Districts report ‘major problems’ finding Common Core resources

Years into Common Core, teachers lament lack of materials

common-coreThe learning standards were new. The textbooks were not.

So curriculum director Tammy Baumann and her team took the books apart, literally. Then they rearranged lessons, filled in holes with outside material and put it all together in what will be the K-2 math curriculum in the fall at her district in East Lansing, Michigan.

It was a time-consuming but necessary response, Baumann said, to what appears to be a near-universal lament of teachers as they page through textbooks and websites: a lack of high-quality teaching materials aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards that have been adopted by most states.

Next page: The learning landscape, five years into Common Core implementation


Alma releases new standards tracker

Tracking features in integrated SIS and LMS platform enable educators to plan and modify curriculum and instruction in real time

standard-trackerAlma Technologies, a provider of a holistic student engagement platform for K-12 schools, has added a standards tracking tool intended to empower educators more effectively teach to proficiency against any set of academic standards.

The tool supports the growing trend toward standards-based grading in schools and districts across the country. Educators get visibility into student achievement on each standard in real time and in a way that is aligned to their natural workflow for curriculum and instructional planning.

Alma’s Standards Tracker was designed based on the standards-based grading model. The system provides educators the contextual information they need to gauge class performance against each standard and effectively plan the next steps in their curriculum and instructional strategy.

Through an intuitive, streamlined, color-coded interface, educators can plan and track the frequency of lessons taught and assessed against each standard, as well as measure proficiency levels by class at anytime, from anywhere.

The system shows students’ latest proficiency scores on each standard based on their performance in all classrooms so their teachers always know the students’ current skill level. This is particularly valuable as more schools and educators incorporate project-based learning and other multidisciplinary approaches that teach standards across the curriculum, such as working ELA standards into science classes.

“Our Standards Tracker is another step in our mission provide school and district leaders and teachers with a holistic view of student learning as this picture continues to evolve and expand,” said Alma President Jack Macleod. “What was viewed as holistic five years ago, even two years ago, is even more complex and detailed today. We work closely with top education experts through our Advisory Board to support the education community in advancing our collective understanding, improve the process, and accelerate learning.”

Alma is a flexible platform for schools and districts to align their curriculum and instructional plans to state and Common Core State Standards as well as local targets and benchmarks. The Standards Tracker is available for the 2015-16 school year.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


New OpenEd partnerships expand access to resources

Partnerships provide millions more teachers and students with resources for personalizing learning

open-resourcesOpenEd is expanding new partnerships that now make its resources available real-time across a broad range of ed tech companies, including a learning management system (LMS), test prep app and assessment solution, enabling literally millions more teachers and students to have access to its resources for personalizing learning.

The company is announcing new partnerships with LMS companies Otus Learning Management Network and Atlas Learning, and Higher Learning Technology for its test prep apps.

OpenEd’s resources already are available through assessment companies, including Renaissance Learning, which is using OpenEd’s learning activities, videos and homework assignments aligned to standards and tagged for specific curriculum uses, and making them available to the more than 30,000 schools who use Renaissance’s STAR assessment.

Next page: More details about the new partnerships


Summer of Creativity $500 grants available for young changemakers

Disney | ABC Television Group supports 125 youth-led service projects with $500 grants

summer-grantsAs school lets out for the summer, Youth Service America (YSA) is calling on kids to make this a Summer of Creativity.

YSA, through support from Disney | ABC Television Group will award Summer of Creativity Grants to young change-makers who have ideas and projects that positively impact their community.

Youth ages 5-18 in the U.S. are eligible to apply for Summer of Creativity Grants by submitting service project ideas that will make a difference in their local communities.

One hundred and twenty five winners will be awarded individual $500 grants to implement their projects. Select grantees will have a chance to be recognized on Good Morning America or their local ABC affiliate. Applications will be accepted through August 10, 2015, at YSA.org/BeInspired.

2014 grant-awarded projects included:
• Warm Winters, a program run by a 14-year-old to collect coats, hats, and gloves left at ski resorts to help keep the homeless warm.
• Shred Kids Cancer, a campaign organized by a 14-year-old to fundraise for research to help find cures for pediatric cancer.
• Braeden’s Brown Bags, a foundation founded by a 10-year-old to provide healthy meals to kids in need.

“With half the world’s population under the age of 25, our future depends on helping young people to find their voice, take action, and make a positive impact in their communities. We know that young people are uniquely suited to help solve problems – if given the opportunity,” said Steven A. Culbertson, President and CEO of YSA. “We need youth to be leaders and problem solvers today, not just the leaders of a distant tomorrow. Disney ABC Television Group’s Summer of Creativity is about shining a bright light on the incredible power of youth to use their ingenuity to change the world.”

