ED launches version 2.0 of its education data website

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Aug. 25 launched version 2.0 of ED Data Express, an interactive website aimed at making accurate and timely K-12 education data available to the public. The upgraded site adds new data visualization tools, enhanced documentation, and social networking options for users.

“By providing parents and educators with more robust and interactive ways to explore education data, we are supporting their ability to understand, evaluate, and improve how we educate our children,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

ED Data Express launched in August 2010 as a key element of ED’s open government plan. The site consolidates relevant data collected by the department from several different sources and provides a variety of tools that allow users to explore the data and create individualized reports.

Version 2.0 of ED Data Express offers a new visual layout and gives the public more dynamic tools to interact with the information, such as… 

• A mapping feature that allows users to view the data displayed on a map of the United States;

• A trend line tool, which displays a data element graphed across multiple school years; and

• A conditional analysis tool, which allows users to view one data element based on conditions set by another data element.

In addition, the site has improved documentation and added the ability to share information from the site using social networking tools, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Data on the site include information collected by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the National Center for Education Statistics, and The College Board, among other sources. Available data include state assessment results, National Assessment of Educational Progress results, graduation rates, and school accountability information. ED Data Express also publishes budget figures and demographics.

Version 3.0 of ED Data Express will include a redesigned State Snapshots section that is under development and is scheduled to launch this winter, ED says.



RheeFirst, Michelle Rhee attack site, defended by teachers union

In the eyes of Steven Brill, the American Federation of Teachers building a website attacking Michelle Rhee and masking its origins is worse than Rhee’s creating a billion-dollar organization aimed at revamping education that doesn’t disclose its backers, reports the Huffington Post. Brill, author of the recent Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, came to the education beat after writing a piece for the New Yorker about the “Rubber Room,” a place where New York City public school teachers were paid to stay out of classrooms…

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Mom gives back-to-school shoes to 700 needy kids in murdered son’s name

For Lynn Alderman, August is the cruelest month. It’s the month her son, Joey, was born. It’s also the month he was shot and killed three years ago in what authorities believe was an attempted robbery at a gas station, reports the Huffington Post.

“If I could, I would just sleep from July 31 until September 1,” she told the Huffington Post. “On August 10, he died, and on the 23rd, it was his birthday. Having to deal with those days, it just hits you.”

But this year, Alderman commemorated the month of August in an uplifting way. She channelled her despair to help other children in Joey’s honor by providing 700 needy kids in her Charlotte, N.C., community with back-to-school shoes last weekend…

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Don’t weep at urban violence; prevent it with better schools

Let us not linger too long wringing our hands and shedding our tears. Be assured that I write this as one who has shed many a tear over the loss of far too many young people shot and killed in north Minneapolis over the last 20 years. But I also get deeply angry over each untimely death–because this violence does not have to happen, says Gary Marvin Davison, former researcher and writer for the 2004 and 2008 editions of “The State of African Americans in Minnesota” for the Minneapolis Urban League and current director of the New Salem Educational Initiative in north Minneapolis for the StarTribune. What the wonderful youths and adults of north Minneapolis really need are our long-term effective actions, not after-the-fact weeping and lamentation. They need constructive efforts that build for the future more than they need commiseration over momentary calamity…

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Public high school grads struggle at college

New data show GPAs decline markedly, raising questions about whether students are prepared for demands of higher education, the Chicago Tribune reports. Ariana Taylor thought she was ready for college after taking Advanced Placement physics and English at her Chicago public high school and graduating with a 3.2 GPA. Instead, at Illinois State University, she was overwhelmed by her course load and the demands of college. Her GPA freshman year dropped to 2.7—and that was significantly better than other graduates from Morgan Park High School, who averaged a 1.75 at Illinois State…

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Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi join forces in displays

The display businesses of three major Japanese electronics makers are joining forces to become more competitive in small and medium-sized panels—a sector that’s expected to grow because of the popularity of smartphones and tablets, the Associated Press reports. The display-business subsidiaries of Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. agreed to sign a deal later this year and to complete the business combination by the first few months of next year, the companies said Wednesday…

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Dissatisfied with school website, student builds app

Infinite Campus users in 250 school districts across the country reportedly have downloaded Daniel's IC Connector iPhone app.

When the San Jose Unified School District rolled out its new web-based student information system earlier this year, students immediately noticed some shortcomings.

