The ROI on $5B

Over at The Wall Street Journal this weekend, Jason L. Riley provides an interesting write-up of his interview with Bill Gates.  The lead question was whether the $5 billion spent to date by the Gates Foundation on education reform in the United States was worth it.

In the piece, Gates reflects on how little influence such donations can have on our education culture, while touting the Foundation’s commitment to innovation and to new looks at human capital (some of its current investments).  He spoke of the need to better engage teachers in the process and of the Common Core key to both excellence and equity in public education.
Yes, the piece provides a decent snapshot of the Foundation’s successes to date (as well as some of its missteps), but it still doesn’t answer that $5 billion question — was it worth it?
About three and a half years ago, Eduflack wrote a blog post on how we effectively fix the American high school.  Within that February 2008 musing, I asked if Gates might be better served by scrapping its plans to invest in this and that along the edges, and instead go all in in a few places, essentially building Gates school districts that could start from scratch, build a better mousetrap, and not be wedded to the issues that have dogged struggling districts for decades.  I wrote:

Instead of renovating our existing high schools, what if Gates were to build an entirely new model?  Over the past five years, Gates has learned a great deal about how, and how not, to run an effective high school.  They understand the curriculum and the need for multiple academic pathways.  They understand school structure.  They are starting to get into the HR game, focusing on the teachers that are needed to lead such classrooms.  They are quickly assembling all of the pieces.  Now we move to that bold and audacious act.

What if the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were to take its money and build new high schools in our top 25 urban districts?  State-of-the-art buildings. Technology.  Rigorous and relevant curriculum.  Public-private partnerships.  Relevant professional development for the teachers.  Common educational standards measured across all Gates schools.  Open enrollment for all those seeking a better high school experience.  And the power of the Gates Foundation behind it.

And let’s get even bolder.  A system of public high schools managed by the Gates Foundation.  All in major cities across the nation.  All with high standards for its teachers.  All working from a common school design, a common curriculum, and common assessment that, over time, could be replicated in district after district across the nation.

So as Bill Gates, the Foundation, and the Wall Street Journal ponders the ROI to date and whether it is $5B well spent, I again raise the question.  What if the Gates Foundation were to build a system of public high schools, based on the principles Gates is trying to spread through its current giving?  What if instead of trying to renovate our existing struggling schools, we tore down and built new?  What if?

The points I made three years ago still hold true today.  And they are still questions and issues in demand of real answers.

Some Kudos for the Home Team

Please pardon the personal indulgence here, but Eduf’lack can’t help himself.  About a year ago, I made a general pledge not to write about my work on my local school board on these electronic pages.  It just didn’t seem fair to the teachers, administrators, educators, and parents in my local community on a daily basis to dissect and analyze our issues for all my readers to read.  So school board has been a relative topic non grata (with a few exceptions) over the last year.

