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Field Testing Ends, Teacher Ownership of Teacher-Created Materials

Both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium wrapped up their field tests of the new Common Core assessments last week. In the 22 SBAC states and territories, 4.2 million students completed English and math assessments in grades 3 - 8 and 11th grade. PARCC tested more than one million students in 14 states and the District of Columbia. The field tests gave both consortia a chance to try out their test items, checking for validity and reliability. Teachers and students also got a preview of what to expect when the tests go live (and count) in the spring of 2015. PARCC reports that student surveys showed that students liked the online format. Test administrators were also quite positive, but noted that instruction for test administrators were too long and sometimes confusing. PARCC plans to release a list of lessons learned from the field test this summer. Read More »

Beacon Awards, More on the States and the CCSS

A shout out to my colleagues at MDR, who were honored with a Beacon Award last week at the annual Beacon Awards Luncheon held during the AAP PreK Learning Group's Context in Context conference. The Beacon Award recognizes the work of the marketers among us in promoting learning resources to schools, parents and students. MDR's entry showcased significant new ways the team can help customers deliver integrated programs, winning in the digital marketing category for a campaign created for the National Fire Prevention Association to promote aware of Fire Prevention Week. In addition to an interactive children's app, an eBook aligned to Common Core State Standards, and a website with interactive whiteboard lessons and downloadable activities for school and home use, the MDR team recruited edubloggers and mom bloggers to spread the word, ran print ads in national magazines, launched web ads, conducted an extensive PR campaign, and sent waves of targeted emails to educators. MDR found itself in good company. Other winners included Cardigan Mountain School, Corwin, Discovery Education, Teaching Channel and Scholastic. Congratulations all! AAP created a virtual Gallery this year to showcase the work of all the finalists and winners in its three award programs. Check it out at Read More »

White House Science Fair

CoSN and the Education Superhighway have done the leg wok to arrive at an estimate of the annual cost involved in ensuring that every school has the equipment and services required for robust LAN, Wi-Fi, and core WAN networks. They project that schools will require approximately $2.9 billion of E-rate subsidies over the next four years to upgrade their LAN, WAN, and Wi-Fi networks. Adding an additional 10% for libraries, the total upgrade cost is approximately $3.2 billion or$800 million per year for the next four years. That's not as high as I expected, though it only covers the costs of getting the schools equipped with robust internal wired and wireless networks. The E-rate cap is $2.41 in program year 2014, but the estimated demand for Priority One services in 2014 is $2.63 billion, leaving nothing for internal connections (Priority Two), The FCC has an extra $2 billion to spend over the next two years. CoSN and EducationSuperHighway are recommending that FCC add a minimum of $800 million per year of new funding to the E-rate program. The FCC has seemed uninclined to add new funding to the E-rate; it seems to be thinking about shifting priorities, downplaying traditional telephony to focus on wireless and internal connections. It shouldn't be too much longer to wait to learn their decision. Read More »

Teachers Know Best

The Gates Foundation released a research report about a month ago that really has not received much attention. "Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools" is based on surveys of 3,100 teachers, 1250 students 70 students and teacher interviews and an analysis of 16 districts. The research is focused on on student-facing digital instructional tools, applications that students use for learning. No one will be surprised to learn that teachers are looking for instructional resources, both digital and non-digital, that align with the new Common Core standards and/or their lessons plans. Also no surprise, because we’ve heard it so much lately, most teachers say they are not finding instructional resources (both digital and non-digital) up to the job of helping them teach new college- and career-ready standards. While 88% of teachers said that instructional resources (both digital and non-digital) designed to meet standards are available in their subject or grade level, only 55% of surveyed teachers said these resources were actually sufficient to help their students meet these standards. The good news is that researchers went a lot deeper trying to learn about what teachers use and where the gaps in usage existed. Read More »

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 »