Thursday, October 31, 2013

STEM Innovation Task Force!

Very excited to head up to Pepsico headquarters for the STEM Innovation Task Force from STEM Connector.  This is a meeting of great STEM leaders who are getting things done to improve opportunities for all students and AcceleratingED (me in this case) is proud to be a part of it.

I love any chance we get to bring the best resources and energy together around solving STEM issues, but we also get lunch made by the executive chef at Frito Lay.  I am a fan - so I am eager to find out what is served!

The main focus of this meeting is looking at STEM Career Accelerator Day, STEM 2.0 and the 2014 Global Talent Summit.  I will be tweeting more as allowed at dave_saba so follow along. Will post and update tomorrow after the Task Force concludes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Common Core Math Materials for Students

One of the bigger issues with Common Core is getting the right materials in the hands of teachers and students. AcceleratingED is working with THE only organization with the name - Common Core - to ensure that more teachers are ready for the implementation of common core state standards.

Whether your state is common core or not - the Eureka Math curriculum is the absolute best content for college and career readiness and there are now print copies of their common core student math curriculum available for purchase!

More to come as we work on bringing Eureka Math to more teachers!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Excellence in Education- Clayton Christensen

You have a ton of smart people in a room, but when Clayton Christensen came in and spoke to top education leaders at the Excellence in Education crowd, they all got a lot smarter.  He is just amazing the way he takes complex topics of affecting change and performance and brings it into education.

Some random notes -
  • Education leaders have to think more deeply about measurement of education - what do we truly need to measure
  • We mis-measure so many things in this country - he went through an in-depth analysis of the ratios that most businesses think are important and later tied it to the fact that it drives outsourcing to the point the company is no longer needed (think Dell)
  • Recessions taking much longer to get over now - because we are only focused on efficiency because it drives the ratios business are held accountable for. 
  • Three types of innovation
    • Marketing creating initial innovation becomes more affordable create the most jobs 
    • Sustaining make markets vibrant but don't create jobs. Just improving a current product that just replaces another product. 
    • Efficiency cause job losses and free up capital 
  • All the ratios in business focus on efficiency and market creation. Therefore business focuses only on efficiency driving down jobs 
  • Cost of capital is zero. Trillion dollars sitting in private equity but entrepreneurs can't get it because the ratios don't work for market creation which is what we need to create jobs
So we don't want to be like businesses where the measures we use drive us to the wrong behaviors.

Second issue in education that is key -
The performance that customers can absorbed is actually moving up less than businesses are creating innovations. Business innovations consistently exceed what customers really want. And that is happening in education -

Innovations are happening so fast in education that they are far exceeding the abilities of students and teachers to use those innovations - so we are not going to get the maximum impact.

I have seen so many new and interesting online innovations directed at education in the last year - but they are not spreading because we are saturating our teachers with technology and NOT providing the training they need to use it.  

Phase II of his talk covered something we are all aware of but not really thinking about how to fix -
We are outsourcing all the work in our homes.  A few generations ago we had to do everything in the home. There was a lot of work so all the children in the house had to work for parents and do hard things. People coming out of those homes had more confidence because they had accomplished many things in their childhood. Now all the work is outsourced and kids don't do much work in the home.   So now parents work for their children bringing them to play-dates, sports, activities etc.  

We have to make sure that we are raising children who are committed to learn

Phase III of the talk went on to talking about people in general -
He referenced a favorite leader in motivation - Frederick Herzburg who wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review - One more time: How do we motivate employees.
  • Factors that dissatisfy us  - Working environment, inconvenient costly products and services. Disingenuous leaders and colleagues 
  • Factors that convince us - Evidence from experts, others who believe, theories, illustrations. Not quite motivating if you are convinced that it is important or useful but it might not cause you to get up off the ouch
  • Factors that actually motivate - Opportunity to achieve, responsibility, recognition, the need to feel needed, helping others so can achieve
Education needs to motivate. In order to motivate we have to use the Tools of Cooperation and Change

Having a vision is one hing but gaining consensus that the vision is the way forward is a whole different thing and the only way to truly move forward. 

