2 reports help leaders leverage ESSA

School leaders, policymakers can use ESSA to focus on boosting learning, achievement for students

Two new reports offer school leaders research-based evidence to help them leverage the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to improve learning outcomes for students.

The reports, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States, and Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act offer guidance for schools, districts and states hoping to revamp their support, improvement, opportunity, and accountability. They were published jointly by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

“Accountability is not a side issue. In recent years, for good or for ill, it has become the framework shaping how we think about the improvement of schools,” notes LPI President Linda Darling-Hammond. “The challenge before us,” she adds, “is how we can develop more productive approaches to accountability that support student and system learning and continuous improvement.”

One of the reports, Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States, documents progress made by 10 states — California, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia — to transform accountability systems to support more meaningful learning opportunities for all students in the following areas:
• Developing seamless pathways to college and career that are supported by a common statewide definition and strategies for ensuring access to learning opportunities, measuring progress against these expectations, and intervening when progress falters.
• Supporting flexibility and strategies for innovation that create opportunities for schools and systems to experiment with new approaches to curriculum, assessment, instruction, accountability, or school organization and to document best practices to ensure they can be shared with other schools and educators.
• Designing systems of assessment that reflect state and local goals for meaningful learning, include opportunities for authentic application, and are more closely integrated with curriculum and instruction.
• Developing professional capacity to ensure all students have access to rigorous and authentic learning experiences and are served by well-prepared, competent, and compassionate teachers and leaders.
• Creating accountability systems that draw on multiple sources of information to monitor the quality and equity of educational opportunities, outcomes, and resources and are paired with processes for providing direct support to schools and systems to foster continuous improvement.

The other report, Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act, written and produced in partnership with SCOPE, offers insight about the requirements and opportunities under the new federal education law. Drawing on examples from several states, as well as from New York City and Alberta, Canada, the authors offer alternative approaches to developing, presenting, and using a multiple-measure accountability system, including:
• A discussion of the types of indicators states can use to assess academic outcomes, student engagement, and opportunities to learn.
• Examples of how data dashboards (data visualization tools to display key indicators) can be used to collect and present multiple measures of student and school progress.
• Strategies for identifying schools in need of assistance and developing diagnostic systems to support continuous improvement.
• Examples of how to evaluate evidence-based interventions for schools in need of additional support.


InFocus releases new ultra-mobile projectors 

Series includes the brightest lumens-per-pound full 1080p HD projector on the market

InFocus Corporation has introduced its new IN1116 and IN1118HD WXGA and full HD ultra-mobile projectors, which are compact and light enough to pack and bring anywhere.

“When you’re on the road for business, your best travel companion is anything that saves you space and time,” said Dave Duncan, InFocus product manager. “Both the IN1116 and IN1118HD come with built-in 4GB memory and a USB port so you can leave your laptop behind and present no matter where you are. We made them lightweight and compact enough to bring with you on any trip without sacrificing performance, features, connectivity or resolution.”

The IN1116 and IN1118HD each weigh only 3.5 pounds and feature a striking 2400-lumen output, making them ideal for road warriors who travel with a projector to present and collaborate wherever they go. The brightest projectors on the market, lumens per pound, the InFocus IN1110 series projectors perform flawlessly everywhere, regardless of room brightness or size.

“InFocus IN1110 series mobile projectors’ USB port and 4GB, built-in memory and PC-free player allow you to present all of your presentations, documents, spreadsheets and virtually anything else, which is ideal for anyone presenting in multiple locations. And the IN1110 series also connects via HDMI and VGA to any notebook or tablet for quick and easy set-up, and immediate access to all your files,” added Duncan.

The IN1110 series projectors have a durable, road-tested design that is built to last. With an ultra-long lamp life of 10,000 hours and a powerful speaker, both the IN1116 and IN1118HD easily produce bright HD images over and over with full multimedia capability.

InFocus IN1116 and IN1118HD are available now for $888.00 and $1,149.00 USD, respectively. Both projectors come with a carry case and can be purchased through InFocus authorized resellers or at infocusdirect.com. For more information on the IN1110 series HD projectors, please visit infocus.com.


Data-rich carts offer new avenues for teaching physics

New dynamics cart includes onboard sensors that wirelessly transmit position, velocity, acceleration and force data, whether on or off the track

PASCO Scientific has released a new solution for quantitative forces and motions experiments for physics and physical science: the PASCO Smart Cart.

