On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the country’s oldest national education law dedicated to providing equal opportunity to all students. ESSA scales back much of the federal government’s role in public education on everything from testing and teacher quality to low-performing schools. Under ESSA, states do have greater flexibility, but they still are required to submit ESSA plans to the Department of Education (DOE) for approval.
The deadline for submitting ESSA plans to the DOE was last year. By October 2018, all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had their ESSA plans approved. States are now in the process of implementing them. How are the plans that require changing policies on curriculum, assessment, and accountability playing out at the local level? What are the implications for publishers?
The growing use of technology in education is forcing us to rethink our definition of literacy. The Cambridge Dictionary defines literacy as the ability to read and write and as a basic skill or knowledge of a subject. However, technological advances are radically changing the way students access content, interact with content, and share it with others, requiring a whole set of skills beyond the traditional practices of reading and writing.
As the researchers Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, and Leau explain in their 2008 book, Handbook of Research on New Literacies, as technology alters the literacy experience, students will have to be able to adapt to new technologies while at the same time learning how to learn effectively with these new technologies. This is forcing educators to develop new teaching approaches and to expand their understanding of what it means to be literate in the digital age.Continue reading →
Since the creation in 2002 of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), accountability and assessment of public education in the United States has been based on annual standardized state tests. These tests have been used to determine the effectiveness of states, districts, schools, and teachers in helping students learn.
Public school students in the United States are given more standardized tests, and are tested more frequently, than students in any other country. The growth of testing has fueled the world of assessment and turned it into a billion-dollar industry.
The number of tests has affected English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S. who, in addition to the annual standardized subject matter tests, are assessed every year on their English proficiency. Under NCLB, states not only had to identify English learners but also had to create English proficiency standards along with assessments that reflected these standards. Every year ELLs have to take state tests to determine if they are making progress in learning English and in attaining English-language proficiency. Continue reading →
Educational Equity and Changing Demographics in the U.S.
The promise of the Brown v. the Board of Education ruling was that all children would have equal access to a world-class public education. Despite great advances in public education, existing structural and social barriers continue to limit many children’s access to a good education. Thus the movement for educational equity in the classroom continues.
Research by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has shown that overall social mobility has not risen in OECD countries and in some places inequalities of income and wealth have increased. In the United States, there has been a rise in childhood poverty from 17% in 2000 to 22% in 2015 (Kids Count, 2015). Studies have found that the poorest students are nearly four times as likely to fail in math than their wealthiest peers. Continue reading →
As the student population in the United States has grown more diverse, educators have looked for more effective ways to handle the growing diversity in the academic and language needs of their students. Personalized learning —tailoring instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences —is one approach that is getting a lot of attention.
Since 2012, 15 states have implemented policies to support personalized learning, ranging from waiving regulations to setting up innovation zones. But how have schools implemented personalized learning?
In its implementation, personalized learning has taken a multitude of forms. Schools are taking very different approaches in how the curricular materials are used, how the classrooms are organized, how the data are used to group students, and how “mastery” of subject matter is defined.
The Benefits of Personalized Learning
The common elements shared by personalized-learning models are a greater focus on meeting individual student needs and, to a lesser extent, keeping students on pace with grade-level standards. The benefits of focusing on the individual student are:
Students can work at their own pace on different subjects in the same classroom without impacting the learning of their peers. This allows a student to take the time to fully review and master a concept before moving on.
Learning gaps can be closed between students when each student gets customized instruction. All students now have the ability to work at their highest personal level of achievement.
Teachers and students are more fully engaged in the learning process. Students’ self-directed, independent learning allows teachers to have more one-on-one interactions with students. Teachers can take the time to talk with students, determine where they are academically, and tweak their learning plans so they can achieve maximum results.
Innovation is a hot topic in education, and teachers are constantly being asked to be innovative in their classrooms. But what exactly is classroom innovation?
In her recent blog post on innovation in education, Beth Holland describes innovation as “something that is not only novel and an improvement, but also impactful and meaningful.” For her, innovation in education means, “students have the opportunity to assume new roles and responsibilities as active learners; that they participate in meaningful, authentic learning opportunities; and that they wrestle with complexity.”
Here are some innovative techniques teachers are using to change the dynamic of the classroom and more actively engage students in their learning:
Promoting Learning via Flexible Spaces
Shifting around the furniture in a classroom, coupled with a reorganization of the space is an easy way to enable more creative thinking and deeper engagement. Long Island’s Baldwin schools are successfully using this technique to bring more innovative instruction to the district.
Interested teachers submit an application outlining their instructional goals and the classroom design needed to support them. When an application is accepted, a classroom is developed to meet the needs of a specific teacher and their students. The result is that every redesigned classroom in the district looks different.
