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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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Competitions and Funding Upswings

A reminder that the deadline for the REVERE Awards (formerly known as the AEP Awards program) is January 15. Many of you are familiar with this program, which has honored excellence across all types of resources for preK-12 and adult learners, educators and administrators for decades. The AAP PreK-12 Learning Group has made a number of changes to the competition this year, so you may want to take a look at the Awards web site. One change I find especially appealing is the addition of the new Beyond the Classroom category this year, designed to honor resources that are typically found outside formal learning environments. These products are not tied to formal pedagogy or curricula; they serve broader goals like stimulating the imagination or promoting creativity. Fun, exploration and learning go hand-in-hand. I look forward to learning about some new resources coming from both the usual and the unusual suspects.

The final week of the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition is also looming, with a January 15 deadline as well. Read More »

IF YOU BUILD IT, Budget Update, Student Privacy

As the year was winding down I got a note from O'Malley Creadon Productions that included a link to the newly released trailer for their new documentary, IF YOU BUILD IT. The documentary follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what's possible. This is one of those large projects that we often hear discussed - integrating design sensibilities, applied academics and vocational skills - but seldom get to see in action. The documentary was directed by Patrick Creadon and produced by Christine O'Malley and Neal Baer. Theatrical premieres of their new documentary are scheduled for January 10th in New York City and January 24th in Los Angeles. Read More »

News Roundup

Happy Holidays, friends! Whatever holidays you are celebrating, we wish you a joyous time with your friends and family.

We’re grateful to have had so many valuable contributions to the News Alert from our friends and industry colleagues throughout 2013! This week’s special edition of the News Alert highlights the most read articles from the second half of the year to give you another chance at catching up on them.

The highlighted collection below presents the four articles published since July 2013 that received the most pageviews. Enjoy!

We’ll see you back here on Friday, January 3, and we wish you and yours a very happy holiday.

Is Your K-12 Sales Team Ready for Prime Time?

In the News: Tablets and Apps in K-12…And What This Means for App Developers

What We Noticed: Reflections and Takeaways From EdNET 2013

The State of Common Core: 10 District Survey Read More »

PCs and Tablets

It will surprise no one to learn that IDC is reporting that the tablet market is booming. Sales in 2013 grew by 53.5%, reaching an estimated 221.3 million units. On the other hand, the PC market is experiencing the largest contraction in its history. IDC says that PC shipments for 2013 will record a 10.1% drop. IDC projects that sales will continue to drop through 2014 before stabilizing at just above 300 million units - barely ahead of 2008 volumes. Much of the drop off can be attributed to slowed consumer sales. Shipments to the commercial market declined by 5% year-over-year compared to nearly -15% for the consumer market. PCs are largely used for consumption and productivity tasks. Lacking a compelling replacement driver, PC lifespans continues to increase, limiting market growth. Tablet sales are expected to remain strong, but as the market matures, the rate of growth will slow. IDC projects that worldwide tablet shipment growth will slow to 22.2% in 2014, with a total of 270.5 million units shipping. By 2017, annual market growth will slow to single-digit percentages and shipments will peak at 386.3 million units. Read More »

O.W.L.S., Budget Deals and PISA

I may be easily amused, but I found myself smiling broadly as I read Waterstones' announcement of its O.W.L.S. delivery service - a fleet of specially trained owls that will deliver packages within thirty minutes of ordering. Even before reading Waterstones' tongue-in cheek Q&A about the service, I had visions of Ron Weasley's (Harry Potter's friend) rather unpredictable owl battering away at my bedroom windows rather than finding its way to the balcony where I would happily have set out water and birdseed (I don't do mice!). No launch date as of yet. Waterstones notes that it takes ages to train owls to do anything.

Perhaps we need to come up with an alternative delivery mechanism for crafting the federal budget and dealing with sequestration? Though there does now appear to be a small glimmer of hope in Congress for at least a short term budget fix and some relaxation of the sequester. Read on…. Read More »

Youth CareerConnect, Wavering on the Waivers

President Obama has announced a small grant program - Youth CareerConnect - focused on encouraging the scaling up of "evidence-based high school models that will transform the high school experience for America's youth." In his 2013 State of the Union address, the President addressed high school reform, talking about partnerships involving innovative high schools, colleges and employers aimed at graduating students better equipped for the demands of a high-tech economy. The President included $300 million in new funding at the Department of Education in his 2014 Budget request, but we all know that's not going anyplace. Funding for Youth CareerConnect will be coming from the Department of Labor who will use up to $100 million in revenues from the H-1B visa program to fund approximately 25 to 40 grants for individual or multi-site projects. Read More »

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.
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    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 »