Article

When Less Is More: Designing for Education’s Data Overload

By: Hisham Anwar
Original Post from EdSurge

A Toronto-based hospital had a problem. Training scenarios in the emergency room had gone poorly because doctors and nurses talked over each other and gave conflicting directions. Treatments were botched. Patient outcomes suffered.

As sometimes happens within large organizations, the instinct of administrators was to engineer a solution from the top down. But, as it turned out, interviews with ER nurses led them to a faster and less costly solution. They learned that despite their best efforts, there was confusion on the ER floor. Lack of clarity about roles had given rise to conflicting directions and lost time. Armed with this insight, team leaders were simply assigned bright orange vests to indicate that they were in charge.

The problem-solving process deployed by the hospital is referred to as design thinking, a process rooted in empathy that starts with listening. In a way that often feels intuitive to educators, design thinking emphasizes the importance of asking questions and understanding the needs of users and their problems before implementing irrelevant solutions. But in an ironic twist, it is a process that often eludes educators when it comes to informing decisions.

The challenge stems, in part, from what is fast becoming data overload for school and district leaders, who struggle to make sense of data that is siloed, messy, and hard to find.

In recent years, districts have spent millions on the integration of disparate data systems. Interventions and assessments have moved to the cloud. Student information systems track and report on a multiplicity of variables. Most districts can now find granular data on a wide range of metrics from school nutrition to student behavioral patterns and beyond—yet the data overload dilutes actionable insights. So, while districts are often awash in data, they are starved for wisdom.

The blame lies, in part, at the feet of education entrepreneurs, whose instincts led them to serve up volumes of data in search of simple solutions to challenges that eluded educators for years. Rather than ask questions or define problems that schools are actually trying to solve, we have expected our users (e.g., teachers and district leaders with little time to spare) to somehow derive meaning from thousands of data points in a way that relates to their day-to-day challenges and opportunities.

It’s as though we expect the mere presence of data to present solutions. When answers fail to materialize, we start off in search of more or better data, rather than clearly defining the question being asked. And in our obsession to get data systems to “talk to each other,” we’ve lost sight of what we’d actually like them to say.

This is a problem mired in the vestiges of an No Child Left Behind-era accountability paradigm that fixated on the results of high-stakes tests, more so than instructional practice; outcomes, rather than early indicators that might suggest eventual results.

But a growing number of school districts are beginning to flip the script. It’s an approach enabled by the introduction of school quality and success indicators under the Every Student Succeeds Act that have more instructional relevance than NCLB-era mandates and mantras. District and school leaders now balance proficiency scores with other metrics such as chronic absenteeism rates or success indicators (like enrollment in advanced or remedial course offerings) that invite a richer reflection upon the components of a holistic education.

They’re starting not with the provisioning of data, but with defining the questions they are trying to answer. In the process, they’re learning that unlocking the potential of data-driven decisions requires not necessarily more data points, but rather a way to present relevant data to different roles in ways that are accessible and communicable.

In Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee, school leaders are working to ensure that 80 percent of seniors are ready for college or a career by 2025. This requires that the district work to answer essential questions on teachers’ minds: “What are the unique challenges each student in our district experiences, and how can we objectively detect even the most subtle signs of risk before a student becomes disengaged?”

Using a design-thinking approach, Shelby County’s leaders put into place and mobilized a system directly mapped to answering these questions. Through targeted, real-time data on student performance that is easy for end-users to understand, teachers, principals, and administrators in the district are now better able to identify and intervene with necessary supports early and often.

Making sense of data isn’t easy. But districts like Shelby County are leading the way through design thinking by asking the right questions and defining just what problems they are facing. By letting data inform the answers within those parameters, they are designing impactful solutions that can better serve their students.

School District Issuing Surveys to Complete Picture about Home, Classroom Technology Use

By: Brad Fuqua
Original Post from Philomath Express

The Philomath School District plans to issue surveys to teachers, students and parents from Oct. 10-24 to try to create a complete picture of technology use for learning both in the classroom and at home.

Rob Singleton, the district’s director of instructional technology, said the surveys will be for teachers, students and parents in grades 3-12. The school district will analyze the results to provide targeted services, programs and professional development based on identified needs.

“We need to be able to prepare our students with 21st-century skills that can prepare them for college, training or work because that’s what the future is,” Singleton said. “We need to be able to be more strategic about how we go about that. By that, I mean we need to know where our strengths are and where the gaps are in both our teachers’ understanding and our students’ understanding of where their skills are — not just want they think they know but what they really need to know to be proficient and savvy and safe with all of these tools that we can provide and we use and what they might use.”