For more information and to apply, visit www.YSA.org/BeInspired.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Cincinnati Schools launches blended learning AP courses

“Boot camp” sessions introduce students to new blended learning platform

blended-wirelessCincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is launching an Advanced Placement (AP) Blended Learning program, and wireless provider Kajeet will provide students with mobile hotspots to support the district’s efforts.

The district is hosting two week-long “Boot Camps,” one at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and one at University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, to introduce students to the academic challenges of AP courses.

The sessions will guide students in how to best work in this setting—one with a state-of-the-art learning platform where teachers will facilitate student engagement with online course materials.

Next page: How the AP blended learning program is structured


What should graduates look like in 10 years?

San Francisco’s Vision 2025 tackles technology and early literacy

graduates-lookIt seems an almost unknowable question: What will — or should — high school graduates look like in the year 2025?

Beginning with a systematic community-wide visioning process in the 2013-14 school year, San Francisco Unified School District developed its Vision 2025 to take a close look at what will be asked of a 2025 graduate in order to thrive and be successful in San Francisco and beyond.

Superintendent Richard Carranza of San Francisco Unified School District and the board of education considered, for instance, that graduates will need to develop and manage their local, global, and digital identities, and be comfortable separating and switching between the three. Graduates will benefit from being bilingual or multilingual; a 2025 graduate must be technologically fluent as well as college and career ready, with the added challenge that many of those careers have yet to be created.

Community participants looked at trends and data to create a 2025 “Graduate Profile.” They also, in large and small groups, engaged creatively with each other, with research and with information gathered from field trip observations to design possible future learning environments.

Then they started a pilot program to begin to bring that vision to life — starting in first grade.

Next page: A home iPad and reading program takes off


Virtual reality STEM program helps special needs students

zSpace STEM Lab helps to eliminate obstacles for students with special needs

virtual-realityOn a typical day at Lee Mathson Middle School in East San Jose, California, students can explore the inside of a volcano via a three-dimensional, holographic image.

The Mathson students are just completing their first year learning with the zSpace STEM lab, which includes a set of student virtual reality stations and a teacher station, each outfitted with an interactive stylus as well as a wide variety of educational software ranging from science and physics to engineering. Virtual-holographic images can be “lifted” from the screen and manipulated with the stylus.

The impact of zSpace for students and teachers is exciting, particularly because many students using the system have special needs, and have experienced frustration learning in the traditional way.

Next page: How students and teachers are reacting to the virtual reality technology


4 things every IT department should do this summer

Use this checklist to help take stock of equipment and software

summer-itSummer might mean a long respite for students, but not for IT directors. When I was an ed-tech director for several California school districts, I was too busy responding to problems and meeting teachers’ instructional needs to do much IT planning and assessing during the school year. But summer brought a chance to take a deep breath, take stock of my ed-tech inventory, and prepare for the following year.

Here are some strategies for doing this effectively in your own schools.

Software licensing

Summer is a good time to re-evaluate your current software licenses to determine whether they’re still meeting your needs.

Do you have any pilot projects or free software trials that are ending? If so, how did these go—and is it worth subscribing to continue using the software?

Check with your teachers, principals, and curriculum specialists to see what tools they use most, whether they have a “wish list” of new programs to consider, and if there are any software subscriptions they aren’t using. If there are, why? Have teachers not been properly trained in how to use the software—or do they just not see much value in these tools?

Next page: Revisiting what worked and what didn’t


Barracuda announces next-gen firewall, web security integrations

New additions are intended to improve deployment choices for integrating content and network security functions

firewall-securityBarracuda Networks recently announced a number of security product integrations intended to help schools protect students.

Barracuda has enhanced its next-generation firewall products in an attempt to improve support for transparently redirecting traffic, which allows easier integration between discrete firewall and web security appliances.

Barracuda Firewall, designed for single-site K-12 environments, now supports Safe Search and YouTube for Schools, features often included only with dedicated web security solutions.

Barracuda Web Filter now includes an improved application engine for more advanced accuracy and detection, enabling application visibilities for organizations with legacy Layer 3/Layer 4 firewalls.

Next page: More on Barracuda’s new security offerings for schools


Instructure launches Canvas Data

Canvas Data provides insight into teaching and learning data for institutions

canvas-dataInstructure, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company and creator of the Canvas learning management system (LMS), has released Canvas Data, a hosted data solution providing fully optimized data to K-12 and higher education institutions capturing online teaching and learning activity.

As a tool for education improvement, the basic version of the service will be made available to Canvas clients at no additional cost, with premium versions available for purchase.

“Education data transforms the way we teach and learn by making the invisible — visible,” said Jared Stein, vice president of research and education at Instructure. “However, its impact relies on how the data is analyzed and applied, and how the underlying platform is used. The Canvas platform has consistently higher adoption rates than legacy learning management systems, making its data more complete and valuable than other solutions.”

Next page: How Canvas Data aims to help users