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Assessment in the Spotlight

Reauthorization is moving ahead. The Senate is taking the lead for now, with Sen Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) saying he hopes to complete committee markup of his draft bill by the end of February. The bill would then move to the Senate floor for debate, which Alexander expects to last at least two weeks. Rep John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee says he plans to have reauthorization legislation passed by the end of March. The House legislation will be based on the Student Success Act that passed the full House last year. Committee markup is expected to start in the next several weeks. Read More »

ESEA Reauthorization, Student Privacy

You would had to have worked very hard this week to avoid seeing at least one article or commentary on reauthorizing ESEA, especially now that Sen Alexander has released his draft bill The Senator assured that there would be a debate around assessment by including two different approaches to statewide assessment. One essentially sticks with the current approach, while the other would give the states a lot of flexibility to decide what they want to do – grade span testing, portfolios, competency-based tests or something entirely new. Many groups have weighed in on what is known thus far from the New York Times to the Huffington Post and an interesting push back from Bellwether’s Anne Hyslop. Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog provides a great compilation of various reactions to the draft bill. Read More »

114th Congress Convenes; Quality Counts 2015

Congress is back, organized and apparently down to work. In the Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) new chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has plans to get a bill that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act through committee by Valentine's Day. That's a fast track, making it even more likely that the bill to be considered will closely resemble the bill Alexander submitted last year as an alternative to Sen Harkin's reauthorization bill. If the bill is out of committee by mid-February, it could go to the full Senate be early March. On the House side, Rep. John Kline, (R-MN), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, should have no trouble shepherding a bill through committee and to the floor of the House. The full House actually passed ESEA reauthorization legislation last year. This year's legislation is likely to closely resemble the trio of bills that was passed in the 113th Congress last year. Read More »

Balance in 2015

My best wishes and those of everyone at MDR to all our readers for a wonderful Holiday Season and a prosperous and peace-filled New Year. It hardly seems possible that another year has passed. The new year will pose many challenges and in almost every instance education can contribute to the solution. I have always felt blest to be part of the education industry, to do something that I love and at the same to be able to contribute even just a bit to the growth of students and the support of educators.

We will be taking a publishing break over the holidays, returning with the first issue of 2015 on January 9. Things should be relatively quiet over the break. Read More »

ERate Update, Early Childhood, Coding

Another busy week.

It appears we will have a FY 2015 budget soon. The House passed The "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015," late Thursday, so it's up to the Senate now. The bill, which totals $1.014 trillion, funds most government spending through September 30, 2015. The Department of Homeland Security is funded under a Continuing Resolution that expires on February 27, 2015.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to increase E-Rate funding by $1.5 billion annually in order to help U.S. schools and libraries improve internet access. The decision will allow the United States to expand high-speed Wi-Fi to more than 101,000 schools, and nearly 16,000 additional libraries.

Working to deliver on his promise to provide high-quality early childhood education" to every child in the country, President Obama hosted a White House Event to kick off the "Invest in US" program, designed to support the expansion of ECE through a combination of federal, corporate and foundation support.

This was Computer Science Education Week, marked by a myriad of activities, much of it centered on's Hour of Code. Last year's got 20 million students to try one Hour of Code, put online courses into 10,000 classrooms, and partnered with 100+ high schools to support full computer science curriculum. In 2014 the organization hopes to reach 100 million students for an Hour of Code, 100,000 teachers to host an online course, and 100 districts to bring permanent computer science courses to 1,000 high schools. Read More »

Award Programs, Common Core Asessments

District Administration magazine has announced its 2014 Readers' Choice Top 100 Products. DA received more than 2,400 unique nominations from its readers this year, up from 1,800 last year. Nominations were narrowed by the magazine's editorial board based on the quality and quantity of theses testimonies. One of the things I really like about these honors is that each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator describing how the product made a positive difference for students and staff. Since the nominations are made by administrators, you get a list of products that are used fairly widely, at least in a given school or school district. Many products have won in years past, but there are also several new winners.

In late October, Tech & Learning magazine named 102 education technology products as winners in its Awards of Excellence program. Companies submit their products for consideration for the awards .What I like about this program is that submitted products are run through their paces by a panel of experienced ed tech-using educators in several rounds of judging. This allows T&L to consider each product's quality and effectiveness, ease of use, creative use of technology, and suitability for use in an educational environment. Read More »

An Eventful Week

Before turning to the news, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday weekend. We all have so much for which to give thanks!

