The Tragedy of Student Loans


One of the big scams going around right now is student loans for individuals attending for-profit universities. It goes something like this: Heavy advertising for pain free, at-your leisure online or on-site degrees—encouraging students to take on a large debt load to pay for their studies—and then frequently little (if any) support for students, inadequate classes, and difficulty transferring credits to other institutions. The dropout rate is typically substantial. Personal student debt is growing at a staggering rate.

Here’s the thing though—students at for-profit institutions represent only 9% of all college students, but receive roughly 25% of all federal Pell Grants and loans, and are responsible for 44% of all student loan defaults.

study by The National Bureau of Economic Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggested that students who attend for-profit education institutions are more likely to be unemployed, earn less, have higher debt levels, and are more likely to default on their student loans than similar students at non-profit educational institutions. Although for-profits typically serve students who are poorer or more likely to be minorities, these differences do not explain the differences in employment, income, debt levels, and student loan defaults. The Government Accountability Office has also found that graduates of for-profits are less likely to pass licensing exams, and that poor student performance cannot be explained by different student demographics.

For-profits have higher completion rates for one- and two-year associate’s degree programs, but higher dropout rates for four-year bachelor’s degrees. However, studies have suggested that one- and two-year programs typically do not provide much economic benefit to students because the boost to wages is more than offset by increased debt. By contrast, four-year programs provide a large economic benefit.

An investigation by the New York Times suggested that for-profit higher education institutions typically have much higher student loan default rates than non-profits. Two documentaries by Frontline have focused on alleged abuses in for profit higher education.

The following infographic from will give you a good visual of what’s going on with student debt. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always thought that the fundamental purpose of an educational institution should be to educate, not to turn a profit.


The Tragedy of Student Loans

What Did 2013 Hold for Educational Technology in Schools

Looking back at the article I was astounded to find that basically none of the information in the first chart was relevant and the proposal that “Apps” would be the prevalent part of the year actually was/is true. 
via Smartblogs/Katharine Haber

To connect with those working on the front lines of education technology, SmartBrief on EdTech editor Katharine Haber asked readers about their thoughts on what 2013 will bring for technology in schools.

According to our results, about one-third of respondents see classroom technology as the most significant issue on the horizon, while a slightly smaller group is concerned about online education, followed by computer-based testing and digital citizenship.

When asked how their schools and districts are using technology to enhance student learning, a majority of respondents reported that some teachers are employing tech tools in the classroom, while a significantly smaller proportion said technology is playing a broader role throughout the curriculum or being integrated through blended-learning programs or “bring your own technology” programs.

Readers reported that online applications and games are the most effective tools for engaging students, while digital textbooks and resources, along with mobile devices, are not far behind.

Interestingly, few respondents see social media as an effective tool. Given the ongoing buzz about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, this response begs the question of whether many schools simply are not using social media as part of classroom instruction.

There are arguably numerous factors to consider when using social media with students, and many schools and districts might be blocking or otherwise prohibiting use of such websites on campus. However, given their popularity, is it possible there is an untapped resource here? What do you think?

What do you see as the most significant issue in education technology for 2013?

Technology in the classroom


Online education


Computer-based testing


Digital citizenship


Which statement best describes how your school or district is integrating technology into student learning?

Some teachers use tech tools as part of classroom lessons


Technology is integrated throughout the curriculum


Our school/district has a bring-your-own-device policy


Our school/district employs blended learning


Which tech tools most effectively engage students in your classroom, school or district?

Online apps and games


Digital textbooks and resources


Mobile devices


Social media


Katharine Haber is an associate editor for SmartBrief, writing and editing content about a variety of topics in education.

Great Post by David Warlick

via 2¢ Worth

Today’s infographic is simple and to the point. A big part of grade school and even college and onward, is writing papers. Some professions write more papers than others, but it is still an important skill in order to get your point across. This infographic uses venn diagrams to convey the importance of different parts of papers, and to show how they interact with one another. It also shows how much of your paper should include each part.

Of course every paper should begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion. It should also include several point in the middle, that are introduced and concluded in the introduction and conclusion. But how should the middle be laid out? That is up to the author, but it should there is a bit of a formula.

This infographic does a great job of showing that there should be pros and cons. You should always share how your paper may be argued against, and go ahead and prove some of these points wrong. In addition, a good paper should show why the information is important. Why should someone read your paper?

Show this to your students whenever a paper is assigned. Make sure your students are ready to write a good paper, and know what is involved in writing such a paper.



What Makes a Change Agent?


There are some educators out there that make classroom technology integration look easy. For most of us, it’s a daunting task: converting your paper-and-folder, marker-and-poster classroom systems to mobile devices and the cloud. And the ones who dig right in, despite their reservations, to equip their students with the educational technology experiences they need for a 21st century education seem to have an invincible air about them.

