Applauding Today’s FCC Vote to Improve E-Rate to Provide Greater Access to Innovative, Personalized Learning Environments for America’s Students

July 11, 2014 by

iNACOL congratulates the FCC for taking positive action to modernize the E-Rate program for U.S. schools and libraries and driving change for the public good in expanding access to broadband for our nation’s students.

Today’s vote toward a modernized E-Rate program is a significant step to ensure America’s students are prepared to meet future challenges. While we will continue to need the basics, our students need new skills and we need to update our education system to prepare all Americans for the challenges of the 21st century. Providing improved Internet access in our nation’s schools and libraries is a major step in the right direction. Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel have supported a crucial update of E-Rate to expand essential internal wi-fi connectivity for school and community learning environments. With this change, we applaud the FCC’s work to simplify and streamline the process for our schools and libraries.

This vote underscores how vitally important it is that education leaders continue to work with the FCC to strengthen and update the E-Rate program to make certain our students get the best education possible. Across the country, innovative educators are transforming learning environments to enable highly personalized learning experiences for students through blended and online learning. These new models of learning cannot succeed without high-speed broadband connections to schools and robust internal connectivity to bring those connections to each educator and learner.

Thanks to the leadership and support of the FCC today, more of America’s students will have access to these opportunities.

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E-Rate Update

July 3, 2014 by

The Federal Communications Commission released a report on July 2nd of the potential impact of a pending proposal to modernize the federal E-Rate program to meet a pressing demand by the nation’s schools and libraries: robust connectivity to the Internet through Wi-Fi networks. The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of the estimated number of additional students, schools and libraries that would gain E-rate funding needed for Wi-Fi upgrades over the next five years under the proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Nationwide, the proposal would increase funding for Wi-Fi 75 percent for rural schools and 60 percent for urban schools, allowing an additional 44 million students and 16,000 libraries to have access to Wi-Fi services by 2019, all within existing program funding.

Chairman Wheeler stated, “Modernizing E-Rate to expand Wi-Fi connectivity in schools and libraries will empower students and library patrons to use the latest education technology to access new learning opportunities and infinite worlds of information.”

On July 11, 2014, the FCC will vote on an E-Rate modernization proposal that would dramatically increase support for Wi-Fi connections in schools and libraries. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler put forward this proposal as the first step in comprehensively modernizing the program. The proposal has three goals:

  • Close the Wi-Fi gap – get high-speed Internet to all classrooms and libraries by 2019.
  • Make the program rules fairer – ensure funding is available to the vast majority of schools and libraries, not just a few.
  • Maximize existing funds – streamline the program and make it faster, simpler, more efficient for all schools and libraries.

You may read a copy of the report HERE.

 

#BlendedLearning: What Adaptive Technologies Do (Answering the “To What End” Question)

June 6, 2014 by

The phone rings and a superintendent is asking, “What adaptive software do I need to personalize learning?” If only the question were so simple. How does this “stuff” work? Getting precise about what specific technologies actually do in the instructional model is an important step to clarify in implementing high-quality blended learning.

For years, people have been using technology to improve their lives based on their individual needs – having access to information on-demand. Teachers using instructional technologies can improve strategies and methods to help student learning in powerful ways. It is fundamental for school leaders and teachers as “learning designers” to understand the specific functions that any specific technology provides in a personalized, student-centered learning environment.

In a recent meeting iNACOL and CompetencyWorks hosted with practitioners and technical assistance providers – we began to deconstruct how adaptive technologies are used to support different instructional models.

Here are the top 5 ways adaptive technologies are used:

Adaptive – It is very important for education leaders and educators to define the functions for which we use adaptive technologies – or be precise about the different meanings of adaptive (for what purpose) in personalized, competency-based instructional models:

