How ESSA will boost ed-tech funding

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes block grants intended for technology, among other uses. It also opens the door to new state testing systems

essa-ed-techEight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—that gives states more latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program intended for technology, among other uses.

Although it’s not the program that ed-tech advocates had hoped for, many expressed cautious optimism that a section of ESSA under Title IV (“21st Century Schools”) could help schools use technology tools to transform teaching and learning.

“We’re pleased that the federal government has renewed its commitment to funding educational technology,” said Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, in an interview. “It’s great to see that become a priority again.”

Aside from the E-rate, which provides discounts on telecommunications services, internet access, and the internal connections needed to bring the internet into classrooms, schools haven’t had a dedicated source of federal funding for technology since the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program was last funded in 2010.

Title IV, Part A, of ESSA changes that—sort of. Called Student Support and Academic Enhancement Grants, the program combines several priorities such as Advanced Placement, physical education, school counseling, and educational technology into a single state block-grant program. States then would pass these funds on to their local school systems.

Title IV, Part A includes three subparts, including one that speaks directly to technology in schools. Districts that receive more than $30,000 would have to spend at least 20 percent of their funding on activities that help students become well-rounded, and at least 20 percent on activities that help students be safe and healthy. The rest could be spent on technology, though no more than 15 percent could be spent on technology infrastructure.

Title IV, Part A, is authorized at $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017 and $1.6 billion in FY2018 through FY2020. (The actual appropriations for the program could differ from these figures, as appropriations are a separate process in Congress.)

Next page: New state testing procedures explained

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Report: States improve teacher policies

NCTQ’s annual report finds state policies to support teacher effectiveness are no longer the exception in the U.S.

teacher-policyTeacher policies across the U.S. averaged a C- grade, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which on Dec. 8 released its ninth annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

The annual policy yearbook analyzes every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the teaching profession, from teacher preparation, licensing and evaluation to compensation, professional development and dismissal policy.

Across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, states average a C- for their teacher policies in 2015, up from an overall grade of D in 2009. The average state grade has held steady since NCTQ’s last comprehensive report card in 2013, despite the bar being raised on several key topics, including aligning teacher licensing policies with the expectations of college- and career-readiness standards adopted by many states.

Florida earned the highest overall teacher policy grade in the nation, a B+. Indiana, Louisiana, New York and Tennessee earned a strong grade of B for 2015. Eight other states received a B- for their efforts to adopt policies to promote effective teaching and improved student achievement. New Mexico is the most improved state on the 2015 teacher report card by earning a grade of C this year, improving on the D+ it received in every Yearbook since 2009.

At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of states remain stubbornly out of step with important teacher reform trends across the nation. Montana has consistently earned an F in the Yearbook for its record of inaction. Alaska, South Dakota and Vermont earned a D- for 2015, and California, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming all earned Ds overall.

NCTQ Senior Vice President for State and District Policy Sandi Jacobs said, “Most states still have much room for improvement, but on the whole, the glass is really starting to look half full on states’ efforts to drive teacher effectiveness through smarter policy. Evaluations of teacher effectiveness, policies tying tenure and dismissal to teacher performance, and a higher bar for teacher preparation are no longer the exception across the states.”

Key findings include:

Many states have raised teacher preparation admission requirements: Twenty-four states set a high academic bar for admission to teacher prep programs, through either GPA and/or test requirements, a major advance in policy compared to 2009 when 36 states did not require even a basic skills test for admission into teacher preparation programs.

The vast majority of states now have laws on the books requiring teacher evaluations to include objective measures of student achievement:
• Twenty-seven states require annual evaluations for all teachers in 2015, compared to just 15 states in 2009, and 45 states now require annual evaluations for all new, probationary teachers.
• Forty-three states require teacher evaluations that include measures of student achievement.
• Sixteen states include student achievement and growth as the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations, up from only four states in 2009. An additional 19 states include growth measures as a “significant” criterion in teacher evaluations.
• In 2015, there remain just five states in the nation – California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont – that still have no formal state policy requiring that teacher evaluations take objective measures of student achievement into account in evaluating teacher effectiveness
• In 2009, not a single state tied evidence of teacher effectiveness to decisions of consequence. In 2015, 23 states now require that tenure decisions are tied to teacher performance.
• In nine states – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee – evidence of teacher performance is required to be the most significant criterion for granting teachers tenure or teacher contracts.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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New online portal facilitates i-Ready implementation

Collection of online resources aims to give teachers the right tools exactly when they need them

i-ReadyCurriculum Associates recently launched i-Ready Central to help teachers, principals, and administrators successfully implement its i-Ready program.

The online portal, offered at no additional cost to all i-Ready users and accessible 24/7, includes more than 160 resources organized around stages of implementation throughout the school year.

These resources, including tips, training videos, and planning tools, will be updated frequently to ensure educators have the most current, relevant content at their fingertips when they need it.

