Here is a summary of the SIIA’s Ed Tech Government Forum in Washington, DC on March 7-8, 2012. If the presentations are not online, they shortly will be at http://www.siia.net/etgf/2012/presentations.asp
In the meantime, first my conclusions, and then a summary of each of the sessions:
Total funding in education is not likely to increase over the next two to three years.
The Obama administration won quite a few battles with relatively little money by creating the Race To the Top competitions, although these victories are a little mitigated by the fact that we will not know whether these made education more effective or whether the changes are permanent for at least the next three years.
While the jury is out on whether Common Core and Common Assessment will really transform education, it is clear that states and the federal government are convinced that Open Educational Resources and increased use of technology and online instruction are critical to reducing education costs. It’s probably not a good time to invest in the commercial textbook publishers, but there are clearly going to be some winners in online instruction.
From Jorea Marple, State Superintendent of Schools, West Virginia
Education has both an economic and cultural purpose: to prepare kids for jobs in a constantly changing economy, and to understand and participate in our culture. We’re not going to get there by just concentrating on reading and math.
These are only achievable if every citizen is convinced that public education is a moral imperative for each and every person, and personalized learning for each child. It’s our responsibility to communicate that imperative to everyone else, and live it for ourselves.
To advance educational goals, we need high expectations of what children should know, high expectations of how they should behave, and clear communication to the children about what we expect from them. And we also need to make sure there are good teachers, and give the teachers the flexibility to be innovative.
Funding for technology is continuing to decline. We all need to get the following messages across:
- it is essential to have technology for children
- to personalize learning across larger classes, you have to have technology
Implementation of the Common Core State Standards & Assessments
States may start reconsidering their commitment to the common core when it becomes clear the size of investment needed in technology, professional development, staff, curriculum, and time.
In order to implement the common assessments, due in the next two years, we lack about $2 Billion in technology in schools, but technology funding has continued to decline.
States that have pledged commitment to teacher evaluation and Common Core because they have received Race to the Top money or have received exemptions from No Child Left Behind may find themselves locked into a path they will not have the resources to complete. No one knows how this is going to play out, some combination of increased taxes, federal relaxation of the requirements, and states unilaterally changing courses, possibly with federal clawbacks.
The New Normal: Doing more with less through Technology and eLearning
There is a productivity discussion that is just starting to take place in education. Up until recently, technology was an additive cost; building, teachers, and curriculum costs were fixed. Now, technology is being looked at as a mechanism to reduce costs in addition to improve results.
Technology Adoption (Photo credit: Veribatim)
One computer per student, when it works, changes the whole culture of a school: teachers collaborate and students are given increased choice. For this to work, it takes leadership to convince the community to provide not just the technology, but the resources for ongoing teacher Professional Development, and time for teachers to collaborate and plan.
A recent study by the Fordham Institute found that online classes are less expensive than hybrid (or blended learning), and hybrid classes are less expensive than brick and mortar ones. The cost of content is higher, but the cost of instruction and infrastructure are lower.
If the publishing industry doesn’t want the federal and state government to create their own content, they have to devise a better way to measure and qualify commercial education content. If publisher content can’t demonstrably be linked to better results, then Open Educational Resources (OER) are going to replace it. With OER, there may be profitable opportunities for packaging, implementation, support, maintenance, and customization.
Education Policy, Pundits, and Predictions
The main legacy of the $100 billion of ARRA education funds from 2009 is that it primarily allowed districts to keep some teachers when state and local funding was decimated. The unintended consequence is that it also kicked the difficult conversations about pensions and employment flexibility down the road by three years.
The federal government is able to effectively fund innovation in some areas, like medicine and defense, and we should learn how to do it better in education.
The Race to the Top (RTTT) competitions unfroze policies that had been stagnant for decades, but it remains to be seen what the final results will be, we don’t know if the new policies are more effective, and we don’t know if states will stick with them as the road gets more difficult. There is an argument about whether the biggest changes in education have been due to RTTT or to Republicans winning state elections, and being willing to challenge traditionally Democratic sacred cows.
We need ways to give states and districts some latitude to try and implement innovations, but still have accountability for chronic poor results.
State of the States
States have20-30% less money to put into education than they did in 2008, and that money is not coming back.
Because Congress is locked down, changes to education are going to happen at the state level, not the national level.
Teacher accountability has become a permanent part of education, because the teacher is the single most important variable affecting education in the schools. But we also need to have a debate on what is the school’s educational responsibility, and who pays, if the child is not getting an adequate home environment.
From Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, Washington DC Public Schools
The role of technology is to allow teachers to reach across a broad spectrum students with limited resources.
DC has 18 different pilots going on with different techniques and technologies. The district intends to scale the ones that work, and stop the ones that don’t. Even though some will not work, you need the courage to try to change, a tolerance for some failure, and systems to manage and screen pilots.
School budgets only fund schools to continue to do what they are doing, an effective leader also has to find ways to pay for reform.
The DC union teacher contract allows the district to pay more than surrounding districts, private schools, or charters, and it also allows them to screen, hire, retain, and incent good teachers.
Race To The Top and other State Education Initiatives
Too many publishers have come to states claiming they provide state-localized content, when the only customization has been a search and replace of TN for FL. Commercial textbook publishers face a credibility problem with the state departments of education.
FJG Race to the top of Vermont, not really the right RTTT, but the bicycle makes my wife happy (Photo credit: pdbreen)
Common Core (CC) is the biggest thing to happen this decade; it is fundamentally narrower and deeper than the state standards. Any vendor who says it’s content is aligned to the CC will automatically engender suspicion: the same materials can’t be aligned to both the CC and to state standards.
Implementing the CC is incredibly complex, and as we get closer to the deadlines, the state conversations have moved from, “look at all the cool things we can do with individual learning” to “what do we have to focus on to meet our deadlines.”
States and districts put most of their attention on improving the lowest performing schools.
Districts and states are not requiring proof of effectiveness from OER materials, but do require it for vendor supplied content. This is just a fact of life, and it’s up to the vendors to show increased effectiveness if they expect to continue to sell materials to states of districts.
Personalized College: Technology Based Innovation and Policy Considerations
States used to fund close to 80% of the costs of a Community College education, and it is now down to about 50%, with the family picking up the difference.
Postsecondary institutions are looking for online courses to reduce costs, but also make education more accessible and, where possible, improve results.
Online classes can be more competency based; students can “test out” of material they already know, and take extra time with material they find difficult.
There are 4 criteria for judging a good Community College:
- do most students complete their degrees
- do the students learn
- can they find decent paying jobs
- is there equity
State data systems are making these questions easier to answer, and as they get the results of the data, colleges are adjusting their practices.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
States are creating some curricular resources, primarily a function of trying to save money. This is a growing trend, as OER resources move from supplemental nice to haves to OERs being used as critical content. The education people are hoping that the money saved will stay in education, so that it can be re-employed for other priorities, and not cut. So far, limited studies have shown no decrement in student outcomes from OER resources. In Utah, 1/3 of all students will be using at least one OER textbook in the 2012-13 school year.
The US Dept of Labor and US Dept of Education are funding $2 billion for Community Colleges to create OER curriculum in science and job readiness. The expectation is that this curriculum will reduce costs and also meet needs for new content that are not being met by commercial publishers.