The district is conducting the surveys through BrightBytes Technology and Learning, a company that specializes in gathering targeted information through the use of what it identifies as its CASE framework. CASE is an acronym for four areas of evaluation — classroom, access, skills and environment.

Singleton estimated that the survey will take parents five to seven minutes to complete.

“We’re trying to get an idea of what kind of access they have to the internet,” he said. “We think that we might know that all of our kids carry around this little mini computer (cellphone) but that may not be the case and we might be sending digital homework and expecting all of our students to be able to do it through online access or even interfacing with their teacher online … Some of them may not be able to do so; we really don’t have a sense, we haven’t measured that in the community.”

The parent component of the three-pronged survey will serve an important purpose.

“We really want our parents to be part of the solution that we’re trying to come up with and be able to give us feedback about internet usage, access to a device, all of the things that they might need to have access to be successful,” Singleton said.

The teaching component is a big part of the information-gathering effort as Singleton and instructional support staff Jennifer Kessel learn about what they need to focus on to help support educators.

“It’s not like we’re putting a computer down and walking way — not that they did that before, but Jennifer and I throughout this year are going to be meeting with teachers about what are your goals for this lesson and what kind of support can we provide you in the classroom as you try a new technology tool for your kids that might enhance the learning that goes on?” Singleton said. “It doesn’t replace good teaching and the lessons and all of that, but it can add more differentiation so some students will be working at different paces with different content and we want to be in the classroom and supporting those teachers as they’re trying new things with technology.”

Singleton said the surveys all tie into three pillars that the district is focused on — RTI (Response to Intervention), AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) and social-emotional learning.

Interoperability Challenge Solved: How Lawrence Public Schools Improved LMS Adoption by 48%

Original Post from Tech & Learning

Many different school districts have the same data challenge. They have data, but it can’t be shared across systems. Educators are often dissatisfied with data management as it requires data to be input multiple times across both the SIS and LMS. For busy teachers this is inefficient and time consuming.

Lawrence (KS) Public Schools had this exact situation. Faculty and staff were frustrated by the inaccessibility and usability of the data to impact student learning. Initially, district leaders turned to their technology team to build an inhouse data integration platform that could connect their LMS to their SIS. After a year of effort, the task force wasn’t able to arrive at a solution.

Their LMS provider recommended the DataSense solution from BrightBytes and within days, the SIS and the gradebook were connected. Integration was seamless and data immediately started moving and updating in real time.

When teachers discovered that they only had to enter data once, LMS usage across the district increased by 48%. DataSense was able to track student movement in classrooms through nightly updates, making changes available to teachers each morning. As adoption rates improved, the district’s culture improved as well. Educators were happy to focus on teaching rather than manual data entry.

Dr. Terry McEwen, director of assessment, research, and accountability for Lawrence Public Schools, said that DataSense, solved multiple data management problems. “It’s more thatn a full-time job to complete the work that DataSense does,” he said. “So, it’s both a time-saver and a money-saver for us.”

In fact, DataSense has been so successful in changing data practices that district leaders have audited other data programs to identify additional areas where DataSense could improve efficiency and provide insights for instruction and student learning.

As they look to the future, district leaders hope to add additional systems onto the DataSense platform so they can decrease human interactions with data and minimize the potential for human error.

Watch this video to see the power of data interoperability in Lawrence (KS) Public Schools or read the case study here.

New Software Aims to Track Struggling SCS Students, Identify What Helps

By: Jennifer Pignolet
Original Post from The Memphis Commercial Appeal

As an assistant principal, Velvet Jeter knows the students who are struggling the most at Brownsville Road Elementary. 

The ones who are at a moderate risk of falling behind or developing disruptive behavioral issues, however, sometimes go unnoticed until there are major problems requiring time-consuming and expensive interventions.

A new software system Shelby County Schools is deploying throughout the district this fall aims to identify those students, and for all students receiving an intervention, identify what does and does not help them. 

Often, Jeter said, "we feel like we're giving them the right prescription, but we're not."

"I think it helps you know exactly what is in your building," she said. 

The SCS board approved a contract for nearly $2 million this spring with an education technology company called BrightBytes to implement the new data system for the next three school years. 

School leaders spent this week learning to use the software to identify children who may be at risk for dropping out of school or experiencing other academic delays. 

