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Let’s Not Test All Students Because 60 Can’t Connect #CCSS #DigitalLearning #sbac #pencilchat #edchat

A report in California suggests that to connect up to 60 students could cost as much as $2 million dollars per student. Since it is so expensive to connect these students, then perhaps we should not require any student in California to take the test.

In California we have adopted the Common Core Standards and is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). In the past week, the state legislative analysts office (LAO), a non-political entity, issued a report to the state legislature and Governor suggesting that to have every student connected in California in order to take the computer based test could cost $2 million dollars per student (Mentioned within this entire report). Apparently there are 64 schools that do not have the right Internet bandwidth to administer the test based on trials last year. However, some of them were able to administer the test if they shut down the Internet only for testing during the testing period, which leaves 9 schools which serve 60 students that were not able to administer the computer / Internet based test. The LAO report suggests that these students could take the paper version of the test or that they could take the test one student at a time and even SBAC officials stated, “Smarter Balanced officials estimate that about 50 elementary-age students could be tested in the 12-week testing period if they were tested one at a time.”

Now, let’s step back a minute and imagine that 20 of those students are in one classroom and each one of them takes the test individually. Depending on the grade level, that would have to be some type of rotation into the one room with one computer and each student might take 3 days with one individual person to administer the test. What would the rest of the students be doing? Imagine a 12-week computer station rotation model built into the normal school day.

Now let’s imagine back to the early days of testing or even teaching. Can’t you just hear these words echoing in hallways of school buildings in history?

  • Every student does not have a pencil, so we can’t do the math problems today
  • Every student does not have a pen, so we can’t practice our cursive writing today
  • Every student does not have a textbook, so we can’t teach history today
  • Every student does not have a computer, so we should not teach with technology
  • Every student cannot connect to the Internet, so we should not teach students to go online
  • Every student cannot afford a hand held device, so we should not use them for learning
  • Every student cannot take the computer based test, so we should not administer the test

Surely (and especially in California), there must be a solution to connect these 60 students that costs less than $2 million per student.

And the reason we should connect every student in California should not be because of a test, but because it is an equity issue so that every student (and teacher) has access to incredible educational resources outside of the classroom.

Reflections on December #Ed initiatives #FutureReady #Investinus and #collegeopportunity

I wanted to take a minute to reflect on three different summits that were held by the The White House and Department of Ed in November and December 2014 that are all important to the future of education.

First, the #FutureReady Summit invited various K-12 school superintendents to the White House to listen and to share about ways to make all schools future ready (See recordings of the event here). Superintendents at that gathering signed their Future Ready pledges via handheld device, iPads or computers during the summit – it was cool to see the “just in time” technology map show the location of each person as they signed the Future Ready pledge. Superintendents, through their pledge agreed to:

  • Foster and lead a culture of digital learning within our schools
  • Help schools and families transition to high-speed connectivity
  • Empower educators through professional learning opportunities
  • Accelerate progress toward universal access for all students to quality devices
  • Provide access to quality digital content
  • Offer digital tools to help students and families reach higher (#collegeopportunity)
  • Mentor other districts and help them transition to digital learning

Now, there are regional future ready summits for 2015. Check the listings to find one in your neighborhood to continue the conversation.

Next came the Early Education Summit (#InvestinUs summit) which focused on the importance of early education. One of the facts shared during this summit was that “every $1 invested in early education today can save more than $8 in the future.” As part of this summit, various companies and organizations committed funding to support early education. This Early Education Fact Sheet shows how over $330 million was committed during the summit and $750 million in new federal grants are available for early education initiatives. Who could not be moved by this 6-year-old introducing the President of the United States as the opening of the Early Education Summit:

Then, at the other end of the public education spectrum came the White House College Opportunity Day of Action (#collegeopportunity). This summit brought together college presidents to share and talk about ways to empower more young people to attend college. As I think most people can agree and was emphasized during this summit, “The key to success in today’s economy is higher education, which is why expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong middle class.” A list of actions by many state colleges and universities was shared during the summit. Also emphasized was the president’s “North star” goal that President’s “North Star” goal — that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. First Lady Michelle Obama provides energy to this direction via the Reach Higher initiative.

Education is important at all levels. Research has shown this reportedly throughout history. It is good to see the White House sponsoring these gatherings to amplify the importance of investing in education at all levels.

