Growth in High-Quality Content and New Publishers
By Ted Levine, Kids Discover
Many people have been calling for a “content revolution” in education over the last few years. We’ve seen major disruption with the emergence of OER’s and the early stages of virtual reality (VR). However, these two examples represent near opposite ends of the spectrum in educational content. That is, most OER’s fall into the category of light worksheets, short print-outs, and generally supplemental material. VR, on the other hand, represents the future of fully interactive and immersive learning experiences.
There is a vast sea of content, both free and paid, that falls in between these two ends of the spectrum. In 2017 and in 2018, we’ll see large, medium, and small publishers begin to enhance their content offerings and products in a more meaningful way, both in print and in digital. The market for paid content may well continue to contract, but publishers that put out offerings that are far superior to the material offered in OER’s—but more accessible for schools than VR—will have a place in school budgets. Publishers that do not enhance their content offerings and the digital products they developed in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s will fall out of favor.
Identifying and Helping Students with Dyslexia
By Donell Pons, educator
One of the biggest systemic issues is that for years in special ed we could not use the term “dyslexia.” Instead, these students were classified as having a specific learning disability or learning disability. Yet, at the end of 2016, only 11 states have no dyslexia laws on the books. There is progress, but it’s slow and takes considerable effort. At American International School of Utah, where I am the K-12 literacy coordinator, one of the tools we use to help dyslexic students (and, in fact, all students who need literacy support) is Reading Horizons. This reading system distills Orton-Gillingham concepts to simple and elegant explanations of the English language that are extremely effective for students with dyslexia and others who are learning to read. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, yet many educators don’t recognize it in their students. My hope for, and mission in, 2017 is to better support efforts to identify, screen, and remediate every student who struggles with reading, and engage every K-12 teacher in the reading process.
Donell Pons, M.Ed, MAT, SPED, is an educator and dyslexia screener, consultant, and tutor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Webcast #1: http://tiny.cc/29kfhy; Webcast #2:http://tiny.cc/1alfhy; to register for Webcast #3: Dyslexia – Best Practices for Instruction and Intervention (January 25, 2017) http://www.readinghorizons.com/webcast.
Better Connecting Student and Educator Growth Data
By Woody Dillaha and Jeanette Haren, Performance Matters
In many K-12 districts, student and educator growth data are in separate systems, creating information silos. At the same time, data-driven decision making has become a ubiquitous term in education. To most educators, that phrase correlates to analyzing student academic outcomes and differentiating instruction accordingly. Research shows this practice does improve student learning. But the time has come in 2017 to move data-driven decision making to the next level—by connecting student and educator data.
The Every Student Succeeds Act places more emphasis on local control. As a result, in 2016, more educational leaders began talking about the need to correlate program investments and their “return on learning.” Similarly, teachers began asking for access to resources connected to their needs and to those of their students. The movement to provide better insights by connecting student and educator data is underway. Used effectively, these insights will take the value of data-driven decision making to the next level in 2017 and beyond.
Woody Dillaha is the president and co-founder, and Jeanette Haren is the chief product officer and co-founder of Performance Matters.
Paying Attention to Small Data and School Culture
By Jennifer Medbery, thought leader
In 2016, educators began realizing that while big data can be very helpful, it is not enough. To truly make a difference in student learning and achievement, we must pay attention to “small data,” too. Indeed, in a 2016 research report titled “The State of Climate & Culture Initiatives in America’s Schools,” a majority of K-12 administrators and teachers said that addressing students’ behavior—and their underlying social and emotional needs—is a critical step in increasing student outcomes. Despite this, few reported having systems in place to consistently collect this data and use it as evidence to support their decisions.
Heading into 2017, district and school leaders are recognizing that tracking and managing small data—such as observation of students’ behavior and social interactions, and assessment of their emotional well-being—is now a “must-have” capability. Toward that end, they will seek out new ways to simplify data collection and establish consistent systems to track, manage and analyze small data. They will see the links between big data and the smaller clues that can yield important information about a student and his or her performance. Finally, they will be able to use small data to crack the code of student success in a way that big data alone cannot.
Jennifer Medbery is an author, speaker, and nationally recognized thought leader on the impact a positive school climate and culture can have on increasing student success. A graduate of Columbia University, Medbery spent several years as a high school teacher through Teach for America before founding Kickboard, an award-winning education technology company based in New Orleans.
Addressing the Effects of Poverty on the Brain
By Dr. Martha Burns, neuroscientist
After several news stories appeared in 2015 about how poverty affects the brain, the conversation in 2016 began to shift from “what do we know about it?” to “what can we do about it?” We know that education offers children a path out of poverty, but their brains must be ready to receive that instruction. Children who haven’t acquired sufficient foundational perceptual, cognitive or linguistic skills require explicit “catch-up” interventions in these areas before traditional classroom instruction and reading instruction can be effective. Neuroscience offers not only an explanation of the problem but solutions that can change the brains of all students to enable learning.
In 2017, K-12 educators will increasingly turn to neuroscience-based solutions to build the underlying capacities that are reduced in children of poverty. By building skills such as memory, attention and processing speed, we can develop the foundational cognitive skills needed for better reading and learning across the curriculum. We can address the root cause of students’ difficulty, instead of simply providing accommodations. This is crucial because without building children’s cognitive capacity, they have no chance of catching up.
As the author of more than 100 journal articles and multiple books, neuroscientist Martha S. Burns, Ph.D., is an expert on how children learn. She works as a consultant for the clinical provider division of Scientific Learning Corp., and serves as Adjunct Associate Professor at Northwestern University.