It's been a busy news week.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a $1.5 billion increase in the E-Rate spending cap, the first increase in E-Rate funding since the program's inception in 1997. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on December 11.

Congress passed and the President signed into law the Child Care and Development Block Grant of 2014. The legislation had broad bi-partisan support.

President Obama and Sec. Duncan hosted a gathering of superintendents - recognized for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning - at the White House this week. A centerpiece of the event was the signing - both actual and virtual of the Future Ready Digital Pledge.

The K-12 OER Collaborative, an initiative led by a group of 11 states with the goal of creating comprehensive, high-quality, open educational resources, released a Request for Proposals to create open educational resources (OER) supporting K-12 mathematics and English language arts. Read More »

CEM Wrap Up, ESEA Flexibility Renewals

October was Connected Educator Month (CEM). The organizers report that more than 800 organizations participated, including almost everyone who had participated in 2013 and many new companies, organizations, states and districts. In early November, organizers reported that 940 events and activities had been listed on the CEM calendar. There were also a number of events and activities that took place "off-calendar. More educators and others were reached around the world every day (15-16M) via Twitter alone than all of CEM 2013 (14M+). Though the level of activity will slow, organizers will continue to promote new events and other key activities on the calendar.

Tech & Learning magazine announced the winners of the 2014 Tech & Learning Awards of Excellence. The magazine has been recognizing outstanding ed tech products for over 30 years, both new offerings and significantly updated products that help educators in the business of teaching, training and managing with technology. All entries are given a rigorous test-driving by qualified educators in several rounds of judging. See the complete list of winners in the Announcements section of today's newsletter.

The Department of Education doesn't seem to be intimidated by the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate. This week, it published its new guidelines for renewal requests of ESEA Flexibility. The waiver program is not looked on with much favor among most Republicans (and a share of Democrats). Congress could short circuit the waiver process by finally acting to reauthorize ESEA. But passing a truly bipartisan bill, one that the President will sign, will not be easy. Read More »

Election Results

EdSurge and Digital Promise announced the inaugural winners of the “Digital Innovation in Learning Awards.” There are a lot of awards and recognition programs in our industry, but I must say the names of these awards stand out from the pack – like the Walk the Walk Award which was won by S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools. Dr. Dance was one of the speakers at this year’s EdNET Conference and his passion for teaching and learning was evident. You can view the panel discussion Dr. Dance participated in here.

On Monday, Nov 17, SIIA is hosting a webinar on the Student Privacy Pledge. More than three dozen leading K-12 school service providers have signed the Pledge since the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) launched it in early October. If you’re wondering if this is something your company should consider, this is your chance to learn more about the Pledge. The webinar will provide background and context, explain the dozen specific pledge commitments, share the perspectives of signatory companies and education leaders, and address questions about the Pledge and the signature process. As I said several weeks ago, the Pledge is a proactive effort to focus attention on school service providers "good behavior," detailing industry practices that not only meet but go beyond existing federal requirements. You can find more information and register here.

And then there are the election results… Read More »

CCSS Materials, Apple's ConnectED Initiative

Capstone chose the perfect venue - the School Library Journal Leadership Summit - to debut "School Libraries Matter: The Changing Role of the School Librarian," a short film it produced with the help of educators across the nation. Watch the film at

Educators are getting access to more Common Core materials. Achieve released 50 lessons rated Exemplar (well-aligned with the Common Core and ready for immediate use in classrooms) or Exemplar if Improved (aligned, but require some improvement in one or more dimensions of the rubric). The materials were submitted by states, districts, partners and educators and were reviewed and rated by the EQuIP Peer Review Panel, a group of expert reviewers who have been trained to apply the EQuIP Rubrics and quality review process. Publishers and developers might want to check out some of these reviewed lessons to get an idea of what characterizes highly-rated materials.

ASCD announced the Common Core Resources Project on iTunes U. The Project is a curation of instructional resources and assessment sample items that will help educators successfully implement the CCSS and teach effectively using iPads. The project features 23 iTunes U courses designed by teacher teams comprised of Apple Distinguished Educators, members of PARCC Educator Leader Cadres, and ASCD teachers.

Apple announced that 114 schools will receive ConnectED grants, fulfilling its $100 million commitment to ConnectED. Every student at the schools will receive an iPad, teachers and administrators will get an iPad and MacBooks, and every classroom will be equipped with Apple TV. Read More »