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A Call to Action for Renewed Focus on REAL Education Reform

by Steven Guttentag, President of Connections Education

On Wednesday June 15th, I attended a lunch at the National Press Club at the invitation of Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, and a long-time, tireless and effective supporter of choice and charters. At this event, Jeanne unveiled The New Opportunity Agenda, a manifesto for renewed energy, strategy and action around education innovation and opportunity.

In a nutshell, Jeanne and the panel argued that the progress made over the last 25 years around creating educational choices for all parents (not just the privileged few who can afford private schools) and the development of new educational models, practices and pedagogy, is starting to wane. In some cases, it seems to be even going backwards. She provided a wake- up call to education reformers and asked all of us, across the ideological spectrum, to find common ground around the “twin values of opportunity and upward mobility.”

As someone who has been on the front lines of education reform my entire career, first as a teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools, then as an administrator in the School District of Philadelphia and now as a co-founder and president of Connections Education, a company supporting K-12 online and blended learning in schools and school systems across the country for 15 years, this was a message for which I had been waiting. Attempting to innovate within our public education system is a constant battle to fit a square peg into a round hole—to justify, to explain, to try to comply with antiquated rules and regulations.

Joining Jeanne at the front of the room in support of this change agenda was John Engler, Former Governor of Michigan, David Levin, President and CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, and Donald Hense, Chair and

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Eight Important Tweets on The Future of Adult Literacy

Thirty-six million Americans can’t read.

Low-literacy skills are directly linked to higher unemployment, less earned income and poor health. The result is a lack of social mobility and greater inequality for millions of families.

On June 8, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy convened entrepreneurs, investors, technology leaders, futurists, visionaries, policy makers, and NGO’s to envision transformational ideas for the next 25 years of literacy.

Here are eight important ideas captured under the event’s #AdultEdu hashtag about the bold ideas and innovative thinking that can help alleviate our nation’s literacy crisis:

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Why Innovators Can’t Get a Seat at the Ed Tech Table

It’s official. American public schools are now the world’s largest purchaser of iPads. And we thought that award went to moms who just want to get the laundry done.

In 2016, it’s no longer possible to argue that the age of digital education has yet to arrive. Walk into any classroom across the country and you’ll see teachers and students engaging with and learning from digital content. In fiscal year 2015 alone, American public schools spent almost $11 billion investing in educational technology for K-12 students . According to the Center for Digital Education, per-student spending for K-12 is projected to increase 18% to $13,200 by 2022-23.

With all this money raining down on education technology, surely school leaders are in touch with the innovators creating the products, right?

Wrong.

There is a serious disconnect between the innovators building products to boost student outcomes and the school-district officials and school leaders with access to the purse strings.

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Last week’s ASU GSV conference brought this reality home for me. Out in San Diego, I was captivated by the flurry of innovative ed-tech products on display — apps as far as the eye could see. Yet what resonated most were the conversations with entrepreneurs about how they’re rolling out their products in schools, how they’re partnering with schools to ensure that they’re aware of the niche that their product fills and how to use the product to best educate students.

“Ancient procurement and monetary policies” are what make it difficult to bring great ed-tech into the K-12 space, according to Adrian Fenty, the former mayor of Washington, DC. Our children are in great need of equipment for the digital age, but decisions about their learning are still regulated by outdated, inflexible laws and people who were raised

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Why Innovators Can’t Get a Seat at the EdTech Table

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It’s official. American public schools are now the world’s largest purchaser of iPads. And we thought that award went to moms who just want to get the laundry done.

In 2016, it’s no longer possible to argue that the age of digital education has yet to arrive. Walk into any classroom across the country and you’ll see teachers and students engaging with and learning from digital content. In fiscal year 2015 alone, American public schools spent almost $11 billion investing in educational technology for K-12 students. According to the Center for Digital Education, per-student spending for K-12 is projected to increase 18% to $13,200 by 2022-23.

With all this money raining down on education technology, surely school leaders are in touch with the innovators creating the products, right?

Wrong.

There is a serious disconnect between the innovators building products to boost student outcomes and the school-district officials and school leaders with access to the purse strings.

Last week’s ASU GSV conference brought this reality home for me. Out in San Diego, I was captivated by the flurry of innovative ed-tech products on display — apps as far as the eye could see. Yet what resonated most were the conversations with entrepreneurs about how they’re rolling out their products in schools, how they’re partnering with schools to ensure that they’re aware of the niche that their product fills and how to use the product to best educate students.

“Ancient procurement and monetary policies” are what make it difficult to bring great ed-tech into the K-12 space, according to Adrian Fenty, the former mayor of Washington, DC. Our children are in great need of equipment for the digital age, but decisions about their learning are still regulated by outdated, inflexible laws and people who were raised

Read More …

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4 Things Every Ed Tech Investor Needs to Know

Did you miss the 2016 ASU GSV Summit, which the New York Times calls the “must-attend event for education technology investors”? No worries — CER staff has you covered. Here are our top takeaways, from Brenda Hafera, Michelle Tigani, and Ted Allen.asugsv

1. Condoleezza Rice Reminds Us Why Education Is Essential

Condoleezza Rice delivered a superb keynote. She asked us to reflect on why an educated populace is so fundamental to maintaining our country’s national and the American Dream. The answer: because America is the experiment in self-government, education is crucial to our ethos. An uneducated populace is unable to govern itself, and therefore fails the demands of republican government. Smart words from a smart lady.

2. The Field of Education Is Ripe for Disruption

Presentations from tech innovators demonstrated how education could be the next Silicon Valley. These entrepreneurs highlighted the disruptive power of technology and its potential to transform this field. While policy initiatives can face pushback from special interest groups, invention and innovation aren’t subject to legislative approval. An idea is able to take root and shatter existing boundaries without asking permission.

3. Why Education Needs More Experimenters

Why is it that every field — from medicine to money — advances by trying new things, yet when it comes to education, all we hear are excuses why X can’t be done, why Y is impossible? This is exactly why ed tech is so important: because it compels us to embrace a mindset of experimentation. After all, progress doesn’t take place in a vacuum; it needs an environment that welcomes rather than rejects innovation.

4. The Essence of Innovation Isn’t What You Think It Is

Last week I met a thousand nerds who didn’t need data to sell their dream to me. Sure, it’s there,

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