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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...

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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....

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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...

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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, Learning.com 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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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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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...

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