ED Announces New Open Data Platform

The Open Data Platform (ODP) at data.ed.gov brings together the Department’s valuable data assets in one place, along with metadata and other documentation describing them, making it easier for educators, researchers, and the public to find exactly what they are looking for. It also introduces users to data that they may not have known the Department produces. A post on the Homeroom blog describes how the Department is bringing transparency to our public data.

The site’s functionality allows users to search by broad categories, like “graduation rates” or “teachers,” as well as to target searches. Moreover, the inventory will continue to grow as the Department publishes new data and further catalogues older data. ODP is managed by the Department’s Office of the Chief Data Officer. Users can review the site and provide feedback on its features and functionality, suggest additional data sets of interest and use to the research community and the public, and offer other ways to improve the site at ODP@ed.gov.

4 K-12 professional development trends to watch in 2021

Integrating technology into the classroom has been the overwhelming focus of teacher professional development in recent years. EAB K-12 Strategic Research Director Ben Court estimates nearly 70% of professional learning programs have centered around that topic, compared to 30% on instruction methods. The coronavirus has required teachers, like their students, to shift how they receive training and support. Even when schools can return to “normal,” these forced changes are resulting in long-term benefits. These are four PD trends to watch in 2021 and beyond.  

Attention to K-12 cybersecurity grows in nearly 100 bills introduced in 2020

A new report from the Consortium for School Networking analyzes trends in K-12 provisions in the close to 100 cybersecurity bills introduced in 27 states in 2020. Of the cybersecurity proposals, 10 pieces of legislation were passed into law in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Virginia. Those addressing risks in K-12 in particular focused on cybersecurity instruction for students, technical assistance to schools, and investments for improvement in technology and professional development.

Toward racial equity in public schooling: Less talk, more action

“For the many leaders who’ve explicitly embraced the goal of making public schooling more equitable, the challenge now is to put their beliefs into action,” write The Leadership Academy CEO Nancy Gutierrez and Nellie Mae Vice President Gislaine Ngounou in their latest Kappan article, “Toward racial equity in public schooling: Less talk, more action.” Gutierrez and Ngounou outline the principles they have found are essential for leaders to put into practice what they’ve learned in professional learning on race and equity, their ABCD’s of taking action: Awareness, Bravery, Community voice, and shared Decision making.  

Eliminating microaggressions key to creating a more equitable school culture

Creating a more equitable school culture that embraces anti-racism requires identifying and eliminating microaggressions aimed at people of color, administrator and consultant Jessica Huang writes for Edutopia. Microaggressions are defined as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to individuals because of their group membership,” in some cases where the people making the comments are otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of their impact. To build a culture that eliminates racism, school leaders should explicitly lay out expectations and values and clearly define microaggressions, Huang writes, adding that school leaders can then implement a shared vision and language emphasizing the school’s anti-racism position.

Harnessing Micro-credentials for Teacher Growth

New America analyzed the national landscape of educator micro-credentials (MCs) to determine how to best harness their potential to more successfully attract, develop, and retain great teachers. We find MCs to be a promising alternative to more traditional (and largely ineffective), compliance-focused teacher professional development, as well as an effective vehicle for defining and determining eligibility for some teacher roles. Whether MCs will fulfill their promise will depend largely on the ability of education leaders to set an appropriately and consistently rigorous bar for quality in MC offerings, as well as to ensure sufficient and appropriate implementation processes and supports outside of the MC offerings themselves. To aid in these efforts, we summarize early best practices for ensuring quality MC offerings as well as lessons learned about the necessary conditions for teachers to succeed with MCs. As an added resource, New America has built a companion State Policy Guide with recommendations for policymakers looking to integrate MCs into their educator professional development, license renewal, and advancement systems.

A year into COVID-19, school leaders are still adapting as uncertainty persists

Nearly a year out from when the coronavirus pandemic initially disrupted K-12, school leaders are still grappling with daily decisions centered around how to best educate students — and how to do so safely. In a year like no other, there is no playbook, no historical references and no hard data on best practices. To assess the state of the situation, the National Association of Elementary School Principals surveyed principals in March, July and December to ask about coronavirus safety protocols, attendance issues, learning loss and more.

Report: 12M US students remain disconnected in digital divide

Though efforts to close the digital divide during the pandemic reduced the number of K-12 students without broadband service by 20% to 40%, as many as 12 million students remain disconnected, according to a report by Common Sense, Boston Consulting Group and the Southern Education Foundation. However, the efforts to close the gap did reduce the number of students without access to e-learning devices by 40% to 60%. The key findings of the study show: closing the digital divide is an equity issue, long-term solutions must address the needs of 15 to 16 million students who were impacted by the divide when the pandemic began, and the measures to fix the problem have so far been temporary with more than 75% set to expire in the next one to two years.

13,000 School Districts, 13,000 Approaches to Teaching During Covid

With little guidance from the federal government, the nation’s 13,000 districts have largely come up with their own standards for when it is safe to open schools and what virus mitigation measures to use. Those decisions have often been based as much on politics as on public health data.

Education in a Pandemic

Advance Illinois released a report, Education in a Pandemic: Learning from Illinois Students & Caregivers to Plan for the Road Ahead. The report encapsulates what Illinois’s school communities—including students, parents, and caregivers—are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic and what they will require in the long term to recover and rebuild. A recording of the webinar covering the report and featuring a panel discussion with Illinois PTA Immediate Past President Brian Minsker and East St. Louis superintendent Dr. Arthur Culver is also available.

Illinois lawmakers passed education, economic equity bills. What will they do?

A bill aimed at improving racial equity throughout the state’s K-12 and higher education system passed both houses of the General Assembly last week, while another bill addressing economic inequities also received approval. Both bills were part of an agenda being pushed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Debates in both chambers were heated, with Black Caucus members arguing that their issues could no longer be ignored and Republicans arguing that despite the Black Caucus’ good intentions, the bills had been put together hastily and were seriously flawed.

Demands, Hopes, Expectations: Illinois Leaders on Biden Agenda

Now that President Joe Biden is officially in the Oval Office, it’s time to get down to work. Interest groups — made of supporters and critics alike — have a lot of expectations for the country’s 46th president.