Virtual School Meanderings

January 5, 2013

What’s New: Common Core; Higher Ed; Teacher Prep; Digital Learning & More

From late in the day on Friday, news from the neo-liberals (with a couple of K-12 online learning related items in there)…

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What’s New at the Alliance

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I. Recent Events and Webinars (video available for all)

Text Box:  Calling All District Leaders! The Need for Systemic Technology Planning to Address Higher Standards: As states have rightly moved to require that all students be college and career ready, school district leaders must now make far-reaching decisions that will affect the next decade of education in the United States. The Alliance held a webinar discussion on November 15 on the need for states and districts to develop plans that incorporate the use of technology in school improvement efforts, specifically as they implement college- and career-ready standards for all students; use online assessments to gauge comprehension and learning; integrate new teacher evaluations; deal with shrinking budgets; and address the effects of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers.

Inseparable Imperatives: On November 26, the Alliance held a webinar on its latest brief, Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy, which examines the critical juncture between civil rights and the economy. The webinar addressed the nation’s shifting demographics as well as the economic benefits of providing all students with a quality education.

Perspectives on the Future of Teacher Preparation in the Digital Age: The Alliance held a webinar on December 11 on the future of teacher preparation in the digital age. The webinar highlighted promising developments and explored the challenges of remodeling teacher preparation programs. The panel of experts answered additional questions from viewers in a blog post. Read their responses here.

Perspectives on the Federal Student Aid System: Promises and Problems: Between grants, loans, campus-based aid and tax incentives, the federal student aid system can be complicated and burdening for students and parents to understand. The Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar on December 17 to learn more about the perspectives of three organizations committed to student success, and hear their views about the problems and potential of the federal student aid system to help increase access and opportunity for postsecondary students.

Implementing English Language Arts Common Core State Standards: The Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar on December 19 featuring Sheila Brown and Lee Kappes of the Aspen Institute, and authors of a recently released primer, Implementing the Common Core State Standards: A Primer on Close Reading of Text. They examined the use of close reading as a key instructional approach for building students’ abilities to assess, evaluate, and synthesize information from text. Practitioner-leader Lynn Dougherty-Underwood from Hillsborough County Public Schools (Florida) discussed what integration of this instructional approach looks like in practice. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, moderated the discussion.

II. Recent Publications

The Nation’s Schools Are Stepping Up to Higher Standards: While the U.S. Congress must confront crucial economic issues this month, every school, district, and state leader must make critical decisions in the next two years involving digital learning that will shape education for decades. This report identifies four key challenges that public school district leaders must systemically address in the next two years and outlines the essential elements for developing a comprehensive digital strategy.

Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy: As students of color and diverse ethnicities rapidly become the leading population of public school systems in numerous states, closing educational achievement gaps and providing a quality education to all students can secure the United State’s future economic prosperity. Noting that two-thirds of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending, this report argues that raising individuals’ education levels will boost their purchasing power and increase the national economy.

A System in Need of Repair: An Examination of Federal Student Aid for Postsecondary Education: This report outlines serious problems with the current federal student financial aid system and calls on policymakers to simplify both the process and the programs and shift the system’s emphasis from simply access to providing the overall support resulting in postsecondary completion. It provides a brief overview of legislative changes that have altered the structure and focus of the system and turned them into a complicated web of Pell Grants, federal student loans, tuition tax credits, and campus-based aid programs that is unnecessarily convoluted and daunting for parents and students to navigate.

III. Media Highlights

November 12, 2012
Morgantown school prompts international tech day (Charleston Gazette)
A Morgantown elementary school is being honored Tuesday for inspiring an international technology movement. The Alliance for Excellent Education used Mountainview Elementary School’s efforts to embrace technology in the classroom as the basis for Digital Learning Day, an initiative that spotlights teachers who effectively use innovative teaching strategies. “I’m eager to share with Mountainview students and educators how their original thinking sparked an effort that reached around the globe. It’s important that students understand in this digital world there are no limits to how far a good idea can go,” former state Gov. Bob Wise said in a release.

November 15, 2012
Education technology, digital learning not as easy as it seems: Alliance for Excellent Education report (Huffington Post)
A report from the Alliance for Excellent Education identifies four key challenges that public school district leaders must address in the next two years in order to successfully bring digital learning and education technology into K–12 classrooms. The driving force behind the nationwide effort to adopt a comprehensive digital learning strategy is the move by all states to raise academic expectations by requiring students to graduate from high school college- and career-ready.

November 2, 2012
Report: Scrap one-size-fits-all approach to teaching ELLs (Education Week)
As an increasing number of districts nationwide put the common standards in English/language arts and mathematics into practice, one refrain is growing louder and louder: Instruction for English-learners must change radically. Of course, the instructional shifts required in the common core are significant for all students, but for the nation’s large—and growing—population of English-learners, traditional approaches of teaching them the language by emphasizing grammar and syntax, for example, have to give way to instruction that allows ELLs to understand content, think critically, and communicate ideas—even if imperfectly. These shifts will be most critical in the secondary grades, where too often the focus for English-learners is on making sure they learn the language and little else. So argues a new policy brief released this week from the Washington-based Alliance for Excellent Education.