“We listen carefully to our customers’ needs and know precisely where additional support is most helpful,” said Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates. “i-Ready Central’s curated content provides teachers with the perfect complement to our high-quality in-person professional development.”

i-Ready Central’s content is tagged for easy searching and includes tips for collecting and taking action with high-quality data, measuring growth, examples of implementation models, resources for explaining i-Ready to the school community, and other downloadables to help teachers and students celebrate success.

Current i-Ready users can explore i-Ready Central at www.i-ReadyCentral.com.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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How to choose the right programming language for students

With Hour of Code at hand, a look at the top programming languages for every age

“Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.” -John Woods

programming-languageWay back in the 1970s, working as a computer programmer was quite prestigious, and if you wanted to get into computer programming, your potential employer would more often than not put you through a batch of aptitude tests in order to determine your suitability: even if you had a degree.

Nowadays, programming is more widespread and you don’t need a degree to be a programmer; it’s no longer mainly for scientists and engineers: students studying the humanities, English as a foreign language students, people building websites, and a whole host of other folks are learning to program. This non-technical article will give you novices [non-expert instructors] out there some basic guidance in choosing a programming language that is appropriate not only for your students’ needs, but for faculty and staff interested in online basics.

The most important question on people’s minds will probably be, “What programming language(s) do I need to learn?”

In order to answer this question, a personal PAL (Purpose, Ability, and Level) should be able to help. A person’s PAL will guide him or her through the complex maze of programming languages so that he or she can find the most suitable one(s):

Purpose: What you need to do, will determine what programming language(s) you need to learn. It is of the utmost importance that your purpose is correctly served by the use of an appropriate programming language: choosing the wrong one may result in a program that is wholly unsuitable for your purposes–as well as wasted hours of code writing.

Ability: If you aren’t especially logically wired, avoid learning difficult programming languages. If you are faced with choosing from several almost equally appropriate programming languages–always go for the one(s) that are most appropriate for your ability–otherwise, you’ll soon discover that “Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.”

Level: Make sure that the chosen programming language is at a suitable level of complexity and appropriateness. You wouldn’t try to teach calculus to kids at grade school–so don’t select programming languages that are either excessively complex or inappropriate for your students’ level of maturity and education. Let’s now look at some specific situations…

(Next page: the top 20 languages and when to choose them)

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Chromebooks dominate K-12 purchases

Latest quarter reveals that Chromebooks took 51 percent of K-12 market sales

chromebooks-salesChromebook sales have surged in the U.S. K-12 education market, with the devices now making up 51 percent of sales for the first time, according to a new report from Futuresource Consulting.

In the report, the consulting firm notes that the increase in Chromebook sales “has coincided with the need for districts to implement online assessment,” and that Chromebooks’ ease-of-use and traditionally low prices have helped increase sales.

[6 reasons Chromebooks are the device of the moment]

Despite the rapid sales growth in the U.S., sales across the rest of the globe are much slower. Chromebooks held 41 percent of sales in Canada, 9 percent in Finland, 9 percent in the U.K., and 1 percent in India.

The “OS competition” is only going to heat up, analysts predict.

“Chrome is the clear U.S. market leader now with over 50 percent of the K-12 OS market share, meaning Apple and Microsoft both have significant ground to make up. Microsoft is making strong moves, developing a partnership with Lightspeed to address device manageability, whilst bringing new devices to market which are likely to compete head on with Google in the key sub-$300 range. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can halt the momentum Google has developed in the U.S. We envisage that the summer buying season in 2016 could be incredibly competitive with an OS price ‘war’ taking place,” said Mike Fisher, Associate Director of Education Technology with Futuresource Consulting.

More and more, school districts are choosing Chromebooks as they roll out one-to-one initiatives in their schools.

IT leaders in Virginia’s Chesterfield County Public Schools opted for Chromebooks based on their cost, network capacity to support the devices, and the devices’ short boot-up time.

The district was hoping to expand learning outside of classroom walls and school hours, said Lyle Evans, the district’s assistant superintendent, human resources & administrative services.

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8 new standards to support school principals

Standards for supervisors of school principals aim to change the position from compliance officer to coach

school-principalsEight new standards for supervisors of school principals, covering topics such as instructional leadership and meeting the needs of diverse learners, aim to guide supervisors as they help those principals improve their effectiveness in an evolving role.

The standards are supported by The Wallace Foundation and were released by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). A team of educators from across the nation spent more than a year developing the standards for a position long focused on bureaucratic compliance but now increasingly becoming critical to developing outstanding school principals who can improve teaching and learning.

The group says the eight 2015 Model Principal Supervisor Professional Standards are the first-ever standards developed for supervisors of school principals and are voluntary.

The standards are designed for state education agencies and local school districts to help recruit, select, support, and evaluate supervisors of principals. States and districts likely will adapt them to local needs.

Next: The need to support the evolving role of the school principal

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District outfits campuses with new projection technology

A major overhaul of projectors led one district to Casio’s LampFree line

casio-lampfreeAs a major school district in Indiana, the School City of Hammond, has installed more than 200 of Casio America Signature XJ-M141 projection units in five different locations.

