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policy Tag

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...

U.S. Dept of Ed Reassigns Chief Privacy Officer, Leaving Key Position Vacant

Update (03/15/2018): The Department of Education confirms that Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Angela Arrington set to become the department's interim Chief Privacy Officer, effective April 1st. In a surprise move by the United States Department of Education, the chief privacy officer, Kathleen Styles, has been reassigned— according to Michael Hawes— director of the student privacy policy and assistance division at the U.S. Department of Education. Our office is being reorganized. I do not have details. Parents and eligible student can continue to file complaints. The education community can still submit technical-assistance requests. What Kathleen's departure means outside of that I cannot speak to. Michael HawesStyles had been in the role for seven years, but she will no longer lead the department as of April 1. Sources say the move was not voluntary. This change comes soon after the department issued some major rulings on privacy, including what is now known as the Agora Decision. In the case, parents issued a complaint against Agora Cyber Charter School saying its contracts with third-party edtech vendors violated the parents rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The department ruled that parents or students cannot be required to waive their FERPA rights as a condition receiving a public education. It was the first major enforcement action taken in relation to education technology by the department. “Our office is being reorganized,” said Hawes. “I do not have details. Parents and eligible student can continue to file complaints. The education community can still submit technical-assistance requests. What Kathleen's departure means outside of that I cannot speak to.” Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who have been working with the education department to regulate privacy concerns with edtech vendors also note that their work will not change. “The privacy mission of the FTC will continue,” added Kristin Cohen, a senior attorney at the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection in FTC. Styles has spoken at several events over the years noting her willingness to take on complications with FERPA interpretation. With 15 of 26 top senior positions at the U.S. Education Department left unfilled, according to the department’s website, privacy activists fear that this move will be a major setback to the push to protect student privacy. “I am concerned,” says Sean McDonough, a participant at the COSN (Consortium for School Networking) conference. “What impact does that have for those in the education community?” Amelia Vance, policy counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum, echoes the concerns of other privacy advocates saying, "As of right now it doesn't seem like the department has a plan for replacing her...

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