So what’s different about these teachers? What key traits do they have in common that make them stand out as leaders and technology whizzes in their communities?

classroom technology

Fresh Perspective

For starters, they are often new to the field, and they’re not necessarily fresh out of school. In many cases, folks are choosing teaching as a second career and bringing their tech skills to the classroom. Education is one of the only fields that hasn’t yet integrated technology fully into its workings, so many people from other industries find ways to apply their business or engineering tech skills to the classroom. People who can bring new ways of thinking into an educational setting are often more comfortable taking the plunge with technology. And yes, some of them are also fresh out of teacher prep programs and are carrying those experiences into their first jobs.

Curiosity Doesn’t Actually Kill Cats

They are naturally curious people. You know the ones—they read a lot, ask a ton of conversational questions, and seem to have endless free time for diverse hobbies. They’re tinkerers, always looking for the best way to keep their calendars or manage their checking account. These people aren’t afraid to try something new. Where many of us would prefer systems that work well and that we can easily control, these change-addicts get bored easily and are always looking to integrate a little spice in all areas of their lives. They gravitate toward technology out of curiosity, and can envision how it might work in their classrooms too.


They “play well with others.” Let’s face it—some of us were more cut out for teamwork than others. It can be hard to come together and work cooperatively, especially with a huge personal workload and limited time. But these instructors know how to come to the table and collaborate. Often technology integration has many moving parts, and requires people with a variety of roles (superintendents, IT folks, educators, parents, etc.) to work together, prioritizing and problem solving. Those who have an affinity for this way of working tend to be the ones pioneering ed tech initiatives.

Ask For Help

They are good at asking for what they need. Many schools have setups that are not technology-friendly. There is still much ground to cover in terms of policy, rules, teaching methods, and more. However, the change agents that tend to take on the challenge of new technology-rich teaching methods are very good at identifying and asking for what they need. These are the teachers that get the green light for unconventional classroom setups, more funding for devices or e-materials, or a meeting with the principal or superintendent.

It takes a special kind of personality to think creatively about instruction and to initiate change in the classroom and beyond. For those who aren’t naturally inclined to shake things up, it can be helpful to work on one or two of these traits. Experiment with keeping a Google calendar for appointments, or create a Pinterest board as a wish list of ideas for your classroom. Sometimes just thinking about the possibilities is a good way to strategize for the future.

Technology integration should be a key priority for all teachers, even if your district hasn’t formally begun such efforts. It is already part of students’ day to day lives outside the classroom—and the more we can weave it into the classroom, the better prepared we’ll all be for the advent of new learning environments.

Digital Learning’s Popularity Is Skyrocketing, But Many Myths Go Undisputed

As digital learning in the classroom gains more support from educators, parents, and students, a national education group has released a toolkit that defines digital and blended learning, offering tips to help promote the benefits of a more digital-centric education.

The Center for Education Reform’s 2014 Digital Learning Toolkit [2] defines blended learning as “an approach that involves a myriad of delivery mechanisms via online tools for students, no matter where they live or attend school.”

The toolkit offers tips on how to debunk myths about online learning, ways to change public discourse, and how to clearly promote and express blended learning’s benefits to community leaders, the media, and policymakers.

According to the toolkit, one key tip involves using data to back up arguments in favor of digital and blended learning, because data showing real results can have a powerful impact. Another is to define objectives instead of simply asking for change—in fact, that’s the basis to all successful technology initiatives in schools: Defining an objective or goal and then determining the best path and tool to achieve desired outcomes.

The toolkit links to additional resources for information on blended and digital learning, and suggests using social media to stay updated on the latest information and to connect with others who are discussing the topic.

Eight digital learning myths

  • We can just say ‘innovation’ and look like we’re doing something. According to an October 2013 poll from the Center for Education Reform, when asked to name a promising new educational innovation, most participants simply answered “technology,” as in the use of computers and the internet. Using the word “innovation” doesn’t ignite any sparks for the average citizen. To really discuss innovation, proponents should talk about real progress and student results.
  • Online learning is a short-term trend. Online learning comes in many different forms, be it an online class, webinars, blended learning programs, or virtual charter schools. According to the Center for Education Reform, “the number of students attending full-time online schools has grown from approximately 200,000 in 2009-2010 to 310,000 in 2012-2013.” Additionally, 48 of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, are offering some form of online learning opportunities.
  • Online learning is only for gifted students. Online learning is a great tool for any and all students, according to the toolkit. It lets students work and learn at their own pace, allowing them to spend more time on concepts that are more challenging to them. It also is a great tool for students who don’t have as many schooling options available to them, such as those who live in rural or inner city areas or those with special needs.
  • Online learning is only available to families with computers. Schools that offer blended and digital learning provide students with computers and other tools they may need to participate. They often open media centers during non-school hours.
  • Online learning is cheaper. Though there’s no physical classroom to go to, online learning still requires a great deal of funding. Online learning institutions need computers, technology programs, teachers, and various other employees to keep the programs running, and because online learning is still somewhat controversial, it does not always receive the funding it requires, which can drive up the price of classes.
  • Online learning has no real accountability. Virtual schools are held to state and federal standards, as are the institutions’ teachers. Students participating in online classes are expected to attend, participate, and take tests just like students who sit in a physical classroom.
  • Online learning isn’t getting positive results. According to the Center for Education Reform, the best way to measure the success of digital learning is by measuring growth in academic performance. Though digital learning programs have created their own assessments that do show progress, there are currently no state programs to measure this growth.
  • Online students have no social interaction. Students who take online classes get the same or more individual time with teachers and the other students as they would in a physical classroom. Virtual classrooms also give shy students a platform to participate where they may be uncomfortable to do so in person. Most classes are only part-time, so students take a couple classes online and the rest in a traditional school setting, allowing them to experience the best of both worlds.

