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PilotED Blog

Does the Common Core Make Math Education Even Worse?

Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Blog, EdTech, Education, Technology and learning | Comments Off on Does the Common Core Make Math Education Even Worse?

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Marina Ratner, Making Math Education Even Worse, which contained quite a few misconceptions about the Common Core and specifically about the Common Core Math Standards. Here is my attempt to shed light on what’s good and bad about the standards and their implementation. The Common Core Math Standards were adapted from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommendations, and these were created over a period of many years by teachers. There has been general agreement among math teachers along these standards, and there were some adjustments as the standards were folded into the Common Core. The movement for Common Core standards was originally put forth by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Secretary Duncan and President Obama then gave it their support. The movement was thus not top down, nor bottom up, but more middle (state) to top (federal) to bottom (district and school). The standards are not set up primarily for students who are vying for admission at elite universities. The standards were set so that high school graduates are capable of doing math work that is required in Community Colleges. Currently, about 75% of high school graduates are not able to do math at this level, even if they meet state standards for math. Most of the old state standards were detailed curriculum maps. The new standards are learning standards. There is no one prescribed method for teaching; educators are given more discretion. When a teacher, school, or district claims that they have to teach a certain way because of the standards, it’s not true; the standards do not dictate teaching methods. Not only are the standards generally more rigorous than state standards, there is a realignment of what is taught in each grade. A rule of thumb is that about 40% of the material overlaps existing standards for a grade, 30% of the standards moves material from a higher grade to a lower one (like what was formerly taught in 7th grade might now be taught in 5th), 15% moves material from a lower grade into a higher one, and 15% is new material that was not taught before (for example, many states never taught statistics, but statistics is now part of the standards). These are not definitive; they will vary for each state and for each grade. Another adjustment is that the standards attempt to measure thinking, not just knowledge. In the old standards, a student merely got the answer right or wrong. On the new ones, students show their thinking process so that they can get credit for knowing what to do even if they make stupid errors. Because there are multiple ways to think through a problem, teachers are directed to show students multiple approaches and not just one algorithm. I am personally not a fan of the Common Core Math Standards, however. My biggest objections are: That the materials are so grade dependent. If a 3rd grade student is doing 7th grade work, the only thing that is measured is how well he or she is doing 3rd grade work. It’s like saying, “every two year old should be able to crawl perfectly” and ignoring that some two year olds are actually walking. The tests are high stakes. I believe that any high stakes test can be gamed. Since...

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ISTE2014 is over, long live ISTE

Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Blog, EdTech, Education | Comments Off on ISTE2014 is over, long live ISTE

What can you learn when over 14,000 education technologists descend on one convention? From hundreds of conversations over three days, we observed the following megatrends: For the first time in six years, education budgets are not contracting, and education buyers are actively looking for where they should spend their money for the greatest learning impact. The tide of digital content is rising, while the tide for printed textbooks is moving out. State deals for platform companies like Copia are accelerating this trend. Assessment is critical, especially assessment that is built into activities for students that provide students and teachers feedback about competencies and skill and knowledge gaps. A soon to be released report from the SIIA will show how assessment is growing while test prep is contracting. The maker movement portends a move toward doing as learning, creating robots, digital storytelling, building electronics, 3D printing, game creation, and service learning projects While in past years, tech administrators were focused on technology, growing numbers of tech administrators are realizing that their jobs are about technology enhancing learning. Creating relationships is the killer app for education. They talked about wanting to produce a generation of learners, not learned, and that to do that with our students we all need to model the skills we want our students to acquire. And technology administrators are acknowledging that their job is to build a learning culture. The most effective ones embrace this challenge, and lead change by sharing decisionmaking, building up others by giving them challenging tasks and holding them accountable, and making sure the right people are on the team; technology will not replace teachers, but those who use technology will replace those who don’t. The SIIA hosted an informative breakfast where education buyers told software and content publisher that while there are thousands upon thousands of great apps, schools know that free and low cast apps have hidden costs, which make school administrators wary of widespread adoption. They take up space, they don’t share data with other enterprise systems, and they take up management time. What happens when a teacher bases a week’s curriculum on an app and that app stops working, disappears, or changes to a paid app? While free is popular with teachers, administrators don’t want to sell kids eyeballs just to get a free app. As usual, the exhibit floor was HUGE, and seemed dominated by 2-3 story booths of companies with plenty of money. But also as usual, many of the real innovation were seen in the small booths that were tucked away. We were especially impressed with the startup Buncee, The Global Oneness Project, and Project Foundry. And our favorite part was the conversations that took place at the poster sessions and bloggers café with people like Sherry Crofut, Lori Feldman, Ginger Lewman, Kevin Honeycutt, Christa Fairman, and Tom Whitby. Thank you everyone for a fun and informative three days. I can’t wait for Podstock on July 16. Related Articles ISTE Day 2 Reflections (thankfully I brought sneakers) #ISTE2014 Day 2!!! ISTE Day 1...

