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Looking for Lasting Change? Start Talking to Other Departments.

In many K-12 districts, the IT department establishes the technology, the curriculum department develops the instructional methodologies and most of the physical classroom components are either leftover from the 1970s or purchased and implemented without a plan of deployment with the instructional teams that will use them. It’s true that some schools have successfully broken down the dividing walls separating these departments, but the phrase “never the twain shall meet” still holds true for many school districts where the IT, curriculum and facilities departments struggle to act in an integrated way. As a result, teachers have been asked to engage many new initiatives or make changes to their current practices, which are sometimes misaligned with other ongoing directives. The regularity of new initiative churn that teachers face every year leads to increasing resistance to each new idea. Schools that don’t break out of this stalemate face significant challenges in their quest to innovate they way they educate today’s learners. Here are three obstacles that your own district has probably grappled with—or is currently trying to overcome: The competition is heating up while student engagement is waning. Take a peek in your rearview mirror and you might fondly remember a time when all public schools enjoyed a steady stream of new students (and the funding to fully support those pupils). Today, the number of competitive options competing for students expands every year—from charter schools to online classes to homeschooling. We’re seeing more of a “consumerized” mentality on the part of parents, who expect an engaging, productive educational experience for their children. Unfortunately, the levels of student engagement begin to drop significantly at the middle-school level and trend downward throughout high school. Our physical schools are old and only getting older. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about one-fourth (28 percent) of all public schools were built before 1950, and 45 percent of all public schools were built between 1950 and 1969. Seventeen percent of public schools were built between 1970 and 1984, and 10 percent were built after 1985. “The increase in the construction of schools between 1950 and 1969 corresponds to the years during which the Baby Boomer generation was going to school.” Technology and choice are enabling a more “humanized” learning experience for students. Instead of just attending classes at a single school on a daily basis, high school students may visit one campus for their STEM classes in the morning and then learn to play the violin at a fine arts academy the same afternoon. Successfully tailoring the educational experience for that student who loves both science and the arts isn’t always easy, but it’s very necessary in today’s educational environment. Needless to say, each of these challenges does not exist in isolation, and finding solutions requires involvement from a broad swath of educators and support staff. How One District Connected the Dots Several years ago, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) in Sarasota approached Florida’s Sarasota County Schools, wanting to help the district think differently than it had in the past. Namely, the...

How Should Colleges Approach Student Success When Different Definitions Abound?

At the most recent convening of Achieving the Dream, a non-profit focused on community college student success, president and CEO Karen Stout asked eight of the organization’s student scholars what completion means to them. Completion. It’s a word that’s used a lot when people discuss student success, Stout says. Andstudents view the word in a different way than administrators. But first, a primer on student success: it’s a phrase that usually encompasses the departments, advisors, programs, tools, approaches, apps and software a school offers students to help them thrive as they work towards their educational goals. Students aren’t thinking about completion “based on a simulation of degrees or credentials,” Stout claims. Instead, they’re thinking about getting the skills and competencies they’ll need for their next step, be it starting a career or continuing their education. Colleges in Achieving the Dream’s network track students from fall to fall and spring to spring, but for students retention is often about tomorrow. “Every student is coming and defining success differently,” says Stout. For one of the students Stout spoke to at the event, success may be as straightforward as “being able to make sure that she has the ability to get to class every day.” Take Amanda Rodriguez, a senior accounting major at the University of Houston. She thinks what defines student success is being able to build the foundation to accomplish a life goal. That life goal doesn’t necessarily have to be related to work. For instance, someone’s can be to travel the world—- but a career can help her achieve it. Ben Alemu , a senior studying biochemistry and cell biology with a minor in education studies at the University of California San Diego (and a former EdSurge Independent Contributor), also doesn’t define student success as fully academic. He views it as setting a personal goal that’s more actionable, such as for one’s career. Because these different definitions of student success abound, Stout says conversations with an academic advisor that “span beyond just building a schedule” are important. As for advising technology tools, she believes that if they’re well-designed, they give students a real-time picture of how they’re progressing against their stated goals. This article is part of an upcoming EdSurge Guide exploring innovations in student success, publishing March 26. The guide is sponsored by Salesforce.org, which had no influence on this story. Career resources also important, Stout says. She referenced her time as president of Montgomery County Community College, which uses Career Coach—a tool that lets the school’s students see job demands and salaries in Montgomery County and nearby localities. “That type of information was really important for students to have at the front end of their experience at the college,” Stout explains. She says that too many students, especially those in community college who haven’t picked their majors, are taking classes that may not transfer or count toward their degree. And in the process, they’re using up their financial aid. She believes that all higher education institutions, particularly community colleges, have an obligation to make sure first semester...

