Afternoon Announcements: NYC Students Will Have Longer School Days

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Posted:
April 30, 2013 08:18 pm

nyc students

Debate still rages around the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards in multiple states. Critics claim the cost to implement is too high, while others are skeptical of the exams that will accompany the Standards. Washington Post

Speaking of states with the loudest Common Core debates, the Indiana state legislature voted to “halt” implementation of the Standards this weekend. The Governor is positioned to view the measure this week, which calls for more analysis of costs, among other things. Washington Times

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Categories:
Achievement Gap, Assessments, Common Core State Standards, Indiana, New York, Utah

Bob Wise Touts Equitable, Quality Education as Means to Improve Economy

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April 30, 2013 04:51 pm

bob wise

In his monthly Huffington Post column, Alliance for Excellent Education president and former West Virginia governor Bob Wise discusses the moral – and economic – imperative of a quality, equitable education. Citing a recent Alliance report, Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy, he points out the current achievement and opportunity gaps between white and affluent students and students of color, Native American students, and low-income students. Over the next decade, he says, minority students will become the majority in a number of school districts and states. If they are not receiving the best education available while they prepare to enter college and a career, it will have negative consequences for the U.S. economy. On the flip side, by addressing these outstanding gaps in high school graduation rates between white students and students of color, the nation could see ecnomic growth, while also improving the lives of millions of young Americans. 

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Categories:
Achievement Gap, College & Career Readiness, Dropout Factories, Economic Impacts, High School Graduation Rates

Afternoon Announcements: Must Close the Opportunity Gap to Close the Achievement Gap

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Posted:
April 26, 2013 05:15 pm

heck ya

Some state legislators in Texas are pushing a bill that would allow low-income students across the state access to free breakfast at public schools. Senate Bill 376 would require schools where 80 percent or more of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price meals to offer breakfast to their students at no cost. New York Times

In a new book, education scholars argue that closing the achievement gap depends on closing the opportunity gap first – ensuring that students have access to quality early childhood education, day care, good teachers, and rich curricula. Politics K-12

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Achievement Gap, Texas

Breaking the Cycle of Test-Taking Woe

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Posted:
April 26, 2013 03:34 pm

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It may have been April Fool’s Day, but it felt like Groundhog Day. Stories about the indictment of former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall along with dozens of teachers and principals on charges of cheating on high stakes assessments are just the latest installment of tales of woe. The District of Columbia Public Schools are still sorting out some accusations and investigations. The tales of falsified graduation rates in Houston are still fresh in the minds of many. We read the stories and think, oh, not this again.
Is it really the case, as Katherine Schultz claims, that “Our schools are no longer designed to produce educated citizens but rather places to produce test results?” As I’ve traveled the country, visited schools, and spoken with teachers, I’ve seen places where the test is not the focus of learning, but rather a stepping stone to the much larger goal.  When I asked teachers and administrators in El Cajon what they were most proud of in their efforts to integrate digital learning strategies and create leaders, they didn’t tell me about their test scores.
“I’m really proud of also some of the things that we’re doing around the district in terms of character and collaboration and problem solving because those are skills that are also help kids be successful both in college, but in real life as well… because it’s something that has really inspired some great teachers to become even better, and it’s really inspired some incredible kids to do some work that we would have not though possible a couple of years ago.” – Stephen Mahoney, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Cajon Valley Union School District
“I’m really proud of the fact that the students are really taking, for the most part, a lot of responsibility for what they’re doing and they’re taking it more seriously. It doesn’t matter to me if you can fill in a bubble.  What matters to me if you’re going to have a compound complex sentence are you using it correctly in your writing as opposed to identifying it here on a worksheet.” –Janet Ilko, Teacher, Cajon Valley Middle School
It’s no surprise that teachers are often quoted as talking about how the constant battery of high-stakes tests is demoralizing for them. But what really gives me hope about the power of digital learning to accelerate progress is the way that the teachers we’ve talked to speak of how these tools empower them to teach the way they’ve always wanted to teach.
“For me as a teacher, it’s really cool to be able to find these opportunities through digital media to say every voice is heard, good, bad, or indifferent ; [the students] have that chance to regroup, to rephrase, to make it what they want and their voice is heard.  I love what I do right now.  I love being with my kids.  I love being with this population of kids, and I adore having students be able to find their voice in whatever that is, and I get surprised every single day.” –Janet Ilko, Teacher, Cajon Valley Middle School
Assessments and accountability are important. We need to know that our schools are serving the needs of all students. There’s a great deal of good work going on today to develop better assessments that will better meet the needs of the individual student and shine a spotlight on those critical deeper learning skills, such as collaboration, creativity, and problem solving. As teacher Janet Ilko said in her own blog:
“If we want real change for our students, we need to step out in front of it, not continually defend ourselves from behind. If we don’t like the test, we need to help shape it. Invite legislators and families into your classroom. Have them see the real work of your students. It is messy, and scary and imperfect. But it is beautiful, and in my opinion our most important work.”
But schools don’t have to wait for those assessments to arrive to break the cycle of test score anxiety.
We know it’s possible to change the culture of learning to one that is student-centered, learning-focused, and engineered to ensure students are ready for college and career. One way schools can start bringing those learning environments to life is by joining the Alliance’s digital learning effort, Project 24. A quick first step is the rigorous self-assessment that will give districts instant feedback on where they are and where they need to grow in integrating technology to improve career and college readiness. They can also join the Project 24 MOOC-Ed to get step-by-step guidance on how to better plan for progress. Or they can tune into Alliance webinars with experienced educators who have navigated the terrain of these changes, and hear first hand about how to overcome obstacles and bring a laser-like focus to student achievement that doesn’t have to involve endless test prep.
As testing season gets into full swing, I hope that more educators will find ways to bring those learning environments to life so that we can avoid more tales of test-taking woe.
Terri Schwartzbeck is a Senior Digital Outreach Associate at the Alliance for Excellent Education. 
Categories:
Accountability, Assessments, Project 24

