School leaders learn how to use data to improve instruction

Data-driven decision making and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) were the focus of a conference held April 8 in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the event featured national lawmakers as well as educators and other stakeholders who have a vested interest in seeing children succeed in the classroom.

A primary emphasis at the conference: how to go beyond the mere collection of data to developing effective methods for using those data to advance student achievement. …Read More

Georgia launches online practice assessment site

Georgia teachers no longer will have to wait for the results of end-of-year exams to know how successful their lessons have been, thanks to a new online tool that aims to boost student achievement statewide.

The Online Criterion Referenced Competency Test provides access to short assessments containing questions similar to those found on the actual state test, which is given to all students in first through eighth grades. The practice site, which debuted Jan. 30, is much more sophisticated and user-friendly than what was available to the state’s teachers in the past, officials say.

Students will be able to take two kinds of tests: those put together by the computer, or tests constructed by their teachers from a database of more than 4,700 questions using an online “shopping cart” approach. …Read More

‘Ultra-communicators’ demand more eMail access, better software

A recent survey suggests the pervasiveness of internet-connected computers at home and in the nation’s schools has given rise to a new breed of tech-savvy student: “ultra-communicators,” who say they approach their daily lives differently as a result of technology. The survey’s findings have important implications for school leaders as they seek to design learning environments that meet the needs of today’s students.

“Voices & Views from Today’s Tech-Savvy Students”–part of a national report sponsored by the nonprofit group NetDay–surveyed more than 210,000 K-12 students from all 50 states to learn what role technology plays in their day-to-day activities.

The survey is part of a nationwide effort to capture the views of students regarding the importance of educational technology. NetDay plans to offer its research to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for inclusion in the third National Education Technology Plan, officials said. …Read More

Take this test to see how equipped you are to make data-driven decisions

A new self-assessment tool from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) aims to help educators determine their progress toward creating a data-rich school district. According to CoSN, this 10-question survey should help assess educators’ readiness to use the data-driven decision-making process for accountability and continuous school improvement. The tool was developed as part of CoSN’s multiyear “Data-driven Decision Making: Vision to Know and Do” initiative, a cross-industry effort to assist educators in the effective use of data to improve instruction. Irene K. Spero, CoSN vice president and “Vision to Know and Do” project director, called the tool an important way for district leaders to learn about the steps necessary to use data more completely in the decision-making process. The online survey takes only a few minutes to complete, with respondents receiving a quick calculation of the results. The assessment includes questions dealing with the ability of a district to extract data, create an inventory of data elements, determine the accuracy of data, identify intervention strategies based on data, and provide technical support.

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From high stakes to embedded learning: Technology-based assessment needs to change direction

The dictionary definition of “assessment” does not include the taking of high-stakes final exams. But that’s how the word is being increasingly used. In the context of schools’ legal requirements to meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals, assessment means accountability as defined by the reporting requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

For some people, this is a strategic opportunity to gain support for technology as an indispensable tool for test data collection, analysis, and reporting. And these people are correct. Leaving aside the question whether these tests actually measure what we need to know about creating future generations of well-informed, caring, and productive human beings, the nationwide pressure for accountability seems to be one of the few remaining drivers of technology investment that has survived the transfer of government money from education to tax cuts and war.

However, for those of us primarily motivated by the ability of technology to enrich teaching and learning, this is a much more ambiguous opportunity. Not only do we want assessment to mean something other than a way of revealing–and punishing–failure, we’re not sure that assessment is the most important contribution technology can make in the first place. …Read More

Free online mentoring program targets teachers, tech professionals

TECH CORPS, a national nonprofit organization that mobilizes technology volunteers in schools, has expanded its free online mentoring program to include teachers as well as technology professionals. The new version of its “techs4schools” program now gives educators with varying degrees of technology experience the opportunity to collaborate with information technology (IT) professionals via the web.

Sponsored by Compaq Computer Corp., the year-old techs4schools program is an online forum in which volunteer IT professionals are placed into teams with teachers and school technology leaders nationwide. Each 10-person team is then encouraged to discuss the use of technology in schools.

The service is free, but it does require users to register with the program before taking part in discussions. Once registered, educators and technology professionals alike are allowed to ask anyone on their teams about a host of issues, including networking, hardware, video, broadband, the internet, and operating systems. …Read More

Web-based tool measures teachers’ tech proficiency

An agreement between Arizona education officials and a Utah-based company will enable all 40,000 of Arizona’s teachers to use an online assessment program to help them determine their level of technology proficiency.

According to the company, some 300,000 educators in California and Indiana already use the online tool.

Officials say the iAssessment program will allow Arizona teachers to develop individual professional development plans to improve their use of technology as an instructional tool. It also will help the state’s schools target their professional development resources more appropriately, by giving them data about teachers’ skill levels in aggregate form. …Read More