A great way to spend a morning - if we could follow his advice, we could truly get things done in education.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Building a STEM Coalition

The very first project tackled by AcceleratingED was to build a STEM coalition to apply for the US2020 City Competition STEM mentoring grant. Sounds easy enough except it had to be done in three weeks, had to include support from city government and had to demonstrate an ability to truly create STEM excitement for students.

Not an easy task - but luckily we are in Dallas and people here do like to work together to help students.

We built our grant application around nPower which brings together tech experts with educators and non-profits. They have a powerful web application for matching needs with expertise - exactly what a great mentoring program needs. Then we layered serious student engagement through the Perot Museum of Nature and History - they have already had over 80,000 students come through the museum in less than a year. We will bring our student there to build excitement and knowledge of STEM followed by mentoring from professionals.

Next comes the professionals to provide the mentoring. For that we brought in Workforce Solutions Dallas which has an incredibly membership base of businesses in the community who are concerned with the local STEM workforce. And finally, for advice on working with schools, educators and the research component, we enlisted the help of commit!

AcceleratingED is driving the coalition and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings provided a letter of support!

An amazing team! Our Dallas application for US2020 is in and we are very proud of the work we were able to accomplish on such short notice!!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Subject Matter Knowledge AND Pedagogy

Dan Willingham just has a way of keeping things simple.  His latest post is pretty fascinating and he opens up with the statement that hits home - why hasn't this been studied before.

In teacher preparation, we all seem to know that subject matter knowledge and pedagogy both matter - but every once in a while, one creeps ahead of the other.  In his post on "What Science Teachers Need to Know" the conclusion is this (bolded for effect on the last line):

"In fact, low-achieving students learned nothing about a concept if teachers didn't know the concept themselves. High-achieving students did. The researchers speculate they may have learned the content from a textbook or other source.

For the strong misconception items, the low-achieving students learned very little, whatever the teacher knowledge. For high-achieving students, knowledge mattered, and they were most likely to learn when their teacher had both subject-matter knowledge and knew the misconceptions their students likely held (KoSM in the graph).

So the overall message is not that surprising. Students learn more when their teachers know the content, and when they can anticipate student misconceptions."

As we continue to look for ways to close the achievement gap - we have to have subject matter experts who can anticipate problems their students will have and are armed with the strategies to help their students overcome those problems. Simple huh?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Strategies for Common Core Teaching

Great article in Ed Week on a study highlighting a critical need for teachers to have strategies to teach 
common core state standards in writing.

"Standards don't specify the how to, they specify the what to teach," Troia said, "but they are supposed to 'sign-post' or signal to teachers what they might teach."

For example, if a standard requires students to plan, edit, and revise their own work, "that naturally leads a teacher to say, I need to teach planning, editing, and revising. There's a transparent connection between the content of the standards and the teaching practices."

So true - after teachers study the standards they have to have ways to bring them to life in the classroom.  "The authors argue that teachers need substantially more professional development around the common core, not just in understanding what the new standards include and how they differ from states' old standards, but also to fill the gaps in instructional strategies that will be needed for students to write well."

Some groups are out there getting this done but I really like as the premier group providing great content AND strategies through their professional development.  More to come on this as I continue to be impressed with their work.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Computer Science Counts in Tennessee - only 35 to go

Congrats to or moving Tennessee forward - computer science now counts towards graduation.  Sadly, there are still 35 states to go!

Help us do something about it -

Link to the great document they have on the issue - Computer Science jobs will be 60% of STEM so we have to have it count in high school!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Girls in Computer Science

Great set of stats on the bottom of the Girls Who Code webpage - since I like to have the stats in one place, here they are:
  • 0.3% of middle school girls express interest in computer science while 74% express interest in STEM (biology is the big draw lately - but even biology majors will have to know basic coding in the future)
  • 100% of the Girls Who Code participants are "definitely or more likely" to major in computer science
  • 12% of computer science graduates are women today - vs 37% in 1984 - and women earn 57% of all bachelor's degrees
  • 17% of AP Computer Science test takers are girls even though girls represent 55% of all AP test takers
  • 25% of jobs in the computing field are held by women even though they make up half the workforce
  • 29% of the estimated 1.4 million new computer specialist job openings can be produced by universities if nothing changes by 2020 -- the largest opportunity is to get more women into the field
Reshma Saujani is the founder and she is going to make a difference through summer immersion programs and after school clubs focused on providing the content and inspiration for girls to get excited about careers in computer science! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Value of the Field Trip

Finally got around to reading Jay Greene's study on the value of the museum field trip after we took our own trip to the Perot Museum and saw the incredible number of school buses there. I will admit to being a little out of touch on the issue but reading the following on why teachers take kids on field trips really made me think -

"This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”"

You can see this first hand around Dallas as students take field trips to the Cowboys stadium with little or no educational value at all.