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Looking for money in all the right places

Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Blog, Education | Comments Off on Looking for money in all the right places

Notes from the SIIA NYC Roundtable June 2014 Yesterday, Robin Warner of DeSilva and Philips moderated a great discussion on raising funds for your education business or idea with Andy Kaplan, Don Burton, Matt Hanson, and Jonathan Harber, all people with money, or representing people with money, looking for places to invest it. Is there good or bad money? Take the money when it’s available; when the spigot turns off, it gets really ugly real fast; and when it’s off, the risk strategy of investors is just don’t invest. All investment money, though, is bad money. Don’t raise money, go out and sell something. Find a customer first. Get your prototype or demo done first. Conserve cash. Get something done cheaply and get customers. If your biggest problem is that you have too much sales to be able to fund, you won’t have any trouble getting funds to expand. The money you take is the most expensive thing you will ever do, and not just in terms of money, but also in vision and management. When we invest, we impose our vision and style on the company. How do you start looking for money? What’s your stage? Are you pre-revenue? Under $1M? Between $1m and $5M? A venture investor may need to invest $200M in two or three years; they don’t want to have to find 100 deals. You need to match the investment you are looking for with the type of investor who invests in that type of deal or you will be wasting a lot of time. The best money is from customers; get revenue. Here is a quick guide: Build something cheaply Show it to a bunch of people Put together a diverse team with different talents Go to meetups and meet accelerators Get fluent in the language that educational investors speak You have to show that you have the people, product, potential, and a path to predictable cash flow. And remember, early stage investors are looking for a 25% annual return on their money; show how you can deliver that. And you have to solve a pain point that people care enough about to spend money on. What keeps you up at night? We want to know that the management team is getting in front of customers and finding what their customers want, and that the customers are coming back. With the pace of technological change, and knowing that a couple of college kids can invent a technology that can put an established company out of business in a few months, we want to know how tight the customer relationship is. At some point, we want to know that there is a path to making money. It’s great to scale to hundreds of thousands of users, but at some time, there has to be a way to make money without losing those customers. We worry about entrepreneurs who wonder if a person is right for the company. 90% of the time, they aren’t, and it will take the entrepreneur 2 years to do something about it. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to make that decision. You have to be an optimist, but you also need to be prepared to weather storms. Everything always takes longer than anticipated. Does the company have...

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Students win tenure loses?

Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Blog, Education Tenure | Comments Off on Students win tenure loses?