For one, they no longer could view their current grades for all their classes at one glance. Checking on several classes required several clicks—which for a 16-year-old is, like, so much work.

Instead of settling, Daniel Brooks, then a senior at Pioneer High School, came up with a Silicon Valley-style fix: He developed an iPhone app.

Then he got Apple’s approval to hawk it on the App Store, handed out hundreds of fliers, and now has 2,300 users who downloaded it across the country.

“It ended up on every iPhone and iPad and portable device that any student and teacher had on campus,” said Scott Peterson, a Pioneer High English teacher who doubles as the campus tech support.

In the months since, Daniel has experienced the highs and lows familiar to many software developers who have created wildly popular apps—although he’s getting them a little earlier in his career than most.

Daniel’s app is so successful that users want more; in particular, his teachers started pushing him to develop a version for them. But he’s received less enthusiasm from the company whose technology he improved: software developer Infinite Campus, which developed the web-based student information system accessible by teachers, parents, and students.


Universal Service reform: What it means for schools

Broadband providers and their customers, including schools, will face new compliance challenges as the web of federal programs supporting broadband service grows larger and more intertwined.

With broadband service becoming an increasingly essential tool for participating in modern life, federal policy makers are pursuing regulatory reforms that will fundamentally refocus the government’s “Universal Service” programs and related regulations to spur more broadband deployment and adoption—a marked departure from the historical primacy of circuit switched voice services.

These reforms promise to give community anchor institutions, including schools and libraries, access to a wider variety of affordable broadband service than ever before. The changes also promise to expand the range of broadband services eligible for support under the federal Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism (also known as the “e-Rate”).

At the same time, broadband service providers and their customers—including schools—will face new compliance challenges as the web of federal programs supporting broadband infrastructure grows larger and more intertwined.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has under consideration:

  • Multiple proposals—chiefly including the America’s Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Plan, proposed by large and midsize telecommunications companies, as well as an alternative plan championed by Google, Skype, Sprint, Vonage, and others—to transform the High-Cost Universal Service Support Mechanisms to provide direct support for broadband facilities and services, in accord with the blueprint outlined in the National Broadband Plan. These proposals would create the Connect America Fund (CAF), described last year in the  National Broadband Plan. The ABC Plan would provide $2.2 billion annually in support for broadband facilities and services where no unsupported competitor offers such services today, while the Google Plan would create separate technology-neutral Broadband Build and need-based Broadband Operations components. The ABC Plan also would create the Advanced Mobility/Satellite Fund (AMF), as described in the National Broadband Plan, to provide $300 million for mobile broadband service in unserved areas, including limited support for the installation costs of satellite broadband equipment installations.
  • A proposal to create a Low-Income Broadband Support pilot program, which could include support for deployment of network facilities and customer premises equipment, provision of broadband service, and digital literacy training to encourage sustainable broadband adoption.
  • Reforms to the Rural Health Care Support Mechanism, which has struggled to fulfill its promise since it was created. Complementary programs—such as Health Information Technology (HIT) loans, offered through the joint efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and USDA Community Connect grants—might help rejuvenate this program.

In addition, the FCC will be watching to see the results from the 2011 “Learning on the Go” wireless pilot program for schools and libraries, which could expand the range of mobile broadband services eligible for federal e-Rate support as early as Funding Year 2013.

As these proposals become reality, broadband providers and e-Rate customers are likely to see expanded service options and more affordable rates. However, compliance with all of the requirements of overlapping and complementary federal programs will become increasing complicated.


Opinion: Teachers get little say in a book about them

Can an education reform movement that demeans and trivializes teachers succeed? It’s hard to imagine, but that is what is going on in parts of America today, the New York Times reports. In Steven Brill’s new book celebrating the movement, “Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools,” teachers are literally the least of it. Of the three million who work in traditional public schools, three are interviewed by Mr. Brill on the record; their insights take up six of the book’s 437 pages. Nor do charter school teachers fare much better…

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Ex-Apple exec wants to make textbooks like computers

Inkling, a digital textbook company started by ex-Apple education exec Matt MacInnis, wants to make textbooks more like computers, reports the Huffington Post. MacInnis told HuffPost that e-textbooks should be specially converted for digital consumption. They should be more, he said, “than just flat scans of the original material” — a not-so-subtle dig at Inkling’s main competitor, digital textbook seller Kno. What makes Inkling’s textbooks better, MacInnis said with a bit of braggadocio, is that they “change the way information is consumed.”

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