Turns out there is not much data on museums and student performance so Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen conducted one in Arkansas. The City Bridges Museum of Art had just opened in Arkansas and had way more students who wanted to attend then they could fit. So Jay and his team quickly figured out that they could randomly assign the treatment (going to the museum) to different classes and measure results. The study is covered in Education Next article - "The Educational Value of Field Trips"

Very cool results on data gathered three weeks after the visit to the museum - 
  • High content retention - between 70-88% recall of some of the key facts of paintings seen on the trip
  • Critical thinking measured by comparing essays of students who went to the museum and those who didn't  - "we find that students assigned by lottery to a tour of the museum improve their ability to think critically about art by 9 percent of a standard deviation relative to the control group. The benefit for disadvantaged groups is considerably larger (see Figure 1). Rural students, who live in towns with fewer than 10,000 people, experience an increase in critical-thinking skills of nearly one-third of a standard deviation. Students from high-poverty schools (those where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches) experience an 18 percent effect-size improvement in critical thinking about art, as do minority students. Students who went on a tour became more observant, noticing and describing more details in an image."
  • Interest in Museums- "Interest in visiting art museums among students who toured the museum is 8 percent of a standard deviation higher than that in the randomized control group. Among rural students, the increase is much larger: 22 percent of a standard deviation. Students at high-poverty schools score 11 percent of a standard deviation higher on the cultural consumer scale if they were randomly assigned to tour the museum. And minority students gain 10 percent of a standard deviation in their desire to be art consumers."
  • Disadvantaged Students - "Students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students, typically show gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample. Disadvantaged students assigned by lottery to receive a school tour of an art museum make exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and becoming art consumers."
Love the study and love the conclusion. it goes back to their first statement that the field trip must be an enrichment exercise and not just a reward. With strong content and an organized plan, teachers can use the trip as a to ensure deeper knowledge in their students of content and skills they need to succeed. 

Museums rock! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eureka Math!

The great part of helping improve education performance is that I get to look at many more of the best education products on the market. Last night I had the pleasure of reviewing Eureka Math! from the team at Common Core.

Really impressive content with both teacher and student materials from an incredible non-profit and I love the tag line - "consider the source" - so very true when it comes to common core materials.

They put out some amazing free common core content for teachers so they can see quality first-hand.

From the website -
"The goal of Eureka Math is to produce students who are not merely literate, but fluent, in mathematics.

As extensive as these resources are, Eureka Math is not meant to be prescriptive. Rather, it is offered as a basis for teachers to hone their own craft. Common Core believes deeply in the ability of teachers and in their central, irreplaceable role in shaping the classroom experience. To support and facilitate that important work, Eureka Math includes:
  • Scaffolding Hints—helping teachers support Response to Intervention (RTI).
  • Embedded Video—demonstrating classroom practices.
  • Consistent Lesson Structure—allowing teachers to focus energy on engaging students in the mathematical story.
  • Convenient Interactivity—progressions-based search functionality to permit navigation between standards and related lessons, linking all lessons in a particular standards strand or mathematical progression, and learning trajectory. This functionality also helps teachers identify and remediate gaps in prerequisite knowledge, implement RTI tiers, and provide support for students at a variety of levels.
Take a look - this is really great stuff. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hour of Code - Coming Soon!

Time to get ready people! A full class set up of laptops!!  Very cool stuff here and, students get to see coding up close and personal! 

To celebrate Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-15), and dozens of supporting partners are organizing the largest initiative of its kind: a campaign to get 10 million students of all ages to try computer science for one hour. I’m writing to ask your help.


