K-12 cybersecurity vendors: Is the threat already in your house?

K-12 vendors are key components in all aspects of K-12 education. From operational needs such as attendance and payroll to learning applications for reading, science, and mathematics, vendors ensure school districts operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.

But K-12 vendors are also one of the greatest single sources of cybersecurity vulnerability for schools and districts. The U.S. Government Accountability Office asserted that “cyberattacks carried out directly against edtech vendors […] tend to have an especially severe impact on K-12 because they affect a large swath of students across multiple school districts at the same time.”

In fact, K12 SIX’s annual report asserted that 55 percent of reported school data breaches in 2021 were connected to incidents originating from district vendors.…Read More

How online tutoring helps us close learning gaps and support teachers

A report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms that the pandemic greatly impacted students’ academic progress across all grade levels and instructional models.

Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) has leveraged pandemic relief funds to invest in additional resources for our district community. In addition to enhancing our summer school program, we are helping teachers support their students—and close learning gaps—by providing access to online, high-impact tutoring services. 

While we originally implemented online tutoring for our virtual school only, we were so impressed by the results that we decided to scale the service across our district. Now, every student has unlimited access to high-quality tutors—regardless of their grade level or academic standing.…Read More

The 3 pillars of meaningful learning

We have a saying where I work at the Van Andel Institute for Education: “We believe learning should be memorable, meaningful, and fun!” It’s a quote that I earnestly believe in, but I also recognize the challenges that come with this lofty goal. The number of responsibilities teachers must deal with is endless, and the world of education is only growing more uncertain.

Creating lessons which fully engage our students can sometimes feel like an added burden. After all, isn’t it their responsibility to pay attention, learn, and apply the knowledge we give them?

Well, yes and no. Certainly our students must develop their own sense of accountability, but educators need to remember that our pupils are not empty vessels waiting to be filled. Our students are people with goals, dreams, concerns, and interests. Of course they want the content we teach to be meaningful. If we’re to respect this fact, while also delivering the best education that we can, then we need to make relevance, experience, and impact the core pillars of our lesson creation.…Read More

What are the next steps to defend K-12 schools from cyberattacks?

Education has been dealt a difficult hand over the past several years. The mass shift to virtual schooling during the pandemic upended systems in so many ways, and it shone a light on the aging infrastructure and technical deficits so many school districts struggle with. Not only did children and teachers have to be more flexible and resilient than ever, but districts also have been hammered by ransomware and other cyberattacks.

At the same time, schools aren’t always getting the right guidance for dealing with the increased cybersecurity threats. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released late last year found that the U.S. Department of Education’s current plan for addressing K-12 school threats needed updating and was primarily focused on mitigating physical threats. And that plan was issued in 2010–in terms of cybersecurity, that might as well be eons ago.

So, what should education IT leaders be doing? And what should they be on the lookout for?…Read More

Federal funding can help you install air purification systems in your school

Prior to the pandemic, many schools, colleges, and universities had indoor air quality challenges, but the past 18 months has brought a heightened awareness to a growing problem. Forty percent of the nation’s school systems need to replace at least half of their HVAC systems, according to a 2020 study by the Government Accountability Office.

Proper ventilation is a key prevention strategy for mitigating pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, as well as reducing dust, allergens, and VOCs to improve health and well-being.

Many school, district, and higher education leaders are working to improve indoor air quality for their facilities and the government has offered funding to supplement those costs.…Read More

How AI technologies support school safety

The COVID pandemic has changed much about how we live and how we work. Nowhere is this more evident than in our schools – in how we safely teach our students and how our students learn, safely. The challenge with schools is that, from a safety perspective, educational institutions were already under siege.

Consider the following: According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are more than 3,200 fires each year in schools in the U.S. According to the United States Government Accountability Office, there are roughly 115 school bus incidents involving fatalities each year. Of course, most people don’t realize this because this information is overshadowed by the 180 school shootings in the U.S. from 2009-2018, according to CNN.

And now – in 2021 – we have inserted the impact of a global pandemic into this already-volatile situation, with almost no suggestions or assistance to these schools regarding how to safely re-open and keep our school campuses open.…Read More

3 reasons we’re still using outdated assessments

For many years, educators have strived to balance the grip of testing for accountability with the need for actionable data. Though the sustained school closures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have undoubtedly presented new challenges to the assessment landscape, these changes also amplified pre-existing concerns within the traditional, summative assessment approach.

For too long, educators have had to rely on end-of-year testing data to gauge their students’ knowledge. The problem? Summative assessment data is only available to teachers when it’s too late to use that data to inform instruction and improve student outcomes.

When state assessments were canceled in 2020 and districts were left to their own devices to measure and address learning needs, teachers, district administrators, and state leaders alike were forced to ask the question: Is there a better way to gauge what students know throughout the year?…Read More

4 challenges–and solutions–around assessments and accountability

A new report examines some of the biggest challenges related to assessments and accountability, and offers recommendations for educators and policymakers as they move past spring 2021 and aim to improve student success rates.

The report comes from NWEA and Education Reform Now (ERN), which worked together with organizations representing state departments of education, school districts, policy and advocacy groups, and universities, to identify recommendations and potential policy options that re-envision assessments and accountability measures this spring—and–beyond to better advance student success.

The overall goal? Through productive meetings and discussions, identify ways to ensure systems support deeper learning and give educators and policymakers the critical data they need to support students, improve achievement and outcomes, target resources, and develop new instructional policies and practices.…Read More

3 key considerations for the future of assessments

The cancellation of summative assessments in the spring of 2020, coupled with the variability of the spring 2021 testing season, significantly impacted the K–12 assessment landscape, making formative and frequent checks for understanding an educators’ main line of sight into what students know and don’t know.

Though formative assessments have proven instrumental in addressing learning gaps related to school closures, the need for accountability testing has not gone away. At its core, accountability testing exists to ensure every student receives a high-quality education. However, its standardized approach has made it difficult for teachers to quickly address learning needs and adjust instruction to improve student outcomes.

As schools and districts prepare for the future of assessment, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.…Read More

5 assessment policy recommendations for the Biden administration

The incoming Biden administration and Congress should focus on innovation, flexibility and more relevance to teaching and learning when it comes to assessment policy, according to NWEA.

Following the release of NWEA’s research on the impact of COVID-19 school disruptions on learning, the nonprofit research and assessment provider announced K-12 assessment policy recommendations for the incoming administration.

“The pandemic has illuminated persistent inequities and while statewide assessment and related accountability systems have helped to move the needle somewhat over the past 20 years, these systems have not eliminated opportunity and achievement gaps,” said Aaliyah Samuel, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and Partnerships at NWEA. “Given the impacts of the pandemic, it’s time – now more than ever – to modernize the system to one that is focused on action.”…Read More