Next Generation School Districts


Reposted from the Center on Reinventing Public Education:

Every sector of the U.S. economy is working on ways to deliver services in a more customized manner. If all goes well, education is headed in the same direction. Personalized learning and globally benchmarked academic standards (a.k.a. Common Core) are the focus of most major school districts and charter school networks. Educators and parents know students must be better prepared to think deeply about complex problems and to have skills that are relevant for jobs that haven’t yet been created. Promising school models are showing what’s possible, but innovation in the classroom only takes you so far. Twenty-first century learning practices demand twenty-first century systems.

This paper goes deep into the question of which system policies are most likely to get in the way of implementing personalized learning at scale. We work outward from the school to define the new capacities and functions districts need to develop. We make the case that districts are currently unwittingly hostile to school-level innovation. For that to change, they must aggressively work to change the incentives, policies, and structures so that they encourage and free up schools to innovate.

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Read the paper here. [PDF]


Why Use a School #Hashtag? [VIDEO 2:09]

So you have a school Twitter account. Now what? How about a school hashtag to help develop your brand both in and beyond your community? A hashtag can help de-privatise practice, boost classroom transparency and connect your school with the world. This video provides a quick insight into the ways it could transform your learning community, from showcasing success to building a buzz, backchanneling PD, boosting recruitment and opening the door to a new world of professional learning. Your hashtag is a reflection of your trust, agency and support of all stakeholders in your school community!

How Secure are Your School Data Management Systems?

data security

Reposted from the New York Times:

Protection of student data is gaining attention as schools across the country are increasingly introducing learning sites and apps that may collect information about a student’s every keystroke. The idea is to personalize lessons by amassing and analyzing reams of data about each student’s actions, tailoring academic material to individual learning levels and preferences. “For many younger companies, the focus has been more on building the product out and less on guaranteeing a level of comprehensive privacy and security protection commensurate with the sensitive information associated with education,” said Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University. “It seems to be a recurring theme.”

To help schools evaluate companies’ security practices, the Consortium for School Networking, a national association of school district chief technology officers, published a list of security questions last year for schools to ask before they sign purchase agreements with technology vendors. “It is a huge challenge because there hasn’t been the time and attention and investment placed in security that school districts need,” said Keith R. Krueger, the group’s chief executive.

Although a federal privacy law places some limits on how schools, and the vendors to which they outsource school functions, handle students’ official educational records, these experts say the protections do not extend to many of the free learning sites and apps that teachers download and use independently in their classrooms. In an effort to bolster confidence in their products, more than 100 learning companies recently signed on to a voluntary industry pledge on student privacy. The signers agree, among other commitments, to “maintain a comprehensive security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality and integrity of student personal information against risks — such as unauthorized access or use.”

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Leaving Traditional Schooling Behind [VIDEO 3:18]

Traditionally public education has been dedicated to instilling in each student a well-rounded foundation of literature, math, science and citizenship. But today, living in a world where children grow up learning on-the-fly at their own pace connected to people and ideas from around the world, that traditional role of standardizing citizens with lowest common literacy skill sets is no longer meeting the needs of a global society and the global economy to which our children will contribute. Learning today needs to be authentic, applying skills and understandings that are relevant and meaningful to the individual student in question. This video captures the unfulfillment and frustration of young adults today, not having their needs met in their schools. The makers of this video want to get more people in this discussion. If you share it or reference it, please use #DontStayInSchool to expand the dialog to stakeholders everywhere.

The Powerful Invisible Force of School Culture


Reposted from Dennis Sparks on Learning and Leading:

School culture is a powerful but often invisible force that promotes or thwarts the continuous improvement of teaching and learning.

Because culture is often experienced as “just how things are,” its negative effects are often only indirectly felt.

To what extent does the culture of your school or school system promote or interfere with the continuous improvement of teaching and learning?

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Deprogramming Kids From “Doing School” Can Improve Learning


Reposted from MindShift:

One day, Adam Holman decided he was fed up with trying to cram knowledge into the brains of the high school students he taught. They weren’t grasping the physics he was teaching at the level he knew they were capable of, so he decided to change up his teaching style. It wasn’t that his students didn’t care about achieving — he taught at high performing, affluent schools where students knew they needed high grades to get into good colleges. They argued for every point to make sure their grades were as high as possible, but were they learning? “I felt I had to remove all the barriers I could on my end before I could ask my kids to meet me halfway,” Holman said. The first thing he did was move to standards-based grading. He told his students to show him they’d learned the material, it didn’t matter how long it took them.

“The kids realized this made sense,” Holman said. He taught physics and math at Anderson High School in Austin, before moving on to become a vice-principal. His students were mostly well-off, high achievers, and they knew how to play the game to get the grades they needed. But Holman found when he changed the grading policy, students worried about grades less and focused more on working together to understand the material.

