Video of the Week: 3 tips for great formative assessment

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Video Description: Unlock the full potential of formative assessment in your classroom! Check out these tips for how to use formative assessment apps and games such as Kahoot, Socrative, Plickers, and Poll Everywhere to check for understanding and encourage student self-assessment.



6 critical teacher policies states should monitor

Rapid modernization surrounding teacher policies has largely slowed in the past two years, with few states initiating new actions to improve policies guiding teacher selection, preparation, evaluation, and retention, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Florida and Louisiana are this year’s top-performing states, each earning a B+, according to NCTQ’s biannual 2017 State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Overall, however, the 2017 Yearbook finds that state grades have mostly stagnated, with more state grades decreasing than at any other time in the Yearbook’s 10-year history. No state has ever earned an A.

From 2007, when NCTQ began tracking state progress, until 2015, many states took aggressive action to improve their teacher policies, including raising the bar for entry into the teaching profession, overhauling teacher evaluation policies, implementing tenure reform, and requiring that districts consider teacher effectiveness when making personnel decisions.

“Our review indicates that a pressing need still exists to tackle anachronistic and counterproductive teacher policies, perhaps because policymakers are paying attention to where the political winds are blowing at the expense of improving teacher quality,” said Elizabeth Ross, Managing Director of State Policy at NCTQ. “Notably, many of these policies are noncontroversial – for example, whether teachers can transfer a teaching license across state lines without unnecessary barriers and whether states are ensuring that special education teachers know how to teach struggling readers. Adopting and implementing new, more effective policies would benefit school districts, teachers, and, most importantly, students.”

Next page: Six must-monitor teacher policies


App of the Week: Kami

Ed. noteApp of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

Since Kami is an open-ended tool, the possibilities for use are diverse and far-reaching. Students can look at a piece of art or literature, write a critique, and compare their critique to published ones. Or they can annotate a poem alongside supporting historical documents and pictures in order to gain contextual understanding. Challenge students to be more information-literate by comparing different headlines for the same event and identifying bias, or provide historical documents followed by a close reading of critiques or editorials of the time period. Teach expository writing by having students pair up to write descriptions of objects, and have their partners draw the objects on a blank page. Upload a PDF of a famous inventor’s journal and have students collaboratively annotate the scientific process the inventor used.

Price: Free to try with basic annotation and in-app ads; Teacher version is $99/year with school/district pricing available

Grades: 4-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Easy to upload and share files; promotes collaboration and a paperless classroom.

Cons: Some features are awkward to use and will require practice; limited use on mobile devices, and the free version may frustrate some.

Bottom line: Kami is an effective way to promote student interaction with texts, authentic documents, and pictures.


There are not enough moonshots taken in education

I am extremely lucky to work in an organization that sets enormously high standards and one that accepts disequilibrium as part of the change process. I’m also well aware that this is uncommon in most school districts. Twenty-first-century challenges need 21st-century approaches; however, school leaders are often quick to adopt minor improvements to existing systems in lieu of larger changes that would upset the status quo. What is needed in the current state of education are more moonshots.

What is moonshot thinking?

Moonshot thinking is going 10x bigger or better. While most organizations try to improve by 10 percent, organizations that think outside the box and strive for 10x better tend to approach problems in drastically different ways and—more times than not—achieve 10x better results.

Why is moonshot thinking needed in education?

Classroom teachers and school leaders are hampered by poor educational policies at all levels, cash-hungry textbook publishers, and a school system that is often slow to adopt innovations. If we are truly going to prepare students for their futures, it is time we all start thinking 10x bigger. At Garnet Valley, we have begun to do just that with several of our most recent projects. Moonshot thinking has enabled our medium-size district to achieve extraordinary results within the last few years and all without increasing our budget.

Next page: How has moonshot thinking helped districts improve?


Blog: Technology Creates Dynamic Insights at Tampa Preparatory School

At the Tampa Preparatory School, the mission is to provide students “a preparation for life with a higher purpose than self.” Each classman must abide by an honor code and resolve to make a positive difference both in the school and outside world by being honest, respectful, trustworthy, and fair.

Conversely, the educators and staff at Tampa Prep promise to create a place where young people can Think, Create, Be Themselves, Aspire to Excellence and Go Beyond. Students are encouraged to reflect and analyze on the path to personal understanding. They are asked to celebrate the imagination in geometric proofs and formal essays, on canvas, the computer, and stage, in poetry readings and morning assemblies. They are taught to respect people’s differences. And, they are guided toward winning attitudes in academics, athletics and arts so that they may meet the challenges that exist beyond their communities and experiences.

The academy offers concentrated studies in the academic areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Global Studies and Art.

Each of these programs requires students to select classes from a body of relevant coursework that coincides with each interdisciplinary focus. In addition, students must participate in one of several extracurricular activities and attend related events. The underlying goal is to equip graduating students with a range of experiences that prepare them for further opportunities in these fields.

Part of making that happen comes from giving students access to technological tools. The selection of Tampa Preparatory School as an Apple Distinguished School underscores the school’s innovative and compelling learning environment. For the past three years, Tampa Preparatory has been designated

an Apple Distinguished School, an honor reserved for schools that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.

With the implementation of iPads, teachers have been able to provide instant feedback to their students using apps like Nearpod and Socrative. Using the tablets, science classes run lab simulations and conduct virtual dissections. Other disciplines use green screens and iPads to create videos. Students in all grades have the opportunity to learn computer programming, photo and video editing, compose music and create CAD drawings for 3D printing. The iPads are even used in the health and physical education classes to analyze movements and sports analytics.

