To help state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) use social media platforms more effectively, the Reform Support Network of the U.S. Department of Education has begun offering Social Media Tip Sheets. The first, focusing on Innovative Engagement, came out in June. The tip sheet described four key innovations, giving examples of each.

  1. Utilizing the Voice of Chiefs. Since taking over four years ago, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has amassed more than 9,000 followers on Twitter. She tweets, on average, at least six or seven times per day as part of her social media outreach strategy.
  2. Trying New Platforms. Georgia, among other states, is experimenting with posting materials for teachers on Pinterest. The Georgia Department of Education’s Pinterest page features 24 boards with different topic areas.
  3. Engaging Directly with Non-Traditional Media. Ohio has engaged with and monitored bloggers who write about education in the state.
  4. Keeping It Social—and Fun. Several states are working to find ways to be compelling and even humorous (but still informative) on social media, realizing that social media attracts the most interest when it is compelling.

To learn more, read the full tip sheet.

The tip sheets built on findings from a Reform Support Network survey that found 80% of SEAs and LEAs said they use or plan to use the three dominant social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube—and 79% said they thought their efforts on social media were succeeding. Key findings from that survey, titled “Measurable Success, Growing Adoption, Vast Potential: Social Media Use Among State and Local Education Agencies,” include the following:

  • While adoption of the leading social media platforms is strong, skepticism remains about additional or unproven platforms.
  • LEAs use social media more expansively than SEAs.
  • About half of agencies have formal policies in place for social media usage, and an equal number use metrics to track success.
  • Parents, local educators, and the media were key audiences for LEAs and SEAs using social media.
  • Staffing, concerns about negative postings by the public or critics, and lack of training and resources are key challenges for social media implementation.

For further information, read the survey report.


Posted in Educational Technology, Social Networking | Leave a comment

The model standards used to guide, prepare, and evaluate school leaders—including principals, their supervisors, and superintendents—are expected to be revised and released this fall, according to a recent article in Education Week. First, a revised version of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards will be released, followed by revised National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) standards. The purpose of the revisions is to reflect how leadership jobs have changed over the past decade and to clarify roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

The effort to refresh the standards is being led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA). “The demands on school leaders have never been greater,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO, in a news release describing the project. “To meet these new challenges, talented principals are essential. We are refreshing the standards to help ensure school leaders have the knowledge and skills to improve teaching and student achievement. The standards foster a common understanding of what education leaders’ jobs entail.”

To learn more, read the CCSSO press release and the Education Week article.

Posted in School Management | Leave a comment

Recent data released by the Afterschool Alliance show that a third of families with school-age children had enrolled at least one child in a summer program in 2013. That represents an increase from 2009, when only a quarter of families had enrolled their children in summer programs.

“In many communities, after-school programs morph into summer learning programs at the end of the school year,” said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. Such programs can help combat summer learning loss, which typically has the greatest effect on low-income children. Here are a few key findings from the Afterschool Alliance survey, which was conducted in spring 2014 by Shugoll Research:

  • Thirteen percent of the families surveyed said their children were enrolled in a free summer learning program in 2013.
  • For parents who paid for summer learning programs in 2013, the average weekly per-child cost was $250.
  • Nearly seven out of eight parents (86%) favored public funding for summer learning programs.
  • More than half of parents surveyed in spring 2014 (51%) said they wanted their children to participate in a summer learning program this summer.

To learn more, read this EdSource article or this Afterschool Alliance press release. Further details are available in this Afterschool Alliance survey summary. These data represent a preview of the forthcoming America After 3PM, 2014 report, which is set to be released this October by the Afterschool Alliance.

Note: A recent PreK-12 Learning Group blog post described a National Public Radio article questioning the value of summer school programs. The NPR article noted that there is little data available about the effectiveness of programs.

Posted in Parents, Students | Leave a comment

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a grant of more than $2 million to WestEd to conduct a large-scale efficacy study of Khan Academy’s math resources. According to the grant description, “This project will test the impact of Khan Academy resources on student outcomes in developmental math when the resources are integrated into normal classroom activities.”

WestEd will conduct research in California community colleges beginning in 2015 to compare educational outcomes for students using Khan Academy resources as opposed to students using “business-as-usual” materials. Specifically, the study will measure students’ course completion rates, their pass/fail rates, and their performance on an elementary algebra diagnostic assessment. The nonprofit Khan Academy produces a wide range of free instructional resources, including videos. In community colleges, the videos are often part of a “blended classroom” that combines traditional, in-person instruction with online resources.

To learn more about the Khan Academy evaluation, read this Education Week article or access the grant description on this Institute of Education Sciences webpage

Posted in Educational Technology, Mathematics, Research | Leave a comment

How productively are U.S. school districts using their resources? A new report from the Center for American Progress, titled Return on Educational Investment: 2014, attempts to answer that question by using a set of relatively simple productivity metrics in order to measure the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such as the cost of living and the percentage of students living in poverty.

The report cited a number of concerns, including these facts: low educational productivity remains a deeply pressing problem, state approaches to improving fiscal effectiveness vary widely, and in some districts spending priorities are misplaced. The report also set forth several recommendations for improvement:

  • States should build capacity for greater productivity gains through benchmarking, targeted grants, and assistance teams.
  • Education leaders should improve accounting procedures and create a multistate initiative that will focus on building more robust education budgets.
  • Educators should also improve the quality of fiscal data across states, and the Common Core State Standards initiative provides an example of how states can work together to create a stronger, more innovative education system.
  • States and districts should encourage smarter, fairer approaches to school funding, such as student-based funding policies.

“The bottom line,” says report author Ulrich Boser, “is that we believe policymakers and educators need to focus on what works in education and scale up those practices. This means focusing on effectiveness and on equity. We need, in other words, to look at both who gets education dollars and what they do with those dollars.”

Click here to learn more and to access the executive summary or full report.

Posted in Education Policy, Funding, Reports, Research | Leave a comment