What? Test scores won’t predict academic growth over time

For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found–whether they were higher or lower than the national average–did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those in which students enjoyed greater access to learning opportunities in early childhood.

“There are many relatively high-poverty school districts where students appear to be learning at a faster rate than kids in other, less poor, districts,” says Reardon, who holds an endowed professorship in Poverty and Inequality in Education. “Poverty clearly does not determine the quality of a school system.”

The findings were released in a working paper on Dec. 5 and drawn from the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), a massive online collection of roughly 300 million math and reading test scores from every public school district in the United States during 2009-15.

Next page: The research’s impact on communities

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What really goes into a high-impact K-12 classroom?

Most students spend an average of 14,000 hours in the classroom during their K-12 years. As a result, the learning environment is powerful in impacting relationships among students and with their teachers. Until recently, most of us were using an age-old model, with teaching’s emphasis on standardization designed to support that model.

To break out of this mold, our district decided to pilot the Inspired Classroom project during the fall of 2016. Using an infusion of technology, high-impact classroom furniture, and teachers’ creativity, this initiative helps districts create learning spaces that look, feel, and operate differently than traditional models and instead support our current Google age!

Ready, set, go!

With a donation from the Franklin I Fickett Foundation, we kicked off the initiative by meeting with pilot participants to share ideas and lesson plans that would effectively leverage the new furniture and technology. The furniture was installed in October 2016, and from November through February 2017, we held two more meetings to share ideas, needs, and experiences. Technology training took place during December.

Next page: How the district moved away from sit-and-get learning

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4 critical issues for competency-based education programs

As K-12 competency-based education programs become more widespread, educators and policymakers would do well to focus on four key issues that can make or break high-quality programs, according to a new report.

The CompetencyWorks report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education, calls for creating competency-based systems in which the culture, structure, policies, and instructional practices fully support each and every student in their journey toward preparation for college, career, and life.

“K-12 education in the United States and across the world is at a turning point, and we have an opportunity to redesign K-12 education to serve every student,” saysSusan Patrick, CompetencyWorks co-founder and iNACOL president and CEO.

“Competency education systems prepare all students to graduate high school with the academic and lifelong-learning skills to be leaders in their communities, visionaries, and agents of their own success–whether in college, career, or navigating the opportunities and challenges they will encounter in their lives.”

Next page: The four critical competency-based education program components

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Teachers: English learners need resources, support

Most K-12 educators (80 percent) said they believe English Language Learner (ELL) instruction is a top priority for their school or district, according to a new survey.

Ninety-nine percent of surveyed educators also said they need more professional development and different types of learning materials to properly support ELL students and meet their needs, according to the 2017 EL Education Report from McGraw-Hill Education. Only 55 percent of respondents believe that their school or district provides sufficient, ongoing professional development to support ELL student success.

Newer ELL educators (those who have worked in ELL education for less than two years) are significantly less confident than more experienced educators in their ELL training and development, with only 36 percent of new respondents feeling they have received enough professional development compared to 70 percent of more experienced educators.

Next page: What do teachers say are the most effective instructional materials for ELL students?

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4 tools that take blended learning to the next level

In any rush of new technology there comes fresh opportunities for learning and growth that were never possible before. We’ve seen this in the past two decades with blended learning, which combines digital media with traditional classroom methods to engage students like never before.

In all of the excitement to use technology, however, the real purpose of blended learning is often lost. Collaborating on a Google Doc is fun and convenient, but blended learning should be more than that.

Effective blended-learning tools should share a few key characteristics that distinguish them from tools that are simply digital in nature. Before implementing a tool, ask yourself these three questions:

1. How does this tool help students learn in personalized ways that are not possible in a traditional classroom alone?
2. How does this tool empower students to take their education into their own hands?
3. How does this tool tap into the collective knowledge of the global community?

Next page: 4 blended-learning tools

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A year in the life of a student-centered library

There’s no “typical” day for a library media specialist. In one school day, we can teach a class about fake news, help one student find the perfect resource for his research project, and guide another toward a “just-right” book series that appeals to her personal interests. For 21st-century media specialists, the idea of the library as a quiet space is out and creating new opportunities for deeper learning with students is in.