“It turned my students into classmates and collaborators because I didn’t have a system in place to deny the collaboration,” Holman said. His students stopped copying homework. There was no curve that guaranteed some kids would be at the bottom. Instead, the class moved at its regular pace, but if a student persisted at a topic until they could show they understood it, Holman would give them credit. “It turned the kids on my side,” Holman said. “I was there to help them learn.”

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Keeping Kids From ISIS


Reposted from NBC News:

Hazar Mahayni, a  63 year-old pharmacist and grandmother is a Syrian native, but has lived in Canada for decades. She started Al Salam school two years ago in Reyhanli, Turkey, expecting to accommodate 300 children in grades 1 through 9. But more than 900 prospective students showed up on the first day alone. Six months ago, when we first visited Al Salam, the number had grown to 1200. This fall, 800 more students came to enroll- including 500 in grades 10-12.

“Education for me is life. It’s more important for any child than food or clothes. When I see any child begging in the street or abused by child labor or having no hope, I’m really scared,” says Mahayni. The rise of ISIS in the region, and the ongoing wars between extremist groups, rebel groups and the Syrian government forces, make education even more important Mahayni says. “I’m very worried about what’s going on in the world with ISIS and terrorism,” she says. “I feel it’s so easy to slip into this dangerous group and be one of them” Education is the surest way to offer an alternative in a desperate situation, she says.

“When you save a teenager from the street and give him hope, education makes him believe that we care about him and his future,” she explains. “He will take care of himself. He will not go to explode himself to die for nothing. When I see my students in the school here I feel that they are more safe than when they are in the street because if they feel they are worthless they might do anything crazy and dangerous.” The war will not end anytime soon, and Mahyani wants to prepare her students for that. “When you hear the news and how it’s gong inside Syria, it’s worse everyday,” she says. “So I want to prepare the students that it will take a long time. Maybe years. Maybe I will never see my home again.”

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Business Schools Offering Popular New Data Analytics Programs


Reposted from the Wall Street Journal:

Interest in specialized, one-year masters programs in business analytics, the discipline of using data to explore and solve business problems, has increased lately, prompting at least five business schools to roll out stand-alone programs in the past two years. The growing interest in analytics comes amid a broader shift in students’ ambitions. No longer content with jobs at big financial and consulting firms, the most plum jobs for B-school grads are now in technology or in roles that combine business skills with data acumen, say school administrators.

Amy Hillman, dean at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said interest in a year-old master’s program in business analytics has spread “like wildfire.” More than 300 people applied for 87 spots in this year’s class, according to the school. Ayushi Agrawal, a current Carey student, said she left her job as a senior business analyst at a Bangalore, India, branch of a Chicago-based analytics firm to enroll in the program. As data become central to more business decisions, “I want to be at the forefront” of the emerging field, the 24-year-old student said.

Michael Rappa, founding director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University, said analytics is best studied in an interdisciplinary context, rather than only through a university’s business school. “Analytics programs in a business school will always be in the shadow of the M.B.A. program,” said Dr. Rappa, architect of the Institute’s popular Master of Science in Analytics program, launched in 2007. “That’s how the school is ranked.”

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Reimagining Learning Space: Let Spontaneous Collisions Happen!


Reposted from MindShift:

“There’s no teacher at the front,” says Gensler’s Shawn Gehle. “The rooms are like different scenes in a video game. They inspire active learning.

As K–12 schools refocus on team-based, interdisciplinary learning, they are moving away from standardized, teach-to-test programs that assume a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Instead, there is a growing awareness that students learn in a variety of ways, and the differences should be supported. The students often learn better by doing it themselves, so teachers are there to facilitate, not just to instruct. Technology is there as a tool and resource, not as a visual aid or talking head.

When it comes to integrating STEM into classroom space, there are real implications for how teachers interact, says Thaler. “When you put math and science teachers together, they can cross-collaborate on lesson plans. If they’re teaching trigonometry or wave properties in math, they know they have to pull in the physics faculty also.” Schools that embrace STEM end up retraining. “They have to stretch their conception of what’s being taught.” They were inspired by facilities that “let spontaneous collisions happen,” Thaler notes, but the takeaway was less a model than a point of view. Gensler documented it in a paper on STEM education. One of its major findings was that, to succeed, STEM and other interdisciplinary programs need to create propinquity—literally, “nearness” – among their participants.

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School Ambassador of the Brand


Reposted from Fueling Education:

As educational leaders, the conversations about responsibility and student achievement come easily. There is also a deep understanding of the role strong relationships with students, staff and families play.

But there is more. At a broader level we should all actively work to build the brand of our school and district together precisely because of that whole “public accountability piece.” As a team, we are the best ambassadors of our work; we are the ones who can make it real and relevant for our community members.

Yet, that’s often forgotten at the classroom or building level. It becomes “something Central Office does” or the chore of an obligatory newsletter that’s “just one more thing we have to do.”The “news” therein is often a regurgitation of the calendar and not much more. So, let’s flip that. There are so many more opportunities to truly connect with parents and community members with tidbits that are relevant to them.

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