50 years ago, Dr. King told these Philly kids to lay a blueprint, and they did

Dennis Kemp didn’t know who was going to climb out of the limousine. Kemp was a 9th grader at Barratt Junior High School in October 1967 when the school's vice principal asked him and other members of the stage crew to greet a guest arriving for a special assembly. Kemp, who played on the school’s basketball team, thought the mystery celebrity might be the Philadelphia 76ers behemoth Wilt Chamberlain. Then the car door swung open, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto South 16th Street. “It was amazing,” Kemp said. “I’ll never forget it.” King was in town for a star-studded rally at the Spectrum, the since-demolished sports arena that King would describe that day as a “new, impressive structure.” Thanks to a connection made by legendary Philly DJ Georgie Woods (“the guy with the goods”), King stopped first at Barratt, which has since been shuttered. He spoke for just 20 minutes, riveting the mostly black student body with a speech that focused on uplift, racial pride, and putting the onus on them to make better lives. “I wanna ask you a question,” King began. “And that is: What is in your life’s blueprint?” The Philadelphia Public School Notebook...

Democrats Grill DeVos On Guns, Schools And Money

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos waits to testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption toggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Education Secretary Betsy DeVos waits to testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Democrats got their shot at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, when she testified before a House committee about her department's proposed budget. The hearing followed widespread criticism of DeVos for lackluster performances on 60 Minutes and the Today show earlier this month. She remains one of the most unpopular members of President Trump's Cabinet and continues to anger Democrats over many issues. Republicans at the hearing, not surprisingly, were more supportive, praising DeVos for her efforts to shrink the size of the federal bureaucracy, her support for charter schools and vouchers, and for her stance that states should decide whether teachers should carry guns. But from Democrats, there was criticism — and scorn. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., started off by taking aim at DeVos' proposed 5 percent cut in education spending for 2019. "You are turning your back on public schools," DeLauro said. "You admitted in your interview on 60 Minutes that you have yet to visit a single struggling school and said you support arming teachers, an idea most teachers oppose." DeVos insisted that arming teachers should be left up to the states and local school districts. She said she hasn't visited struggling schools because she is afraid she wouldn't be welcome. She said she has focused instead on schools that are doing innovative things and are more welcoming. DeLauro piled on the criticisms: "You stand up for debt collectors rather than college students struggling to pay back loans. You favor reducing government oversight of private, for-profit schools with bad track records. You're undermining sexual assault policies on college campuses." DeVos seemed unruffled, smiling as she tried to get back to a discussion about the budget, especially her push to help low-income parents pay for private school tuition. Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, was next: "Your budget includes over a billion dollars more for school choice," she told DeVos. "But no new money for special education." Lowey accused DeVos of not caring that some private schools aren't following federal laws that are supposed to protect children with disabilities. "We are working to make sure private schools follow those laws," DeVos responded. "But it's a state matter if a school has its own programs that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not cover or fund." "Wait," Lowey interrupted, "you're saying the feds have no role in making sure parents get services that IDEA calls for? So if parents put a child in a school that does not serve that child, that's OK?" DeVos did not respond. Returning to her budget proposal, the secretary said it has two main goals: first, to make the department more efficient by doing more with less, and, second, to reduce the federal footprint on state and local school reform. To that end, DeVos wants to slash the budget, mostly by cutting $2 billion from teacher training and professional...