20 Twitter Hashtags Every Teacher Should Know About

This is a repost of   on January 31, 2012@edudemic

I think his list is great and can be added to….send them to me and I will create a google document and share it publicly.
 Twitter chats are such a great way to stay connected and informed in your professional circle, and education is no exception. Through education chats, you can find out about new methods for teaching, tech resources, even jobs for teachers. Most chats are held weekly, and offer an opportunity to have a regularly scheduled conversation with like-minded educators.

Check out our collection to find a wealth of Twitter chats that are great for all kinds of educators.


These Twitter chats cover anything and everything in education, and represent a great jumping off point for those just getting started in Twitter education chats.

  1. #edchat – Talk to a variety of educators around the world through #edchat, Tuesdays at noon and 7 p.m. EST.
  2. #lrnchatEvery Thursday night from 8:30-10 p.m. EST, you can connect with other educators and discuss learning.
  3. #edbkchat – On Wednesdays at 4 p.m. EST, you can discuss educational books and topics in learning and pedagogy.
  4. #spnchat – Find out about successful practices in education and education reform through #spnchat Tuesdays at 9 p.m..
  5. #ptchat – Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, parents and educators around the world can open the lines of communication on #ptchat.
  6. #urbaned – This Twitter chat for educators discusses topics relevant to urban education and beyond, every first and third Sunday of the month at 9 p.m. EST.
  7. #teachchat – Connect with other teachers and find out what they’re doing in their classrooms on #teachchat Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST.
  8. #teaching2030 – Discuss big picture education issues, strategies, and reform through the #teaching2030 chat, every third Thursday at 8:30 p.m..
  9. #smedu – Wednesdays at noon and 9 p.m. EST social media professionals, students, educators, and more can discuss using social media in education in this chat.
  10. #ntchat – New teachers can learn more about their profession with ideas, collaboration, and more for getting starting through #ntchat on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.
  11. #educoach – Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST, you can find instructional coaching for improving education.
  12. #gtchat – Fridays at noon and 7 p.m. EST, gifted and talented educators, administrators, parents, and students can discuss new developments in developing gifted and talented programs around the world.
  13. #spedchat – Follow this weekly discussion on issues for students and teachers in special education Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Administration and Behavior

Check out these Twitter chats to get connected and discuss topics concerning school administrators.

  1. #AcAdv – Tuesdays from 8-9 p.m. EST, you can talk to academic advisors and other colleagues about advising.
  2. #SAChat – Discuss student affairs with other professionals in the industry Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. CST and 6-7 p.m. CST.
  3. #isedchatTalk about independent schools Thursdays at 9 p.m. on #isedchat.
  4. #CUAD – At 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, you can discuss college unions and activities with higher education student affairs professionals and educators.
  5. #cpchatConnect with other principals in this always-open chat.

Subject Chats

English teachers, librarians, and other educators in special subjects can check out these chats for great information and resources.

  1. #engchat – At 7 p.m. each Monday, you can come together with other English teachers to discuss improving English instruction.
  2. #DUedchat – Chat with educators Down Under in this chat each Thursday 9 p.m. New Zealand time.