The carts are designed to help teach concepts in forces and motion. Currently, many schools utilize low-friction dynamics carts and tracks, and then attach sensors to allow students to collect data from their experiments.

The new carts, however, take all of the sensor technology previously connected via lengthy wires and embed it directly into the cart. Its onboard sensors wirelessly transmit position, velocity, acceleration and force data directly to a computer or mobile device via Bluetooth. Not only does this lower the cost of conducting quantitative experiments, but it provides improved measurements because there are no cords to interfere with experiment outcomes. In addition, the Smart Cart can be used to collect data on or off a track.

Using the Smart Cart, teachers can lead hands-on demonstrations to collect and analyze data for concepts including position and displacement, speed and velocity, one dimensional motion, acceleration, Newton’s laws, friction, kinetic energy, conservation of momentum, elastic and inelastic collisions, conservation of energy, and more.

Priced at $159 in the U.S., the Smart Cart takes hundreds of dollars worth of technology and wirelessly integrates it into a single simplified system. The cart is based on a durable ABS body with nearly frictionless wheels. It includes a built-in force sensor that measures forces up to 100N collisions, three-axis accelerometer, built-in motion encoder for measuring position and velocity on or off a track, rubber bumper, magnetic bumper, hook, three-position spring plunger, mass tray, Velcro® tabs, rechargeable battery, and USB port and cable for charging.

The Smart Cart was named a finalist for a GESS (Global Education Supplies and Solutions) Innovation Product award for 2016.


Why this one STEM course has four different teachers

A STEM rotation model engages students in multifaceted projects with real-world implications

What does it mean to truly apply classroom knowledge? Years ago, application meant a comprehensive exam or essay. In today’s educational environment, students are encouraged to apply what they’ve learned, not just on tests, but during multifaceted, multimedia projects that bring relevance to lessons and help students realize how their learning is used every day in the real world.

Walking into one of our four STEM classrooms at Huntingdon Area Middle School, you won’t see students working quietly on worksheets. They’ll be huddled up in small groups, collaborating, brainstorming, critically thinking about how to solve the world’s problems. The expertise of four diverse teachers from different disciplines created a project-based, rotation model that has given middle school students a new realization that skills they learn in a classroom can be found in real-life situations, not just on a test.

In the summer of 2015, the district asked a technology teacher, a library media specialist, a math teacher, and a science teacher to create a STEM course that would be part of the students’ daily class schedule. The teachers decided to split their 100 students among the four of them and rotate every three days. Over the course of a nine-week project, students would use knowledge from all four teachers to finish their multifaceted, cross-curricular projects.

The ‘Big Picture’

Undertaking a large project over a long period of time helped students digest content in smaller doses while allowing each teacher’s strengths to shine during specialized and focused lessons.

“If I were to keep the same 25 kids for a semester, they’d have a great experience with aspects of science,” Samantha DeMatteo, the science teacher, told me. With the rotation, she added, students “are able to spend a few days focusing on other subjects in reference to the same project. Each day they can build on what they’ve already learned, which brings them one step closer to their goal: completing the project.”

Teachers and students recently completed their second project of the school year, which we called “Artificial Island Real Estate Agent.” Students created a 3D model of their island using scale drawings, rocks, and sand. The project also included research essays on environmental impacts, volume and mass calculations, and a comprehensive marketing plan to attract people to their newly created island. At the end of the project, students created models, brochures, drawings, and videos to guide a group presentation that they delivered to an audience of 100 of their peers.

Next page: How the rotation benefits time-management


Watch 4 ed-tech trailblazers discuss disruptive change for the future

Darryl Adams, DOE’s Ted Mitchell, and more share groundbreaking thoughts

“These are not infomercials,” is perhaps the best way to describe the reinvented interview lineup recently part of ASU GSV 2016’s Innovation Summit held in San Diego April 18-20, according to Casey Green, host of the interactive interviews and founding director of Campus Computing.

In what could be considered a remodel of the education conference to reflect the disruptive change occurring throughout education, ASU GSV’s Innovation Summit hosted a diverse mix of educators, corporate executives, public officials, education entrepreneurs, and foundation officials—and Green, in partnership with eSchool News, was there to capture the invaluable advice and thought leadership from some of the most notable attendees.