Sir Ken Robinson’s Next Act: You Are the System and You Can Change Education

Sir Ken Robinson’s views on creativity are abundantly well documented. In his 2006 TED Talk—still the most-watched of all time—he claimed that “we are educating people out of their creative capacities” and charged the current education system with being too rigid in adhering to traditional academic subjects. Kids, he argued, need time to dance, draw, create and find what they’re good at. But he hasn’t given up on schools or education—far from it, in fact. For his follow-up act, Robinson is releasing a new book for parents on how to raise capable children who thrive in school. Make no mistake, though, he’s still shaking up the system (and redefining what that actually means). In a wide-ranging interview, Robinson recently spoke with us about collaboration versus competition, the all-important parent-teacher relationship and what every parent and educator can do to improve education. EdSurge: Your new book, “You, Your Child and School,” seems like it’s intended as a playbook for parents. But I wanted to ask you about the other side of the coin, about educators. How can they deal with parents to create productive and healthy relationships? Sir Ken: I wrote a book a few years ago called “Creative Schools,” which was directed primarily to educators, and there was a chapter in there for parents. So it seemed reasonable to try and offer some thoughts and guidance in a more extensive way to parents because they are a vital part of the partnership. And that’s the point really. It is an attempt to engage parents more positively in the conversation. They do, after all, have an enormous vested interest in how their kids are educated, and they bear a lot of the brunt of the shifts in policy that seem to come along on an almost monthly basis in education. This partnership obviously involves, by definition, different groups, and parents sometimes can be part of the problem that schools face. There’s the perception there about how sometimes parents can get overprotective and overreach. There’s a fine line in all relationships to strike between satisfying the interests of the various parties and working together to meet them all. So, the partnership is a very important part of it and it requires, of course, that teachers also reciprocate. EdSurge:It reminds me of a book was popular a few years ago, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which talked a lot about how the parent-teacher relationship in China is different from that in the United States. How should both groups work together? Sir Ken: You know, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been compared to a Tiger Mum. I don’t know how to feel about it. There are big cultural differences. It’s interesting of course that at some levels the issues that educators face are global in character. There’s the fuller point here about the fact that we have to think globally but act locally. There are also changes over time. And it is true that in some Asian cultures there is a much greater level of deference to teachers...

Collaborative Higher Ed Partnerships Are the Key to Student Success

As the labor market becomes increasingly dependent on skilled workers who have at least some education beyond high school—whether that means an associate or bachelor’s degree, or a professional credential—student success in college is as important as it has ever been. Regrettably, though, large numbers of students in the United States do not have access to higher education opportunities. Many cannot afford the high cost of college; others do not know how to apply for college or what their educational opportunities are post-high school. Still others do not even consider college an option in the first place. Large numbers of students in the United States do not have access to higher education opportunities. The education community’s ability to help more students succeed in college depends on partnerships—among the K-12 school system, higher education institutions, policymakers, and philanthropic and education-focused organizations—that develop collaborative, systematic solutions to the perennial challenges students face.It is also true that the obstacles to achieve success do not disappear once students apply, are accepted, and then enroll in higher education. The fact is that for as many as half of college-going students—especially those who are the first in their families to go to college and those who come from low-income families—the prospect of success and graduating with a credential is fragile. Any seemingly minor set-back, like a flat tire or brief illness, can shatter a student’s ability to persist in college. This fragility is not a result of a lack of effort or desire. Instead, when students are already stressed—whether it be financially or by the lack of a support system that can help them navigate the challenging journey of higher education—certain obstacles become difficult to overcome. This article is part of an upcoming EdSurge Guide exploring innovations in student success, publishing March 26. The guide is sponsored by Salesforce.org, which had no influence on this story. Affordable College The high cost of college is arguably the largest barrier to college success. This is compounded by the lack of awareness about financial aid options and how to access them. In fact, increasing students’ and families’ understanding of the financial aid universe is key to helping them know what kinds of aid exist, what they are eligible for, and how to access it—particularly for applicants whose families have little to no experience with higher education. A family at graduation. Photo Credit: College Success ArizonaHigher education institutions, for example, can work with middle and high school advisers to explain the various options available from federal and state aid programs, individual institutions, and other sources. They can also work with advisers to explain cost-effective pathways to a certificate or degree completion to include an associate degree from a community college and credit transfers to four-year institutions. Partnerships can involve a variety of organizations with a stake in higher education and student success. My own organization, College Success Arizona, partners with other groups across the state—like Helios Education Foundation, College Depot and Arizona GEAR UP—to provide scholarships, intensive advisory services, and real-time interventions to students who might not...

