Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 22)

LETTERS to the EDITOR Reader Faults 'Digital Reach' Report As Lacking Skepticism on Ed Tech To the Editor: I found your recent section on digital learning very disappointing ("Extending the Digital Reach," Jan. 13, 2016). Too many articles in this "special" report read like a paid promotion of software products without adequate reference to evidence that these products work to improve learning, no less lead to "higher-order thinking skills," as claimed. You owe it to your readers to produce this evidence. Indeed, I would argue that there are very few, if any, good studies indicating that outsourcing instruction to software companies works in K-12 education-and growing evidence that the reliance on computers and software will actually widen the achievement gap, as well as lead to increasing depersonalization and exploitation of students for commercial purposes. There are a growing number of informed critics and skeptics of the education technology craze. Why aren't any of them quoted in this collection of articles? I am also disappointed by the articles on data dashboards and the use of career-planning technology by students, because there is no attention given to how these products could also work to limit students' opportunities and future successes ("Data Dashboard Priorities" and "Personalizing the Career Search," Jan. 13, 2016). I would argue that there's actually far more evidence that the use of this technology could have damaging effects on students via the Golem effect than have a positive impact on their futures. The risk to student privacy is another great concern that is touched on only briefly in a few of these pieces. There are many parents who are very alarmed by the move toward online learning and see this trend as driven by profit rather than good sense or research evidence. Leonie Haimson Co-Chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy Executive Director, Class Size Matters New York, N.Y. Teachers' Technological Literacy Must Be Priority at All Career Stages To the Editor: The U.S. Department of Education's 2016 National Education Technology Plan deserves attention and praise ("U.S. Ed-Tech Plan Calls Attention to 'Digital-Use Divide,' " Jan. 6, 2016). The plan's scope expands beyond the classroom, calling for wider use of technology in the training, on-boarding, and professional development of teachers. As the head of a technology company in the education space, I found this call to action especially relevant. Innovations in how technology is being used in the classroom are just as important as how technology is being deployed outside those four walls. Of particular interest, the plan contains a robust discussion around increasing technology literacy for all teachers. In our interconnected world, schools strive to incorporate new technology whenever and however they can, and it is essential that human resource departments make sure teachers can keep pace. There are a number of ways to address this need. Two stand out as particularly effective. The first starts at the very beginning: Recruiting teachers who already have the training and experiences that underpin technological literacy. The second approach focuses on teachers already in the classroom, but who may not be as comfortable as the first group with introducing new technologies to students. Schools need to leverage performance management and coaching so these teachers can learn how to effectively incorporate the latest technological tools in their classrooms. While it is useful to hire a teacher who is already up to speed on new resources, it is even more essential to provide opportunities for all teachers to learn and grow collectively. As the education and technology sectors continue to innovate, we must join together to use all resources at our disposal to bring the entire community forward. From teachers and administrators to staff and counselors, we must leverage the full scope of what is possible today to ensure our young people can thrive tomorrow. Kermit S. Randa Chief Executive Officer PeopleAdmin Austin, Texas Rural Schools Offer Opportunities For Innovation, Not Just 'Deficits' To the Editor: I applaud your project "Reversing a Raw Deal" (Jan. 13, 2016) because, frankly, rural schools and their 12 million students are often entirely excluded from education reform conversations. But I challenge Education Week and educators to also change the rural-reform paradigm from deficit- to asset-based thinking and to consider rural-innovation potential. As "Reversing a Raw Deal" describes, right now the federal E-rate program is addressing the problem of inadequate Internet connections in rural schools ("The Slowest Internet in Mississippi," Jan. 13, 2016). But let's embrace the opportunity in schools that are not already reliant on the Internet, teachers who teach 21st-century skills without sitting kids in front of screens, and students who are learning from peers. How could the E-rate enhance those resources instead of replicating current school Internet usage in other schools? Rural schools can be ideal sites for innovation. They are smaller, allowing for tight feedback loops and learning; they have close community connections that bring diverse perspectives and skills into education; and they often have space to explore and learn, connection to a rich natural landscape, and skills-based knowledge. These resources may be harnessed to create fruitful opportunities. Imagine, for example, a rural elementary school in Iowa. Such a school would likely be small-123 students, eight teachers-and so would the town. The single building America's 'Edu-Masochism' CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 were not necessarily the same states that made large math gains. For