Students win tenure loses. That’s the CNN headline for the Vergara v. California case ruled on by Judge Rolf M. Treu. The crux of Judge Treu’s ruling is that 1 to 3% of California teachers are grossly ineffective, and given that there are 275,000 teachers, that means that between 2,750 and 8,250 teachers are grossly ineffective, which has a profound effect on their students. Thus, tenure is unconstitutional, since the state constitution requires the state to provide an adequate education. The 1% to 3% came from testimony from Dr. David Berliner, who was asked on the stand, “would it be reasonable to estimate that 1 to 3 percent of teachers” have four or more years of showing low test scores for their students. And who replied, “Correct.” That stretched to the 1 to 3% of California teachers are grossly ineffective conclusion by Judge Treu, something that Dr. Berliner says he did not mean to imply. In fact, Dr. Berliner has observed thousands of teachers, and stated after the trial that he’s never encountered one he would consider grossly ineffective. He may not have, but I have. Of the 40-50 teachers that my kids had in our school system, I can categorically say that 2 of them were grossly ineffective. My daughter Eva who is getting her PhD in statistics (not that I am one to brag), would never let me reach a conclusion from such a small sample size, though. Even assuming that about 2% of teachers are ineffective, it could be argued that perhaps we have a bigger problem in attracting and retaining good teachers than getting rid of bad ones. Half of all teachers leave within five years, while data show that teachers start really hitting their stride around their third year. If you were a teacher or interested in being one, would it be more attractive to know that you could only be fired for cause, or to know that you could be fired at any time, for any reason, by anyone above you? Could there be other reasons why many children in California do not receive a quality education? Could it possibly be the lack of investment in education in the state? Since 1969, the education costs have increased an average 2.2% per year in the US. Over the 41 year period until 2010-11 (the latest year for national statistics), California has been dead last with 1.6% annual increase. In 1969, California was 11th in the country in terms of spending per student ($5,105 in current 2012 dollars). In 2010-11, California was 34th, at $9,571 per student, compared to a national average of $11,153. Or perhaps the unequal spending per district in California could have something to do with the lack of quality education offered to some children. California tracks expense per average daily attendance. Looking at the 537 unified (both elementary and secondary schools) districts with more than 1,000 students, there were 49 districts that spent less than $7,000 per student and 52 districts that spent more than $10,000. Would it be plausible that a district spending $12,000 per student might provide a better education than one spending $6,500 in the same state? Is it plausible that this might be a bigger contributor to bad education than the number of grossly ineffective teachers who...

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Thoughts from two EdTech Conferences

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Blog, EdTech, Education | Comments Off on Thoughts from two EdTech Conferences

From the IMS Global Learning Impact Institute in New Orleans May 5-8 No one company, no state, no school district, and no individual school is going to transform education; we’re all going to have to find ways to work together. There were many presentations about the failings of education. But there were also examples of how partnerships between different schools, schools and companies, and companies and other companies had greater impact than the sum of their parts. Anyone who wants to make an impact with an edtech solution will need to think closely about how their product or service works with other content and systems to make life easier for teachers and administrators. To this end, we see continued momentum building behind the LTI and QTI standards, both in higher education and K12. From the SIIA Education Industry Forum in San Francisco May 12-14 First of all, congratulations to all CODiE Award winners, but especially to our clients: Classlink LaunchPad Suite, Classlink, Inc for Best Classroom Management Solution uCertify Labs, uCertify for best Postsecondary Learning Solution Inquiry, for Best Instructional Solution in Other Curriculum Areas It was so refreshing to hear so many companies talking about a rebound in education spending, and to see so many discussions between companies about forming potential partnerships. It’s clear that this is a top venue for edtech business development discussions. Much of my time was spent introducing the New Zealand EdTech success story XorroQ to the US Education Market. In the US, we’ve been obsessed with using formative assessment to determine what each student should learn next. Pablo Garcia of XorroQ brought the discussions back to another, perhaps even more useful, purpose of formative assessment: to guide the teacher while he/she is conducting a class (either in a classroom or online). A teacher with real time information on class engagement and understanding is better able to keep students paying attention and learning. XorroQ is looking for US partners to help them leverage their Australia/New Zealand triumphs (in both K12 and postsecondary) in the US. If interested, just let us know and we can arrange an...