Today is one of those exceptions.  Over the weekend, The Washington Post released its latest edition of the High School Challenge Index.  Based on the Index, Virginia’s Falls Church City Public Schools was ranked the top public school district in the greater Washington, DC area.  Our George Mason High School has named the fifth best high school in the region.  And GM also took home the honor of being the 70th best high school in the United States.  
The rankings are a reflection of the enormous investment Falls Church has placed in both International Baccalaureate (IB ) and Advanced Placement (AP).  And the results are showing themselves in other ways.  Earlier this academic year, the Commonwealth of Virginia honored GM for having one of the highest high school graduation rates in the state — 97 percent.  And our average SAT scores were 1795, nearly 300 points higher than both the Virginia (1521) and national (1509) averages.
And we do it all as our sports teams won six state titles during the last school year, our teachers receive national and international recognition, and our students demonstrate the highest levels of excellence in everything from robotics to the theater.
All this doesn’t happen by accident.  We reap the value of IB in our high schools because we invest in the IB program in our elementary and middle schools.  We promise a world-class education for all students, and back that up by committing to pre-school programs that target our ESOL populations to begin equipping them with the skills they will need to succeed in elementary school and beyond.  And we continue to support a school district that is both student- and educator-centric, where parents and our employees have the opportunity to participate in the decisionmaking process and help shape our budget and our policies.
This past budget cycle, we were faced with many of same issues most school districts are facing these days.  How do we effectively invest in e-learning and other instructional opportunities for all our students?  How do we fairly compensate all our educators, particularly after recent years of frozen salaries?  How do we address our physical plant, particularly our needs to expand our school buildings in the face of growing student populations?  And how do we do it all in a way that is respectful to both our educational mission and the local taxpayers who need to fund it?
Somehow, we’ve done it.  Public-private partnerships to fund e-learning.  Step increase for our teachers.  Groundbreaking next month for expansion on one of our elementary schools.  And all done without asking taxpayers for a dime more than we asked for last budget year.
The DC area has some terrific schools, particularly in Northern Virginia.  Falls Church’s rankings in the annual Challenge Index are a testament to the terrific job our educators, our parents, our students, and our community does, day in and day out.  Education is priority number one (or at least 1-A) in Falls Church.  The true reward is virtually all of our students graduate from high school, and they graduate with a top-notch public education, an education that prepares them for college, the military, or work.  Kudos from Jay Mathews and WaPo are just the icing on the cake.
Congratulations to the entire Falls Church City Public Schools team!  You do a terrific job, and it shows in both the data points and the students themselves.  We have much to be proud of in Falls Church.  I, for one, am honored to serve as an elected official in a community that recognizes the importance of a strong K-12 education system, that invests in its schools and its kids, and that regularly demonstrates true return on investment.
Go Mustangs!  Go Huskies!  Go Tigers!  Go Hippos!  Eduflack is proud to be part of the FCCPS family, today and every day.

Moving Good Ideas to Real Results

Late March is always fun because it means the start of the K-12 education conference gauntlet.  This weekend, Eduflack is out at ASCD’s 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco.  On Saturday, I’ll be leading a session entitled: “Moving Good Ideas to Real Results: Public Engagement and School Improvement.”

The session will focus on a lot of what I write about here on this blog.  Advocacy.  Social marketing.  Changing both thought and action when it comes to school improvement.  Along the way, I’ll use specific examples from the field, including my own experiences in “changing the game” when it comes to reading instruction, teacher preparation, STEM, high school improvement, and turnaround schools.
If you’re out in the land of cable cars, Ghirardelli chocolate, and the World Champion Giants this Saturday morning, stop by the 8 a.m. session at the Moscone Center, rooms 250 and 262.  If you’re not, and you want more info, just drop me a line and I’ll give you the Cliffnotes version.

Mad Men Comes to K-12 Education?

Years ago, when Eduflack was working in the proprietary university space, he had a boss who could market just about anything.  He was the sort of salesman who could get you to slay dragons with a butter knife, believing that the right brochure, an effective website, and the right messaging platform could sell just about anything.  And with him leading the pitch, he usually could sell anything to anyone.