50 Education Startups That Got Funded in 2013

50 Education Startups That Got Funded in 2013

There has been rising support for education startups these days and many funding companies are willing to raise funds for these organizations. Startups in the field of education are found to be promising and investing in them is considered safe and doesn’t involve a lot of risks.There are several education startups that have received funding recently, here’s a list of 50 education startups that got funded in 2013:

  1. Socrative: Develops a smart student response system, raised $750,000 in seed funding from True Ventures, NewSchools Ventures, and a handful of angel investors, including LearnLaunchX co-founders, in August’2013.
  2. Artsly: A video-based social learning platform, raised $175,000 from Europe-based investor Kima Ventures, in July’2013.
  3. Flashnotes: An online student-to-student marketplace for buying and selling class study material, raised $1.5m seed funding from a new investor Nicole Stata of Boston Seed Capital, return investors Ryan Moore of Atlas Venture, Jordan Levy of Softbank Capital, and angels Deborah Quazzo, Jere Doyle and Bob Mason, in July’2013.
  4. ClusterFlunk: A platform that connects university students to other students in their lectures, raised $100K in seed funding in July’2013.
  5. ExecOnline: Provides school partners with everything they need to develop online executive education programs, raised $1.22M in seed funding, in July’2013.
  6. Schoo: A MOOC startup providing live-streamed lectures on the internet, raised 152 million yen (approximately $1.52 million) from Itochu Technology Ventures, Incubate Fund, and Anri, in July’2013.
  7. CollegeFrog: Is a website that enables students and employers to find a career match, raised $296k in seed funding, in June’2013.
  8. Silverback Learning Solutions: An education software provider, raised $2.5 million from a collection of angel investors in June’2013.
  9. Anomo: A mobile location-based social discovery app, raised $398k in Venture Round funding, in June’2013.
  10. Copley Retention Systems: A leading provider of student retention and success systems, received Series A financing led by Mark Cuban and including Tom DiBenedetto, and a prior $691K in seed funding during June-July’13.
  11. A college advisory tool that raised $40K in seed funding in June’2013 and $375K in Convertible Note Funding in July’2013.
  12. Forsyth Technical Community College: Provides students with exceptional technical education and training, college transfer and more, raised $490,568 from the National Science Foundation, in June’2013.
  13. Crowdmark: An online collaborative grading platform, raised $584k (C$600k) in seed funding, in June’13.
  14. Fastr: A developing subscription-based ebook app, raised $50K in seed funding in June’13.
  15. WeStudy.In: A Moscow-based platform that supports Russian students in studying at schools abroad, raised $300k in funding by Mikhail Frolkin, the managing partner of HeadHunter, in June’2013.
  16. Graduateland: Is creating a large recruitment network of international universities, by offering a free plug’n’play career portal for their intranet, received funding, the amount details of which have not yet been announced, in June’2013.
  17. Tabtor: Currently on iPads, is a flagship educational technology platform for all tablet computers from PrazAs Learning Inc., raised $1M from  New Jersey-based SoundBoard Angel Fund, Aarin Capital Partners, Sand Hill Angels, BITS Spark Angels and other individual investors, in June’2013.
  18. JoyTunes: A platform that allows users to learn music through games, raised $1.5m in seed funding led by Genesis Partners, with participation from Founder Collective, Kaedan Capital, and angel investors Dana Messina, Eran Shir, Joe Lonsdale, Zohar Gilon and others, in May’2013.
  19. MarcoPolo Learning: Makes educational digital toys that inspire kids to explore the world around them, received $1M in seed funding, in May’2013.
  20. Atlas Learning: An interactive learning start-up which provides device-independent applications for the education market, raised an amount in Angel funding, in May’2013.
  21. Learnhive: A provider of adaptive K-12 learning solutions, raised $400K in funding from unnamed angel investors from the U.S. and India who span education, Wall Street and retail expertise, in May’2013.
  22. YaKlass: A Russian education service, raised $2 million (1,56 million euro) in funding from Vesna Investment, Data Pro Group, and founder Nikita Halyavin, in May’2013.
  23. An online business learning service, just launched with around $1m in funding from Groupon Russia founders and Elena Masolova, in April’2013.
  24. Seelio: A student portfolio network designed for college students and educators, raised $900K in seed funding in April’2013 and $600K in Venture round funding, in October’2013.
  25. Floqq: A marketplace for online video courses in Spanish and Portuguese, raised $50K in Angel funding in April’2013.
  26. Study2gether: An innovative knowledge management platform for schools, raised €250K ($326K) from accelerator Mola and Extremadura Avante, in April’2013.
  27. Lean Startup Machine: The world’s leading bootcamp on Lean Startup methodology, raised an amount in seed funding in April’2013.
  28. iSTAR: A vocational skills training company that provides unemployed graduates with additional skills training to make them readily employable in the BFSI and ITeS sectors, raised an amount in seed funding in April’2013.
  29. Scoot & Doodle: Creates web and mobile products that facilitate human interaction and connected learning, raised $2.25 million in seed round from unnamed Silicon Valley angels and educational publishing giant Pearson, in March’2013.
  30. Nearpod: An all-in-one solution for the synchronized use of iPads in the classroom, gets $1.5M From NewSchools, Salesforce Exec, in March’2013.
  31. CultureAlley: Enables interactive and adaptive language learning using self-paced audio-visual lessons & personalized adaptive widgets on a cloud-based platform, raised an amount in seed funding from Kae Capital, in March’2013.
  32. Slate Science: An educational technology company offering STEM education products for tablets, raised $1.1m in angel funding from Leon Kamevev, Benny Schnaider, Roni Einav and Dr. Ron Rymon, in March’2013.
  33. Allegory Law: An intuitive knowledge management tool designed to bridge the gap between litigation and technology, raised $550K in seed funding, in March’2013.
  34. An Estuary: Provides social technology platforms and technology-integrated professional development solutions made for educators by educators, has raised $100K in funding from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation in 2013.
  35. Develops a universal trading platform for Internet users to buy and sell educational and informative materials, has received $4MM from Education Matrix, a Hong Kong based fund in 2013.
  36. 2U: Partners with universities to build, administer, and market online degree programs, has received $5.1M in Series D funding from Highland Capital Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners, in October’ 2013.
  37. K2 Learning: A hybrid (online + offline) education startup that focuses on Commerce education and provides classes for courses like CA, CS, CWA, PUC and B.Com, etc., has raised Rs. 8 crore in Angel funding in 2013 from Radheshyam Agarwal, founder and director of Calcutta Tube India, in his personal capacity.
  38. authorGEN Technologies: Provides e-learning software, services and authoring tools for efficient communication and is a subsidiary of the education major Educomp Solutions Ltd., raised Rs. 22 crore from education-focused private equity firm Kaizen in partnership with German media major Bertelsmann, in January’2013.
  39. Socratic Labs: An educational technology-focused startup accelerator, coworking community, and campus in New York City, raised an amount in seed funding in January’2013.
  40. eDreams Edusoft: Provides student-centric disruptive technology innovations, raised $2 million in its second round of funding, by Inventus Capital Partners in May’2013.
  41. The online education platform owned by Earth Education Valley Pvt. Ltd., raised $500K in seed funding from a group of early-stage institutional and angel investors including French early-stage fund Kima Ventures, Amit and Arihant Patni (from Patni family), computer services firm AKM Systems, Vibhor Mehra (ex-partner at SAIF Partners) and Stanford University alumni, among others, in May’2013.
  42. An online education and training destination for professional certification courses secured $10 million in a Series B round of funding from Helion Venture Partners and existing investor Kalaari Capital, in Setember’2013.
  43. Zane Prep: Built to engage K-8 students around the world in STEM education, raised an amount in angel funding, in February’2013.
  44. Sokikom: Helps K-12 teachers motivate students to learn using games, raised $2 million half of which comes in the form of a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences and the other half comes from former Intel Chairman and CEO Dr. Craig Barrett and Zynga co-founder Steve Schoettler, in February’2013.
  45. SingSpeil: An online music learning platform, raised $30.1k (C$30k) in seed funding in February’2013.
  46. Learnmetrics: Manages educational data to provide educators with powerful metrics and analytics, raised $100K in seed funding, in February’2013.
  47. Graduway: Aims to power all of the world’s alumni networking platforms, has launched today with $1.1 million in seed funding from BTG Pactual, former 888 Holdings CEO Gigi Levy and RSL Venture Partners, in February’2013.
  48. Thinkful: An online school that teaches technical skills, raised $1 million in seed funding from Peter Thiel’s FF Angel, RRE Ventures and Quotidian Ventures and more angel funders, in February’2013.
  49. Tutorspree: Aims to make high-quality, local tutors in any subject accessible to any student, received $800k in Venture round funding, in February’2013.
  50. Veduca: An online video platform that has the purpose of democratize access to top-quality education via video lectures from world-class universities, raised $500k in seed funding in October’2013.

