Ed officials to step up civil-rights enforcement

The federal Education Department plans to intensify its civil-rights enforcement efforts in schools around the country, including a deeper look at issues ranging from programs for immigrant students learning English to equal access to college preparatory courses, reports the Associated Press. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to outline the department’s plans in a speech delivered March 8 in Alabama to commemorate the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” in which several hundred civil-rights protesters were beaten by state troopers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during a voting rights march in 1965. “For us, this is very much about working to meet the president’s goal that by 2020, we will regain our status in the world as the No. 1 producer of college graduates,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department is expecting to conduct 38 compliance reviews around 40 different issues this year, Ali said. In his prepared remarks, Duncan highlights several jarring inequities: At the end of high school, white students are about six times more likely to be college-ready in biology than black students, and more than four times as likely to be prepared for college algebra…

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National ed-tech plan coming next week

Cator said comments and links to resources from stakeholders will help the DOE finalize the plan.
Cator said comments and links to resources from stakeholders will help ED finalize the plan.

The latest national blueprint for how schools can leverage technology’s power to transform teaching and learning is coming next week, said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Education Technology for the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Cator made the announcement at the Consortium for School Networking’s annual conference March 2. During a morning spotlight session, titled “Latest News on the New National Education Technology Plan,” she gave attendees a preview of the plan.

Highlights included a focus on teacher professional development in education technology, supporting ed-tech infrastructure in schools, using real-time data and delivering personalized assessments, and harnessing the power of online learning and social networks to provide 24-7 access to tools and resources for teachers and students.…Read More

Federal report details public K-12 tech use

Seventeen percent of school districts reported having no education-technology director.

While most American schools employ an education-technology leader either full or part time, 17 percent of districts surveyed in fall 2008 reported having no one in place to oversee the use of technology in schools.

Small districts were more likely to remain without a technology director: 21 percent of districts with an enrollment of less than 2,500 said they did not have a technology director, compared with 5 percent of districts with an enrollment size of 10,000 or more.

The survey, “Educational Technology in Public School Districts: Fall 2008,” was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (OET).…Read More

Feds release cyber safety booklet

Teens should know that there are consequences to their actions.
Teens should know that there are consequences to their actions.

A new booklet released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other government agencies helps parents and teachers steer kids safely through the online and mobile-phone worlds.

The booklet, titled “Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online” was unveiled Dec. 15 at Jefferson Middle School in Washington, D.C., by FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. At the middle school, which is known for its emphasis on science and technology, the officials met with students and teachers to discuss online safety.

“The conversations that make kids good digital citizens aren’t about the technology; they’re about communicating your values as a parent,” said Leibowitz. “Teaching kids to treat others as they’d like to be treated online is key. Net Cetera tells you how to start those conversations—even if you think your kids are more tech-savvy than you are.”…Read More

ED names student video contest winners

Overall, the contest videos received over 28,000 votes.
Overall, the contest videos received over 28,000 votes.

In the conclusion of the U.S. Department of Education’s video contest, “I Am What I Learn,” federal officials have named three winners out of hundreds of entries. While the winning students’ videos are different in subject and style, they share a common goal: to show the world why education is important.

The contest, which launched Sept. 21, asked students to create videos up to two minutes long about the importance of education in achieving their personal goals. Students from across the country submitted more than 600 videos in all, featuring stories from diverse economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. (See story: “Ed announces student video contest.”)

After the Education Department’s (ED’s) Office of Communications and Outreach reviewed each video, officials chose 10 finalists, and these were announced on Nov. 16. The department invited stakeholders to vote for their favorites on the contest’s YouTube channel. After more than 28,000 votes were cast between Nov. 16 and Dec. 4, the top three vote-getters emerged as the winners, and each will receive a $1,000 cash prize from ED.…Read More

ED: Blended learning helps boost achievement

A new analysis of existing online-learning research by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) reveals that students who took all or part of their class on line performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.

Most of the studies examined by researchers dealt with college-level courses, and ED officials cautioned against generalizing the report’s findings to the K-12 level. Still, the report could help educators as they seek to create effective learning environments for all students.

The detailed meta-analysis is part of a broader study of practices in online learning being conducted by SRI International for ED’s Policy and Program Studies Service. The goal of the study is to “provide policy makers, administrators, and educators with research-based guidance about how to implement online learning for K-12 education and teacher preparation,” says the report.…Read More

ED OKs proctors, secure logins for online tests

Laptop CloseupWeb-based college programs won’t have to buy pricey monitoring gadgets like cameras and fingerprint or eye scanners to satisfy the requirements of a section in the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act, federal officials say. Instead, they say, exam proctors and secure logins will suffice to ensure honest test taking.

Higher-education policy makers and IT directors had worried that the latest version of the Higher Education Act, which Congress enacted last fall, might require web-based programs to spend millions annually for advanced 360-degree cameras and other surveillance technology that would watch students take tests on their computers. Their concerns stemmed from a section of the law mandating that providers of online education validate the identity of students taking online courses and exams–a practice referred to as “validated learning.”

University budgets and endowments have been hit hard by the current recession, and such a demand from the federal government would have been impossible for many schools–forcing them to trim back on classes, increase tuition, or shut down completely–if they had been required to implement new technology, many school officials said.…Read More

ED: Online programs key to boosting achievement

Online courses and other technology-based programs will play a key role in helping educators meet new requirements for supplemental services under the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) told school leaders during a nationwide conference June 13-14. But while many administrators were satisfied by ED’s guidance, others said the department left questions unanswered.

The ED-sponsored event, “Serving all Schoolchildren and Increasing Options for Parents,” brought more than 300 school decision-makers together in the nation’s capital to listen, share suggestions, and ask questions about the Bush administration policy, which now holds all schools accountable for ensuring that students achieve “adequate yearly progress” (AYP).

AYP standards are defined by each state according to their own criteria. The standards were created under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1994, but schools have not been held accountable for meeting these standards until now.…Read More

Virtual reality gives these students a boost in real life

A $1.5 million virtual reality project has improved the test scores of deaf and hearing-impaired students by an average of 35 percent overall, according to the leaders of the Virtual Reality Education for Assisted Learning (VREAL) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

When hearing-disabled students start school, they’re already at a disadvantage compared to their hearing peers because they’re usually behind in acquiring language skills.

“They can often be one or two grade levels behind,” said Patti Schofield, a resource teacher at Lake Sybelia Elementary School in Maitland, Fla. “We have to give them a sign vocabulary in addition to writing.” Schofield approached Veridian, a company that does national security work for the U.S. Department of Defense, to see if their virtual reality technology could help hearing disabled students learn.…Read More