Of course, he did so by under-promising and over-delivering.  He identified the one issue that kept a state education official or a superintendent up at night, keyed right in on it, demonstrated empathy, and offered to help.  It almost didn’t matter WHAT he was selling, other than he was selling understanding and the promise of a solution to all that ailed a given educational leader.  Educators bought peace of mind.  He closed a deal.
And so goes the circle of life in education sales.  We expect to have companies and entrepreneurs approach school districts with the latest or best shiny object.  We expect sales to happen.  And we expect those pitches to be more savvy and sophisticated than they have ever been.
But when, exactly, did we expect to see the school district transform into the salesman?  Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran a piece on how the school district in Alexandria, Virginia had tapped the services of a marketing guru/adman to help promote the schools and better position them for private and philanthropic support.
Mad Men has officially hit our local school districts.  Instead of peddling Pan Am Airlines or the latest cigarette, we are now selling the emotional connection with our local school district.
Alexandria’s motives are noble.  It’s nationally known high school — T.C. Williams — is on the persistently lowest achieving list.  The large districts surrounding it — notably Fairfax County and Arlington County — are some of the best school districts in the nation.  And with so much money floating around school improvement these days, who wouldn’t ask how to draw more attention to Alexandria to gain some of those non-governmental dollars?
But while the motives are noble, the execution is disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong.  No one is more of an advocate for effective communications in K-12 education than Eduflack.  I have many good friends who manage communications for school districts or who work with states, LEAs, and schools on how to effectively position them.  And I myself have worked with many and SEA and LEA on communications and outreach.
But such efforts are usually focused on outcomes and results.  That old entrepreneur of a boss taught me that you always under-promise and over-deliver, particularly in education.  You don’t talk about what you can do or what you might do, you focus on what you’ve done.  It may take a little longer, but the time is well worth the effort.  Focus on student test scores or recent gains.  Target the quality of your teachers and the number of NBCTs on staff.  Key in on ratios or spending levels.  Find the data that demonstrates your excellence, and use that as your lead to show that the schools are headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, at least the way WaPo tells the story, Alexandria seems to think that a good slogan is going to fix all that ails their suburban school district.  They brought in the “Where’s the Beef?” guy from Wendy’s to help with their marketing efforts.  And while he isn’t promising they will necessarily get a new slogan or tagline as a result of his work, he is already market testing two slogans for the LEA.  The first, “Try us, you’ll like us.”  The second, “ACPS — it’s Alexandria’s best kept secret.”  
Really?  That’s the best we have?  One slogan that can be applied to the latest widget, snack cake, or diet drink and another that’s been recycled by virtually every tourism campaign for a third-rate attraction?  
Perhaps I am overreacting here, but this seems to be an exercise of re-arranging the deck chairs.  Put the money into additional supports for teachers or additional tutoring for students.  A slogan isn’t going to get T.C. Williams off the persistently lowest achieving list.  Good teaching, good learning, and good data collection will.  So rather than channeling its inner Don Draper, perhaps Alexandria needs a little more Mr. Holland.

Are Dropout Factories Closing?

Following years of a national policy push toward college- and career-readiness, are we seeing a decline in dropout factories?  According to Building a Grad Nation, a new report released today by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and America’s Promise Alliance, the answer to that question seems to be yes, with some caveats.

According to Grad Nation, more than a million students are still dropping out of high school each and every year.  And many of those million come from historically disadvantaged groups.  But there does seem to be some movement, including:

* The number of high school dropout factories fell 13 percent between 2002 and 2008
* More than half of states (29, actually) increased their graduation rates
* Tennessee has made the most impressive progress (boosting grad rates 15 percent), with New York offering an impressive 10 percent increase
* The decline in dropout factories is most prevalent in the South

That’s the good news.  What about the not-so-good?
* The graduation rate for Hispanic students is still only 64 percent, and for African-American students it is only 62 percent
* Nearly 80 percent of the dropout factory reductions are happening in suburbs and towns, meaning our urban centers remain magnets for dropout factories
* Our national high school grad rate is essentially still where it was 25 years ago when Nation at Risk was released
* Three states (Arizona, Nevada, and Utah) actually saw significant declines in their grad rates from 2002 to 2008

Yes, the collective authors are trying to put a positive spin on data that shows only modest improvements, at best.  But Grad Nation also offers some insights into what can be done, at least at a building level, to build on the successes of those who have improved and make change at those schools that have been persistently lagging.  It advocates for improved parental engagement (a must that we too often ignore).  It preaches the importance of both data collection and application.  It embraces scientifically based research and the need to do what works.  And it even tips its hat to the importance of making instruction relevant, particularly for students how may leave without the diploma otherwise.

Most realize that if we see an ESEA reauthorization in the coming months, it is going to focus, in large part, on college and career readiness.  As the GI Joe mantra goes, knowing is half the battle.  And Grad Nation goes a long ways in making sure we both know the current state of high school dropout affairs and know the possible paths of remedy available, even for those dreaded dropout factories.