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The Missing Link Between School and Job

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Blog, Community College, Education | Comments Off on The Missing Link Between School and Job

Global Foundries is making a $10 billion investment in a semiconductor plant just outside of Saratoga. They’ll need over a thousand tech employees, workers who will be earning $50,000 a year and up, who are capable of working in an advanced manufacturing environment, but who do not need a four year degree. How would you script the path to finding these employees? Global Foundries is working with a number of SUNY Community Colleges, who developed 15-week certificate programs to train high school graduates who will not only meet the current needs, but who will also have enough higher order skills to adapt to different advanced manufacturing jobs in the future. No one school had the resources for all the different jobs. So, using Global Foundries as the catalyst for change, the SUNY Community College System, under Johanna Duncan-Poitier, pooled together 30 campuses to develop paths to middle skill jobs, such as those in advanced manufacturing. What one school cannot offer, another one is able to provide, and they can share resources and course content. This is a success story, but it’s not unique. We learned of many examples at the American Council of Community Colleges Conference last week. Community Colleges across the country have become the bridge between high school and either jobs or 4-year degrees or both. Maricopa Community Colleges and Arizona State University have created seamless paths for Community College Students to go from start to four year employable degree in four years, and for far less money than starting out at a four year school. The Community College of the District of Columbia works with hotels, clubs, restaurants, and corporate dining facilities to create paths to management for minorities in the hospitality industry. Clusters of Community Colleges around the country participate in the NSF’s Advanced Technical Education program, and partner with industry to provide career specific training, some of which leads to certificates, some leads to Associate Degrees, and all lead to jobs in fields such as agricultural and bio technologies, energy and environmental technologies, and advanced manufacturing technologies. The US Department of Labor just this month (April 2014) announced the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, which is developing pathways for students to apprentice at companies and study at Community Colleges to gain access to high paying careers. Maybe all of us in the education sector should be paying more attention to Community Colleges; they seem to be leading the way to higher paying employment opportunities for students. Related Articles Economic Scene: The Bane and the Boon of For-Profit Colleges Robot aims to enhance MCC advanced manufacturing training Six Innovative Community Colleges Named Awards of Excellence Winners America’s Futuristic...

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What’s the government doing about education?

Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Blog, EdTech, Education, Privacy | Comments Off on What’s the government doing about education?

hat’s what we learned about in the SIIA’s 2014 Education Government Forum. Here is a summary of three of the main issues: privacy, the educator view on the education technology market, and school connectivity as the foundation for digital learning. Missing from this summary is one of the most informative and entertaining sessions on Higher Education  policies impacting technology and digital learning. But, I was moderating that discussion with Amy Laitenan of the New America Foundation, Richard Hershman of the National Association of College Stores, and very active attendees, so I couldn’t take notes. Privacy Privacy could be considered the biggest issue facing education technology at this point. In fact, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) is hosting a free roundtable discussion on the privacy issues Wednesday, March 26 in New York City at 5:00. Privacy concerns in education can be broken down into two general areas: public hysteria and government policies. No one wants children to be at risk. But that doesn’t mean that we should eliminate all use of student data to guide instruction. In the last 4 months alone, there have been over 70 bills introduced in state legislators to safeguard student data. Many of these bills contain language that would make it difficult to conduct any digital initiative in schools. If you are a member of the SIIA, you should contact Mark Schneiderman to see how you can help combat privacy hyperbole. On the other side of the privacy issue is what do schools, districts, and content providers have to do to comply with existing laws like FERPA, PPRA, and COPPA? On the one hand, the government is trying to give children and students the same protections offered in healthcare by HIPAA. But this is a complex issue, and the result to date is that the regulations and guidance fall far short of what is needed to meet the criteria of high levels of both instruction and protection. On their guidelines for compliance and best practice, the Department of Education provides “answers” to frequently asked questions such as, “what does FERPA require if personal information about students is disclosed to a provider?” Each answer starts with “It depends.” These laws are as clear as mud, and penalties for non-compliance include fines, jail, and/or banishment from collecting student data for five years. As near as I can make out, some basic guidelines are that the provider should ensure that The information is under direct control of the school or district The agreement with the school or district spells out the uses for which the data will be used, and then make sure that the information is not used for any other purposes Does not disclose the information to any other party unless spelled out in the agreement Both the school or district and the company post the uses to which the data is being used If you’re in NYC on March 26, you should plan on coming to the SIIA roundtable. If not, look for the recording on the SIIA website. And find a FERPA and PPRA expert to review your practices. The educator view on the education technology market from Richard Crandall (Director Wyoming Department of Education): It’s a very crowded marketplace; one might say that there are too many players and that the market seems ripe for consolidation. There is no...

