Back to school supply lists are now topping $70

Hand sanitizer and even iPads are driving supply list prices higher

supply-listsTeacherLists, a site that hosts thousands of schools’ supply lists, just released some numbers from the 2015 lists it oversees. According to the company, the average student is on the hook for $70.93.

That number was taken from an analysis of more than 300,000 supply lists. The analysis chalks the rising costs to shrinking school budgets, the addition of more non-learning supplies like cleaning products, and pricey new tech items. Supplies like facial tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand wipes, and hand sanitizer are among the most frequently requested items.

“For several years now, we’ve seen school supply lists become longer due to the addition of these new item categories,” said Tim Sullivan, founder of TeacherLists. “There are still great deals at back-to-school time which keep supply prices low. But as the lists grow longer, the total amount parents are spending rises.”

Middle and high school lists analyzed by the site were ultimately shorter than their elementary counterparts, but costlier in the end thanks to more required technology, such as graphing calculators. Middle school lists clocked in at an average of $91; high school lists at $157. Some lists even included required iPad purchases (no doubt driving up the overall average).


ClassFlow updates with new blended learning features

Student accounts and reworked dashboard tools are new additions

classflow-dataPromethean’s new school edition of ClassFlow now supports blended learning environments, letting schools assign students their own student accounts, which can be accessed from anywhere.

ClassFlow is an online platform for uploading and disseminating multimedia lessons and formative assessments. Data is collected about each student for teacher use. Students can also log on and receive assignments, similar to an LMS.

The student accounts also provide access to a cloud-based storage drive, or “digital backpack,” where students can upload and organize their own learning resources and materials for reference. A new assignment tracker monitors individual student progress by accessing real-time metrics on the status of outstanding assessments and assignments.

Next page: Full list of new features


ESEA rewrite passes Senate, education orgs respond

Passage moves act one step closer to replacing NCLB

senate-nclbVoting 81-17, the U.S. Senate has replaced the controversial No Child Left Behind with the Every Child Achieves act, which solidifies a commitment to standardized testing but gives states more freedom on how to hold schools who are not meeting objectives accountable.

Under the act, schools would still test students in reading and math and those scores would be used alongside other factors, such as graduation rates, in measuring progress. But now states themselves would be able to decide how much weight to give each factor and determine whether a school is meeting goals or not.

The federal government would have some ability to dispute a state’s measurement criteria, but some civil rights groups have contended that the bill lessens overall accountability (an amendment from several Senate Democrats that would have strengthened accountability in the bill was rejected).

Next page: Education orgs respond


Sunburst Digital adds programming startup Tynker to its roster

New partnership adds programming to Sunburst’s offerings

tynkerSunburst Digital and game-coding startup Tynker are teaming up to make the latter available on Sunburst’s digital library of curriculum.

“Partnering with a Silicon Valley leader that is laser-focused on developing students’ critical thinking, problem solving and 21st Century Learning skills serves our goal of connecting K12 educators with the very best in innovative digital content solutions,” says Joe DeSario of Sunburst. “Tynker has the potential to positively change educational practices in any classroom, not simply those where technology is common. Tynker gets used by teachers and students so often because it is both practical and fun.”

Tynker uses a game-based programming platform to engage students in critical thinking and problem solving challenges that teach programming skills. The curricula is self-paced and based on a “watch-learn-do” philosophy.

Sunburst already works with more than a dozen other partners in various subjects, including Rand McNally, Ignite Learning, and Mathspace.

Additional information is available at

Material from a press release was used in this report.



This game could improve behavior—and achievement

Research suggests that social and emotional learning can lead to achievement gains

gaming-selCan playing a game help students—especially those with disabilities or special needs—improve their behavior, learn empathy, and increase academic performance? The founder of gaming monolith Electronic Arts thinks so, and he’s not alone.

“A game allows so much opportunity for playful and creative repetition in a way that deepens the learning of these skills,” said Janice Toben, an educational consultant and co-founder of the Institute for SEL. “It’s exciting to think that this can be happening with information [from the game] being sent to teachers and parents as well.”

Toben’s organization is grounded in social and emotional learning—a process by which students learn to recognize and manage their emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors.