example, Maryland and Florida made relatively larger gains in reading than in mathematics. And Texas and Massachusetts made large gains in math, but not reading. Another direction for further policy research is to pair off states with different patterns of gains in 8th grade math. We showed in our study, for instance, that 8th grade students in Massachusetts made much larger gains in math after 2003 than their counterparts in neighboring Connecticut; that students in Texas greatly outpaced demographically similar California from the early 1990s until 2013; and that students in New Jersey made larger 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 10, 2016 | iStockphoto might sit on several acres and have a garden. Yes, there are challenges, but it's transformative to focus on the opportunities. Could a skills-based nutrition curriculum be piloted here? Might the school reconstruct the traditional school schedule to better focus on learning? We can bring rural schools into the education reform narrative in a way that is asset-based. By doing so, we have the opportunity to create new sites of innovation from which we can learn to improve education for all students. Andrea M. LaRocca Cambridge, Mass. Calling All Presidential Hopefuls: How Are U.S. Children Doing? To the Editor: Now that the 2016 presidential-primary election season has arrived, I offer a homework assignment for our candidates. Many questions will be raised in the coming months. However, in my view, there is one question that supersedes all others because it zeroes in on the heart, values, priorities, and vision that those vying for America's top political office should have. My question to each of the presidential candidates is simply this: How are America's children doing? If you are going to serve as the next president of the United States, you need to get to know America's children. I challenge each of you to veer off the campaign trail from time to time and leave the cameras behind. Seek out the growing number of children living in poverty, which many people in the wealthiest nation in the world are too embarrassed to admit exist. Talk to children who live in foster care, on the streets, or in homeless shelters. Talk to children who come from homes where food is scarce. Talk to children who take care of siblings because the adults in their homes are too strung out on drugs to be responsible. Ask all of these children about their hopes for the future. More important, ask whether or not they believe their dreams are achievable. As you listen to their voices, look into their eyes. In that moment, you will see what our nation will look like 20 years from now. When your homework is complete, answer that single question in front of the cameras. Sharing a thoughtful response and an actionable plan for change will give us insight into your vision for a stronger America. As for the "grade" on your completed assignment, that will be delivered on Nov. 8. C.J. Huff Joplin, Mo. The writer is a retired public school educator and superintendent. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit gains than students in New York after 2003. These and other state comparisons could provide important insights into the kinds of policies that enabled students in some states to make much larger demographically adjusted gains in math scores than students next door. A case in point is Massachusetts and Connecticut, where students had the same NAEP math score in 2003. By 2013, Massachusetts students had increased by 17 points over similar students attending similar schools in Connecticut. We need to learn why students in Massachusetts took off in math after 2003 while students in Connecticut did not. To be sure, international comparisons can be instructive. It is useful to know that teachers in high-scoring Finland are prepared much more thoroughly than teachers in most U.S. states, and that high teacher salaries in Singapore and Taiwan have eliminated shortages in math instruction. But too much time in the United States is spent fear-mongering and declaring that our economy is about to tank because of how U.S. schools purportedly stack up against schools in other nations. It's almost as if we want to punish ourselves. Despite these cries, our economy has grown, and the nation remains the leader in innovation. While improvement is needed, worrying about how schools in other nations are better than ours doesn't get us much closer to answers. We can put an end to our edu-masochism: If researchers spend more effort on assessing our own states' successes and failures in improving student performance and less on trying to draw lessons from countries with very different social and educational contexts, they are sure to spark a much more productive national educational policy debate than we have had in the past decade. n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 10, 2016

Education Week - February 10, 2016
Federal Trade Regulators Target Brain-Training Product Claims
In States Hungry for Teachers, Policy Menu Expands
PARCC Scores Lower On Computer Exams
Equipping Parents on Spec. Ed.
News in Brief
Report Roundup
In Chicago, Schools’ Financial Crisis Deepens Divisions
Advocates’ Report Hits States For Overtesting, Other Policies
Blogs of the Week
Digital Directions: Partnership Boosts Data Privacy
Kindergarten: Less Play, More Academics (infographic
‘Proficiency’ Bars on State Tests Are Seen Heading Upward
Views Clash On K-12 Law Rulemaking
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. CIO Grilled By Oversight Panel
State of the States
America’s ‘Edu-Masochism’
I’m Tired of ‘Grit’
Why Small Steps Are Better for Small Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
In Low-Income Schools, Teachers Need Guidance

Education Week - February 10, 2016