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Education and the Cynefin Framework

Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Blog, Education, Learning Theories | Comments Off on Education and the Cynefin Framework

There are four types of problems: Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic. And there are four recommended approaches to solving them. In this posting, we will borrow from David Snowden’s Cynefin Framework, and map the application of the principles both to the problems confronting education reform and also to the practice of problem based learning in schools. Simple problems Simple problems are those with known solutions, where there are predictable and repeatable cause-and-effect relations. These problems lend themselves to algorithms and best practice analysis, “whenever this happens, do this.” You sense the situation that exists, you categorize what type of problem it is, and then you respond according to the best practice. The shorthand for this type of problem solving sense, categorize, respond. Bureaucracies handle these types of problems very well. Complicated problems Complicated problems generally require more analysis, but the results can still be predictable. It is more likely that there is no single solution to the problem, there may be many solutions that could work depending on the skills and disposition of those involved. Often, no two situations are exactly the same, so one is dependent on extrapolating from past experience and devising custom solutions. Because there is no one “best practice” experts determine “good practice”, solutions that should work based on the skill sets of those involved. In these problems, you sense or get data about the situation, you apply your expertise to analyzing the information to determine a likely course of action, and then you respond based on a plan that came out of your analysis. Professionals, rather than bureaucracies, are needed for these situations because they can devise customized plans based on their knowledge and experience. Complex problems Complex problems have no clear solution(s) except in hindsight; they are unpredictable. The value of extensive planning is diminished, because it will not yield a “good practice”. Algorithms are not useful, because there are no clear cause and effect rules. No one can predict which course of action will work, so one would want to try many different actions, with relatively little vested in any one (safe-to-fail actions or probes), and then reinforce those that are working and diminish those that are not. The approach to these problems would be to try different actions or probe, figure out which ones are and are not working, and then respond accordingly to amplify what’s working and curtail what is not. From these probes or actions, a practice will emerge that, in hindsight, will seem the one that would obviously work. The shorthand for this approach is probe, sense, respond. Chaotic problems In a chaotic problem, things are seemingly spinning out of control. There are so many factors happening at once that one cannot get a grasp on the relationships between them, and the situation itself is probably changing rapidly. This is an unwieldy situation, where no solutions are evident. A chaotic situation might inspire creativity, or it could demand some immediate triage actions to try to bring it under control, sense whether more triage is needed or whether solutions can emerge, and then to respond. The shorthand for this approach is act, sense, respond. How does the Cynefin framework relate to education policy? Much of the time we are sitting inside a problem, and select the problem solving mode that...

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Academic Business Advisors Recognized as a First Channel Partner of SETDA

Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Blog, Education, Education Business | Comments Off on Academic Business Advisors Recognized as a First Channel Partner of SETDA