If You Don’t Know Where DCPS is Starting …

By now, most realize that the DC Public Schools has become a central issue to next month’s DC mayoral primary.  Since taking over DCPS in 2007, Mayor Adrian Fenty has put the schools front and center.  After hiring Michelle Rhee as his schools chancellor, Fenty has regularly touted DC test score improvements and other measures to show that the schools have improved over the last two or three years.

So how does it all really measure up?  In this morning’s Washington Post, Bill Turque offers up

a terrific analysis of current benchmarks and measures for DC’s schools.  (And for those who aren’t paying attention, Turque regularly offers up some of the best insights on the continued schools evolution in our nation’s capital.)  Among the highlights are massive achievement gaps across the wards, including a 51-point reading proficiency gap between the poorest ward (Ward 8) and the wealthiest (Ward 3) and similar achievement gaps between black and white students, including a math achievement gap that has now widened to 58 points.

Perhaps most interesting, though, was the detailing of DC high school graduation rates.  We all know that grad rates are now the big dog in accountability.  We’ve shifted from middle school AYP to college and career ready, with the latter being measured by graduation and college-going rates.

According to Turque:

“Graduation rates: Fenty points to data showing that 72 percent of students graduated in 2009, up nearly three points from the previous year. Officials attributed the gains to stronger intervention programs and closer scrutiny of transcripts to make certain students have the credits to finish.

But the Office of the State Superintendent of Education uses what many experts call a flawed method for calculating high school completion. The formula divides the number of graduating seniors by that same number plus those who have dropped out in the previous four years. Analysts say a better way to track graduation rates would be to measure the percentage of ninth-graders who graduate within four years. D.C. officials say they are planning to switch to the more widely accepted “cohort” method. That would probably show a less-rosy picture. Education Week this year estimated the District’s 2007 graduation rate at about 59 percent.”

Eduflack must admit it.  I was floored to read the formula that OSSE uses to determine high school grad rates.  How can one calculate graduation rates by first EXCLUDING the number of students who have dropped out of high school?  Eduflack doesn’t have to be a statistician to know that DC is simply calculating the on-time graduation rate.  Of those students who remain in high school for four years, 72 percent earn their diploma in that time.  It is presumed that others will earn a diploma in five or even six years.  Laudable, indeed, but it is not the graduation rate.

You’ve heard it here before, but I’m going to get back up on my high edu-horse.  Back in 2005, the National Governors Association got every single state to sign onto the Graduation Counts Compact and a common graduation rate formula.  The formula is simple.  Look at the number of ninth graders enrolled in school.  Four years later, look at how many students earned a regular or advanced diploma.  Divide A by B, and you have the graduation rate.  Rinse and repeat.

We always seem shocked by the great disparities in high school grad rates, depending on who is reporting what.  Urban districts like DC tend to paint far rosier pictures than doom-and-gloomers like Jay Greene.  But can anyone really question the need for one, single, common graduation rate formula?  As we try to evaluate school districts and states and determine ROI for our school investments, don’t we need a single measure that let’s us compare apples to apples?

Yes, DC can point to improvement.  Test scores have increased.  Enrollment levels have stopped dropping.  The city is investing in facilities and in improving special education options.  But one can’t adequately address progress if one doesn’t have a clear starting point. 

Earlier this month, Eduflack congratulated Detroit for pulling back the curtain and showing their true schools data, warts and all.  Perhaps it is time for Fenty, Rhee, and DCPS to do the same.  There is a huge difference between a stated 72 percent grad rate and a likely actual 59 percent graduation rate.

Years ago, baseball philosopher Yogi Berra wisely said, if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there.  That sage advice couldn’t be more true for school improvement.  Equally important is knowing where one is starting.  You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know the true starting point.
   

Straight Talk on Detroit Schools

Sometimes, it can be near impossible to get straight talk on education statistics.  Just talk a look at a simple topic like high school graduation rates.  Most urban school systems, those that are homes to many of our dropout factories, will say their official graduation rates are in the 80 – 90 percent range (offering a convoluted formula of who counts, who doesn’t, and such).  Talk to high school critics like Jay Greene, and those same grad rates will be 20 – 25 percent lower.  Same data, different formulas, severely different results.