Get Ready For America’s Next ‘Education Crisis’


“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” has become a popular mantra of the ruling class. Of course, these are not the people who usually experience the brunt of a crisis.

But a pervasive narrative in the mainstream media is that Americans are a people beset by near-continuous crisis, whether it’s the fake crisis of a looming “fiscal cliff” or a real crisis like Frankenstorm Sandy that still has many Northeasterners inexplicably living in the dark in unheated homes.

Arguably no sector of American society has been cast with the narrative of crisis as much as public education. And the fever pitch is about to go higher.


Something’s Rotten In The State Of Kentucky

Just prior to the November election, an article in the education trade journal Education Week broke that Kentucky had gotten bad news back from its most recent round of school tests. The results were that the percent of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math had dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle schools.

Disappointing results from a state test is not usually an occasion to stop the presses. But, in this case it was, because these were Very Special Tests.

The tests Kentucky children took were brand-new and aligned to new standards promoted by the federal government called Common Core Standards. Kentucky is the very first state to implement the new standards-based assessments, which will be rolled-out in over 40 other states over the next two school years.

Kentucky school officials, who were already bracing for the bad results, tried putting a happy face on it, calling results “better than we thought they’d be.”

But local media outlets were quick to claim that lower scores were proof positive that Kentucky public schools are “in need of improvement.”

