Walton Family Foundation gives $157 million toward education reform

The numbers are in: the Walton Family Foundation invested $157 million in grants for K-12 education reform in 2010, a $23 million increase over its 2009 total of $134 million, reports the Huffington Post. The 23-year-old foundation, created by Walmart Founder Sam Walton and his wife Helen, is second only to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in its spending on schools. Having spent over $1 billion to date on education reform, the Walton Family Foundation remains the largest donor toward initiatives supporting parental choice and encouraging competition in the education system…

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Taking a spin on the Hudson, and earning course credit, too

By the end of this week, some 51,000 seniors will have graduated from New York’s public high schools, each with a minimum of 44 credits broken down in a formula guidance counselors know like a mantra: eight each in English and social studies; six each in science and math; two each in art and foreign language; four in gym; one in health; seven for electives, reports the New York Times. But exactly what qualifies for credit depends on the principals of the city’s 400-plus high schools, though they must follow certain state requirements, like the number of hours logged in class and evidence of student work and progress. And in an era of budget cuts in which both space and staffing are scarce, more and more students are earning some credits in unconventional ways: on Saturdays, in online courses, through independent study and in things like sailing that used to be considered extracurricular…

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Google unveils latest social networking feat

Online search leader Google Inc. is taking yet another stab at social networking, as it tries to go up against Facebook in this wildly popular and lucrative segment of the internet, the Associated Press reports. This time the project is called Google+ and it aims to make online sharing more like real life.

“We think people communicate in very rich ways,” said Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google. “The online tools we have to choose from give us very rigid services.”

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Demand for online learning increases

More than 40 percent of students now designate online classes as an essential component of their learning experience.

In just three years, the number of high school students who have access to online learning has tripled, while twice as many middle school students are now learning online, according to a new report.

These figures come from the nonprofit group Project Tomorrow and its most recent Speak Up survey on school technology use. Project Tomorrow first released data from its this survey earlier this spring, but the organization has teamed up with learning management system provider Blackboard Inc. to dig deeper into the results that pertain to online learning.

Project Tomorrow and Blackboard issued a report on these findings during the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference June 28.

More than 40 percent of students now designate online classes as an essential component of their learning experience, with administrators and parents also becoming more supportive of this vision, the report says. In two years’ time, 39 percent more administrators and five times as many parents have incorporated online classes into their vision for the ultimate school.

While support for online learning has grown, so, too, has the untapped student demand for online learning as part of their ultimate school. One-third of middle and high school students say they are interested in taking an online course but have not yet, and 30 percent of third through fifth grade students say they’d like to take an online course, according to the survey.

“Online learning is transformative. We are just starting to see a generation rising through middle schools that demand online learning and have a clear insight into how it can change the future of education,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “These students are moving online learning beyond the basic learning paradigm and taking ownership in their learning process—creating an engaging, personalized, and collaborative learning environment.”

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ISTE conference is alive with social networking

ISTE attendees connected through social networking, as well as in person.

What better place to use social networking technologies to connect with fellow educators and school leaders than at the nation’s largest ed-tech conference? That’s what was happening at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Philadelphia this week.

Websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, and other social networking platforms were abuzz with the latest news, reactions, and updates from the show floor and from conference breakout sessions.

The isteconnects Twitter feed organized an #edchat that explored topics such as science instruction, textbooks vs. technology in the classroom, and project-based learning.

web20education shared a link to 99 must-have Twitter tools and applications, while KTVee noted that “teaching kids science only from a textbook is like looking at a travel brochure and calling that a vacation.”

briankotts tweeted a link describing 10 ways that Wikipedia has changed education.  Some of those 10 ways include forcing students to be more selective about the online sources they use for information and research, as well as encouraging “casual learning” outside of the classroom.

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Colorado holds lotto to help underprivileged children pay for private schools

Douglas County School District officials say their controversial pilot scholarship is going to move forward until a court orders it to stop, the Huffington Post reports. The day after two lawsuits were filed, by three civil liberties unions on behalf of a group of parents and Taxpayers for Public Education a few hours later, the Douglas County voucher program held its scholarship lottery to help students afford choices outside of the public school system…

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More cheating uncovered in city schools

The Baltimore Sun broke a story revealing that an egregious level of cheating had taken place during state assessment testing at two city schools, and one of the schools even went further in fudging attendance records to make annual progress goals mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Officials also said that two more cheating investigations are pending, but declined to name the schools. Abbottston Elementary School and Fort Worthington Elementary School were found to have cheated on the 2009 Maryland School Assessments, city schools CEO and State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick are scheduled to announce in a news conference Thursday…

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Opinion: Are school librarians expendable?

My feeling–as someone who works in a local tech education center that shares its library with the high school next door–is that this situation is more complex than administrators’ seeing librarians as expendable, says Jessamyn West, a librarian and technology instructor in central Vermont, for the New York Times. No matter how effective teachers are, children will be left behind without librarians to help guide them through the information blizzard. In the situation schools are in now, where expenses like staff health insurance costs and I.T. infrastructure budgets are going up by double-digit percentages a year, people have a triage mentality. Some schools are having to reconsider all non-mandated services and make tough decisions. I think a few factors come into play…

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Brizard, Emanuel suggest CPS teachers make home visits

In a press conference coordinated with the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO)’s announcement that their organization, which oversees a network of charter schools, is adding instructional days to their forthcoming academic year, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and new schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard suggested that the group’s charter system offers a model of the direction in which Chicago Public Schools should head, the Huffington Post reports. Namely, Brizard suggested that CPS teachers should begin to make two annual “home visits” in order to forge a better connection with students’ families, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

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Green literacy new graduation requirement in MD

Maryland public school students will need to know their green to graduate under a new policy adopted today by the state board of education, reports the Baltimore Sun. State officials and environmental activists called the vote “historic” and said Maryland has become the first state in the nation to require environmental literacy to graduate from high school. Under the rule, public schools will be required to work lessons about conservation, smart growth and the health of our natural world into their core subjects like science and social studies…

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