50 years ago, Dr. King told these Philly kids to lay a blueprint, and they did

Dennis Kemp didn’t know who was going to climb out of the limousine. Kemp was a 9th grader at Barratt Junior High School in October 1967 when the school's vice principal asked him and other members of the stage crew to greet a guest arriving for a special assembly. Kemp, who played on the school’s basketball team, thought the mystery celebrity might be the Philadelphia 76ers behemoth Wilt Chamberlain. Then the car door swung open, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto South 16th Street. “It was amazing,” Kemp said. “I’ll never forget it.” King was in town for a star-studded rally at the Spectrum, the since-demolished sports arena that King would describe that day as a “new, impressive structure.” Thanks to a connection made by legendary Philly DJ Georgie Woods (“the guy with the goods”), King stopped first at Barratt, which has since been shuttered. He spoke for just 20 minutes, riveting the mostly black student body with a speech that focused on uplift, racial pride, and putting the onus on them to make better lives. “I wanna ask you a question,” King began. “And that is: What is in your life’s blueprint?” The Philadelphia Public School Notebook...

Y Combinator’s Newest Batch of Education Technology Startups

There were all the usual trappings of a startup demo day. Caffeinated founders paced the lobby in colorful T-shirts splattered with their company logos, polishing their pitches for their on-stage presentation and meetings with potential investors. But Y Combinator’s event this week also came with heavy machinery and special snacks. Outside the Computer History Museum, where its 26th demo day was held, an autonomous tractor drove in circles next to a massive 3D printer assembling an office pod. Inside, an industrial-grade drone sat nearby tables offering instant coffee and cannabis sodas. Then there’s Nectome, a “100 percent fatal” startup that boasts the ability to upload your brain for future use. Back to life and reality, the latest graduating class of 141 will be putting their best foot forward in an effort to woo investors at Demo Day. Eight education startups are among them, and all but one are focused on helping learners develop chops in programming and artificial intelligence technology. “Interactive curriculum is the next wave” of opportunities in the education market, says Tim Brady, a partner at Y Combinator, in an interview with EdSurge. Brady has now overseen 11 cohorts of education technology startups over the past seven years. He co-founded and help run Imagine K12, a startup accelerator dedicated to the education sector, before the group merged with Y Combinator. Don’t expect coding and AI tools to be in vogue for long—at least in education. Eventually there comes a point where the market becomes saturated with one class of products. Today, from Brady’s perspective, “the space for teacher productivity tools is pretty crowded,” he shares. These were the kinds of tools that used to make up a sizable portion of Imagine K12 cohorts. What he has yet to find—but which he says Y Combinator would be willing to invest in—are companies that can help support and run new school models. He’s also on the lookout for tools that “unlock the black box of a child’s learning” for parents. You won’t find those companies in this batch. Here’s what we saw instead. Source: Y Combinator Delphia is developing AI tools that aim to help people make complex life decisions—such as which college to attend and which major to choose. A high-school student can take a 40-question survey and see results about the schools and programs that may be the best “fit” for him or her. Andrew Peek, the Canadian company’s chief operating officer, says Delphia’s system has been trained to make these recommendations based on survey data from recent university graduates. And if users doesn’t like the suggestions, they can let Delphia know, and the system will recalibrate its recommendation system. Education is only one of several industry verticals that Delphia provides its services for. It’s licensed its surveying tools to media companies like Vox for stories where this data comes in handy. (Here’s an example of a story about the 2016 election that used a tool built by Delphia.) Peek envisions that a similar kind of partnership could happen with universities or an education group that may be...