Now imagine the scenario when what happened in Kentucky begins rolling out across the country — as state after state implements the bright, shiny new tests and watches in horror as scores drop off “The Proficiency Cliff.” How tempting it will be for major media outlets across the country to cast this as a “crisis” in education?

In fact, some people are betting good money on that happening.


Business Loves A Crisis

This past summer, about 100 private equity investors gathered at the posh University Club in New York City to hear about big money-making opportunities on the horizon.

As reported in Huffington Post, Rob Lytle of The Parthenon Group, a “strategic advisor of choice for CEOs and business leaders worldwide” according to its website, was there to reveal the ripening profit potentials in the public education arena — a $500+ billion market –due to the roll-out of new assessments aligned to the Common Core.

According to the reporter, Lytle told the audience, if the tests are “as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.”

Recall that states were strongly urged to adopt the new standards when they applied for the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program and for waivers to the onerous No Child Left Behind mandates. Now 46 states are implementing the standards and at least one form or another of the tests that are aligned to the standards. The intent of the standards and tests is to ensure that students are on a pathway to becoming “career and college ready” (CCR) by the time they graduate high school.

So how is this a business opportunity?

Lytle regaled his investor friends with how the new tests would identify the “performance gaps” in student achievement where results fall far below what’s considered “proficient.” And once the Performance Gaps are unveiled to the world, the resulting pressure will force school officials into hiring outside product and service providers to bring up the scores.

As reported in Education Week, he accompanied his remarks with a Powerpoint (available at the link) with a graph showing which states are more apt to have the Performance Gaps. On his graph were a lot of states that he anticipated would be in “high need” of closing the Gap, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Ed Week’s reporter explained, “Simplifying the picture as Mr. Lytle did gave investors hope that a sector they see as traditionally fickle and recently bearish might not be so bad.”

Interestingly, Kentucky was one of the few “low-need” states where the Performance Gap was not evident. So with a low-need state like Kentucky experiencing a 30 percent drop in test scores, does that mean states with high-need will experience even steeper drops?

Crisis material for sure.


Going From Crisis To Crisis

Education historian Diane Ravitch has long observed that a persistent narrative in the media is that American schools are “in crisis.”

A year ago, writing in The New York Review of Books, Ravitch traced the education crisis narrative back to a century ago, “when urban schools were overcrowded, swamped with students from Eastern and Southern Europe who didn’t speak English.” Again, in the 1950s, crisis broke out when the Soviets launched Sputnik into orbit, and critics blamed our public schools for not cranking out enough scientists.

The late Gerald Bracey noted this as well and coined the term “Sputnick Effect” to describe the perpetual state of crisis that has characterized the media narrative about the nation’s public schools. Bracey wrote:

The schools never recovered from Sputnik. Sputnik wounded their reputation and, as the scab formed, something else always came along to reopen the lesion: In the 1960s, schools were blamed for the urban riots (but were not credited for putting a man on the moon). In the 1970s, they were seen as “grim and joyless”. . . In the 1980s, A Nation at Risk blamed them for allowing the Germans, the South Koreans, and the Japanese to race ahead of us competitively (yet did not credit them for the longest sustained economic expansion in the nation’s history).

Indeed, what will keep politicians and the media from picking at the scab again?


Who Wants A Crisis?

Is an education crisis good for business? As the Ed Week reporter cited above pointed out, “There are market trends that support that theory. The commercial education market grew significantly in the past four years, but no segment grew faster than instruction and services. Companies like the virtual learning providers K12 Inc. and Connections Academy, or the publishers-turned-service-providers Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, fit that bill.”

In fact, the Obama administration originally framed the Common Core standards, and all the trappings that would come along with them, as a great business opportunity.

Writing at the blog site of the Harvard Business Review, Joanne Weiss, the Chief of Staff to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and leader of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, said

The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

That “national market” has in fact come to pass. And educator Michael Moore has connected the dots. Writing at the Savannah Morning News, he explained (hat-tip Maureen Dowd)

The testing business is a $2.3 billion business. But testing is not where the real money is made. If you want to pass the test, you’re going to need preparation materials.

If your child brings home a text from Glencoe, Macmillan, SRA, Open Court or The Grow Network, among others, then your child is using a McGraw-Hill text. The test preparation materials business surely dwarfs the testing business.

This is still small beer compared with what’s to come. This week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pearson Foundation (a non-profit organization owned by, well, the for-profit version of the Pearson company) announced that the two were working together to create complete online curricula for the new common core standards in math and English language arts for elementary through high school.

This off-the-shelf curricula includes the materials, the teacher preparation, teacher development and, of course, the assessments.

Interestingly, Phil Daro and Sally Hampton from America’s Choice, who helped draft the common core standards, are heading up this development.

Confused? Did I forget to mention that Pearson bought America’s Choice last summer?