Our district, Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) is the eighth-largest school district in the nation. We provide a wealth of educational opportunities for students and families that range from Head Start to adult-education programs within our 227 traditional public and magnet schools. We are a melting pot of urban, rural, and suburban areas. The word “diverse” doesn’t begin to describe our wide array of students and schools. It’s our job to make sure that at every school, every student has equitable access to high-quality reading, learning, and technological resources.

As we look back on 2017, we’d like to share the best practices that have worked for us, as well as a few predictions about what 2018 will look like for media specialists.

Next page: Best practices and predictions for library media specialists in 2018

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What does cybersecurity education look like for today’s young students? And why is it critical?

Now more than ever, our digital culture has shaped both what is taught at schools and how it is taught. While educators are challenged to keep up with the speed of this change, the rise of digitization has also created immense opportunities for educators and students alike.

Cybersecurity—a term that was not a household phrase 10 years ago—is now a topic that has permeated nearly every industry. As a result, educators must teach young students to not only stay safe online, but to also understand the roles needed to help strengthen the fight against cybercrime.

While educators and guidance counselors are still learning more about the industry and may struggle to recommend a career path in this rapidly evolving industry, cybersecurity leaders are tasked with recruiting and retaining the best security professionals from a very limited talent pool.

Building a wider pipeline

You may be surprised that one of the biggest challenges facing companies is simply finding enough people to fill the increasing number of jobs needed in this field. The security skills gap is well documented, with the most recent studies predicting that the cybersecurity talent gap will reach 1.8 million open and unfilled positions globally by 2022.

Next page: A “new collar” approach to cybersecurity

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How 5 states are rocking education data

States are on the right path when it comes to using real-time education data to inform teaching and learning, but they should continue taking critical steps to improve data use, according to a new report.

The Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Show Me the Data 2017 report highlights strides made by states in their education data reporting and ways they can make their report cards clearer and more useful so that parents, educators, community members, and policymakers have the information they need to make decisions that help all students excel.

The report cards in the report help show if schools are serving students equitably, and the information, including test scores and postsecondary enrollment, can give school leaders a look at school performance and pinpoint existing inequities.

Next page: Best education data practices from 5 states

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3 tips for effective school-emergency communications

It’s no secret that Americans experienced more than our fair share of natural disasters in recent months. Wildfires razed entire neighborhoods in California. Hurricane Maria decimated entire regions of Puerto Rico. The event that impacted my world was Hurricane Harvey. The deadly storm dealt its mighty blow right as the new school year got underway.

I was still new to my position, having served as the Head of School at Texas Online Preparatory School (TOPS) for just four weeks. Floodwaters rendered students and their teachers disconnected. As a school leader, I’m accustomed to dealing with emergencies. But little did I know this event would inspire a whole new playbook!

While few things during disasters tend to go perfectly, I’m extremely proud that, thanks to our school’s virtual format, TOPS remained opened and served our students well during the hurricane and subsequent floods. Learning continued for students and, in the process, provided families with a sense of normalcy during the crisis. Here are three best practices about effective communications that may be helpful for other school leaders when emergencies strike.

Next page: Three reliable ways to use communications wisely during an emergency

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OneRoster – Securely share roster, course, and enrollment information between systems

OneRoster is a data standard for securely sharing roster, course, and enrollment information between systems, and is already seeing broad adoption across the ecosystem. With the release of v1.1, districts can import data faster, add start and end dates, associate students with digital course materials, and synchronize grades.

Watch the short video demo and see how quick and easy it is to synchronize data and identify and fix errors using OneRoster v1.1 in Kimono.

Kimono demonstrated one of the first live implementations of the OneRoster v1.1 specification, and is and a member of the OneRoster Product Steering Committee. We are excited to help our friends and customers understand the capabilities and benefits. Let us know if we can help you use the new spec to take your data integrations further.

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