Four keys to success with digital textbooks

With certain considerations, schools can move to digital textbooks and tools.

Moving to digital textbooks is easier said than done—it takes months of planning, stakeholder buy-in, and perseverance. A new infographic from OnlineCollege.org pulls data from the Federal Communications Commission’s Digital Textbook Playbook to highlight important aspects of digital textbook implementation.

Each year, school districts spend $7 billion on textbooks, but most textbooks are 7-10 years old before they are replaced.

In a survey, 81 percent of teachers said they think tablets can enhance students’ learning. For example, laptops or tablets can use internet connectivity, interactive and personalized content, learning and video games, applications that encourage collaboration, and instant teacher and student feedback to boost engagement and understanding.…Read More

‘Good to Great’ author: How to have great schools

Effective leaders know how to distinguish core values from practices, Collins said—preserving the former while changing the latter to stimulate progress. (Lifetouch/AASA)

The most important factor influencing a school’s success isn’t class size, length of the school day, or other reforms, says researcher and author Jim Collins—it’s having a great leader at the helm.

Speaking at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education Feb. 21, Collins told the superintendents in attendance that the best thing they could do to improve their schools was to make sure every principal is a top-notch leader. He also explained the characteristics that make a leader “great.”

Collins is the best-selling author of Good to Great, Built to Last, and other books exploring the factors that are most responsible for companies’ sustained success, and he said these same factors also apply to schools. But that doesn’t mean reformers who seek to adopt a more businesslike approach to education are correct, he cautioned.…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.

Through incentives grants (such as Race to the Top) and waivers to No Child Left Behind rules, the federal government has been pushing states to update their teacher evaluation systems because it felt existing systems were inadequate.…Read More

How to include the community when making key school decisions

Finding common ground is a difficult, yet essential, task of teacher, principal, and district leadership.

As the 2012 presidential election and the fiscal cliff battle indicates, political division is the new normal. Created to serve as common schools for the common good, public schools are often caught in the crosshairs of opposing factions.

Finding an increasingly elusive common ground is a difficult, yet essential, task of teacher, principal, and district leadership, however.

That’s why the notion of peer, student, and public engagement is gaining such currency, whether through professional learning communities, 21st century learning strategies, voice polls, online surveys, or potluck suppers built around hot topics like safety, new curriculum initiatives, or looming budget cuts.…Read More

Nine templates to help educators leverage school data

Educators need a practical system that organizes school data in a way that is easily understood.

Educators and administrators are collecting an enormous amount of data about the progress of their students and schools. Now that this information has been collected, how can it be used to improve education?

What administrators and teachers need is a practical system that organizes school and student data in a way that is easily understood and readily available during the school day, according to a collaboration by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and Gartner Inc.

School districts are looking to purchase student information systems and learning management systems to help them with this task.…Read More

Four key parts of successful online education programs

A number of considerations are necessary for success with online learning.

Progress monitoring tools and proper training in online teaching are critical factors in supporting and sustaining successful online education programs, according to a survey of school leaders.

The survey, released by K12 Inc. and conducted by MDR’s EdNET Insight, included responses from superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum directors, principals, and special-education directors who are experienced in implementing online education programs. The 220-plus respondents identified and ranked a number of key success factors.

Four factors were ranked by at least 80 percent of respondents as “extremely important” to the success of full-time online education programs, individual online courses, and credit recovery programs.…Read More

The key skills today’s employers desire

Pedagogy plays a key role in ensuring that students develop important 21st-century skills.

Education stakeholders are quick to champion students’ need for “21st century skills”—but what do employers say they want students to learn? And, how should schools adapt as a result?

Shifting workplace structures have led many companies to covet a new kind of employee, said Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21.

In the 1950s through the 1970s, workplaces were more authoritarian, and employees were taught loyalty and obeyed management’s direction. But as workplaces have changed and “flattened,” eliminating several management positions, employers are seeking workers who are self-directed, able to solve problems, and can manage their time and productivity, Kay said.…Read More

How to make BYOD work for your schools

One of the largest challenges in a BYOD initiative is meeting the needs of students who don’t own a mobile device, or who don’t have internet access at home.

“Bring your own device” (BYOD) initiatives are relatively new in education, cropping up in the last few years as schools—under tight budget constraints—seek ways to leverage student-owned devices for learning.

Supporters of the BYOD movement say students are instantly more attentive and better behaved when they are encouraged to use their own mobile devices in the classroom, but educators face a number of challenges in making BYOD work in their schools.

For instance, what if some students don’t bring a smart phone, laptop, or tablet computer of their own? How can educators make sure that students use their mobile devices only for educational purposes, or that these devices won’t compromise the district’s network security? How can school leaders address the concerns of parents?…Read More

New guide reveals how to improve after-school programs

The Forum for Youth Investment, a nonprofit action group, has released a new guide to help cities and communities strengthen and sustain quality in after-school programs.

Commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, the guide is based on decades of social science research on child development, teaching and learning, and organizational management, as well as the forum’s experience working with more than 70 after-school efforts around the country. It draws heavily on efforts in six communities to build systems to improve the quality of after-school programming: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Ill.; New York, N.Y.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Hampden County, Mass. Each city’s effort is profiled in a case study.

The new guide, called “Building Citywide Systems for Quality: A Guide and Case Studies for Afterschool Leaders,” explains an emerging practice known as a quality improvement system (QIS), an intentional effort to raise the quality of after-school programming in an ongoing, organized fashion. The approach is based on what management gurus call “continuous improvement”: the idea that organizations should regularly take stock of themselves against a standard; develop plans to improve based on what they learned; carry out those plans; and begin the cycle over again so that the quality of their work is always improving.…Read More

How to realize ed tech’s game-changing potential

The move toward digital education comes with a number of important considerations.

During a recent webinar, the nation’s director of educational technology highlighted how technology can support more effective instruction—and a North Carolina superintendent revealed how his district has successfully made the shift to a digital teaching and learning environment.

With support from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and modeled by local school districts across the country, school district leaders can identify goals that will help them make this shift themselves, while at the same time boosting student access, learning, and engagement.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in February that U.S. schools should transition to digital learning in the next five years, and in 2010 ED released its latest National Education Technology Plan (NETP), spearheaded by Karen Cator, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology.…Read More