There are, of course, other theories about the “what’s behind the Common Core” phenomenon. Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute had a particularly interesting one last week when he spilled the beans on what’s going on among The Very Serious People in Washington, DC. “When I ask how exactly the Common Core is going to change teaching and learning,” he divulged, “I’m mostly told that it’s going to finally shine a harsh light on the quality of suburban schools, shocking those families and voters into action.”

Apparently, this Shock Doctrine for the suburbs will play out so:

First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing. Then, parents and community members who previously liked their schools are going to believe the assessment results rather than their own lying eyes . . . Finally, newly convinced that their schools stink, parents and voters will embrace “reform.”

Whether the coming Education Crisis is a business conspiracy or a Beltway scheme, none of this is to argue that the Common Core and its accompanying tests and instructional materials aren’t without merit. That’s a whole other subject.

But since when did a crisis-driven directive, steered by business interests and bureaucrats who aren’t being exactly transparent about their intentions, ever end up achieving widespread public good?


Good Intentions Gone Awry?

No doubt there are some good intentions driving the new standards and tests.

But some of those intentions seem extraordinarily naïve. In an article from this week’s US News, chief architect of the Common Core David Coleman maintained that the new tests are so much better than the ones we’ve been using that, even if they demoralize teachers and frustrate parents, they will “redeem assessment” in their “hearts and minds.”

So, let’s see how that plays out:

Dear High School Parent,

For years, we’ve been telling you your child is bright and successful in school. But those tests sucked. Now, we’ve got new and better tests, and they have determined that your child is a failure. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Good intentions are not always what matter. In fact, they often blind.

When the last Great Big Education Innovation called No Child Left Behind descending on America’s beleaguered schools, the intention was to address a Crisis as well. That Crisis also had its very own Gap — not the Performance Gap, but the Achievement Gap.

NCLB was supposed to close the Achievement Gap, but it’s now widely understood that the whole enterprise was an utter failure. The best that NCLB proponents can offer is that it “woke the country” to the stark differences between the academic attainment of African American and Hispanic school children and their white and Asian peers.

But years of results from the National Assessment of Education Progress had already revealed those differences, and anyone who needed “awakening” then has doubtless fallen back into slumbers as the country has drifted further and further into a vast sea of segregated schools and education inequality.

So now one crisis-prompted experiment on the nation’s school children is leading to another.

One wonders, when will Americans — after being shocked into concern about an Achievement Gap and cattle-prodded to address a Performance Gap — tire of crisis language and notice that the real problem is that political leaders and “experts” in charge of education policy have a Credibility Gap?

A Better List Of Ideas For Project-Based Learning

via TeachThought

At TeachThought, we’re huge fans of project-based learning.

While there is no magic bullet of practice, program, or framework that automatically produces progressive and effective learning, what makes project-based learning exceptional is its flexibility. As it is, first and foremost, simply a curriculum planning tool, so much other “good stuff” that can support learning (game-based learning, learning simulations, place-based education, self-directed learning, etc.) can all be “embedded” in project-based learning.

With PBL, there is no “either/or” proposition: anything from open-ended, play-based learning to data-driven, research-based instructional environments can all use PBL effectively.

While there are all kinds of great resources necessary to “run” PBL (including those from, from apps to planning templates and more, the genesis of a great project is the idea itself–the purpose and/or audience of the project itself.

Below, we’ve shared dozens of ideas for projects, and we’re going to constantly update the list with new ideas, suggestions from our community, resources, etc. In that way, this page can become the ultimate guide for project-based learning in your classroom. The focus will be on the ideas for the projects themselves, but we’ll also include apps, tools, and other “stuff” you’ll need to effectively realize this approach in your classroom.

6 Posts To Get Started With Project-Based Learning

  1. The Difference Between Projects & Project-Based Learning
  2. 5 Types Of Project-Based Learning
  3. 11 Tools For Better Project-Based Learning
  4. 4 Keys To Designing A Project-Based Learning Classroom
  5. 23 Ways To Use The iPad In The 21st Century PBL Classroom
  6. 12 Timeless Project-Based Learning Resources

The Constantly-Updated List Of Ideas For Project-Based Learning

Note: This list will constantly be updated with new ideas, tools, and resources. As such, some fields will be empty, updated, or removed as we build and improve the list over time. Note that the list is intentionally not separated into “content areas,” as many of the projects could be approached from a number of angles (the math of design, the language of planning, and so on).

1. Idea: Create an interactive family tree with voice-overs from living family members, and added

Consider Using: VoiceThread, YouTube

2. Idea: Design an app with a specific purpose for a specific audience

3. Idea: Inventory the world’s most compelling apps in an elegant and browsable interface

4. Idea: Design a modern library using a problem-solution format, and annotate its critical features

5. Idea: Solve the problem of negative news

6. Idea: Using the best thinking of major world civilizations, design the perfect civilization. Identify critical characteristics, resources, and habits, etc.

