Wednesday, May 10, 2017

School Choice - What are the K12 numbers in 2017?

This is a fun exercise to figure out the numbers.
It's odd to me that there isn't more work on this top down view....
This is just one way of estimating, I'd like to dig in and cross reference a few data sources on charter school statistics as well as virtual school stats.

Estimate of  K12 in 2017
Total                       57,623,100
Public Schools:      50,477,000    An estimate of 3,240,000 in charters.
Homeschooling:      2,088,600  
Private Schools:      5,057,500

Charter School growth has been 180K per year.
Private schools are shrinking by 85K per year.
Homeschoolers are growing by 71K per year.

Data Sources - This data is built on rough estimates projecing forward historical trends on a straight line basis with no correction for population size changes.

Public Schools - NCES - Projection of 2017 by NCES
Charter school - nces - 2,700,00 in 2014. Growth from 0.9 to 2.7 2004 to 2014.  This is 1.8 over 10 years or 180K new each year on a straight line. Adding three more years or 3 x 180,000 produces an estimate for 2017 of 3,240,000.   Data from Charter school groups could be used but
Private Schools - NCES - The number declined from 6,073,000 in  2005 to 5,396,00 in 2013, a decline of 677,000 over 8 years or 84,625 per year.  Projecting the same absolute number loss per year, an estimate of a loss of 338,5000 over 2014-2017, 5,057,500 in 2017
Homeschooling: NHES. Estimate of 2,088,600 based on 1.77M (2012) increased by 18% since that was the growth reported over the previous 5 year period. This is projecting a historical trend forward.

The NHES survey says that 1.77 million students were homeschooled in 2012, which is an 18% increase since the last study in 2007. In fact, the number of homeschooled children has been steadily increasing each year, and is expected to continue to rise. This is an increase of what number per year????

NHES says 850,000 students in 1999 to 1,773,000  students in 2012: 923,000 over 13 years 0r 71K per year. 5 x 71K is a 355,000 increase or  estimate of 2,128,000.  This approach is 100K more than the other one for estimating.
The most recent Federal Government study concluded that about 3.4% of the K-12 students or 1.77 million students were being homeschooled in the United States as of spring 2012. The study was performed by the National Household Education Survey Program (NHES) and the results are available on the Dept of Education Website as part of the National Centers for Educational Statistics.


Discussion NCES
CERN here are more than 6,800 charter schools serving nearly 3 million children across the country (February 2016)

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Those great people in educational testing have, after years of losing market share to the ACT,  redesigned  the SAT!

The new SAT is much more of an achievmeent test than the old idea of some sort of aptitude or IQ test. Basically, it tests what you've learned.

The new SAT has three sections: Math, Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing. 
The new SAT has an optional SAT Essay.

 Students have 3 hours to complete the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections and the Math Test, and another 50 minutes to complete the optional SAT Essay. 

The Prepworks software helps student prepare by both familiarizing them with the test questions, providings strategies for approaching the questions but most importantly, it actually builds the skills that the SAT tests. In some ways, its a course totally focused on the skills that the SAT will measure.

The Khan Academy approach only deals with getting students familiar with those types of questions

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Local Partnerships, Giving Back

Heh, I was just updating the blog on VocabularySpellingCity about the Community Partnership and I thought that I would mention it here.

I was looking at an article called: Community Partnership with Broward County Public Schools
VocabularySpellingCity and Science4Us, a Science Elementary Program are proud community partners of Broward County Public Schools as part of our strategy of giving back to our community on an ongoing basis.  The 2014-2015 school year has been full of exciting events, such as the Hour of Code Presentations, STEM Olympiad, Career City at Dillard Elementary, Career Day for the SuperCoders at our headquarters, and the FAT Village Art District Dillard Parade!  The article generally recaps 2014-2015's  community partnership events.

This year, the blog talks more about general issues in education:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why do teachers say they work for the school board?

I'm perplexed by how many teachers I find who talk about working for the school board. It seems like a weird thing to me.

Realistically, teachers report to their principal. The principals work for the superintendent. The superintendent is selected by the board.

In business, most people when asked who they work for, will either cite their boss or the president/CEO of the company. I've never heard of anyone is business talk about the board of directors as who they work for.

In non profit universities and hospitals, I imagine people work for the dean or president or executive director.

What is it in some parts of the country or some school districts that this language of working for the school board has taken hold?  I'm suspicious that it's a load of C***.  Specifically, I think it's almost Orwellian in that it highlights the role of a board of frankly amateurs and denigrates the role of the professional superintendent.

Any thoughts anybody? Any insight?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Words Their Way, Reading Programs, and Literacy Curricula

For a long time there's been different approaches to teaching recently. Recently, the Reading Wars have ebbed as most schools settle into a system which relies in large part on classic phonics but for decades before that, the Reading Wars between the Whole Language and Phonics people raged.

Currently the big fights in literacy curriculum have more to do with the increased demands (ie rigor) of the Common Core and how the heck to teach it.  Schools are struggling to develop skills at teaching close reading and the ability to do sophisticated synthesis and comparisons between two or even three informational texts.

But in the background, there remains some big disagreements on the role of curriculum, standards, and technology.  Some people still believe in and rely on the classic basal readers which provide a recipe and all the materials for each grade level. Reading Street, Journeys, and Wonders reign as leading reading programs. An alternative approach which has had great traction across the country is Words Their Way (now it belongs to Pearson) which has students sorting out sounds and cutting them into little pieces.

