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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 http://www.lrmi.net/ 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 »

Student Privacy, NEA's Great Public Schools Fund

Common Sense Media has released results of a poll probing attitudes about the collection and use of students' personal information. It should come as no surprise that 89% of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about advertisers using kids' personal data to market to them. After the news about NSA's data collection and the target data breaches over the holidays, we all have concerns about who knows what about us and how they might use that information. Certainly we want to see student information, especially anything collected and reported by the schools, treated with care. But when you learn that 90% of adults are concerned about how non-educational interests are able to access and use students' personal information, red flags begin to go up. How did people interpret this question? Who are these "non-educational interests" and how do they get this access? Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, has been quoted as saying that it's like the wild, wild west when it comes to student privacy. There are lots of informed people who don't agree with that characterization of the student privacy issue. Concerns about privacy and security are legitimate, but I'm not sure that this kind of poll data really advances what is a very complex discussion. Read More »

Budget Passes, Privacy War Continues To Simmer

Quite the week for news.

Congress passed the Consolidated Budget Act this week, the first real budget Congress has passed in years. The House passed the $1.012 trillion omnibus funding bill on Wednesday on a 359-67 vote, with the Senate following suit late Thursday on a 72-26 vote.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) - a 40-year House veteran - will retire after the current term. Miller has been the Democratic point person for education policy in the House of Representatives for decades and has a solid understanding of the role of technology in education. He was instrumental in the passage of NCLB, contributed heavily to the education portion of ARRA in 2009 and has played an important role in trying to move the ESEA reauthorization forward.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) announced plans to introduce legislation to protect student privacy. Markey has grown increasingly concerned about the impact of increased collection and distribution of student data on privacy. Markey says the bill will be based on four principles: (1) student information may never be used to market products to children; (2) parents must have the right to access and amend student information held by private companies; (3) schools and private companies must safeguard student information; and (4) companies must delete student information after it is no longer needed for educational purposes.

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