CRAWL BEFORE YOU WALK: New America has released a report, “From Walking to Crawling: Ranking States on Birth to 3rd Grade Policies That Build Strong Readers.” Citing the need to alleviate reading disparities between high- and low-income children as young as 18 months, the report evaluates states on their policies that help students advance to a fourth grade reading level. New America used seven policy areas such as the specific “Full-Day Kindergarten: Access and Quality” and the broad “Educators: Teachers and Leaders” to rank states as “Walking, Toddling or Crawling.” Only five states reached “Walking” status—all five had state-funded pre-K and a third grade reading law—and 35 states were stuck in “Toddling” limbo. The report does clarify, though, that even the highest-scoring state, New York, would still earn a “C” in letter-grade terms.
TURN TAIL: Dr. Mitchell Chester has been of the most vocal supporters of the Common Core Standards since 2009. Last week, his recommendation swayed the Massachusetts State Board of Education to ditch the PARCC test, a keystone of the standards, in favor of one of Massachusetts' own design. Why?
His state wants the flexibility of a single-state test and the ability to compare the results with other states, but it doesn't want the federal PARCC assessments, the New York Times reports. Massachusetts will devise its own test over the next year.
Massachusetts has long been a leader in educational reform and adopted statewide standards twenty years before the Common Core. As more states and Washington, DC debate the use of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests, Massachusetts' departure is seen as a turning point in states' acceptance of the assessments. A proposed ballot initiative in the state would eliminate the Common Core altogether.
Support for the Common Core is weakening, with only five of an original 26 committed to the PARCC tests and 15 of 31 still on board for the Smarter Balanced tests.
BADGERING: “Mozilla Is Doing a Hack Job on Open Badges,” charges Kerri Lemoie, a co-founder at Achievery and active contributor to the Open Badges project. For one, “there is no Open Badges Team at Mozilla.” Despite all the well-intentioned buzz around badges over the years, she writes, a current lack of leadership and support for continued development of a common technology infrastructure has left a loyal community feeling a bit shafted.
In his response post, Doug Belshaw, who formerly worked on Mozilla’s digital badging team, shares that “All was not what it seemed in badge land. Politics and personalities threatened to shipwreck the nascent badges community.” Still, he remains optimistic about its future. Citing the Gartner Hype Cycle, Belshaw says the Open Badges project has passed the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and is on the way to the “Trough of Disillusionment”—two painful, but necessary steps for any new technology. He expects “full adoption to happen around 2021.” We shall see.
STILL JUST A MIRAGE: With a market projected to balloon to $13.2 billion in 2019, and plenty of grant opportunities from the likes of the US Department of Education, “it seems like it’s never been a better time to be an educational game developer,” writes former game designer Sande Chen. Yet many hurdles old and new remain. The former indie game developer revisits many of the questions around school budget, standards alignment, data, and the struggle for developers to make their games stand out from the flood of free drivel on the Internet.
But despite the uptick in vocal support among teacher and more sources of funding, the industry has “never really recovered from the public perception shaped by a rash of poorly designed and deeply discounted edutainment products,” she concludes. “Consumers continually devalue educational games, expecting them to be free or low cost, with little understanding of quality differences.”
INDEXING GLOBAL EDUCATION: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a 568-page report, "Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators," which aims to assess the state of education in the 34 countries belonging to the organization.
Among many other topics, the report touched on education technology in describing students' access to and proficiency with the Internet. (Stats around technology usage and training start in Section D8.) The OECD found that 40 percent of respondents had first accessed the Internet between ages 7 and 9, and almost all respondents had done so by the age of 15. Troublingly, the OECD found that demand for Internet access and instructional computers rose between 2009 and 2012, but the average student-to-computer ratio remained between 4:1 and 5:1 across all countries.
The OECD has planned a public briefing to unpack the report's findings at 11 am ET November 24.
EARLY CHILDHOOD LITERACY: As students begin to learn math and Chinese, they're also starting Scratch, BloombergBusiness reports. Preschool coding classes are on the rise in China.
Banking on predictions that programming will be a common denominator among the majority of future jobs, Chinese parents and private education providers have started coding classes for children as young as six. Coding is not yet part of China's official curriculum, so private education providers host the majority of preschool coding classes. They believe it is essential for being competitive in a global technology economy. The emphasis among educators and parents, Bloomberg reports, is on games and their creation as an entry point into coding. China trails the US and Europe in integrating coding into the classroom.
"Coding is like a third language that this generation should master after English and Mandarin," said coding instructor Michelle Sun in a video for Bloomberg. Sun said she has taught 2,500 preschoolers to date.
And something that all of them may want: the Official Scratch Jr. Book, by Marina Umaschi Bers and (Scratch founder) Mitchel Resnick. Just out this month!