Chris Graves, the district's senior manager for decision analytics and information management, said the software combines data that teachers already report across the district and pulls it into one place, accessible to the leader of any school. 

In a high-poverty district like SCS, where students frequently change schools, the program allows a teacher to quickly learn about a new student, Graves said.

And instead of just seeing report cards and discipline records, the system rolls together additional data like how often that student was absent or tardy and how they performed on state tests to determine if they are at a low or high risk for falling behind. 

The program uses historical data from across SCS to compare current students' progress with those who have graduated and were considered ready for college.

Too often, Graves said, data across large school districts and even in school buildings is reviewed in silos, and the "whole child" is not considered. 

The system also tracks what interventions have been tried with each student. A child who has failing grades, for example, may struggle most in early classes because of issues with transportation.

The new system would identify that issue and explain what has been done in the past to try to mitigate the problem. 

The question the system ultimately tries to answer, he said, is "What is the support they need to be on track for graduation, to be ready for college?" 

The district has ambitious goals through Destination 2025 to have 80 percent of seniors ready for college or a career, a 90 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent of students who are ready for college or a career enrolled in a post-secondary opportunity. 

The new data system, Graves said, will help the district understand what works and does not work to reach those goals, and can identify common problems or issues that many students face.

For Craigmont High Principal Tisha Durrah, the program is a chance to be proactive about interventions, whether a student needs tutoring, behavioral coaching, emotional support, or weekly reminders about the importance of arriving to school on time. 

On Wednesday, during a training session at Bolton High, she was able to look up the students who will be walking into her building in three weeks. She was already planning how to address her students' needs.

"We can start looking at having parent meetings on the front end," Durrah said.

Second Year of School Financial Information Available on Website

By: Callie Jones, Journal-Advocate News Editor
Original Post from The Journal-Advocate News

Spending of schools and districts featured on easy-to-understand financial transparency web portal

A second full year of financial information is now available on the Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools Website that presents school and district financial information in an easy-to-understand format.

The web portal was launched last year populated with financial data from the 2015-16 school year, the latest available. Now, information has been added from the 2016-17 school year.

Data for RE-1 Valley School District shows the district spent $9,082 per student in 2016-17, slightly below the state average of $10,196 and down from $9,396 in 2015-16. Total spending was $32,475,822, while total funding was at $31,436,583.

Buffalo RE-4J (Merino) School District spent $11,543 per student in 2016-17, its total spending for the year was $3,684,531 and total funding was $3,846,183; Frenchman RE-3 (Fleming) spent $13,130 per student, its total spending was $2,709,095 and total funding was $2,794,981; and Plateau RE-5 (Peetz), spent $18,319 per student, its total spending was $3,117,260 and its total funding was $3,072,908.

The website, https://coloradok12financialtransparency.com, was created in response to legislation that required the state to present financial information for every school district, BOCES and most schools in Colorado. Lawmakers sought a way to provide the public with a deeper understanding of how education dollars are spent in schools, districts and BOCES.

In 2010, House Bill 1036 required districts to post financial information online, including budgets, financial audits, check registers and credit card statements. In 2014, the legislature enhanced that legislation with House Bill 1292 that required each district and BOCES to post financial data so it can be displayed in an easy-to-understand way.

The Colorado Department of Education partnered with BrightBytes®, a San Francisco education analytics firm, to build the website.

In 2017, every district and BOCES in Colorado provided their own data to populate the site. Districts identified as small/rural with fewer than 1,000 students and that had no charter schools were required to post district-level financial information only.

The data is presented in two domains, spending and funding:

• The spending domains show investments classified by three key categories: learning, operations and construction - making it easy to understand how dollars are being allocated.

• The funding domains enable visitors to see funding by local, state and federal sources.

Visitors to the site can compare information at the school-, district- or BOCES-level through a side-by-side view of up to four schools or education organizations at a time. Since its launch on June 30, 2017, the website has garnered 93,818 page visits from a total of 11,656 visitors.

Districts’ Increasingly Sophisticated Use of Data Powers Demand for Company Expertise

As K-12 Schools Look to 2018-19, Data Priorities for the Future Coming Into Focus

By: Michele MolnarAssociate Editor

Original Post from EdWeek Market Brief

School districts are experimenting with more sophisticated uses of data, but still struggling to connect the dots in ways that help pump up student achievement.