Free Platform Lets Teachers Find and Share Their Favorite Resources

It was a bittersweet moment for Ashley Lamb-Sinclair as she walked away from her middle-school classroom for the final time last year, flicked the light switch off and locked the door behind her. On one hand, she was sad to leave the classroom, where she’d spent years 12 years working as an English teacher. But on the other, she was excited at the prospects of taking that experience and using it in her new venture, Curio Learning. The reason PD sucks so much is because teachers are already working really, really hard to become better. Then we have to hit 'pause,' go back to school, jump through some hoop or sit through some workshop to prove it. And with that, Lamb-Sinclair donned her entrepreneurial hat and started an online space where educators can go to discover, curate and collaborate. “I’m still in school as an instructional coach, but I do miss working with the kids,” says Lamb-Sinclair, CEO and founder, who landed on her business idea after receiving an email concerning a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation opportunity. Coined a “Redesign Challenge,” it invited teachers to submit proposals for solutions to educational problems. In this case, the challenge centered on professional development. “I had zero interest and deleted the email,” says Lamb-Sinclair, who had a “spark” that night as she pondered the low points of current PD approaches in K-12. “The reason PD sucks so much is because teachers are already working really, really hard to become better,” she says, “and many times that additional work takes place at 11 p.m. when we’re sitting on our living room couches. Then we have to hit ‘pause,’ go back to school, jump through some hoop, or sit though some workshop to prove it.” That got Lamb-Sinclair thinking about an online space where the best PD resources were compiled on one platform where multiple teachers could come to collaborate, share and learn. In her mind, that platform would not only be a place for instructors to discover new ideas, but also keep those ideas there. “As a teacher, when I found something cool online I’d put it in a Dropbox file or on Google Drive, but that happened in isolation,” says Lamb-Sinclair. “It was all very piecemeal, and kind of like DIY hacking your way through professional development.” Ready for Prime Time By 2016, Lamb-Sinclair’s idea of a central repository for online PD for teachers—and compiled by teachers—was ready for prime time. After submitting her idea to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she participated in an “Innovator’s Weekend,” in D.C., where she and about a dozen other educators walked through the design-thinking process with a group of technology, nonprofit and design professionals from various industries. It was a pivotal moment in Lamb-Sinclair’s career. “That was the first time in a decade of teaching where I felt like I was the expert in the room. It just changed everything for me,” says Lamb-Sinclair, who during the same year was named Kentucky Teacher of the Year and received an Education First...

50 years ago, Dr. King told these Philly kids to lay a blueprint, and they did

Dennis Kemp didn’t know who was going to climb out of the limousine. Kemp was a 9th grader at Barratt Junior High School in October 1967 when the school's vice principal asked him and other members of the stage crew to greet a guest arriving for a special assembly. Kemp, who played on the school’s basketball team, thought the mystery celebrity might be the Philadelphia 76ers behemoth Wilt Chamberlain. Then the car door swung open, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto South 16th Street. “It was amazing,” Kemp said. “I’ll never forget it.” King was in town for a star-studded rally at the Spectrum, the since-demolished sports arena that King would describe that day as a “new, impressive structure.” Thanks to a connection made by legendary Philly DJ Georgie Woods (“the guy with the goods”), King stopped first at Barratt, which has since been shuttered. He spoke for just 20 minutes, riveting the mostly black student body with a speech that focused on uplift, racial pride, and putting the onus on them to make better lives. “I wanna ask you a question,” King began. “And that is: What is in your life’s blueprint?” The Philadelphia Public School Notebook...

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