Education budget: The Legislature approves a massive education bill that would, among other things, require 20 minutes of recess daily for traditional public elementary schools, provide $140 million in incentive money for charter schools – called “schools of hope” – to move into areas with struggling schools, allot $234 million for bonuses to teachers and principals, and make changes in the standardized testing process. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, calls it “the greatest education K-12 policy we’ve passed in the history of the state.” Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, calls it a “piece of junk,” and others acknowledge parts of the bill will have to be “fixed” in the 2018 legislative session. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida. redefinED. Accountability measures for charter schools that were proposed early in the legislative session disappeared from the education bill that was put together last Friday. Miami Herald. More school districts lobby against the education budget, urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto it, but also start preparing for the cuts they say will be required. Gradebook. Florida Times-Union. The state’s largest teachers union joins those calling on Scott to veto the bill. Miami Herald.
State budget: The Legislature approves the $83 billion budget bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. Included in it were the nearly 300-page education bill that expands charter school options, among other things, but not many of Scott’s priorities. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Politico Florida.
Testing practice: Orange County students say online practice tests are boosting their test scores when they take the SAT college admissions exam. College Board officials attribute the average 115-point gain from the PSAT to the SAT to the Khan Academy’s free online practice tests. The College Board partners with Khan to provide the tests. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press.
The idea of competency-based instruction is not new. Florida educators were using technology to tailor student learning two decades ago, and it can trace its origin back more than a century.
But more recent advances in technology have allowed educators to begin upending the traditional “seat-time” model, in which students advance based on what they learn rather than move through the material in a fixed amount of time. That’s one of the goals of Khan Academy’s new “learning dashboard,” which lays out “missions” for students to complete, with the idea that completing a mission will signal mastery of specific math standards.
Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, explained the significance of the organization’s growth beyond video during a speech at this year’s National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. Right now, the learning dashboard is focused on math — perhaps the subject where learning is most cumulative. This is an excerpt from the keynote presentation he delivered on the conference’s first day, edited lightly for length.
(Right now, at most schools), we shepherd (students) together at a set pace. Class time, there might be some lectures. They might do some homework. The next day, we might a review homework a little bit, get a little bit more lecture. And you can continue that cycle for maybe, about two or three weeks. And then you have an exam.
Let’s say that unit was on basic exponents. And on that exam, I get an 80 percent, you get a 90 percent, and you get a 60 percent.
The exam has identified gaps. The person who got a 60 percent — 40 percent of the material, they didn’t really get. Even the person who got an A, got a 95 percent, what was that 5 percent they didn’t know? Even though that happened, the whole class then moves on to the next concept — say, negative exponents — pretty much ensuring that students are going to have trouble working on that.
And to put in focus how strange that is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home-building. So you get the contractor in, and you say, ‘You have a total of three weeks to build a foundation, do what you can.’
So he does what he can. Maybe there are delays. Maybe some of the supplies don’t show up on time. Maybe some of the workers fall sick. And then, three weeks later, the inspector comes in and says, ‘Well, the concrete’s still wet over there. That part’s not quite up to code. I’ll give it an 80 percent.’
Oh, great. That’s a C. Let’s build the first floor.
redefinED roundup: Voucher ruling in Colorado, tax credit scholarships in Alabama, course choice in Florida & more
Washington: The new Charter School Commission is attracting candidates from across the state and beyond, including Liz Finne, a lawyer and director of the Center for Education Reform at the Washington Policy Center. The governor and other leaders expect to choose nine volunteers by March 6 (Associated Press). A coalition of educators and community groups filed a legal challenge that questions the constitutionality of Washington’s new charter schools law (Associated Press). More from Education Week.
Colorado: With more than 80,000 students enrolled in 190 charter schools, charter leaders try to clear up misconceptions about the school choice option (Reporter-Herald). Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the state Constitution, rules an appeals court. The outcome could have wide-ranging implications for whether vouchers can be used statewide (Associated Press).
Alabama: Legislators approve tax credit scholarships for students attending failing public schools (Associated Press). More about the “legislative bombshell” that Republicans called historic and Democrats said was a sleazy “bait and switch,” at AL.com. And the site offers a primer on the Alabama Accountability Act.
Idaho: Khan Academy will provide math, physics and history classes in 47 public, private and charter schools this fall, making Idaho the nation’s first proving ground for statewide implementation of the free online educational content and teaching model (Associated Press).
Michigan: A report measuring charter school performance statewide calls the Eastern Michigan University-authorized schools the second worst system in the state. EMU says the report doesn’t take into account that the schools serve some of the state’s toughest communities (Ann Arbor.com)
Fox 13, a TV station in Tampa, Fla., did a nice piece this week about a unique partnership that shows how much and how fast education is changing. It’s between Khan Academy and Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that administers Florida’s tax credit scholarship program for low-income kids (and, full disclosure, co-hosts this blog). The story focused on Gateway Christian Academy, one of 10 private schools that accept scholarship students and volunteered to join the effort.
Like other partnership schools, Gateway Christian is holding “Khan Nights” to show parents how Khan Academy works, how the school is incorporating it into its curriculum and how it can make a difference for their children. As you’ll see from the clip, it’s using this technology, and reeling in a diverse group of moms and dads, all so it can maximize the academic outcomes for its kids.
As we wrote a few months back, the Khan Academy/Step Up venture is only one of a handful that Khan Academy has established with school districts nationwide, and the only one outside of California that involves a network of private schools. The way we see it, it’s a beautiful marriage between school choice and the latest learning tools, with a heavy dose of parental engagement thrown in. Thanks, Fox 13, for giving your viewers a peek at the future.
Promise of online learning. Pinellas math and statistics teacher Rob Tarrou puts his lessons online, a la Khan Academy, and wins fans around the world, reports the Tampa Bay Times. My favorite graph: “A reporter recently asked students in that statistics class how many had other teachers post educational videos online. No one raised a hand. Next, students were asked how many wished their other teachers would post videos online. Nearly all raised their hands.” See a “Tarrou’s Chalk Talk” video here.
Valerie Strauss on Tony Bennett coming to Florida: Column here.
Rick Scott’s ed plan falls short. Especially on charter schools, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times.
Republican hubris and Amendment 8: In its roundup of election winners and losers, the Tampa Bay Times suggests Amendment 8 had a lot to do with vouchers – and that it fits into the narrative about GOP overreach.
Contracting complaints. At the Division of Blind Services, which falls under the Florida Department of Education, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
If schools want parents and caregivers to chaperone field trips and cook hot dogs at the fall carnival, then a parental involvement plan should be their course of action. However, if schools want those same parents and caregivers to actively participate in decisions regarding their child’s success in school, then their best bet is a parental engagement plan.
Involvement vs. engagement. I have often been asked, “What’s the difference? Aren’t these two terms interchangeable?” To draw a comparison that resonates with many of my colleagues, I point to the time in our lives where a personal relationship moved from “being involved with a significant other” to becoming engaged. Being involved in a relationship usually meant we did things together, but steered away from “counting on each other” or the promise to share the ups and downs of life. With engagement came the commitment to making the relationship a success, with listening to each other critical and compromise inevitable.
So it is with parents in our schools. Schools with parent involvement plans direct their parents; they tell them what to do. Schools engaging their parents, on the other hand, establish two-way communication and believe compromise is essential.
At Step Up For Students, we’re focusing on engagement.
Over the last year, we’ve worked with 10 partner private schools, providing tools and strategies to help them better understand their responsibility for creating a culture that establishes and sustains parent-school partnerships. We know engaging families in all aspects of their children’s education yields positive results. So the staffs at these schools are actively engaged in learning with and from each other, sharing and reflecting as they identify and establish processes, conditions and structures needed to meet their goals.
Now in the second year of our work, we are supporting teachers and administrators as they learn how to engage in intentional study of their relationships. Educators identify significant elements of the partnership with parents, frame questions they want to study, consult relevant research, implement changes, collect and analyze both quantitate and qualitative data – and then codify their study to share with other educators. We’ve also expanded the effort this year and now have 28 schools on board.
The difference between “involvement” and “engagement” isn’t hair splitting. Quite simply, involvement is more of a “doing to” the parent while engagement is a “doing with.” Engagement establishes the need to listen first, asking thoughtful questions to better understand the assets and strengths of the family.
In a recent interview with Slate, Khan Academy founder Salman Khan is asked how he gets the education establishment to go along with his vision (and the vision of many others) of using technology to better customize learning. His answer doesn’t include the term “seat time,” but he suggests most of “the establishment” (he uses air quotes, too) already agrees the practice is obsolete. Here’s his response in full:
I actually think the majority, almost everyone we talk to who are part of the establishment, are in violent agreement with us. And if anything, they’ve been frustrated, because they’re all well meaning, intelligent, talented people who care about kids. But they’ve, they’ve – sometimes not even been able to articulate it – but they’ve felt hampered. They say, yeah, I see that kid does not understand basic multiplication, but I need to forward them. In the existing system, it kind of was what they had to do. So I think a lot of them view this as a chance almost to get liberated. I think the stuff that – I wouldn’t even say threatens – I think the stuff that the infrastructure that will go away is this whole infrastructure around what is, what has to happen on Day 18 in the seventh grade in California? Or Day 28 in the sixth grade in Louisiana? That whole kind of scaffolding of state mandated curricula, I think that’s probably – I think will go away. And really, I haven’t seen anybody really defend that.
Also in the Slate interview (there are two other short videos), Khan mentions his company’s partnership with public schools in the Los Altos school district – and the incredible impact its approach is having on student achievement. Khan Academy also has a partnership with Step Up For Students, involving 10 private schools in the Tampa area that serve low-income students with tax credit scholarships. More about that here. More about the erosion of seat time here.