That opens the doors for companies that can help schools sort through the confusion. But they need to do so in ways that are effective and easy to understand for teachers,…

Learning Analytics: 9 Startups to Watch in 2018

By: Walter Couture
Original Post from Disruptor Daily

The field of education has progressed far beyond the class testing and grading on the curve of past traditions. With the advance of technology, the goal is now to better understand the individual, how he or she learns best, what context works best, what are her individual challenges and needs, and how will she do in the future.

It's all about personal measurement and analytics that lead, not only to academic performance improvement but also behavioral support, risk identification, intervention and counseling where appropriate.

The use of technology facilitates a personalized learning environment where individual analytics create a model of predictive success or failure. And that environment includes teachers, content, materials, and delivery methods.

It also includes schools, support staff, educational publishers, course designers and anyone else affecting the learning landscape. Analytics are being developed so educational organizations and educators can more effectively design and implement the courses, tools and engagement practices that optimize learning for each student.

Here are some of the learning analytics startups that are using technology to help improve student learning outcomes through advanced data collection and analysis.

Civitas Learning
Founded in 2011 by Charles Thornburgh and Mark Milliron, and based in Austin, Texas, Civitas Learning offers a cloud-based, predictive analytics platform that delivers insights to the frontlines of education.

The goal of Civitas Learning is to help college students graduate by analyzing course loads and by supplying innovative interventions like nudge emails and improved advisory techniques.

The company’s learning platform uses predictive modeling to identify students at risk. It focuses on student engagement, persistence and completion to improve college attendance, retention, and graduation rates.

BrightBytes
Founded in 2012 by Rob Mancabelli and Hisham Anwar, BrightBytes provides a SaaS-based data analytics platform to build a modern learning environment, focusing on four basic frameworks that measure the effects of technology in a school.

The company’s analytics model includes classroom evaluation of how teachers and students use technology for learning. It studies the availability of devices and Internet access throughout the school and at home. It measures the skill levels of teachers and students with multimedia. And it evaluates the school culture, professional development, and technology needs across the organization.

BrightBytes customers say it improves the development of multimedia professionals and creates a better learning environment for their students.

Acrobatiq
Backed by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and its research on cognitive and learning science, Acrobatiq is a learning optimization company that develops Open Learning Initiative courseware helping higher education students, faculty and organizations deliver measurable improvements in learning outcomes.

Insights developed from student learning data gives educators detailed information on which learners need help and what kind of help.

Learning analytics capture and model both behavioral data (i.e. page views, logins, etc.) and learning data from students’ performances to generate real-time predictive learning estimates for each student.

Discover the rest at The Daily Disruptor.

How Learning Analytics Can Make Your Teaching More Effective

Original Post from Go Pollock

As technology continues to evolve and become an integral part of our everyday lives, it’s only natural that we utilize the technology to improve education as well. One aspect of technology that promises to make this a reality is the use of analytics in the classroom to help refine the learning experience for students.

We recently completed edX’s course ‘Analytics for the Classroom Teacher’, which offered many insights into the intricacies of using technology and analyzing the data to fine-tune the teaching and learning experience. There are two main categories of analytics used for educational purposes. Teaching analytics analyzes the teaching design by looking at the your lesson plans and reflecting on how effective that is for the student learning experience. Learning analytics collects and measures student data and analyzes how the you can refine the learning experience to make it more effective for the student.

By utilizing learning analytics in particular, you are able to better understand the learning level and ability of each student and can then tailor the learning experience for each student. Essentially, this allows you to identify particular needs of each student and make quick, data-driven decisions about how to foster student learning in the most effective way.

Here, we focus on the three main frameworks within Learning Analytics. Each of these different frameworks collects student data in order to help you adapt your teaching style in a way that increases student engagement and understanding.

1. Descriptive Analytics -  This framework takes the student’s past and aims to analyze the student data to find patterns in the student’s learning progress. Simply put, descriptive analytics describe what has happened and the way things are, allowing you to make strategic decisions on the best teaching style for each student. For example, you can use Descriptive Analytics to find out how much your class knows about the lesson. After analyzing the data, you might find that implementing scaffolding strategies or differentiated learning processes into your lessons may be an effective way to reach more students. Some universities and districts have descriptive analytics tools built right into the teacher’s management system.

Quick Tip: Go Pollock is also a great tool to use for Descriptive Analytics. It allows you to export a PDF Insights Report for each Session your class completes in the app. Create a Session surrounding your lesson, motivate and engage your students, then export the Insights Report to see how you can make your lessons more effective.