#whatif #blendedlearning and happy new year

Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent out this tweet on January 1: “What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?

Let’s see what other “what ifs” would I like to offer?

  • What if all teachers who had access to technology used the technology to personalize learning for ever student?
  • What if all superintendents and principals and other educational leaders knew how to lead their schools so that every teacher continually improved, felt empowered and encouraged to innovate?
  • What if all students came to school ready to learn?
  • What if all parents knew how to best support their children in learning?
  • What if all families made enough money to feed and support their households?
  • What if all students attended college?
  • What if all students felt engaged and encouraged every day they attended school?
  • What if, across the U.S., we had 100% graduation rate?
  • What if there were no more high school drop outs?
  • What if all kids of color graduated from high school and attended college at the same rate as Asian and Anglo kids?
  • What if all kids who ended up in the juvenile court system were eventually successful in school?
  • What if all kids who are in the foster care system were adopted by families who provided them the kind of supports needed to be college and career ready instead of living much of their lives in group homes?

What would you add to this “Whatif” list? Check out the Twitter hashtag #whatif to view other ideas.

All of these “what ifs” are questions that have been asked by educators and researchers for years. Yet, each student is an individual with individual characteristics that ends up in the U.S. factory model school system. Some students thrive and some student do not. It is those students who do not thrive that we need to continue to innovate and empower teachers to reach so that the over all educational system is more successful for all students.

There is work to be done. Let us continue to identify those variables that most impact learning and empower teachers. Happy New Year!

Many Inspiring Stories shared in #RoseParade floats

My New Year’s Day tradition is watching the Rose Parade. I have had the good fortune of attending the Rose Parade in person in the past, spending the night on the streets of Pasadena to sleep a little and wake up in my sleeping bag to watch the parade. This year’s Rose Parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” produced so many memorable and important inspiring stories. In the past I would watch the parade in person and take pictures or watch it on TV. This year, I watched the parade on TV and on my computer while following the #roseparade Twitter stream and checking out picture posts of people on Facebook and Instagram. In case you want to read about all of the floats, check out the online program guide here. Here are a few that struck a chord with me.

First, the Grand Marshall was Louis Zamperini whose story was told in the movie, “Unbroken” which I did watch a week ago. I did not know Mr. Zamperini’s story until watching the film nor the fact that he lived in California. Unfortunately, Mr. Zamperini passed away earlier in 2014. Seeing the float and conversation reminded me of the determination of so many people in the face of unimaginable challenges of war.

Second, the story of 82-year-old Joan Williams, an African American woman who was denied the right to ride in the parade in 1958 highlighted how people of color were discriminated against because of the color of their skin. Forbes Magazine provided an excellent article entitled, “Racism and redemption at the tournament of roses parade.”

Third, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float highlighted the Ebola First Responders and especially highlighted Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a Sierra Leone doctor who treated Ebola patients and helped fight the Ebola outbreak, and then himself, contracted Ebola and died at the age of 29. (Last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float included a same sex couple who exchanged vows). This article provides a nice overview about the importance of combating stigma and fear and respecting all people regardless of their sexual orientation.


Next, the float “Sikh American Journey” highlights the religious and cultural journey of Sikhs in America. Following the 911 Islamic Terrorist Attacks in 2001, there has been needless discrimination and killings of Sikh Americans across America. This float included an image of Valarie Kaur, a former student of mine, when I taught at Alta Sierra Intermediate in Clovis Unified and founder of the Groundswell Movement. Another example of the importance of respecting all people regardless of their religious preference or the clothes they may wear.


The parade float entitled “Donate Life, Done Vida” highlighted the importance of organ donors who have saved so many lives. Medical breakthroughs over the past 20 years have made all of this possible. Another inspirational story.

Finally, the float entitled “Dream Big” highlighted the contributions of teachers. Many people focused on the fact that Jack Black was on the float sitting next to his middle school teacher, but the greater focus is the impact that teachers make on students every day! Thank a Million Teachers is a program worth checking out. It is important to remember the impact an encouraging word can make on every person, no matter how young or old, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or their religious preference. Happy New Year!

Top 5 #BlendedLearning Infographics

Listed below are some of the best blended learning infographics from the past year. They all focus on better understanding blended learning. The entire list can be found here. And another blended learning collection can be found here.

