

Digital Learning Day

February 17 saw the fifth annual celebration of Digital Learning Day. Launched by the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2012, Digital learning day was created to celebrate teachers who were tapping the potential of technology to enhance student engagement and learning. Over the years the event has showcased innovative teachers, leaders, and programs that are improving student learning experiences through the effective use of technology. This year the Alliance reports that there were over 2,300 Digital Learning Day events across the country, including celebrations in classrooms, libraries, and afterschool programs. Digital Learning Day was celebrated in all fifty states and in fifteen countries across the world. This year's event focused on digital equity in schools and communities across America. In a series of live streamed conversations, educators, students, and policymakers from small, rural towns to large, urban centers talked about what they are doing to close the digital divide in their communities. There has been a lot of attention lately to the digital equity issue. I'm sure school leaders welcome the increased attention to a problem they have wrestled with for years. While school online access is steadily improving, educators continue to worry about students' ability to access the digital tools they need to complete assignments and expand their learning opportunities. Read More »

FY 2017 Education Budget Request

On Tuesday, President Obama released the FY 2017 budget for the Department of Education. The president's budget provides $69.4 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion, or 2%, over the 2016 level. In many ways this budget is something of a wish list. Money is tight and the Republicans seem determined to fight most increases, no matter how moderate. The partial lifting of the sequester caps provided under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 helps, but does not allow for a lot of new programming. The 2015 legislation increased discretionary spending by $80 billion over two years, split evenly between defense and nondefense programs. The FY 2016 budget saw a resulting bump of $50 billion, leaving a $30 billion increase for FY 2017. That's not a lot of money to spread over many departments and programs. The Department of Education budget emphasizes three themes: (1) increasing equity and excellence; (2) providing support for teachers and school leaders; and (3) promoting access, affordability, and completion in higher education. Read More »

Mode Effect on PARCC Tests

Education Week ran a major article this week reporting that students who took the PARCC assessment last school year on the computer tended to score lower than those who took the paper-and- pencil form of the test. While the numbers are not yet available across the states in the consortium, a PARCC spokesperson acknowledged that the pattern exists, on average. The pattern was most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math. The Smarter Balanced consortium is still investigating if any such problems exist among their test takers.

It seems fairly obvious that lack of familiarity with computers added to the challenges that students faced as they worked their way through the PARCC test. Students who did not know their way around the computer may have found dragging and dropping, highlighting or scrolling back through text to find the required supporting evidence more difficult than test designers anticipated. Navigating the computer may have slowed then down or just frustrated them. Read More »

State of the States, Slow Funding Recovery

It's State of the State season. We're roughly half way through the season, with the last State of the State speech - from Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf - scheduled for February 9. These speeches set out the governor's goals for the coming year and often provide high-level descriptions of new programs and initiatives. They also provide a good overview of the state's current economic outlook. As I've said before, companies with significant business interests in a particular state or group of states should be sure to read or listen to the relevant speeches. The National Governor's Association Education Week also publishes education-focused summaries of the annual governor's addresses. Read More »

ESSA Regulatory Process Begins, New Privacy Legislation

First, an update on the rule-making process for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Department of Education is wrapping up the gathering public input stage of its efforts to move forward on developing ESSA regulations. In December, the Department published a Request for Information seeking advice and recommendations for Title I regulations under ESSA. That public comment period closed on January 21. The Department also held two public meetings seeking input, one In Washington, DC on January 11 and one in Los Angeles on January 19. A recording of the Jan 11 event is available on the Department's ESSA web page, which is a one-stop source for all things ESSA. Read More »

EdNET Advisory Board, State of the Market Report

Several news items from MDR this week. We are excited to announce the members of the EdNET 2016 Conference Advisory Board. For most of its history, the EdNET Conference has been shaped by the Advisory Board – a panel of industry executives who help us identify education market trends and the challenges and opportunities that the education industry is facing and provide input on programming and conference formats and activities.

EdNET Conference Manager Vicki Smith Bigham works hard to put together a board that represents different education market segments, job titles, experience levels, and familiarity with EdNET. I heard a lot about the quality of the programming at EdNET 2015. That kind of quality starts with the Advisory Board and grows as Vicki works at finding the right people to flesh out the EdNET vision, from keynoters to panel moderators. For EdNET 2016, we plan to use our social channels and other outreach to involve the broader EdNET community in refining potential session topics, identifying speakers and suggesting program innovations. Get ready to contribute your ideas. Read More »

Quality Counts, Eduventures' 2016 Higher Ed Predictions

I can't believe that we are already a full week into the New Year. I think 2016 may fly by even faster than 2015 did. I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday season, with time for family and fun and some quiet time for rest and reflection. May 2016 bring everything you are hoping for and more.

Education Week released the 20th edition of Quality Counts this week. This year's report focuses on accountability, examining how state and federal policies are" transforming the assessment of school performance and reshaping the consequences for poor results." Acknowledging the anniversary, the report looks at look at highlights and milestones from the past 20 years and includes a new original analysis of national and state achievement trends on the National Assessment of Educational Progress during the multiyear period NCLB period. Read More »