2. Predictive Analytics -  As the name suggests, Predictive Analytics offer insights into future trends in your students’ understanding of the material. This framework uses the student’s past data and current data to determine what is likely to happen next. This is a great analytics framework to use to identify students who may soon be ‘low-performing’ or ‘low-engaging’. This can allow you to implement methods specifically meant to help those at-risk students get back on track and reach their full potential. For example, Sam, a middle school math teacher from Oregon, tells us:

“We use the Early Warning tool in our BrightBytes Clarity management system to help determine which students are at risk. It tracks the students throughout their academic career so we can see how they grow over the years. That way, if we see a student, or group of students, that are falling particularly far behind, we are able to intervene and correct the issue before it becomes a roadblock in the student’s learning path.”

3. Prescriptive Analytics - This framework not only provides teachers with data you can then use to make actionable decisions, but it provides alternative suggestions to make your teaching more effective. Based on the student data collected, the analytics tool generates suggestions on different educational resources and tools to utilize in order to make a greater impact with students. McGraw Hill created the LearnSmart Teaching Technology to provide schools and teachers with insights into student understanding and adaptive instructional techniques based on student performance.

While there are many ways to analyze student data, it’s important to make sure you’re taking the right steps to keep your students’ personal information safe. What’s even more important to remember is that the data itself is not what influences the student’s learning experience. It’s the receptiveness of the teacher and willingness to adapt their teaching style to better meet the needs of the students that makes the real difference. How do you use analytics to improve your students’ learning experience?

 

'It's Trending Up': OPRF Sees Jump in Classroom Technology Use Under 1:1 Initiative

By: Steve Schering, Contact Reporter
Original Post from Chicago Tribune

In the second full year of its 1:1 student technology initiative, Oak Park and River Forest High School says more than half of its teachers are now using devices in the classroom.

Under the 1:1 initiative, all OPRF students are provided with a school-owned Chromebook laptop to use in the classroom and to take home. The full 1:1 program began during the 2016-17 school year, though OPRF had launched smaller pilot rollouts in prior years.

During the Jan. 16 school board meeting, administrators revealed results of a Brightbytes survey, which used data collected in the fall of 2017. According to administrators, 841 out of 3,300 students and 216 of 268 OPRF teachers responded to the survey, with 77 percent of teachers reporting they feel confident in managing a classroom where students are using more technology.

"That is pretty significant, since we were only in our second year of the 1:1," instructional technology coordinator Earliana McLaurin said. "The top four responses of what teachers are doing are all things we want, productivity skills and completing assignments, viewing videos, doing research and typing."

McLaurin also said more than half of OPRF teachers are now using technology in the classroom on a daily basis.

"Not only are they using it, but they're using it more frequently," McLaurin said. "It's trending up."

With the numbers showing more teachers using the Chromebooks in the classrooms, administrators said they will now focus more on how that technology is used and how it can improve the skills students will need when they graduate.

"Now that we have more teachers utilizing technology in the classroom, we can focus on promoting technology that moves beyond those productivity tasks and to those 21st century skills we want our students to leave OPRF with," McLaurin said.

Chief information officer Mike Carioscio said administrators will also use Brightbytes data to set new goals and targets they hope to achieve in the coming years.

"We have been content, until this point, since we've been focused on the delivery of the 1:1," Carioscio said. "The real goal is for us to continue to improve. The main impact to the students is for teachers to really use that technology. If you're not using it on a regular basis, you're not having that kind of transformation."

Though technology use is increasing at OPRF, administrators said how and when that technology is used remains an ongoing discussion.

"One of the things we want to do is differentiate as much as possible," McLaurin said. "That means having conversations with each teacher about what their students need. If their students need to write with a pen and paper, then that's what we'll utilize. It's a collaboration between our team and the teachers, focused on them knowing their students and knowing what they want to accomplish."

Administrators said 539 parents participated in the survey, which is about 100 more than took the same survey last year.

"Eighty-four percent of parents felt confident they had some of the necessary skills to support a tech-enabled student," McLaurin said. "Only 41 percent of parents said they were aware of safety concerns, specifically. This rightfully is an area of concern we addressed this year, and will address moving forward."

According to BrightBytes data rankings, OPRF now rates as "advanced" in its use of classroom technology, just below its highest rating of "exemplary."

Hodgesville Meets Goals Last School Year

By: Amanda Hayes/Senior Staff Writer
Original Post from The Record Delta

BUCKHANNON — A local school recently gave their Local School Improvement Council and Faculty Senate reports to the Upshur County Board of Education.