Over at Fortune magazine, the editors are profiling the “visionaries” of the rebirth of Detroit.  One of the Motor City stars highlighted in the piece is Carol Goss, head of Detroit’s Skillman Foundation.  The profile on Goss and what she is trying to do in the city is interesting.  But what is even more interesting is the sidebar of Detroit education statistics offered with the piece (a sidebar found in August 16 edition of Fortune magazine, but not on the web version.)  
According to Fortune, Detroit Public Schools has:
* 84,600 students enrolled in 2009, compared to 167,000 in 2000
* The 2008-2009 graduation rate for high school seniors was 60 percent
* The new high school graduation rate target for DPS is 90 percent
* Currently, 2 percent of Detroit public high school students are prepared for college-level math
* 11 percent of high school students are prepared for college-level reading
* 35 percent of Detroit’s high school students are accepted to postsecondary institutions
Eduflack does not repost these numbers to embarrass Detroit, its schools, or its teachers.  To the contrary, I offer up these very frank and honest numbers as hopeful inspiration for school improvement across the nation.  The President of the United States has set a national goal of producing the highest number of college graduates per capita by 2020.  The US Department of Education is pledging to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act so that is ensures that each and every child is college and career ready.  And virtually every education reformer has promised to improve graduation rates, while boosting student achievement across the board.
Real change cannot happen if we don’t have solid, reliable baselines to know exactly where we are starting.  These startling numbers of Detroit’s college readiness show all where the city’s schools truly are starting from.  As an honest starting line, it allows Detroit to document real progress.  Instead of using inflated grad rates and soft measures of proficiency, Detroit tried a new approach for K-12 public education.  Brutal honesty.  Shock us with the truth, and we may just trust your progress in the out years.
Eduflack has long been a fan of the improvements Robert Bobb has tried to make in Detroit.  And I’d love to believe Fortune that Goss “has the money and credibility to win people over.”  So let’s remember these numbers when Detroit offers up its progress reports in a year or three (particularly after Michigan has implemented Common Core Standards).  And let’s start the watch to see if other other urban districts are willing to perform a similar statistical strip show, offering up ever blemish.  Only then will we ever be able to truly declare mission accomplished in our communal quest to improve our public schools.
 

The Case for Quality Online Learning

Eduflack is back on his edReformer soapbox today, offering up the latest thinking of online K12 learning and the misperceptions surrounding it.  A decade ago, we watched colleges and universities struggle with transitioning from bricks and mortar to online.  Now, we are starting to see the same challenges in K12.  Check it out over at edReformer, as well as a wealth of other posts and streams on e-learning and online instruction.

  

Dual Enrollment for All!

When most discuss the merits of dual-enrollment programs in our high schools, thoughts immediately turn to those classic over-achievers who are looking to earn a high school diploma along with two or three years of college before they turn 18.  We talk of how K-12 systems and higher education systems struggle to work together.  And sometimes, we even discuss how we shouldn’t rush our kids and deprive them of a “traditional” high school experience.

Meanwhile the high school dropout rate has remained steady for decades (and Eduflack is one who believes that the dropout rate is, unfortunately, close to one-third.)  Drop-out factories remain prevalent in many of our urban and rural communities.  Too many students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds do not have access to college prep high schools (with AP and IB classes).  Yet we continue to talk about how every student should be college ready when the odds are against at-risk students to even get through high school.