Ann Marie Lynam, a seventh-grade social studies teacher in the district, needed a multi-functional classroom with a mobile layout to address the diverse needs of her students. Her redesigned classroom has no front, everything is on wheels, and students have a number of different seating options:
A raised, kidney-shaped table that seats six for small-group teaching
Classroom desks arranged in groups to facilitate discussion on class assignments
Students’ choice of either a comfortable ottoman or sofa when working in a small group.
Lynam was blown away by how the redesign impacted student interaction. The room setup encouraged conversation, and students who never spoke up were now talking animatedly with classmates. The group seating created a situation in which students could serve as a resource for one another.
Regardless of our age, we all share a common rite of passage in early education— the mastery of math facts. Although the way we practice math facts has changed over the years, we all remember doing them over and over again. For me, it was learning the multiplication tables by using physical flash cards, a task I often found rote and boring, and which I believed had no merit whatsoever. “Put a damper on my creativity,” I thought years later. Little did I know I was developing automaticity, a foundational skill critical to my future success not only as a learner but also in the workplace.
Automaticity is the ability to perform skilled tasks quickly and effortlessly without occupying the mind with the low-level details required to do it. Automaticity is attained through learning, repetition, and practice. In math, students have attained automaticity (also known as math fact fluency) when they can easily retrieve basic facts from their long-term memory in all four operations (+, −, ×, ÷) without conscious effort or attention.
Why Is Automaticity Making a Comeback?
Research has shown that automaticity is a building block for mastering higher-level math concepts. It helps students avoid math anxiety, and it is a significant predictor of performance on standardized tests. Fact retrieval speed as a predictor of performance is not limited to test items that directly assess computation skills; it also predicts performance on more conceptual problems that require students to solve word problems, interpret data, or exercise mathematical practices.
Automaticity is essential to turning basic skills into tools for future learning, which creates an independent learner who is self-confident and successful in his or her studies. Researchers see the difference between a struggling learner and an independent learner not just as the mastery of a skill but also the speed or fluency with which the skill can be performed.
If a child can’t automate a basic skill or has little fluency, he or she will experience limited success in quickly mastering new skills. This will cause ongoing frustration over the time it takes to accomplish a task and distracted learning. Having to think consciously about basic skills while doing a higher-level task results in a cognitive conflict that leads to fatigue. It can also cause a downward spiral where a learning problem can turn into an attention problem that then becomes a behavior problem.Continue reading →
As key states enter another round of adoptions, much of the market is in flux. The conflict over implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with policy changes and the growing interest in digital content and new types of instruction are affecting the decisions that state education departments and schools are making about their instructional materials. States must decide what to adopt (textbooks, supplemental programs, digital products, or a combination of materials), while publishers need to determine what best practices and content states demand, including what standards to align to.
When the Common Core was first developed in 2010 to level the education playing field, it was adopted by forty-six states along with the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia did not adopt the CCSS. By the fall of 2017, ten more states dropped out (Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) with a major standards rewrite or replacement, while Minnesota chose to adopt the Common Core only in English Language Arts.
Though thirty-six states are still using the CCSS, it is difficult to determine how uniform the application of the standards is across all the states. It is also not clear whether the revised standards that states are developing differ significantly from the Common Core. Interestingly, most of the states that never adopted the CCSS or later repealed them are also textbook adoption states. To further complicate the situation, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in a recent speech that Common Core is dead at the U.S. Department of Education.
As EdTech trends continue to evolve, learning companies are looking to develop additional tools and platforms that extend and emphasize personalized learning. Personalized learning products tailor instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences through face-to-face teaching, technology-assisted instruction, and collaboration.
Victory builds successful personalized learning programs because we share the same goal as you: to help each and every student learn. Clients come to us with a range of technology projects, including:
• Immersive UI/UX design
• Mobile and web apps
• Online courses
• Platform development
• Web services integration
• Software maintenance
Creating personalized learning products is not an easy task. To develop successful personalized learning programs, Victory assembles teams that are proficient in instructional design and in integrating appropriate technology tools matched to each subject area. Our goal is to develop products that meet customer needs and improve both the user experience and the overall program effectiveness.
This is a continuation of our interview with Haris to get his take on how technology is impacting education today.
As the Director of Educational Technology at Victory, Haris oversees all the educational technology projects at Victory from concept definition through planning and release. In order to best deliver quality products to learning companies, Haris stays on top of the constantly changing technology trends.
Rebecca: Currently many states and districts have requirements for online courses. How do you think this will impact the concept of “school”?
Haris: There will certainly be greater emphasis on online learning, as each year we’ve seen an increase in the number of online learning courses. That is no longer just a trend within higher education. Teachers are growing more comfortable acting as a facilitator. This means that there will be more collaboration and independent learning programs as students are allowed to plot their academic course of study.
The traditional role of the teacher will not disappear. Although traditional teaching, or direct instruction, is still a predominant model, there are now many alternative instructional methods, such as flipped classroom, blended learning, project based, and constructive to name a few. I think technology is a big component and driver of all of these different methodologies. Continue reading →