POLITICO. Mar 7, 2014
OBAMA TO ANNOUNCE NEW FAFSA PUSH: The president and first lady travel to Coral Reef High School in Miami today to announce a new effort to get more students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — including sharing data so that districts can track students and see who hasn’t yet filled out the form. The nationwide campaign builds on a pilot program in 2010, as well as a spreadsheet that shows the number of students who’ve completed the FAFSA at each high school nationally. Obama will also talk up the education ideas he proposed in his budget earlier this week, including $4 billion in new mandatory spending to encourage states to change how they fund higher education and the $300 million new Race to the Top competition for educational equity. Coral Reef has embraced the president’s call for high school redesign, the Miami Herald reported Thursday: http://hrld.us/1cGxkjQ. The event starts at 1 p.m.
THE ED TECH BOOM: Entrepreneurs and educators are more and more interested in the $8 billion market for educational software. Stephanie Simon reports from Austin, where SXSWedu drew an enthusiastic crowd: “There were apps that wrote quizzes, proctored online tests and automated the grading of exams. There were apps to keep track of how much kids read and how often they chose challenging books. Apps to convert textbook content into puzzles. Apps to augment textbook chapters with videos. Apps to help teachers sort the student “superstars” from the “intervention hotlist.”… The names blurred together after a while: Simplisico, Smartifico, Proctor.io, Qlovi, Eduvee, Buncee. The promises blurred together, too. Few entrepreneurs had solid studies to back up their claims of more engaged students, more efficient classrooms and swifter learning gains.” More for Pros: http://politico.pro/1e8Ks1v
--Could it one day become easier to tell which technology is effective at addressing specific classroom challenges? The Office of Science and Technology Policy wants input on designing and implementing incentives for development of technology that significantly improves a given learning outcome. "For example, imagine if learners in the United States had access to technologies that dramatically reduced the large and persistent gap in vocabulary size between children from wealthy and poor households... or doubled the percentage of community college students that pass remedial math, which is currently only 30 percent." Those comments are due today. http://1.usa.gov/1gWPgJt.
LATEST E-RATE NOTICE SPARKING WORRIES: A new public notice asks for comment on four big issues and dozens of smaller ones: how to wire schools for broadband, whether and how to phase out traditional voice services, whether the FCC should experiment with new purchasing methods and how to get broadband into schools that don’t have it via a one-time initiative, Caitlin Emma reports. But some advocacy groups worry that the questions in the public notice signal a piecemeal approach: The bureau didn’t ask about lifting the $2.4 billion funding cap, although the FCC chairman has promised an influx of an extra $2 billion from restructuring the program. “Our underlying assumption and belief all along is that the E-Rate program works, but has been underfunded for all these years,” said Mary Kusler, director of government relations at the National Education Association. “You can’t rearrange the deck chairs and think we can get to a new goal.” More for Pros: http://politico.pro/1czL7y6.
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FOR-PROFITS MAKE THEIR CASE: The Education Department is still working on new, stricter regulations for for-profit colleges. But the colleges headed to Capitol Hill earlier this week to make their case. Their argument: Colleges are job creators and an “integral part of the nation’s economy,” creating about 400,000 jobs either directly or indirectly with an economic impact of $47 billion. Just in case members of Congress didn’t get the message, they break it down by congressional district: http://bit.ly/1czDyYf. Meanwhile, both for-profits and their foes are arguing about the regulations with the White House and Education Department. The latest meetings were with the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, Apollo Education Group and the American Association of Community Colleges, who are also affected by the regulations. More on those meetings: http://1.usa.gov/1gy68Ij.
IS KILLING ‘SAT WORDS’ DELETERIOUS, LEADING TO LACONIC STUDENTS? “I vividly remember a seventh-grade English teacher telling our class, with great solemnity, ‘Small minds use big words,’” writes Andy Smarick, partner at Bellwether Education, for the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog. “For years, this guided my writing. Until I figured out how wrong, how profoundly wrong, she had been.” Smarick is worried that when the revamped SAT loses its “obscure” and “arcane” words, students won’t be taught to be precise. But in the comments, the College Board’s David Coleman responds, saying Smarick is “unintentionally romanticizing the practice of flashcards.” “The beauty of the redesign of the SAT is the in-depth command of words required in their multiple meanings, requiring a sensitivity to context,” he says. The post and response: http://bit.ly/1nkdxx2.
UNIONS SPENDING BIG IN ILLINOIS: The two statewide teachers unions and the public employees union have jumped headlong into the governor’s race in Illinois — by endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary. The unions are spending heavily to defeat the front-runner, businessman Bruce Rauner, who sits on the board of directors of a prominent Chicago charter school network. (One of its schools, Rauner College Prep, is named after him.) The Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union have pumped more than $3 million into ads attacking Rauner to boost their preferred candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who opposed a new law cutting public employees pensions. “Senator Dillard has been a tireless advocate for public schools and our communities and a strong voice for teachers and retirees,” IFT president Dan Montgomery said.
DEFENDING COMMON CORE: The Conservative Political Action Conference was a hotbed of anti-Common Core sentiment on Thursday. Seeking to blunt the fury, conservative policy analyst Michael Brickman sought to convert the anti-standards anger into anti-Obama anger. Brickman, the national policy director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, issued a statement defending high standards and accountability as “pillars of the conservative education reform effort” and blaming the president for warping the debate. “The Obama administration made a decision early on to claim credit for and politicize the Common Core State Standards,” he said. He praised fellow conservatives for resisting “efforts by the federal government to goad states into adopting” the standards. But he added that “just because Washington may overstep its authority doesn’t mean conservatives should abandon their commitment to state-led high standards and educational accountability.”
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES: Through years of budget cuts and test prep fixation, the National Association for Music Education has focused on persuading public school administrators that music classes help raise test scores — and therefore deserve a place in the curriculum. Now the group is recalibrating. Its new national campaign, Broader Minded, emphasizes that music education has a value far beyond what can be measured on a standardized math or reading test. It touts music classes for building self-discipline, emotional awareness and reflective learning, “skills that allow individuals to maximize both their personal success and their contributions to the 21st century work force.” Above all, they seek to remind policy makers of the joy of music — and how a good music class can make a child’s face light up. For more: http://bit.ly/1cp99Gp.
REPORT ROLL CALL
--After Connecticut began requiring flu shots for children in child care, vaccination rates increased 16 percent and hospitalizations decreased 12 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://1.usa.gov/1czHp7z.
--A GAO report looks piece-by-piece at how government agencies planned for and implemented last year’s sequester. But because many of the Department of Education’s cuts didn’t go into place until the start of last school year, it’s still too soon to fully assess how the cuts affected education programs, the report says. http://1.usa.gov/1qcXVOq.
--Texas won’t get a federal waiver to address the issue of multiple tests for middle school students taking Algebra I. Texas Education Agency: http://bit.ly/1hQPqoj.
--An associate professor tries to opt her children out of Colorado’s standardized tests and encounters fierce resistance. Slate: http://slate.me/1czHXdB.
--New York City schools issue guidance on handling student records and other issues for transgender students. Chalkbeat New York: http://bit.ly/1czIgFn.
--Louisiana will soon require job skill certifications for high school students who aren’t college-bound. The Times-Picayune: http://bit.ly/1czJLDu.
--Bill de Blasio defends his charter school position in an interview with a hip-hop radio station. The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1czJZdI.
--Maine's governor vetoed a bill Thursday that would direct the state to create a state-run virtual charter academy and halt the opening of a virtual charter school that was approved Monday by the Maine Charter School Commission. Associated Press: http://bo.st/1cAjuVL.