Afternoon Announcements: Common Core Standards Battle Continues

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Posted:
April 25, 2013 05:24 pm

news

The battle over the Common Core Standards continues, with Republicans in multiple states working to reverse adoption. “The irony is folks at the federal level would send a message that they don’t like state-led initiatives, which is what Common Core was,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. Education Daily

Mark Wahlberg dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and now, at 41, is pursuing his high school diploma through an online program. He talked with students in Alexandria about staying in school. Washington Post

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Categories:
Common Core State Standards, Digital Learning, Education Technology

Everyone’s Getting Straight A’s: Obama’s Budget Proposal

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Posted:
April 25, 2013 04:24 pm

straight a

The Alliance’s newsletter, Straight A’s: Public Education Policy and Progress, is available online. You can read excerpts from the newest volume below, and you can read the full articles here. If you would like to receive the bi-weekly newsletter in your inbox, email jamos@all4ed.org.

Released April 10, President Obama’s education budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 proposes new grant competitions focused on high school redesign and college completion and includes a $75 billion plan to provide access to high-quality preschool programs. Overall, the budget would provide $48.39 billion in discretionary funding—excluding Pell Grants—for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of $2.8 billion over last year. Obama Releases FY 2014 Budget Proposal

Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies on April 17, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan heard support for the president’s preschool proposal from committee members of both parties, but he also faced pointed questions regarding President Obama’s decision to target new spending on competitive programs rather than formula programs, such as Title I and special education. Duncan Talks Education Budget

Located about forty-five miles north of Philadelphia, PA, Quakertown Community School District (QCSD) has seen tremendous improvement in student achievement and engagement from implementation of a blended learning approach that combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction, finds a new interactive video profile conducted by the Alliance for Excellent Education and Public Impact. “Quakertown Community School District: A Systematic Approach to Blended Learning That Focuses on District Leadership, Staffing, and Cost-effectiveness,” is the first in a series of interactive video profiles highlighting innovative school districts that utilize digital learning to improve teaching and learn. Quakertown Community School District Blazes a Trail for Blended Learning

On April 17, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) joined with Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, to announce that West Virginia would be the first state to implement “Project 24” as part of a statewide education initiative. West Virginia Adopts Project 24

Categories:
Blended Learning, Digital Learning, Economic Impacts, Education and the Economy, Project 24, West Virginia

Choosing Change

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Posted:
April 25, 2013 01:25 pm

choosing change
It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to talk digital learning! The following blog post comes from Jeremy Macdonald, the Integrated Technology Systems Coordinator for Bend-La Pine Schools in Bend, Oregon.
A lot has changed for me since we announced Project 24 during this year’s Digital Learning Day. When I participated back in February, I was a Language Development (ESOL) Specialist. Now, I am the Integrated Technology Systems Coordinator for Bend-La Pine Schools in Bend, OR. I went from working with small groups of students at Mills Elementary to working with large groups of teachers from 27 different schools. Not only has my job responsibilities increased, but the scope of my work and influence have grown exponentially.

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Categories:
Digital Learning, Digital Learning Series, Education Technology, Gear: Teaching & Professional Learning, Project 24, Teachers & Leaders

Afternoon Announcements: Two-Year Blended Learning Certificate Program Offered in New York

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Posted:
April 24, 2013 08:07 pm

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At the White House science fair earlier this week, President Obama reiterated that science education must be a “priority.” He promoted science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM) at the event. USA Today

The University of Florida will offer online bachelor’s degree programs starting next year. It’s the first time a university has embraced full-time online education in the state. “This bill transforms education in Florida,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford. Reuters

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Categories:
Blended Learning, Digital Learning, Education Technology, New York, Project 24, West Virginia

Afternoon Announcements: Chicago Students Boycott State Exam

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Posted:
April 23, 2013 08:17 pm

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A number of Chicago high school students plan to boycott a state exam, saying that it’s unfair that their results will be used to judge the quality of their school. Two student-led groups have organized the protest – Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. WBEZ

House Republicans are asking questions about No Child Left Behind Waiver implementation. They’ve sent their questions to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with state chiefs who were approved for the flexibility from provisions in the law. Politics K-12

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Quakertown Community School District Blazes a Trail for Blended Learning Programs

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Posted:
April 23, 2013 07:47 pm

quakertown

Quakertown Community School District (QCSD) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in student achievement, test scores, advanced placement course enrollment, and engagement among students since implementing a blended learning program in 2008. The program combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction, and fosters a flexible environment in which students learning needs are met on an individual level. The Alliance for Excellent Education, along with Public Impact, talked with students, school and district leaders, and analyzed achievement results and compiled their findings in an innovative, interactive video profile. The report, “Quakertown Community School District: A Systematic Approach to Blended Learning That Focuses on District Leadership, Staffing, and Cost-effectiveness,” is the first in a series of interactive video profiles highlighting school districts that utilize digital learning to improve teaching and learning.

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Categories:
Assessments, Blended Learning, Digital Learning, Education Technology, Project 24