BetterLesson’s ‘Empowered Algebra Learning For All’ Named 1 of 11 Grand Challenge Grantees

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 — BetterLesson, a leading provider of high quality virtual and in-person K–12 professional learning, announces that the company’s “Empowered Algebra Learning For All” solution is one of only 11 grantees chosen for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenge. Algebra 1 is among the most important on-track indicators of students’ future success. In fact, students who do not complete Algebra 1 have just a one-in-five chance of graduating from high school.

The content of Algebra 1 tends to reflect the inequities experienced by Black and Latinx students, thereby failing to engage their strengths, and inhibiting learning. BetterLesson will collect input from students to develop and test new activities on the Desmos platform that provide multiple access points and engage through creativity, exploration, and collaboration, such as sketching and free-form writing.

In addition, BetterLesson’s Empowered Algebra Learning for All solution will provide 17 hours of professional learning support for Algebra 1 educators through a mix of virtual and in-person support from BetterLesson Coaches. BetterLesson Coaches will work with educators to deepen their work over the course of the year, as educators move from a focus on identity and self-reflection, to student agency and engagement and cultural connections and inclusivity.…Read More

Six steps to effective teacher development and evaluation

‘Both of us have become increasingly concerned that states and districts are doing evaluation quickly instead of doing it right, which could have serious adverse effects,’ the authors write.

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The New Republic. It’s reprinted here with permission from the American Federation of Teachers.)

Some see us as education’s odd couple—one, the president of a democratic teachers’ union; the other, a director at the world’s largest philanthropy.…Read More

K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares, Reuters reports. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address, and sometimes Social Security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school—even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.…Read More

Gates Foundation: Test scores not enough for teacher evaluation

The most reliable systems for measuring teacher effectiveness include a balanced mix of evaluation methods, researchers said—including student test scores, lesson observation, and student surveys.

After three years of research on measuring teacher effectiveness, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Jan. 8 that it takes multiple measures to most accurately evaluate teachers.

The Seattle foundation concluded in its final report on its Measures of Effective Teaching research that test scores or principal evaluations are not enough on their own. The findings mirror what teachers unions have been saying.…Read More

Gates Foundation supports college readiness apps

More than half of community college students require a remedial class.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is awarding upwards of $100,000 to developers who propose apps and online tools that help high school students prepare for college, fund their schooling, and complete the sometimes circuitous application process.

The College Knowledge Challenge started Sept. 27 at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where 100 developers gathered for a “hack-a-thon”–an effort to create useful technologies aimed at better preparing incoming college students as the need for remedial classes continues to rise across the U.S.…Read More