So what is one to do?  A new study from the Blackboard Institute finds that dual enrollment programs could be the great equalizer.  In the report, Columbia University’s Elisabeth Barrett and Rutgers University’s Liesa Stamm found that dual enrollment can benefit all students, not just those on the fast track.  Specifically, the found dual enrollment offers all students benefits such as:

* Enhancing the academic rigor of high school curricula
* Providing students with a broader range of academic and career-oriented courses and electives
* Offering students the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school
* Introducing high school students to college academic expectations and preparing them for college-level study
* Making education more interesting and relevant, to the extent that students can take courses that relate to their interests or career goals
* Facilitating the transition from high school to college
* Improving student prospects during the college admissions process as a result of college credits earned
* Accelerating progression to college degree completion
* Reducing the costs of college education by enabling students to earn college credits while in high school that are generally tuition-free

Of course, these are all arguments we have heard before.  But the study’s authors also point to the significant role that dual enrollment can play in helping at-risk students … if they are provided the right support services.  Such services include academic supports, course re-configurations, college preparatory initiatives, career exploration, and mentoring.

Perhaps most interesting, though, was the discussion of online dual enrollment.  First, the statistics.  According to the report, 70 percent of school districts had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.  Nearly 70 percent of those enrolled in online learning do so at the high school level.  Nearly two thirds of school districts expect growth in their fully online courses and 61 percent see growth for their blended courses.  

Despite popular opinion, these online courses are not being used to help accelerate those already far ahead.  Yes, they are being used to supplement AP offerings.  But school districts also reported they are using online to assist students who need extra help or credit recovery, to let students who failed a course take it again, to get around scheduling conflicts, and to offer courses not offered at the school.  It becomes particularly important to rural school districts, serving as “a cost-benefit mechanism for small rural school districts to provide students with course choices and in some cases even basic courses that would not otherwise be available to them.”

So why is all this important?  If we are serious about improving high school graduation rates and having those high school diplomas serving as more than just a glorified attendance certificate, we need to do things differently.  When one-third of students fail to earn a high school diploma, our high schools are failing.  When half of those going on to college need remediation, our high schools are failing.  And when too many students — particularly those from historically disadvantaged communities — don’t see the value of staying in school, our high schools are failing.

If we truly intend to make each and every child “college and career ready” after leaving high school, we need radical changes to how we teach in high school.  A rearrangement of the deck chairs simply won’t do.  We need to teach new courses in new ways.  We need to personalize instruction.  We need to emphasize the value.  We need all students to see what they are capable of.  And we need to recognize that different students learn in different ways.

The Blackboard Institute report reminds us a robust dual enrollment program can be key to transforming a high school.  And it highlights that online learning — and online dual enrollment programs — can be a core component to a high-quality, 21st century high school.  Need more?  Such dual enrollment and online programs are beneficial for all students, not just those on the Most Likely to Succeed list.  Dual enrollment for all!
  

 

This Year’s Top Ed Tech Issues?

Over the last week, Eduflack has been teasing out a few of the key issues the education technology community has identified as top priorities for 2010.  Interestingly, many of these topics are not limited to ed tech, but are applicable to the entire eduworld.  So I thought it was worthwhile to take a look at the full list from the folks over at ISTE (www.isteconnects.org):


1. Establish technology in education as the backbone of school improvement. To truly improve our schools for the long term and ensure that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve in the 21st century, education technology must permeate every corner of the learning process. From years of research, we know that technology can serve as a primary driver for systemic school improvement, including school leadership, an improved learning culture and excellence in professional practice. We must ensure that technology is at the foundation of current education reform efforts, and is explicit and clear in its role, mission, and expected impact.


2. Leverage education technology as a gateway for college and career readiness. Last year, President Obama established a national goal of producing the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. To achieve this goal in the next 10 years, we must embrace new instructional approaches that both increase the college-going rates and the high school graduation rates. By effectively engaging learning through technology, teachers can demonstrate the relevance of 21st century education, keeping more children in the pipeline as they pursue a rigorous, interesting and pertinent PK-12 public education.


3. Ensure technology expertise is infused throughout our schools and classrooms. In addition to providing all teachers with digital tools and content we must ensure technology experts are integrated throughout all schools, particularly as we increase focus and priority on STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) instruction and expand distance and online learning opportunities for students. Just as we prioritize reading and math experts, so too must we place a premium on technology experts who can help the entire school maximize its resources and opportunities. To support these experts, as well as all educators who integrate technology into the overall curriculum, we must substantially increase our support for the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program.  EETT provides critical support for on-going professional development, implementation of data-driven decision-making, personalized learning opportunities, and increased parental involvement. EETT should be increased to $500 million in FY2011.