Here, you’ll find a sample of the interviews recently conducted during the innovation Summit, as well as a brief description of some of the topics discussed. For even more interviews (more will be added to the current list as we receive the archived versions), visit our ASU GSV page.

Why community buy-in is crucial

Darryl Adams, superintendent of California’s Coachella Valley School District, spoke with Green about his district’s approach to preparing students for their future in a district spread across an area larger than Rhode Island that also experiences a high poverty rate, large numbers of English language learners, and historically low rates of college graduation.

Adams is changing all that through innovative programs, which have included putting wi-fi on school buses (for students’ long commutes to and from school) and a one-to-one iPad program, which works closely with Apple to train teachers and provide structured supports for students. Adams is also digitizing his curriculum — and he’s doing it all with buy-in and support from the community, which regularly uses the ballot box to vote in funding for the district’s goals.

“The real key is having true collaboration and true inclusion of everyone in this effort,” he said. “Our parents believed in this. They knew that the system was not performing as it should be; they knew there were some students getting it — more not. So they were willing to make that sacrifice and they trusted us…. That’s the difference for us.”


Why education’s perceived problems aren’t like paving a new highway

As Green cites recent policy briefs that chide education for not improving quickly enough for the general public’s approval, Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education, discusses why systemic change and improving student learning outcomes aren’t quick fixes—and where the real solutions might lie.

“These are systemic systems you’re talking about with huge numbers of moving parts, things like family dynamics, social systems, etc. So looking  at broad reform in education within a linear model is tough. It’s not just, give us your money and we can repave this highway and then the problem is fixed; though, many in education seem to think the solution does lie within a single point solution on a linear path (e.g. professional development). The problem is, however, that when you focus on a single point, every other aspect tends to drop away! Also, there’s the mentality that a problem addressed means that it’s forever solved. I think there’s real hope in the change management model, where the focus is not on ‘fixing,’ but keeping eyes on what’s going on around you. This model focuses on agility, iteration, evidence, gathering data, and refining practice, and I believe it has real promise.”

Green goes on to ask Mitchell whether or not education is really using data to its full advantage.


Next page: Scaling up from pilots to real projects


Washington State selects a multi-district online provider

The standards-aligned curriculum will be used by educators through the state to customize online learning for their students

Odysseyware, a provider of customizable online courses for K-12 education, announced that Odysseyware Academy has been approved as an online provider in the state of Washington. To earn this approval, the online academy had to meet the rigorous requirements of the multidistrict online provider review process created by the Washington Office of Public Instruction’s Department of Digital Learning.

Odysseyware Academy is accredited nationally by AdvancED and has had several courses approved by the NCAA. Powered by Odysseyware’s award-winning curriculum and staffed by highly qualified teachers, Odysseyware Academy has been providing online courses and partnering with school districts for many years.

Odysseyware Academy is committed to helping schools across the United States create and implement a customized distance-learning program that meets the needs of every student. At the foundation of Odysseyware’s mission are today’s students and their future.

“We are thrilled to be approved in Washington and to continue offering Washington schools and districts more pathways for virtual school solutions and flexible learning opportunities for their students,” said Beth Te Grotenhuis, the president of Odysseyware. “Odysseyware Academy is uniquely equipped to create a personalized learning environment for students at a level that will help them achieve their best, both in academics and in life. This educational program combines state-of-the-art lessons and dedicated, qualified teachers to help students fill their learning needs and meet their goals.”

Odysseyware Academy looks forward to providing high-quality digital content and virtual teaching services to districts and schools in Washington.


App of the Week: Book Creator

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from the editors of Graphite.org, a free service from Common Sense Education. Click here to read the full app review.

Book Creator

What’s It Like? Book Creator for iPad is an amazingly easy-to-use digital book-making tool. With guidance, even kids in early elementary school grades can use this technology tool to produce and publish their own simple books or comics with images, videos, and audio. Readers can access published books via iBooks or other online sources, or books can be printed on paper.

Price: $2.49-$5

Grades: 3-8

Pros: Super-simple interface makes it easy to build pages, letting kids focus on creativity.

Cons: No stock images or clip art available within the app.

Bottom line: Top-quality creation tool empowers kids of many ages to publish their own digital books.