It’s a one-hour intro to CS -- on a browser, smartphone, or unplugged. We expect teachers from all disciplines to host it in classrooms, and we’ll provide tutorials that require no prior experience. We’ll announce an amazing list of partners over the coming weeks, but we need your help.


Most students are intimidated by CS; this campaign is a chance to inspire them to try. Please recruit your principal and other teachers to get involved. Share this brochure, or this homemade how-to video. Or get creative and define your own “Hour of Code” activities. More info


Every educator who hosts an Hour of Code will get a gift of 10GB of free DropBox storage. And I will personally donate a full class-set of laptops to one school in every state that hosts an Hour of Code for all its grades. Just register your school’s participation by Nov. 1 to qualify.
Please, start planning now and help make a difference.
Thanks for your support,
Hadi Partovi

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Competency Based Education

Great "Disruptive Look at Competency Based Education" by Louis Sares at the Center for American Progress providing a primer on what competency based education is and how it is working.

"Competency-based education is an outcomes-based approach to education where the emphasis is on what comes out of postsecondary education—what graduates know and can do—rather than what goes into the curriculum. With a competency-based approach, you do not begin preparing a course syllabus by identifying content and readings. Instead, you begin by identifying competencies and then select the content, readings, and assignments to support student attainment of those competencies.

With a competency-based approach, students advance when they have demonstrated mastery of a competency, which is defined as “a combination of skills, abilities and knowledge needed to perform a task in a specific context.” Mastery is the sole determinant of progress, which means that delivery options multiply and expand since any instructional method or instructional provider that can move a student toward mastery is theoretically acceptable.

In competency-based education, assessment is embedded in every step of the learning process in order to provide students with guidance and support toward mastery. This heightened level of assessment is designed to build competencies in real time."

Western Governors was one of the first to successfully explore this and now you have Mozilla open badges and Straighterline working to take this to scale. 

It does have huge potential but only if the consumer of credentials (those that hire people with special skills) decide they value the competency more than the piece of paper.  That day is already pretty much here for IT, health care and some manufacturing jobs.  Only a matter of time for the rest? 

goIT Program Expansion

The beauty of working with more than one Education organization through AcceleratingED is that I can spend more time looking out in the edu-world and seeing what is working to ensure more students have access to the knowledge economy.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Tata Consultancy team at a computer science convening last month and they are moving fast into a total of 10 locations in the US. They know that there are far more jobs than people who are trained in computer science so they are working to ensure more students are computer science literate and proficient. They are not content to stand on the sidelines and hope schools start pushing CS (see for the stats).

They have created a program called goIT to help students understand the profession and gain the skills necessary to go into computer science.

From their website on the latest goIT expansion -

"The TCS goIT program is a STEM education initiative that is offered to students free of charge. The program delivers hands-on technology education to students and provides in-school IT career and awareness workshops. Led by TCS employees, the program offers students the opportunity to engage with advanced technology in an enjoyable, relaxed environment. The culmination of the program, held on August 9th, is a robotics competition in which student teams compete, under the guidance of TCS mentors, to overcome a series of challenges and obstacles using programming skills and technologies. This year, challenges included a robotic chariot race and castle storming.

“We are very excited to host our second goIT summer camp in the Midland, Michigan, area,” said Surya Kant, president, North America, UK and Europe, TCS. “As an IT services company, we understand the critical importance of inspiring students to pursue a career in STEM and we have invested in our mission to address the growing skills gap in technology fields by reaching out to the youth in our community. Through programs such as goIT, we have the potential to inspire students to pursue a career that they never thought possible.”

Research shows that STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, with 71 percent of STEM jobs focused on computing including cloud, data, app and security. This contrasts sharply with the mere 17 percent of high school graduates who are proficient and interested in pursuing STEM careers. The goIT program, which began in Cincinnati five years ago, is designed to address and correct this gap. In addition to the previous goIT camps in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, and Midland, MI, this year, TCS is expanding the camp to reach students in Bentonville, AR; Edison, NJ; Minneapolis, MN; San Antonio, TX; Santa Clara, CA; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; and Toronto, Canada. With these additions, goIT will be a nationwide program covering 10 US locations as well as the greater Toronto region in Canada."

It is that kind of corporate involvement that does make a difference for students!