4. Continuously upgrade educators’ classroom technology skills as a pre-requisite of “highly effective” teaching. As part of our nation’s continued push to ensure every classroom is led by a qualified, highly effective teacher, we must commit that all P-12 educators have the skills to use modern information tools and digital content to support student learning in content areas and for student assessment. Effective teachers in the 21st Century should be, by definition, technologically savvy teachers.


5. Invest in pre-service education technology. Teacher preparation is one of the most important aspects of a world-class 21st Century system of education and learning.  A federal investment in a new, technology-savvy generation of teachers is critical. To ensure their success in the classroom, pre-service teachers must be prepared to use technology and integrate it into the curricula before their first day as a teacher of record. By fully funding programs such as Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners (PTDAL), we can ensure that the United States produces the most technologically savvy educator workforce in the world.


6. Leverage technology to scale improvement. Through federal initiatives such as i3 grants, school districts across the nation are being asked to scale up current school improvement efforts to maximize reach and impact. School districts that have successfully led school turnaround and improvement efforts recognize that education technology is one of the best ways to accelerate reform, providing the immediate tools to ensure that all teachers and students have access to the latest innovative instructional pathways. If we are serious about school improvement, we must be serious about education technology.


7. Provide high speed broadband for all. The connectivity divide may be the most critical aspect of both our digital divide and our learning divide over the next decade. We must continue our national commitment to ensuring broadband access for all students through initiatives such as the E-Rate program.  Today’s classroom applications require significant bandwidth that many schools lack. Students who don’t have Internet access at home face a significant hurdle to participate in school assignments and produce high quality schoolwork—and their parents are hindered in school-to-home communications. We must provide high-speed bandwidth to our nation’s classrooms and focus on the school-to-home connection so that all students can succeed.


8. Boost student learning through data and assessment efforts. In schools across the nation, teachers, principals, and district administrators are increasingly discovering the benefits of real-time instructional and curriculum management systems. To maximize these efforts, we must provide educators with the systems, knowledge, and support they need to effectively tailor their teaching strategies and better meet the individual needs of each learner. Teachers’ capabilities to use data to improve instruction are equally important to contemporary data and assessment systems.


9. Invest in ongoing research and development. With the current push for both innovation and school improvement, it is essential that we, as a nation, invest in the research and development necessary to identify what is driving increased student achievement and why. Increased investment in education R&D, particularly with regard to innovation in teaching and learning, ensures that we remain a global leader in education. By stimulating meaningful, broad-based research and the dissemination of such research, we can ensure that the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms keeps up with the goals and expectations we set for our students.


10. Promote global digital citizenship. In recent years, we have seen the walls that divide nations and economies come down and, of necessity, we’ve become focused on an increasingly competitive and flat world. Education technology is the great equalizer in this environment, breaking down artificial barriers to effective teaching and learning, and providing new reasons and opportunities for collaboration. Our children are held to greater scrutiny when it comes to learning and achievement compared to their fellow students overseas. We in turn must ensure that all students have access to the best learning technologies.

So we are seeing the full rodeo here.  We have school improvement issues, including boosting high school graduation rates.  We have relevant instruction.  We have teacher quality and support, both preservice and inservice.  We have data systems and improvement.  We have global competitiveness.  And we touch on issues related to ESEA reauthorization, RttT, i3, and most points in between.

In years past, it seemed like ed tech was an island unto itself.  But if this list is an indication, it looks like ISTE is working to position its members as a core part of the school improvement infrastructure.  This is a necessary move if we are to truly maximize the resources and opportunities available to both our teachers and our students.  But the big unanswered question is a relatively simple one.  Is the traditional K-12 infrastructure prepared to accept ed tech as a non-negotiable in the school improvement/student achievement movement?