These are are very traditional programs in terms of delivery so they often get paired with slick modern technology solutions such as VocabularySpellingCity.  Here's a success story on the mechanics of combining  Words Their Way with VSC and a research study that talks about how the high effectiveness of pairing VSC with WTW:

VocabularySpellingCity is the only resource we've found that has the capacity to be paired with the Words Their Way approach to accomplish the goals of spelling, phonics and vocabulary instruction,” write Nielsen-Winkelman and West. “As educational technologies emerge and evolve, it is essential to use a critical eye toward the specific tool affordances when making decisions about instructional practice.”
The article, “Improving Word Study — Moving Beyond Paper and Pencil to Transformative Educational Technology,” was published in the June 2015 issue of Literacy Special Interest, the Journal of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Literacy Professional Learning Network, in conjunction with the ISTE 2015 Conference.
Creating A Streamlined Process

Nielsen-Winkelman and West identified six key components for phonics, vocabulary and spelling instructional practices and used them to evaluate VocabularySpellingCity (VSC) and Words Their Way (WTW): (1) systematic instruction, (2) explicit/direct instruction, (3) making connections, (4) repeated exposure, (5) comprehension of material read silently or orally, and (6) oral reading of connected text.
Word Study Outcomes using VocabularySpellingCity and Words Their Way
Credit: Nielsen-Winkelman, Tiffany and West, Lynnea

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Education and Technology - Notes for SFTA

John on Technology in Education

Technology in Education: Big picture. Education is a process. It takes raw materials, does something to them, ie "educates" them, and provides an output of people ready to be productive adults.
What's changed with tech and the modern world generally? Only everything

1.  The desired output.  Handwriting, arithmetic skills, and knowledge losing their value to employers. And the traditional 30-40 year career at a company died in the last few decades.  New economy requires independence, constant learning and networking, new ways of researching and communicating.

2. The input. The kids of today are so different than not just their parents but their older brothers and sisters. At a conference 4 years ago, there was a powerful slide where two kids  in strollers were shown. Both were holding ipads. Tehre were a series of funny captions about this one can't talk, this one can't walk, both still wear diapers. And then they showed the software that the kids were playing with.  It was stunning. Today, that same point has no emotional power. Of course, diapered kids use iPads.  But those kids are NOT going to react to  a 30 minute lecture by a teacher the way their older siblings did. Never mind like their parents or grandparents.  And despite big pharma, I don't think we're going to drug them all as if they had ADHD..

3.  The process of education. Lets just point out that while most industries can track their increase in productivity. It's often in the news about how the economy overall produced more output for the same amount of labor, education is one of very few sectors that has NO record of productivity increases. Techniques and organization and bureaucracy have all combined to produce no productivity increases.

Quick Intro on me:
Spent my 20s in teh big business consulting firms. Loosely defined. That includes Price Waterhouse consulting and being a Peace Corps Business Advisor.

At 30, I went west to silicon Valley. Worked in 3D graphics at Silicon Graphics, then in video games at 3DO.  Went to London for 6 years including 2 running a video game development company. I went platinum as a playstation game producer.

Some family and business stuff happened and I ended up jobless in South Florida. I started my company in 2004 and have been running it ever since. It was a living room startup.

We now have 60  people here in the office. Another 25 around the country. Steady growth of around 20%.

One half o the business is Our homeschool products are Time4Learning and Time4Writing.  For the first 5 years, I focused on a new sector in education: Homeschoolers.  They are 3% of the K12 population and were probably the first K12 sector to get to 1:1 computing.

While that part of the business continues to prosper, I've focused on the school market for the last few years.

VSC:  Describe it by customer need. Imagine.

S4U:  technology for the sake of science education.

Schools are torn between traditional instincts, use of technology to improve what they are now doing but do it better, and a brave new world in which instead of batching students thru grouped by age in which the pace and teaching focuses on the middle of a bell curve of needs, using technology to provide people with challenges and skill building appropriate to their appetites and capability.

Most powerful thing that I've learned from homeschooling is the magic of choice. And the poison of regimentation and inappropriate work. Kills the interest and motivation.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Can Google Classrooms replace a LMS like Moodle for some uses?

We use Moodle as a LMS for some of our remote learning work.  We don't love it. I'm looking for an alternative. Right now, Canvass by Instructure is the hot LMS but it seems to have gone from free open source to commercial and pricey. Their website is full of "Try it Free" and if you have questions, "Fill in this form" but there's not mention of pricing anywhere which makes me think it's pricey!

I've heard noise about Google Classrooms and I'm trying to ascertain what it is and what it isn't.

Google says:  Classroom is a new tool in Google Apps for Education that helps teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and easily communicate with their classes. More....It's a suite of productivity tools...

Classroom is only available for Google Apps for Education users at this time.

Here's my question. Can I use Google Classrooms instead of Moodle as a way to give out assignments, collect them, grade them, return them? 

I asked on a Google forum and was told:

"...  Google Classrooms does not offer a core comprehensive grade book or other traditional features found in other LMS solutions.

I asked whether Google Forms could be used with Classroom as a way to get assignments from students.

Answer: "there currently isn't an embedded Forms or Quizzing feature within Google Classroom but using Google forms is still a very useful way to collect data or quiz students."

When I checked on Google forms to see it could handle the technology enhanced features required for CCSS assessments, I see that Google Forms supports these data types:
Google Forms Supports These Inputs
The test sounds like a short answer input. Paragraph is longer. Multiple choice is what it sounds like.  However, I don't see any way to use this for automated grading.  I can't imagine why Google hasn't added a basic set of LMS features since it set up teachers and classrooms. I wonder if they would accept a third party to develop it..

Here's the Google forum discussion: