Monday, November 28, 2011

Technology - Changing the Rules to the Game of School

I've had the privilege of connecting with Brandt Redd around education data standards work.  This is a video of his presentation at the iNACOL VSS Conference.  It is encouraging to see the work supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (and many others) addressing some of the critical success factors for Approaching 100% by 2014 that I wrote about back in 2007, and refined in the 2010-2011 edition of Approaching 100 Percent.  Some common themes include:

  • assessment AS learning, abundant assessment (and tight feedback loops)
  • student motivation and ownership of learning
  • learning maps 
  • teacher as most scarce resource and the need for a structure that takes advantage of abundant resources  and advance the teaching profession,
  • why the classroom-centric "game of school" is designed for something different than fulfilling today's measures of success, and
  • economic concepts that leverage innovation to 'change the game' 
In the book I contend that technology alone will not do the job; innovation in organizations, professional practices, government policies, and economic models also need to be part of the solution.  The liklehood and timing of success depends on many factors pulling in the same direction to overcome what I call "cultural inertia."  Brandt's presentation, the role of technology as a catalyst in 'changing the game'.  He does a good job of describing our system of education in the U.S. from a gaming perspective, and the work of some key initiatives helping to move toward an improved system able to meet the needs of every learner.  

...see more from Brandt at his blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

PARCC Model Content Frameworks - A Baby Step with a Big Footprint

Last week the assessment consortium PARCC released its final PARCC Model Content Frameworks, "as a bridge between the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC assessments."   I see this as a baby step toward more consistently/equitably applying best practices (or at least better practices) for the benefit of 100% of learners.  By "baby step" I don't mean to imply that the effort was small, just that it is a small part of many other things that must happen to "approach 100%."

The frameworks emphasize connections between concept and practice.  It is encouraging to see the progress in moving learning standards beyond thinking just about outcomes (that might be implemented as teaching "rote" methods for application of knowledge to "known" problems). The PARCC frameworks build on the direction of the CCSS that recognizes college and career readiness needs to be about equipping students/citizens to solve problems in the future that may not exist today.  One way to do this is to develop students' abilities to apply knowledge using multiple strategies based on deep understanding of concepts.  The following example is from the Mathematics Frameworks at the 3rd grade level:
"Students learn and use strategies for finding products and quotients that are based on the properties of operations; for example, to find 4 x 7, they may recognize that 7 = 5 + 2 and compute 4 x 5 + 4 x 2. This is an example of seeing and making use of structure (MP.7). Such reasoning processes amount to brief arguments that students may construct and critique (MP.3)."
The frameworks also address competency-based pathways, i.e. how mastery of one competency becomes the foundation for learning other competencies.  I don't think the frameworks represent a breakthrough in and of themselves.  The work builds on the Common Core State Standards, the prior work of organizations like NCTM, numerous cognitive/learning science discoveries that are too slowly impacting practice, and on strengths within existing state standards.  However, with the scale of the assessment consortium these frameworks could have a big impact.  The adoption of PARCC assessments could potentially drive equitable adoption of more coherent teaching and learning practices for 25 million students, guided by the frameworks. This is not a leap forward for optimized student learning, but it is a baby step in the right direction...with a big footprint.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Common Education Data Standards

In my new role with Quality Information Partners I am working for the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) facilitating the K-12 Stakeholder Group for the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS). CEDS is a set of voluntary standards that will enable more effective use of data to support improved student achievement.

This week a final draft of the standards was released for public comment. Version 2 of the standards will be released in January along with online tools that support adoption and implementation...

NCES is pleased to announce the release of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 2 Final Draft for public comment. The Version 2 Final Draft includes a broad scope of elements spanning much of the P-20 spectrum and provides greater context for understanding the standards' interrelationships and practical utility. Specifically, the Version 2 Final Draft:

  • focuses on Early Learning, K-12, and Postsecondary sectors;
  • includes elements, definitions, and options sets;
  • includes entities (the real world constructs described by elements) and element-entity relationships;
  • is complemented by use case connections describing elements' functional applications; and
  • is accompanied by search capabilities to aid exploration of the standards.

The Version 2 Standard Final Draft can be found at the NCES website (, through which users can submit comments on the final draft standards. All comments must be submitted by November 28th in order to be considered for the Version 2 release in January 2012.

The Version 2 release in January will include:

· a finalized list of elements, definitions, and option sets;

· a CEDS Logical Data Model to describe the relationships among CEDS elements; and

· a Data Alignment Tool to allow users to easily map and compare their own data dictionaries to CEDS and standards used by other organizations.

CEDS is a specified set of the most commonly used education data elements. These voluntary standards are being developed to support the effective exchange of data as students transfer within and across states and transition between education sectors. The standards will also aid in streamlining federal reporting. This common vocabulary will improve the consistency and comparability of data throughout all education levels and sectors, and enable more effective use of data to support improved student achievement.