  1. Leveling: Example – the adaptive technology helps identify precise “levels” for student differentiated lexile levels.
  2. Real-time Scaffold (RtS) and In-Course Correction: Provide tools to identify strengths and weaknesses in student learning progressions and adapt in the moment (examples are DreamBox and SuccessMaker). These adaptive technologies are designed to offer pre-requisite scaffolds and supports, and when students demonstrate mastery, then they can seamlessly get back into learning progressions at the appropriate point to stay on track.
  3. Honing the Progression: Minimizing number of problems worked by adapting the learning pathway for student mastery resulting in efficiency in use of time and effort (remove 5 objectives you don’t need to work on because you mastered it already); there is an idea here on honing in on the areas to keep students on their own “learning edge” and exactly in the zone of proximal development.
  4. Limitless Pathway: Students can continue to move forward when they have mastered and demonstrated learning; adaptive pathways enable learning environments so students can always be working on the next sequential piece or keep them on the pathway/progression (in concepts along a building progression of learning).
  5. Recommendations: System recommends content objects based on student performance or has embedded recommendation engines.

Perhaps we should start being clear about the purposes of technology and answer “to what end” to understand how teachers and students benefit using technology to personalize learning in online and blended learning models.

We strategically need to think about the purpose of adaptive technologies to ensure the best tool selection for quality implementations of transformative, blended, personalized new learning models. Just because something has online and adaptive software doesn’t tell us about the model for transforming instruction to increase student agency or become more student-centered and personalized. We must ask ourselves – to what end?

Using the research on how students learn, the design of new learning models should built on best practices and research – and work to create student agency, voice and choice with the empowered leadership of educators transforming learning for every student’s needs and success in the 21st century.

 

Full disclosure statement: The CEO of DreamBox Learning serves on iNACOL’s Board of Directors; The author notes that both DreamBox Learning and Pearson (developer of SuccessMaker) have sponsored the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium.

Kansas: High quality online learning increases equity in education

April 4, 2014 by

(Testimony provided to the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee by iNACOL colleague Maria Worthen on April 1, 2014)

Chairman Masterson, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding proposed cuts to funding for online learning, which could have a catastrophic impact on educational opportunities for the 5,900 Kansas students who today benefit from this option.

iNACOL’s mission is to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success. iNACOL is a non-profit organization with 4,400 members working in the field of blended and online learning. Our work is focused on research, policy, and quality.

Last year, we conducted an online learning cost adequacy study, which asked the question, “what are the actual resources needed to ensure all students could meet state standards and performance expectations in an online school or program?” Our research findings revealed the costs and funding levels required for online learning programs are different for a full-time online school or a supplemental online course provider, offering single courses. (more…)

Reflections on Education Ministry Meetings in Alberta, Canada – Positive Insights across North America and Lessons for the USA

February 21, 2014 by

In the New Year, I was able to travel to Edmonton – the capital of Alberta, Canada – to visit schools and meet with educators, education leaders and public officials as part of a delegation from the United States.

Focus on Values of Equity and Inclusion

Canada has the smallest achievement gap (the achievement gap between sub-groups of students) of OECD countries. All of the high performing countries on PISA have a very strong sense of shared values, and this was very evident across the meetings and school visits in Edmonton. Alberta’s values are clearly articulated here in a visionary document titled Inspiring Education and repeated at the school and classroom-level by educators from across many fields of study and levels of teaching and administration during site visits.

Alberta school leaders described a changing competency framework and the digital revolution. They described curriculum redesign and moving from very structured curriculum toward achievement of competencies. They discussed the need to:

  • Change how you want young people to learn
  • Change how you measure and benchmark successful outcomes
  • Understand the process for the journey takes a while (over years and requires a growth mindset and continuous improvement framework with flexibility)

Accountability in Alberta —16 Pillars of Accountability

Albert School Superintendents and administrators, like Paulette Hanna, explained that they wished to have accountability that would provide them with useful information on continuous improvement for building capacity at the classroom level and school level. Thus, the information would allow them to support educators and students in improving instructional models at the classroom level throughout the year – focused on student learning, quality and engagement.