Amazon wins $30M contract to sell e-books to NYC schools

A big move into education, Amazon edges out OverDrive to capture NYC e-book contract

Amazon.com has won a $30 million contract to sell digital textbooks to New York City’s public schools over the next three years, in a deal that could extend an additional three years and be worth a total $65 million.

Under the terms, Amazon would have the right to sell e-books and other content but not devices like Kindles through an internal marketplace site. The e-books will be readable on e-readers, tablets, smartphones, laptops and other devices.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Panel for Educational Policy approved the three-year contract on Wednesday for the Department of Education, who could spend as much as $4.3 million in the first year of the contract. The deal has the option to be extended an additional two years.

“This partnership is illustrative of Amazon Education’s overall commitment to making connected classrooms a reality by helping students and educators with the transition to digital learning,” Amazon said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with the NYC DOE to serve the educational needs of their students.”

Amazon has been slowly moving into education. The company also owns a web-based math program, TenMarks, and WhisperCast, a database that lets schools search for e-books and digital textbooks.

In its bid for NYC’s business, Amazon edged out competitor OverDrive, which is also ramping up its commitment to schools and school libraries to compete for districts’ e-book dollars. Traditionally, a library e-book lender, OverDrive is working with education publishers to make it easier for schools to borrow textbooks electronically. A division designed for elementary schools, called K-5 QuickStart, is giving schools unlimited access to about 200 titles for $500 per month.

Amazon’s catalog size and overall lower costs factored into the panel’s decision. Amazon will also work to train school staff on how to use the e-books.

The NYC school district has about 1.1 million pupils in more than 1,800 schools. The deal takes effect in the fall.


School leadership under the microscope

Catch up on the most compelling K-12 news stories you may have missed this week

Every Friday, I’ll recap some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of this week’s news stories here, though, so feel free to visit eSchoolNews.com and read up on other news you may have missed.

Don’t miss our interactive thought leader interviews from ASU+GSV! Click here.

In this week’s news, we’re taking a look at school leadership, efforts across the country to empower school leaders, and movements that urge them to take a closer look at their schools and districts for answers to important questions.

Read on for more:

Half of school leaders expect significant impact from ESSA
A new survey reveals how school leaders feel about policy, tech-supported learning.

5 strategies to advance women into school leadership
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has launched a new initiative called More Than a Power Lunch: Building Networks to Support and Advance Women in School Leadership.

4 radically different school models upending education
Goal setting and PBL serve as cornerstones for new school models. Is self-directed learning every student’s future?

Looking for an innovation model for your school? Try asking students
How do you combat student engagement problems and encourage students to take an interest in their own learning? For many schools the answer seems to be some variation of personalized learning, as interpreted by school administrators or outside curriculum savants. For two Chicago-area schools, however, the solution came down to asking students: How do you want to learn?


Students see the future through robots

Robotics programs drive interest and teach critical thinking

Brittany Lopez held the remote with care, keeping her eyes on the small robot in front of her.

She moved her fingers gingerly to maneuver the machine — which looked more like a two-wheel, upright tractor than the humanoid version people often think of — over to a blue Lego piece. Soon the robot’s mechanical arm had picked up the Lego, which was supposed to represent a miniature solar panel, and placed it on top of a small structure.

“When you’re a kid and growing up, you play with Legos,” said Brittany, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Vista View Middle School in Fountain Valley. “This is basically like advanced Legos. It’s fun to play with the robots.”

Brittany and classmate Alyssa Rubio — who make up a team called Swag Money Demolishers — created their robot using a small computer, wiring and metal box as part of a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — class and then competed against other students from the Ocean View School District in a robotics competition April 14 at Vista View.

“At first, it was complicated, with the computers and stuff, but then you get the hang of it,” Brittany said. “It’s really fun once you actually learn what to do.”

Dozens of students from Vista View and Mesa View middle schools and fourth- and fifth-graders from Westmont and Lake View elementary schools, in teams of two or three, worked over the school year to create their robots, said Sandi Lewis, a STEM teacher with the district who acted as mentor to the kids throughout the project.

Having students create and work with robots offers them a range of skills, she said, noting that the district once participated in a regional tournament through NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena but that the program ended a few years ago.

“I think it really teaches them to think critically,” she said. “It gives them programming and computer science skills, as well as engineering skills, because they have to think of the task involved and design the robot to complete that task. A huge element of it is collaboration and how well they can work together.”