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Preschool Legislation, Google Play for Education

Legislation that embodies the Obama administration's preschool for all proposal has been introduced on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the bill - the Strong Start for America's Children - in the Senate. Reps. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, and Richard Hanna (R-NY), co-chair of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus, did so in the House. For the most part the bills follow the general outlines of the President's plan contained in the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. They create a federal state partnership designed to provide high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten for four-year old children from families earning less than $47,000 a year. States would be required to match the federal grant, contributing 10% of the federal amount in the first year and a share equal to the federal amount by the 8th year. There's a strong commitment to quality in the bills. To qualify for the grants, states would have to develop early learning standards, aligned with their K-12 system, that are developmentally, culturally and linguistically appropriate and address all domains of school readiness, including physical well-being and social-emotional development. Read More »

News of the Week

Several interesting stories you will want to check out this week.

  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced the launch of its initial public offering of 18,250,000 shares of its common stock. The shares are expected to be priced between $14 and $16. Analysts expect the IPO to raise about $250 million.
  • Discovery Communications acquired Espresso Group Limited, a U.K. based publisher of primary school digital education content.
  • Knovation launched a new professional learning program for districts using its netTrekker digital resource library.
  • GlassLab announced the release of SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge, a game based on SimCity that has been designed as a classroom tool.
  • Read More »

    Implementation Is Key for CCSS

    Last week the Fordham Institute released a report - Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments - that examines what is being taught in English classrooms and how it is being taught. The research is an effort to determine what texts are being assigned to students, some of the ways teachers teach the English language arts, and whether the complexity of assignments changes as Common Core implementation ramps up. The work is based on a survey of 1,154 public school English, language arts, and reading teachers designed to establish a 2012 baseline that can be compared with the findings of a similar survey to be undertaken in 2015. The findings indicate that while teachers are generally supportive of the Common Core State Standards, as of March 2012, classroom practice was changing quite slowly. Read More »

    Campus Computing Survey, CoSN E-Rate Survey

    Casey Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, has shared summary findings from the 2013 Campus Computing Survey. Launched in 1990, The Campus Computing Project is the largest continuing study of the role of information technology in American higher education. Those of you who focus on the higher ed market know that the Campus Computing Survey is the benchmark for data and insight about IT planning and policy issues among U.S. colleges and universities. If this is your market, you'll want to download the PDF which includes a set of detailed charts and Casey's overview of some of higher education's IT current issues and challenges. Read More »

    Data Privacy, Resource Vetting

    Common Sense Media weighed in this week on the simmering debate over student data privacy. CEO and Founder Jim Steyer published an open letter addressed to 16 leading ed tech vendors, urging them to step up and develop industry-wide safeguards for the ways in which personal data gathered about students can be used. Steyer proposes three basic principles:

    1. Students' personal information shall be used solely for educational purposes.
    2. Students' personal information or online activity shall not be used to target advertising to students or families.
    3. Schools and education technology providers shall adopt appropriate data security, retention, and destruction policies.
    Read More »

    Connected Educator Month

    We're a third of the way through Connected Educator Month and there's a lot going on. Connected Educator Month (CEM) is part of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education's Connected Educator initiative. It's a way to both engage educators and model the power and variety of online communities and learning networks. Activities include webinars, forums, twitter hashtag chats, individual community guided tours, open houses, exhibits, online classes and courses, MOCCs, contests or challenges, collaborative projects and more. I've been able to participate in a few activities this week, though I missed the town hall and kickoff activities, which seemed especially rich. The activities I participated in drew moderate audiences, sometimes quietly taking in the main presentation, but several included lively back channel dialogs. "Listening in" is a great way to get a picture of what's on educators' minds right now. It's also a great way to gather ideas about setting up and running your own online community to support educators and establish your organization n as a partner in the ongoing effort to improve teaching and learning. The complete schedule of activities can be found at Read More »

    Beyond Reading and Math

    I really didn't expect to be writing about a government shutdown, but Congress has not been able to find a way to move beyond its deep divisions. The new federal fiscal year started on October 1 and most people expected that there would be a short-term Continuing Resolution in place by then. Continuing resolutions allow the government to operate while a longer-term solution is hammered out, holding funding level with that of the previous year. Compromise is in short supply in Washington right now and while the country (and the schools) can survive a few more days of this, if it escalates into an even more contentious debate around raising the debt ceiling, the consequences will be serious. It's the uncertainty that is so damaging. The economic recovery at the state level is still fragile and the schools never deal well with uncertainty. Hopefully this gets resolved quickly. Read More »

    EdNET 2013 and More

    Many of us will be gathering in Denver this Sunday to kick off EdNET and celebrate the Conference's 25th anniversary. I'm not sure where the summer went, much less this past month, but I look forward to seeing many long-time friends, hearing what our invited speakers have to say about the state of the market and taking the chance both to look back through the years and forward to what the future might hold.

    In my mail I see a reminder from SIIA (the Software & Information Industry Association) that the deadline for nominations for its venerable 2014 CODiE Awards is today, September 20. Education CODiE Awards showcase applications, products and services from developers of educational software, digital content, online learning services, and related technologies across the K-20 sector. This is a chance to get your products and/or services in front of potential customers, press, and partners. Check out the details here. After today, Friday, September 20th, the nomination fee will be increased and the deadline will be extended to October 4th.

    The Federal Communications Commission received 759 comments in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the E rate program. Comments can be accessed via the through the ECFS Search screen. Simply enter "13-184" in the Proceeding Number field, and push "Enter." Read More »

    OER, Kindergarten Assessments

    I've seen several announcements about the availability of rich libraries of open educational resources (OER). I've seen several announcements about the availability of rich libraries of open educational resources (OER). The Saylor Foundation is making its Media Library freely available to the public. Since 2008, the Foundation's free education initiative has focused on driving the cost of education to zero and expanding access to quality OER. Toward that end, the foundation has built over 270 free, self-paced, online courses mostly for higher ed, with a recent expansion into K-12. The online Media Library includes about 6,000 total resources, including 3,000 open educational resources, 1,300 videos, 124 full-length textbooks, and 2,500 articles, covering a broad spectrum of curriculum across K-12, college, and professional education. The online library draws learning materials out from the courses, adds useful metadata (additional information such as author, license type, abstract, etc.), and makes the items searchable by course, subject, keywords, license type, and more. Read More »

    Literacy Courseware Challenge

    I hate to even bring the subject up, but the new federal fiscal year, FY 2014, starts on Oct 1, 2013. Few appropriations bills have been passed. Bills funding education, like many others, are not moving at all. Congress comes back in session on Sept 9 and there aren’t that many working days before the start of the new fiscal year, some of which will be devoted to the debate about military action in Syria. That makes it almost certain that Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running. A CR will hold spending level with that of FY 2013 and does nothing to address the sequester or the continuing cuts called for in the Budget Control Act. There’s a debt ceiling debate looming in November and there are likely to be continuing efforts to defund the healthcare law. With so many opportunities to wreak havoc, Congress may decide to pass along term CR or a shorter-term CR followed by the passage of a big omnibus funding bill. The scenario is familiar. It’s played out in one form or another since 2008. Since a good resolution seems unlikely, let’s hope for a speedy one. Extended uncertainty is not good for the schools or at the bigger picture level for the nation’s economy. Read More »