The public official noted that if the measures were the correct ones for student learning, then the data would be very helpful for policy makers and accountability purposes, too. (more…)

State of the Union 2014: Opportunity Begins with the Promise of Student-Centered Learning

January 29, 2014 by

From opening words reflecting upon the power of education, the President’s address mirrored his commitment to ensure each American has access to a world-class education. This year’s State of the Union continued this pledge and reflected upon priorities such as STEM education, affordable higher education and the preparation of tomorrow’s workforce through initiatives such as ConnectED, with the goal of connecting the country’s students and schools to high-speed broadband and digital learning opportunities. The focus on innovation and education as drivers of opportunity for America’s students and the country was well received and a job well done.

iNACOL also applauds the continued efforts of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and policy leaders such as Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton. The Administration has placed great emphasis on spearheading innovation and change within our public school system. The Race to the Top programs have driven a strategy providing a greater focus on personalizing learning for each and every child. Because of this, there is renewed emphasis on how our schools and classrooms can individualize instruction for every child’s needs, provide greater equity through new learning models, empower practice through online and blended learning, and focus on moving from a one-size-fits-all education approach toward competency-based pathways.

As the President noted, “those who go all in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.” And innovation breeds innovation. We believe in empowering student-centered, personalized learning that allows students to have tailored learning opportunities for each student’s strengths, needs and interests. In focusing on personalizing learning and opening access, new school models can unleash the promise and potential of each and every student in ways never before possible.

What our schools and our children need is a redesign of our education system to provide true equity of access and opportunity for every child to find success through student-centered policies and personalized learning environments. Technology has enabled true personalization in almost every facet of our lives, and we believe it can assist our schools and teachers accelerate every student’s achievement and success. Only then will we unleash the full potential of the next generation of American education to meet the promise of our democracy and society.

School Accountability > Student Learning Accountability

December 10, 2013 by

A series of posts focused on Student-centered Accountability 3.0 as a requirement for supporting student-centered learning.

(Part 3)

The current system of accountability is focused on school accountability – I propose the unit of measure and alignment should be “student learning” accountability.

It is focused on assessments for learning, to support students and educators, and to maximize resources around student learning needs and to build competencies on high standards.

How would assessments work?

  • Benchmark Entry Assessment – upon entry of a student into a program, an adaptive assessment needs to identify student profile for proficiency levels on standards; this will identify gaps in prior learning to address and close and enable students to see clearly what they have mastered and need to master in their learning progressions toward success.
  • Daily – formative assessments, embedded and performance assessments
  • Rubrics – rubrics that have been tuned by educators with agreement of what it actually looks like when a student demonstrates proficiency and advanced mastery on learning objectives and are needed for evaluating performance-based assessments.
  • Modular summative assessments – offering summative/moderating assessments through the ladder of learning progressions at the appropriate time when a student is ready for assessment throughout the year.

This requires a functional shift to multiple measures of student learning with all assessments having meaning for students in understanding where they are and how they are making progress toward their destination of college and career readiness.

Addressing each student exactly where they are upon entry and meeting individual student needs throughout the year with a focus on competency education is key, with students advancing upon demonstrated mastery of clear learning objectives.

Next time: In education, Accountability 3.0 focuses on each student’s personalized needs toward success, higher standards, and closing the achievement gap will require us to rethink accountability around student-centered learning.

Aligning State Accountability as a Driver of Student-Centered Learning

December 4, 2013 by

How can “Accountability 3.0” — the next generation of K-12 education accountability at the federal level — do a better job of aligning state accountability as a driver of student-centered learning to provide success for each and every student?

First, policy requires a shift around real quality assurance and continuous improvement based on student learning for student success.

New Accountability 3.0:

  • Understand the student level of proficiency, background and context upon entry to a program or school.
  • Identify each student’s individual learning goals and growth targets and holds all students to the same high standards.
  • Benchmark a student’s proficiency level upon entry (need to use an adaptive assessment because students may be on a continuum above grade level or below grade level, and then signals interventions and resources for filling gaps).
  • Provide multiple measures of assessment throughout every week of the school year, including formative assessments for learning, embedded assessments on student proficiency, and emphasizes performance-based assessments on what a student can know and do through a “performance” and demonstration of mastery of the learning objectives and competencies.
  • Provide a clear picture of each student’s profile (personalized learning plan) with concrete levels of proficiency on standards in real-time and a focus on gap closure and growth.
  • Validate daily data on ground by using summative/moderating assessments throughout the year as prescribed by the movement through the ladder of learning progressions at the appropriate time when a student is ready for assessment throughout the year. The focus is on moderating data on the ground and providing validated data.
  • Determinations enable analysis of accountability aligned to effectiveness of student learning by how well a program is serving all students.