Having this many students using devices simultaneously for bandwidth heavy activities requires that Tampa Preparatory School have a powerful Wi-Fi Network. Xirrus is proud to build Wi-Fi networks that keep students connected around the world.


Blog: Volusia County Schools Enhance Learning Through Digital Classrooms

Volusia County Schools set into motion a 5-year technology plan in order to transition to all-digital classrooms by 2020. Comprised of nearly 50 elementary schools, more than 20 middle and high schools, and over a dozen charter schools and alternative learning facilities, the Volusia County School District has made it a priority to leverage technology in support of superior learning opportunities. In fact, one of the district’s campuses, Edgewater Public School, has already achieved AdvancED STEM certification by ensuring its students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their postsecondary pursuits and career opportunities as part of the 21st-century economy.


10 Education Trends for 2018

From shifts in school choice to student assessments to online learning, the educational landscape is constantly evolving. This coming year, districts will continue to face many challenges and opportunities that will impact students, staff, and school systems as a whole.

Below, experts from various areas of the education industry share trends that will help shape K-12 education in 2018.

1. Strategic enrollment management
Jinal Jhaveri, Founder and CEO of SchoolMint

One of the more prominent shifts in Pre-K12 public education is the policies and attitudes around student enrollment in a landscape of growing school options. The era of students defaulting to one assigned neighborhood school is on the decline as parents are granted the empowerment and responsibility to choose a school for their child from multiple options. An increasing number of districts allow students to attend any public school that has space available, regardless of where they live.

As a result of this paradigm shift, communities around the country are demanding a more transparent, equitable, and accessible enrollment process for all families. The high stakes associated with the enrollment experience are rising and districts are responding by taking a more expansive, strategic approach to enrollment management, similar to what their higher education counterparts have done.

In the coming year and beyond, district leaders will offer parents a more holistic, inclusive experience for enrollment and school selection that extends way beyond student applications and registrations. They will augment their marketing and outreach efforts before the enrollment window even opens and they will simplify and transform their application and registration systems to improve the equity and access in school selection. They will also nurture and cultivate family relationships beyond the registration process to increase engagement and retention throughout the entire time a student is attending school in the district.

While moving to strategic enrollment management can be challenging, the stakes are too high for school systems to delay or ignore taking action.

Next page: 9 more education trends for 2018


5 questions we should be asking about student screen addiction

Numerous voices have emerged in the last two years to warn us about the effects of digital screen addiction on children. These voices include Adam Alter in his book “Irresistible”, Nicholas Kardaras in his book “Glow Kids”, Jean Twenge in her Atlantic Monthly “iGen” article, Delaney Ruston in her film “Screenagers”, and Anderson Cooper in his 60 Minutes “Brain Hacking” segment.

They have told us that our screens are as addictive as any drug, that they fragment children’s attention, consume an inordinate amount of their time, isolate them from others, reduce the time they spend exercising, cut into their sleep, reduce the quality of their study and learning, diminish their cognitive functioning, and make them anxious and depressed.

They have told us that tech companies have a deep understanding of the mechanisms of screen addiction, and that they use this understanding to make apps super-addictive. Facebook co-founder Sean Parker affirmed this point in November during an interview with Axios in which he said that Facebook was all about “…how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible (by) exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. We understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.”

Next page: Five things to consider when it comes to screen addiction


Newsflash: Preparing students for the future workforce is a society-wide effort

Today’s jobs are changing, and they are changing at such a rapid pace that many of the jobs our students will hold in the future do not even exist today.

But just because we don’t know what those jobs are doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to prepare today’s students, and tomorrow’s work force, for the opportunities awaiting them. A large part of that preparation will rely on equal technology access to all students.

In order to empower our students and give them the confidence they’ll need to take their skills into the workforce of the future, we must help students see themselves as “change agents”–an idea esposed by many educators, including Dr. Kedra Gamble, an assistant professor of professional practice and community school partnership liaison.

New workforce challenges and new opportunities are the result of various recent developments including the digital revolution, changing work patterns and globalization.

More and more, labor is characterized by people working under non-standard contracts. It is a connected, technology-stimulated, accelerated marketplace where the traditional model of completing education and then entering the workforce is becoming obsolete.

Home tuition, self-study and online and lifelong learning are fast becoming staples of the new economy.

Next page: How technology can help expand access to students


No-holds-barred interview: The need for truth in education!

People know Dr. Steve Perry from his education thought leadership, his Capital Preparatory Schools system and his talent to tell his personal stories in education.

Outspoken and often controversial, Dr. Perry’s voice is widely respected by grassroots community members, education experts and even A-list celebrities.

In this no-holds-barred interview, Dr. Perry talks about the teachers’ unions, school choice and the need for an honest discussion in the media about education.

Dr. Perry sees a pressing need for the truth about education, and his popularity on CNN and other major news and entertainment networks seems to prove out the concept. He refers to most education beat reporters as hacks, and bemoans the pedantic rhetoric of most of the education contributors we see on TV, who always present “the same silly ‘give the public schools more money’ talk.” He says people are tired of that, and want more.

Education touches nearly every person in America, and its consumption is directly tied to the success of our nation. But the real stories are getting lost in our media. And people are hungry for more.

Next page: An honest perspective about what education really needs today