Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 22)
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.
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
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
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
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 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
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
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
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.
The writer is a retired public school educator and superintendent.
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,
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
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
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