7. Idea: Mash Reddit with facebook with YouTube (or any 3 social media channels)

8. Idea: Help local businesses increase environmental sustainability (e.g., reduce waste)

Audience: Your neighborhood, the businesses themselves

9. Idea: Identify, analyze, and visualize recurring themes in human history; then contextualize those themes in modern society

10. Idea: Make a compelling case of connectivism (student chooses “angle”: intellectual, recreational, etc.)

11. Idea: Make a compelling case for independence (student chooses “angle”: intellectual, recreational, etc.)

12. Idea: Leverage the wisdom of nursing homes

13. Idea: Artfully express, analyze the causes-effects of, or otherwise evaluate population growth

14. Idea: Debate the relationship between technology and humanity from a historical (Mary Shelley?) or modern (Steve Jobs?) perspective

15. Idea: Reverse global warming, or re-imagine major coastal cities in light of 6 degrees of warming

16. Idea: Measure the sociological impact of social media on local communities (using a self-selected parameter)

17. Idea: Design an alert system to halt the spread of deadly disease

Audience: Local, national, and international governments; local communities; medical professionals

Considering Using: Plague, Inc.

18. Idea: Plant and manage a garden to feed local homeless/hungry

19. Idea: Solve a personal problem. Brainstorm personal challenges by proximity to learner: first by individual, then family, neighborhood, city, state, and so on. Then have learner select one, design a scale for solving it, and sketch out a plan to make it happen.

20. Idea: Analyze the impact of great architecture–or lack thereof–on a community

21. Idea: Dissect the anatomy of viral web content

22. Idea: Help a local business that does “good work” market itself to younger audiences. Create a proposal, present to business, refine proposal based on feedback

23. Idea: Artfully illustrate the global history of civil rights

24. Idea: Visually demonstrate the galaxy’s behavior from changing a single parameter (e.g., the gravity level of a single planet)

Considering Using: The Universe Sandbox simulation

25. Idea: Design the next Google (the next method of content and data discovery)   

26. Idea: Re-imagine a popular social media platform based on the success of another; carry design through to prototyping and/or marketing phase

27. Idea: Plan a Mars colony using current data of the Martian landscape and atmosphere

28. Idea: Create a photo documentary, then turn that into a film documentary, then turn that into a short eBook

29. Idea: Define, Analyze, and Visualize an Abstract Concept (Wisdom, Freedom, Conflict, etc.)

30. Idea: Develop a feasible response to potential asteroid–> earth collisions

31. Idea: Analyze the cause and effect of low voter turnout on both democracy, and the health of the local community

32. Idea: Re-imagine the American Constitution–or similar governing documents–as if they were designed today

33. Idea: Perform a cause-effect analysis on consumerism

34. Idea: Create and publish a weekly or monthly podcast on a self-selected topic based on market data

35. Idea: Film a documentary on an under-served social issue few people see

36. Idea: Imagine and articulate a community where neighbor-to-neighbor and neighborhood-to-neighborhood interaction was necessary to survive

37. Idea: Design a better physical book

38. Idea: Identify an emerging musical genre, write a song that fits in that genre, produce a video, design a website to promote it

39. Idea: Design a school, including new content areas, grading, collaboration, and community involvement

40. Idea: Create and manage a YouTube channel for a self-determined and authentic purpose

Considering Using: YouTube

41. Idea: Solve your parent’s problem of being too busy

Audience: Your parents, of course.

Consider Using: A mini-documentary, analytics, etc.

42. Idea: Analyze, visualize, and socialize the long-term impact of coal on the environment

43. Idea: Revise the United Nations in some way, shape, or form to better respond to international crises

44. Idea: Answer the following question: What would (insert historical figure here) say about (insert relevant social issue here)?

45. Idea: Re-conceive iTunes as an aggregation tool and player for traditional literary forms (e.g., poetry, fiction, etc.)

46. Idea: Redesign your city to reduce the need for extended commutes

47. Idea: Research all modern tools sued to provide clean water access, then design a better tool

48. Idea: Study local land regions and resources to identify a geological-based response to the Zombie Apocalypse

Consider Using: Google Earth


How Do We Raise Critical Thinkers?

via Mentoring Minds

As we venture into the 21st century, we as a society are faced with more innovation and challenge than ever before. We now live in an interconnected world, where the Internet and global communications are simultaneously uniting and isolating us as a society. How do we raise critical thinkers to best face the challenges that face our modern society? What changes in education methods should be implemented to  create a better learning environment for these budding minds? Check out this great infographic by Mentoring Minds to find out!

Click here to download an 11X17 version of the “Developing 21st-Century Critical Thinkers” infographic.

Developing 21st Century Critical Thinkers Infographic by Mentoring Minds