Determinations in an Accountability 3.0 program would be made on a finer set of multiple measures of data and would help close the achievement gap by focusing on progress in real-time for students, and make available information for educators and students. The focus on equity would provide better data for student demographics to ensure systems are addressing that all students on track for graduation, closing achievement gaps, serving vulnerable students, analyzing the effectiveness based on the amount of learning per unit of time, and better determining cost effectiveness for amount of learning per unit of time (with time-bound targets).

Thus, a student learning centered system requires a student learning centered accountability system in order to function. Accountability can move from cohorts of students and “bar graph” measuring of blunt proficiency once a year, to deeply understanding how well a program is serving each and every student, accelerating all students toward success, and closing achievement gaps. Imagine that entry data, daily competency growth data, and summative validating data rolled up to create scatter plot graphs – and knowing how much a program has succeeded in supporting students and educators to improve learning and close gaps?

Next time: The current system of accountability is focused on school accountability – I propose the unit of measure and alignment should be “student learning” accountability.

Accountability 3.0

December 2, 2013 by

A series of posts focused on Student-centered Accountability 3.0 as a requirement for supporting student-centered learning.

(Part 1)

We must redesign the federal accountability system around student-centered learning, not the tyranny of seat-time.

This redesign requires accountability focused and aligned to student learning level and competency education.

  • A new Accountability 3.0 system will focus on student success of high, rigorous standards and close gaps for each and every student.
  • Students and teachers have real-time data every day on where each and every student is in attaining mastery on clearly defined competencies.
  • The focus shifts to formative and performance-based assessments for real-time knowledge and skills, with periodic and more modular “validating” summative systems of assessments.
  • Data is rich and provides a robust picture of student learning along progressions throughout the year, not a blunt instrument indicating a once-a-year shot in the arm for whether a student hits the mark or not, year to year.
  • Accountability 3.0 provides rich data visualization, which would encourage viewing real-time progress on closing achievement gaps through scatter plotting data to more accurately show how each group of students is being served successfully. Note: Today’s once-a-year summative testing alone actually masks the derisive depth of the true achievement gap, in the current model. This is really important to address for achieving equity.
  • Accountability 3.0 should provide students, parents and policymakers with a clear picture of student, classroom, school, district, state and federal progress toward success goals — daily, not just once a year.

Next time: How can “Accountability 3.0” — the next generation of K-12 education accountability at the federal level — do a better job of aligning state accountability as a driver of student-centered learning to provide success for each and every student?

 

Staying the Course for Student Success

November 20, 2013 by

 

10 important takeaways from recent conversations/meetings/conference talks:

1. The Common Core will help students succeed in college and career.

2. With deeper learning and critical thinking, the higher standards will lead to greater opportunities for all students.

3. Implementing the standards provides a foundation for students to build competencies for success in college and career.

4. Teachers overwhelmingly support the standards and believe the assessments aligned to the new standards will help foster great teaching.

5. To ensure all students are prepared for success after graduation, the Common Core State Standards establish a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students need to now and be able to do at each level of their K12 education in English Language Arts and math.

6. Forty-five states have adopted and are moving forward with the Common Core State Standards.

7. A majority of teachers believe the new standards will be positive for most students, but both teachers and students need the right supports and resources to ensure success.

8. The assessments of the new standards aim to provide meaningful feedback and actionable data to inform instruction.

9. Common Core Standards structure education around the core skills and knowledge that students need to master in order to succeed in college and careers no matter where their family lives.

10. By setting consistent, high goals for students in the state, the Common Core State Standards help ensure all students receive a quality education and are on a path to succeed.

We must stay the course. The world is a more demanding place today than ever before. Not only do students have to compete with others in their community for colleges and jobs, they must also compete with students around the country and the world. The vision for all students to access a world-class education makes it important to stay on the course. As colleges and employers expect more, we all have a role to play in helping students master the knowledge and skills that students need to be successful.

Teachers at the Core - Click to see a larger version of this image

 

 
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