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has honored Academic Business Advisors, LLC (ABA) by naming them a First Channel Partner. Only organizations that have worked closely with SETDA and are proven leaders in improving education through technology receive this prestigious designation. Farimah Schuerman, ABA Founder & Managing Partner, attended the recent SETDA Leadership Conference where she met with other partners and shared insights on future technology trends in education. “We welcome Academic Business Advisors as one of our first Channel Partners! ABA will be one of a handful of education technology leaders in this role, and they have been instrumental in guiding us in this new venture,” said, Jennifer Fritschi, Director of Strategic Partnerships, SETDA. “By formalizing our relationship with ABA, we intend to recognize and reward their efforts, as well as to help them become more familiar with SETDA members and priorities and hence become better champions of partnership with SETDA.” In addition to ABA, C. Blohm Associates and ARC Capital Development were also named as SETDA Channel Partners. SETDA Channel Partners serve as intermediaries that connect companies/organizations to SETDA who then become event sponsors or annual private sector partners. The formation of Channel Partners advances SETDA’s commitment to leverage public-private partnerships in support of SETDA's state-led school reform and improvement goals.  â€œWe’re thrilled to have earned this significant recognition from SETDA,” said Mitch Weisburgh, Founder & Managing Partner at ABA. “SETDA is at the forefront of statewide edtech policies across the country. They have helped many of our clients introduce effective and innovative products and services that have had a tremendous impact on student learning.” ABA has partnered with more than 50 small, medium and large education technology companies in the past ten years to help them grow and navigate the education landscape. ABA’s strengths lie in their understanding of this marketplace, their strong relationships with leaders in education technology and with their astute business development knowledge. Schuerman added, “SETDA has helped our clients; such as Atomic Learning, School Improvement Network, Symbaloo, and Copia, establish state relationships that have helped them become successful and valued education enterprises.” Related Articles 2013 SETDA Leadership Summit to Feature State and Federal Educational Technology Leaders, Teacher and Student Voices SEDTA Education Leadership Meeting Maine DOE's Jeff Mao receives award for technology...

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BMO Back to School 2013

Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Blog, Current Affairs, Education, Education Business, Postsecondary, Technology and learning | Comments Off on BMO Back to School 2013

Each year, Jeff Silber of BMO Capital Markets hosts their Back to School education investment conference. There are a lot of challenges in education, from new regulations, roadblocks to federal funding, a sea change in technology, and changing buying patterns. This year, ABA was pleased to be included into the program’s K12 segment, with Farimah moderating a panel on the role of the teacher in the education economy. Read more below. Also, for anyone going to Ednet next week in Denver, let us know if you want to meet. We are proud to be a sponsor of the conference. Legislative and Regulatory Update Nina Rees, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Look for continued cutbacks in federal education money, with nothing much on the horizon except a continuation of sequestration cutbacks. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) governs federal funding and regulations for K12 schools, and is supposed to be reauthorized every 5 years. The most recent reauthorization was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.While nearly everyone in Washington sees major flaws in the 2001 act, there will be no ESEA reauthorization or K12 legislation in the foreseeable future. This means that there is more action taking place at the state level, and that private foundations are having a big influence on state departments of education by lobbying and funding pet projects. Funding penalties to all states and nearly all districts for not meeting the NCLB prescriptions (legislated in 2001 and never adjusted) has given the Department of Education the opportunity to negotiate policy changes with states in return for “forgiving” non-compliance. These negotiations generally cover a two-year period, result in policies that vary state by state, and have to be renegotiated every two years. There is some pressure to change the definition of failing schools. Currently schools fail when their students to not pass grade-level tests. An alternative is that a school would fail if its students progressed at less than one year’s worth knowledge gain. If a student starts out as two years behind, there is little in the short term the school can do to bring that student up to grade level, and so the school and teacher would be labeled as failures. The change would be to recognize that perhaps the school could at least help that student from falling further behind, or start to catch up, and that that would be progress. So far, there is no change to the original definition being posited by the Department of Education, and there is little hope of any progress with the definition being changed through ESEA reauthorization in the near future, but it’s a meme and idea worth following, and it would have broad ramifications if it is ever enacted. There are now 6,000 charter schools with 2 million students, and 1 million families on charter wait lists. Growth is strong, with over 400 new charter schools in the last year. There are more public charter organizations, but for-profit charters are serving the largest numbers of students. Growth of charter schools has been constrained by state caps on the numbers of schools and numbers of students who can attend, and loosening those caps is a major focus of charter school and private foundation lobbying efforts.Finally, there is the possibility that the FCC will...

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