Data: It’s more than test scores

It’s pretty common these days to hear the term “data-driven decision-making” in education and assume it is synonymous with standardized test scores. But we all know that students are more than a set of test scores. And just like there are multiple ways to assess how a student performs, there are many dimensions to education data.  New digital tools are making it possible to build personalized student learning profiles that showcase both academic and non-academic data.

I got a chance to share this idea with many of my fellow education entrepreneurs at the recent White House Education Datapalooza event on October 9, which included special guests U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education Jim Shelton. It was our honor to present and learn about products, services and applications that have immense potential for advancing education achievement.

Digital tools make it possible for schools to go beyond the traditional gradebook. Yes, well-designed quizzes and demonstrated mastery of the new Common Core State Standards matter, but data doesn’t stop there.

Of the many innovations highlighted at the Education Datapalooza, the most promising were the ones building new data sets to uncover trends and insights in student achievement. Everfi, for example, captures data about student perceptions towards personal finance through game-based assessment. Knewton’s adaptive learning platform catches student misconceptions at a micro level as they progress through media-rich content. Gallup’s StrengthsFinder identifies students’ intrinsic talents, helping students navigate successfully from school to career.

And with Kickboard, teachers are keeping track of other factors that were historically (and sometimes mysteriously) rolled into the overall grade on a report card – class participation, timeliness and completion of work.

Keeping track of students’ character development and learning habits – and taking into account the process and thinking behind completing a task, not just whether they got it “right” – is essential to personalizing learning.


Early childhood skills pave way for later success

Parents can use free resources to help their children develop skills necessary for academic success.

Advancements in digital media are helping young children use technology to develop important social and emotional skills as they enter school, and a new PBS Kids resource aims to give children the resources they need to improve those skills.

Social and emotional skills form a large part of a child’s learning foundation, and children are not going to be successful with academic content if they aren’t able to do self-regulatory things such as focus on a task, get along with others, and sit still, said Roberta Schomburg, an early childhood education expert and associate dean and director of Carlow University’s School of Education.

Preschool teachers spend much time helping children develop those self-regulating skills, and families can engage children in out-of-school activities to help them develop those skills, which also include problem-solving, self-confidence, and risk-taking.

To that end, PBS Kids recently launched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a new television series, mobile app, and robust website that builds on the classic PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

See also:

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New PBS resource could help advance digital learning

Schomburg said the free resources—television show, website, and app—help children understand and manage their feelings, because young children often can be confused by feelings and can struggle to identify which exact feeling they are experiencing. The website features games, videos, and printables.

Each episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood consists of two engaging stories that center on a common early learning theme, such as dealing with disappointment. The series uses musical strategies to reinforce each theme. Every story includes an “imagination moment” in which Daniel plays out a preschool fantasy set to music. Then, the day’s strategy is reprised in a full song at the end.

“We’re really in a whole new place since tablets have come on the market, and the touch screen is more prevalent,” Schomburg said. “Young children often have trouble with the concept of a mouse. The tablets are so intuitive.”


Why Miami-Dade schools won prestigious Broad Prize for urban districts

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools, schools are slowly but steadily chipping away at the achievement gap, especially for Hispanic and black students, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The district, which on Tuesday was awarded the Broad Prize for Urban Education, has increased black and Hispanic graduation rates at a faster rate than other urban districts in the United States; has increased the percentages of Hispanic and black students reaching the highest achievement levels; and has increased the percentages and scores of students participating in college-readiness exams more than other districts. It’s the fifth time that Miami-Dade has been a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize, which honors urban districts for their success in reducing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students, as well as for high overall performance and improvement in student achievement…

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Watch: ‘Undroppable’ producers embark on tour to teach students politics

Producers of the social media-driven education web series and documentary Undroppable will embark on a nationwide tour starting Wednesday to help inform U.S. high school students about political topics, Mashable reports.

“Most high school students can’t vote this year, but they need to know what’s going on just as much as everyone else,” says filmmaker Jason Pollock, who is one of the project’s four producers.

He, Scooter Braun, Adam McKay and Sharon Chang will launch the “Undroppable Election Tour” in Los Angeles. Pollock’s visits will be 60 minutes and consist of a speech, videos and panels with area leaders. The non-partisan tour will visit 14 high schools in 10 states from Wednesday until Election Day…

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Watch: This Android phone is tailor-made for visually impaired people

Rather than downloading various apps and software to accommodate their needs, the visually impaired are getting an Android smartphone developed specifically for them, Mashable reports. Telecom-product manufacturer Qualcomm and Project Ray are partnering to create one do-it-all device for visually impaired consumers. The off-the-shelf Android device will be able to read your messages, navigation and audio books aloud. It also has object recognition and will adapt to users’ preferences and usage patterns. Users will navigate the touchscreen phone using vibration and sound. This phone will reach an entirely under-served market when it comes to smartphones. There are 285 million visually impaired people in the world, 39 million of which are blind. Currently, several smartphone apps help visually impaired people identify paper currency, navigate streets and read text messages out loud. These options might be preferable to some visually impaired people who are strictly iPhone users, as Qualcomm and Project Ray’s phone is Android-based…

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New Jersey’s only all-boys public school prompts praise, criticism

Last month marked the grand opening of the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Newark, the city’s first and only public, single-sex school, the Huffington Post reports. The academy is one of Newark’s newest public schools and is part of an effort to transform the district by closing underperforming schools, replacing principals and opening new schools boasting innovative programs. The Star-Ledger reports that while the all-boys school is run by Newark’s school district, it is supported by the New York City-based Eagle Academy Foundation, which provides resources and community programs to three all-boys institutions in New York in addition to Newark’s Eagle Academy. According to the state Department of Education, the foundation’s schools boasted a high school graduation rate of 87 percent in 2010, compared with Newark’s 61 percent in 2011…

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Prop 30 and 38 broken down, in pictures and charts

When Californians hit the voting booths Nov. 6, they will be choosing between two initiatives that will drastically affect how the state’s struggling public schools will be funded, the Huffington Post reports. To more clearly and concisely explain the difference between the proposals, our friends at education nonprofit EdSource has put together infographics that lay out Prop 30 and Prop 30. Prop 30, sponsored by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise income taxes by 1 to 3 percent over seven years for those earning $250,000 or couples jointly filing returns for more than $500,000. The plan would raise about $6 billion annually, $2.9 billion of which would go to K-12 schools and community colleges in the first year. Prop 38 is championed by millionaire civil rights attorney Molly Munger and would increase state income taxes for all Californians over 12 years

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Colonial Williamsburg introduces new electronic field trips

Colonial Williamsburg, Va., has launched a new season of electronic field trips for students.

The historic area says the season began earlier this month with a rebroadcast of a program examining the country’s political system and election history.

These free distance-learning programs are targeted to grades 4-8 and are supported with multi-disciplinary lesson plans, interactive student resources, program scripts, and other materials to help teachers make history exciting and relevant for students. The electronic field trips are offered on public television and cable stations nationwide, and on the internet.

Officials say additional electronic field trips this season include programs exploring the U.S. law of 1807 that abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the global economy, colonial trades and businesses, and how 18th-century music shaped public opinion and even changed history.

The next event is scheduled for Nov. 8 and is called “Emissaries of Peace.” It follows Cherokee leader Ostenaco and Virginian Henry Timberlake on their 1762 journey in search of a lasting peace during the French and Indian War.