November 16, 2012
School leaders implored to do better job using tech. to solve problems (Education Week Online)
The Alliance for Excellent Education has released a new report that implores school leaders to take a more deliberate approach in using technology reforms as part of a comprehensive plan to address four pressures that face contemporary schools. The report identifies those four pressures as the need for improved achievement, the tightening of school budgets, the changing demographics of the teaching force, and the increasing technology demands of the outside world.

December 12, 2012
Simplified student-aid system for college recommended (Education Week)
The federal student financial-aid system needs to be simplified and shift its focus from access to college completion, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based nonprofit.

November 28, 2012
The equity and economic educational imperative (Huffington Post)
The Alliance for Excellent Education released a report today detailing the inseparable link between equity in education and the future of the American economy, an argument that in today’s economy just can’t be ignored—and perhaps the one I should have been waging all along. The report argues that to equitably provide all students with a quality education is a critical factor in maintaining the United States’ national economic strength and that failing to close gaps in educational achievement in light of the nation’s changing demographics will have dire consequences for the American economy.

November 5, 2012
Rural schools still facing ed-tech challenges (eSchool News)
Educational technology stakeholders tout the benefits of mobile devices, broadband internet, and technology in the classroom—but in some rural schools, even the most basic ed-tech access is still a pipe dream. However, digital tools and persistence on the part of school leaders can help rural students achieve the same “connectedness” found in more populated parts of the nation. Statistics indicate that rural high school students are less likely to complete advanced math courses and are less likely have access to Advanced Placement courses. Many have never visited a college campus or talked with a guidance counselor about attending college, according to Terri Dugan Schwartzbeck, a senior policy associate for the Alliance for Excellent Education, during a webinar focusing on educational technology opportunities for rural schools.

November 11, 2012
Do new standards mean reading in school will get real? (Kansas City Star)
It was the kind of news high school literature teachers probably needed to take sitting down. Was it real? Were the coming nationally developed standards for language arts really dictating that 70 percent of what they read be nonfiction and only 30 percent fiction? The standards aren’t meant to be rigid, said Bob Rothman, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, D.C. They’re meant to guide schools and teachers and establish common expectations across the nation.

December 4, 2012
New graduation rates posted for most states (Education Week)
The U.S. Department of Education last week released high school graduation rates for the 2010–11 school year for 47 states, the District of Columbia, and other jurisdictions that were for the first time calculated using a common method. “It’s an achievement to have this data,” said Phillip D.C. Lovell, the vice president for federal advocacy at the Washington-based Alliance for Excellent Education. “This snapshot gives a much clearer picture as to how students are doing.”

IV. “High School Soup” Highlights (Alliance blog)

November 9, 2012
Decision 2012: How will the elections affect federal and state education policy?
Bob Wise, President of the Alliance
After months of intense campaigning, the 2012 elections closed, begging the question from education advocates: How will the results of the 2012 elections affect federal and state education policy? This post answered that question, focusing on what is likely to change—and what will not—at the federal and state levels. It also looked at some new faces who will play a role in education policy in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and in governors’ mansions and state legislatures around the country.

December 11, 2012
Fiction (and nonfiction) about the Common Core State Standards
Robert Rothman, Alliance senior fellow
Do the Common Core State Standards mean the end of literature in schools? To read some comments in the news media, one might get the impression that the standards will drive Mark Twain and Shakespeare out of classrooms, to make way for government manuals on insulation and invasive plants. A closer reading of the standards show this is not the case – that the informational texts students will read will take place in all subject areas. Literature class will still be for reading literature.

November 5, 2012
The ins and outs of Common Core State Standards
Cyndi Waite, communications associate
Alliance senior fellow Robert Rothman published another article in the renowned Kapplan Magazine, entitled, “Laying a Common Foundation for Success.” It details the history, challenges and future of the Common Core State Standards. Cyndi gives a summary of the article, linking High School Soup readers back to Rothman’s work.

November 9, 2012
Reports of the Common Core Standards’ demise are premature
Robert Rothman, Alliance senior fellow
Amidst panic that the loss of Tony Bennett’s state superintendent seat in Indiana marked doomsday for the Common Core State Standards, Rothman gives the facts. He fills readers in on why Bennett lost, and assures that reports of the standards’ demise are premature.

November 12, 2012
Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission and Common Core State Standards work hand in hand to secure military childrens’ educational futures
Jenny Cline, office assistant
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Jenny shares information about a state-led policy to support the educational success of military children, called the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3). She incorporates her own story into the impactful work that MIC3 does.

November 15, 2012
“If you’re considering using technology in your schools, STOP – until you have a comprehensive plan”
Cyndi Waite, communications associate
Cyndi blogs about the message Bob Wise, president of the Alliance, delivered to school and district leaders with the release of the Alliance’s new report, The Nation’s Schools Are Stepping Up to Higher Standards. The report identifies four key challenges that public school district leaders must systemically address in the next two years and outlines the essential elements for developing a comprehensive digital strategy.

December 11, 2012
Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Bob Wise, Alliance president
On Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:00 p.m., the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” a critical issue that the nation must address if it is to end the cycle of poverty and disenfranchisement that the education system itself is intended to disrupt. Bob Wise explains the consequences and challenges and why this hearing is important.

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