During a recent webinar with Trip Hawkins, the EA founder, which was part of a special education series by PresenceLearning, Toben explained that the approach is not soft—but rather rooted in neuroscience. She also pointed to research suggesting a clear correlation between SEL and academic achievement.

Next page: A game-based approach


Informal survey suggests disconnect between teachers and data

Vendor’s poll hints at gaps in identifying and acting upon problems using data

data-gapsAt this year’s ISTE conference Lexia Learning polled more than 200 educators in an informal survey, which suggests teachers are not using collected data to pinpoint skill deficiencies in a timely manner.

According to the survey, only 35 percent of respondents felt that teachers at their schools had a high or very high level of comfort connecting data to instruction.

The survey also found that fewer than half (48 percent) of respondents felt that their current screener assessments provide clear categorizations of which students were on track and which needed more attention. This compounds the problem where a majority of learners are not receiving the support they need, and indicates that some of their teachers may not even be aware that there is a problem to solve.

While 54 percent of respondents said that teachers in their schools have assessment data that tells them whether intervention plans are working, significantly fewer (only 37 percent) believed that their assessment data told them how to change an ineffective intervention plan currently in place.

Additionally, the survey revealed that current screener assessments take up too much instructional time. Eighty-three percent of educators believe that screener assessments should take 30 minutes or less, however, less than half (47 percent) of the respondents indicated that their screener assessments could be administered within that timeframe.

These findings, along with the previously cited low figure associated with teachers linking data to instruction, signify that combining assessments with guidance for adjusting interventions in accordance with student needs would be a major step toward making data-based instruction a reality for numerous classrooms.

“Our survey results echo the findings from the Gates Foundation’s recently released report, which revealed that 67 percent of teachers weren’t fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the data they receive from digital tools,” said Lexia President Nick Gaehde. “It is this same need that has driven Lexia’s mission for more than 30 years, helping teachers assess student needs efficiently and then use the data to positively impact classroom instruction.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.



The old way of stopping cyber attacks is no longer working

Firewalls alone may not be enough to stop cyber attacks. For that, there’s data science

cyber-scienceRecently, KTVB evening news reported a denial-of-service (DoS) attack occurring on and off for over a week on Idaho’s largest school district Internet connection.

It’s yet another example of a school district IT department having to wade through piles of system logs to find that the potential root cause was a student who hired someone to perpetrate the attack. The news report closed with the disclaimer that, “these attacks didn’t breach the network, so no student information was accessed.”

The question is, when a network is breached, do school systems really have the tools they need to prevent data loss?

It’s about more than just grades. This is about personal health information (PHI), family health history, personally identifiable information (PII) and very likely financial data.

Public and private school districts are a treasure trove of information that cyber attackers can use to quickly target students’ families. Ask your local PTA how many people work in the IT department. Then ask how many have strong security expertise or a certification like CISSP.

Next page: How data science can help


Alma SIS integrates with Google Classroom

SIS leverages Google Classroom integration to deliver classroom tools for less

alma-googleAlma Technologies and Google Classroom announced the integration between the free classroom toolset for teachers and a Student Information System (SIS).

The integration enables Alma customers to set up a Google Classroom for every one of their teachers with a single click.

Alma used all of the functionality afforded by the Classroom API. For customers that manage their Google Classrooms through Alma, the roster is automatically synchronized with the SIS in real time. As students enroll and un-enroll from classes, those changes are instantly reflected in Google Classroom.

Next page: What Alma’s integration with Google Classroom means for users


How do you get tech-resistant teachers to embrace change?

The secret may be in organization-wide changes and lots of support

change-teachersMany millions of dollars have been wasted over the years by the well-intentioned, but ad hoc, introduction of technology into education. Eager tech savvy teachers or administrators may jump in feet first, but a significant portion of their colleagues are left struggling along or resisting the change.

The results of well-planned, long-term implementations, however, can produce momentum. When even reluctant adopters are given support, training, and time, positive changes can occur.

The diffusion of innovation

Teachers are similar to other groups in society. They follow the “Diffusion of innovation” graph as proposed by Everett Rogers. This categorizes users (teachers) into innovators, early adopters, etc. (users are represented by the blue line; the yellow represents market share, which will eventually reach the saturation level).


Next page: Deconstructing the tech adoption process