Listed below are the direct links to the infographics and then the info graphics below. Direct links:




Top 5 #BlendedLearning Reports from 2014

The past year produced a plethora of reports about blended learning. However the top 5 not-to-be missed reports provide thought provoking writing and thoughts about the implementation of blended learning. Ultimately, teachers are the ones that impact blended learning, and how teachers apply the tools and strategies and pedagogy of blended learning is what empowers student learning and increases student achievement. The entire list can be found here.  But here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. (Nov. 2014) This 500-page report provides the most up-to-date research and policies about blended and online learning. Find all of the research, reports and important papers documented all in one place.  The report researchers Kathryn Kennedy and Rick Ferdig have long been involved in researching online and blended learning, especially at the K-12 level.
  • Reimagining Teaching in a Blended Classroom (Dec. 2014). This report by TNTP focuses on the importance of every child having a quality teacher. This report provides excellent charts and idea about the skills needed by a blended learning teacher. Ultimately, teachers in a digital world need to be researchers and developers, integrators and guides. The TNTP organization is focused on teaching excellence and their researchers provide important thinking about what teaching should look like now and in the future.
  • Blended Teacher Competency Framework (iNACOL, Oct. 2014). This report provides a framework and shows the mindsets, qualities, adaptive skills and technical skills needed to be a blended learning teacher. The graphics and visuals presented provide important ideas of the skills needed by blended learning teachers.
  • Understanding and Supporting Blended Learning Teaching Practices from Education Elements (Oct. 2014). This report explains the transformation that takes place when blended learning is implemented. Highlights several schools where blended learning is being implemented. Shares a useful blended learning rubric for teachers that includes classroom culture, classroom management, planning and delivery, assessment and analysis and classroom technology.
  •  Knocking Down Barriers: How California Superintendents are Implementing Blended Learning (Sept. 2014). This policy brief by the Christensen Institute identified many of the barriers to blended learning and 11 tips for implementing blended learning for administrators. They brought together seven California superintendents to talk about the barriers to blended learning and then offered some solutions. The policy landscape and barriers in California is similar to every other state so the ideas in this brief are useful to administrators and teachers alike.

And, if you have not done so yet, join the ongoing conversation about blended learning by joining the Blended Teacher Network.



Getting Classroom Observations Right and #BlendedLearning Classrooms and Productive Chaos

Education Next recently published the article, “Getting classroom observations right.” The article, among many indicators of effective teachers discussed how teacher success is partially determined by the evaluation and observation systems in place in four urban school districts. They found that districts that integrate in a number of factors into the teacher evaluation system – including classroom observations, teacher identified criteria and school wide student achievement – lead to greater student achievement overall. While those school districts they studied that only used student test scores as the only measure of teacher effectiveness revealed that student achievement did not increase.

We know that in education – face-to-face, blended or online learning – that the teacher is the key to student learning. In a blended learning classroom, the teacher is the motivator, encourager and guide for students to learn concepts with the help of technology. The same is true in an online learning classroom. The way the teacher interacts with students directly impacts how engaged students are with their learning.

Currently, classroom observations focus on the teacher and how the teacher teaches in the face-to-face classroom. As blended learning is implemented in more classrooms across the U.S., what is observed in a classroom will have to change. A recent article in eSchool News talked about blended learning teachers in Idaho and how a blended learning classroom is “productive chaos.” It is challenging for an observer to know how to observe a classroom that looks like “productive chaos.”

In New York City a few years back, a principal shared with me about one of his experiences in observing a classroom that had implemented blended learning. In New York City Schools, a quality assurance officer accompanies new administrators in the observation of classrooms. Together, they observe classrooms and then compare notes after the observation. In this one case, the quality assurance officer and the new principal observed a blended learning classroom. The principal observed engaged learning, excellent use of technology and ongoing data analyzed by the teacher. The quality assurance officer saw just the opposite. That is the challenge of observing a blended learning classroom: new guidelines need to be developed to guide administrators and others in how to best observe a blended learning classroom.

Recently, the TNTP issued the working paper entitled, “Reimagining teaching in a blended classroom.” The diagram below is one aspect of thinking about how observations of blended learning teachers will need to change. The authors identified a blended learning teacher (as different from the traditional teacher) needing to be a researcher and developer, integrator, and guide.  Something for administrators and classroom observers to think about.


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Happy new year

Happy new year

Happy new year

Happy new year

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