“We were in the process of looking for a new and advanced technological solution that would enhance learning in the classroom. When we researched Casio’s Signature projector line, we were thrilled to learn about the LampFree technology and the significant financial resources we would be saving over the projectors’ lifespan,” said Ken Benich, Director of Technology and Assessment in the School City of Hammond. “Additionally, the standard 5 year/10,000 hour light source warranty for educational institutions helped fortify our decision to use Casio projectors as we feel they are truly a partner with schools.”

Benich and the district’s technology team selected Casio’s Signature line of LampFree projectors specifically because of its affordability, long-term use, proprietary LampFree technology and state-of-the-art LASER & LED Hybrid Light Source. Casio LampFree projectors provides users with a 20,000 hour estimated lifespan, and unlike competitive projectors with lamps, they eliminate the need for expensive mercury-based projection lamps that require frequent replacement. The average user can save an estimated $800 after 6,000 hours of use compared to traditional mercury lamp projectors. In addition, these units require no filters to clean and little to no overall maintenance.

“We were able to complete a seamless swap of our old projectors with the new LampFree units while still using our existing mounts,” added Benich. “With the new projectors, our teachers have been able to continue their work without discoloration and dimming. They love the instant on feature and that there has been no disruption in the classroom due to lamp issues.”

Weighing in at 8.6 pounds, Casio’s line of Signature projectors including the XJ-M141, offers a wide range of connectivity options including video, HDMI and RGB inputs plus audio as well as RS-232 for remote control and a built in 5 watt speaker. Signature series models with USB capability can connect wirelessly with PC and Mac computers or using the Free C- Assist APP connect with iOS and Android mobile devices for a true BYOD experience. These models also incorporate LAN connectivity for remote access and control as well as 2GB of built in memory that allows many file fomats, such as PDF and Quicktime to be stored in the projector for quick and easy playback.

“Casio is proud to partner with the School City of Hammond and provide its schools with state-of-the-art Signature XJ-M141 projectors,” said Joe Gillio, Senior Director Strategic Planning and Marketing of Casio’s Business Projector Division. “The Signature series has become one of our most popular product lines in the K-12 education market. Our LampFree technology, low maintenance, and affordability are unrivaled in the industry allowing teachers and students to have the best technology resources possible in the classroom.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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The complete guide to picking the right device for every grade level

Ed-tech expert Kathy Schrock weighs in on mixed platform solutions for all grade levels

mixed-devicesA few years ago, many school districts jumped on the iPad bandwagon, when they were still brand new. The fact is they were easy to justify for a purchase of a shared cart since the Apple app store had so many wonderful applications for remediation, practice, and extension. These districts purchased the first iPad, which did not mirror and, believe it or not, had no built-in camera. Other districts waited for the second version to be released, which did have a camera and could be mirrored via Apple TV or the Reflector app, but only purchased the model with 16GB of RAM.

After a while, it became evident that maintaining a shared cart of iPads was no small feat. Taking care of the installation of apps and maintenance of the devices, as well as providing a positive experience for each shared user, was not easy. The 16GB of RAM was quickly eaten up by graphic-intensive apps, i-books, and PDF files, and the use of the camera for taking photos and videos. Schools began to think twice.

Enter the Chromebook, a device which was much cheaper and required little maintenance. However, even here there were difficulties at first as students needed to be attached to the internet to use the online Google tools and many of popular Flash-based sites were simply incompatible.

Fast forward to today and most of those bugs have worked themselves out. Devices have more memory and there are new features for both platforms that make them viable for use in the classroom. I truly believe a mix of devices is the best solution for schools.

The Apple App Store is full of well-vetted and useful software. When you hear “there is an app for that,” it seems to be true! From content-based applications that can be used for everything from remediation to enrichment, and apps that let students create videos, audios, simulations, infographics and more, the use of the iPad to support teaching and learning is truly remarkable. But the iPad really shines as a one-to-one device. Personalization, choice of apps and work that lives locally on the device make students feel connected with their iPad.

I recommend the Google Chromebook for a shared cart of devices. In conjunction with becoming a Google Apps for Education school or district, the Chromebook allows easy access to each user’s content. Since each student’s work lives in the cloud, and the Chromebook makes it easy for anyone with an account to log on to the device, it is perfect for a shared environment. There are now many extensions and HTML5-based online tools for the Chrome browser that allow students to do everything from editing images to using a math equation editor. And, the Chrome operating system now lets the student work on their Google Drive files when not connected to the Internet and syncs them up the next time they connect.

I also believe students of all ages need access to a full-featured computer. Stand-alone software, especially at the secondary level, provides students with the full-featured tools they need to create. For instance, Adobe Clip is a powerful iPad app that easily allows a student to create a video. But, for students that have the passion for movie-making, they need  to have access to the full version of Adobe Premiere.  In addition, access to a scanner, MIDI keyboard, powerful CAD and game-making software, a 3D printer, and any other computer-based hardware and software need to be available at point of need.

Next page: Kathy’s device recommendations for every age

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