Hodgeville Elementary met all of its goals for 2016-2017, according to principal Janet Phillips.

“We wanted our school to score a 45 or higher student growth percentile in math according to the STAR benchmark in second through fifth grade,” she said. “As a school, we were able to meet that average.

“We also met the same goal for reading, language arts and early literacy and once again we were able to meet that average.”

The school’s third goal was to have 95 percent or more  students in medium to low risk as measured by Bright Bytes, a program provided by the state.

“We were very excited when we ended our year with 96 percent in that,” she said. “We had a very successful year with meeting our goals.”

LSIC chair and kindergarten teacher Taylor Tenney discussed what the school has been doing regarding academics.

“With academics, we implement a variety of strategies and use a variety of resources to differentiate instruction for the students and meet them on their level,” she said.

All grades use Investigations as the adopted curriculum for math but also supplement that with Eureka Math.

“This is used to help students foster a deeper understanding for mathematical concepts,” she said.

Kindergarten through fourth grade teachers use mathematic assessments to figure out where the math gaps are with the students.

“We use that data to drive our instruction,” she said.

“In grades Kindergarten through fifth grade, Lucy Calkins Units of Study is sued to develop and expand student’s writing skills,” she said.

Students receive extra work through the Daily 5s and Café for reading and language arts skills.

“Collaboration between Title 1 and our general education teachers is really prevalent in this area,” she said.

The kindergarten, first and second grade use the Fundations program and co-teach with Title 1.

“This is a research based program that emphasizes phonetic awareness, phonics, high frequency words, reading fluency, vocabulary comprehension, strategies, handwriting and spelling,” she said. “We have noticed phenomenal gains in our students by using this.”

Another program is also seeing results.

“Our Title 1 teacher implements Level Literacy Learning, a program for struggling readers,” she said.

The students do a diagnostic test which helps identify where gaps are.

Phillips said that a recent test by the first-grade class showed 67 percent of students were at or above mastery.

Leandra Morlan, faculty senate chair, told the board of education Hodgesville is working to become a Positive Behavior Intervention School.

“Over the past few months we have been going to trainings to become a PBIS school and over the course of the next year, we will be implementing that into our school,” she said.

The school has also been using a communication log to go home to parents or guardians that shows if the students are ‘great,’ ‘OK,’ or ‘needs to improve’ with different aspects of their day.

“We decided for the nine weeks that if they got 10 or less needs to improve checks and four or less days signed then they get to attend a reward,” she said.

“It helps us teachers be able to communicate with parents on a daily basis about things going on in the classroom, with behavior and so on.

Teachers are using Love and Logic techniques for discipline.

“We feel that is most important because not only does it show the kids respect but it allows them to save face and keep their dignity whenever they have consequences occur,” Morlan said.

“Another thing we saw with our kiddos is they were tattling a lot. We created a Mindful Monday and a Thoughtful Thursday on morning announcements where we present them a problem and use teachers as an example,” she said.

The students then talk about the scenarios with their classroom teachers and analyze whether it was a big deal or a little deal and what they should do.

“We implemented attendance incentives because we saw that we have habitual attendance issues with some of our kids and we have been really successful with that,” she said.

“We have a monthly activity and at the end of the year, we will have a really big overall incentive if they have five or less absences,” she said.

The school had seen a big spike in behavior issues during lunch and recess times.

“Last year, we implemented something called Zero Heroes,” she said. “If they got zero check marks for lunch and recess, then they got to attend an activity on Friday that the teachers created and put on. That was very successful so we were able to go from weekly to bi-monthly and hopefully we will go to monthly.”

Interesting: Rural Schools Are Outpacing Others On In-School Tech Access

By: Laura Ascione, Managing Editor, Content Services
Original Post from eSchool News

Although schools in rural areas traditionally hit roadblocks when it comes to securing technology tools and high-speed internet access in classrooms and student homes, a new study suggests students in those schools actually outperform their urban and suburban peers in access at school.

The data comes from data management and learning analytics firm BrightBytes, which analyzed more than 180 million data points collected via a national survey gauging educational technology access, use and effectiveness across 8,558 U.S. schools.

The study compares characteristics of the top 5 percent and bottom 5 percent of schools and looks at factors that impact technology access and use. And according to that data, rural schools outpace urban and suburban schools when it comes to providing technology to students and teachers.

“The report provides district and school leaders with insights into what works to improve student outcomes,” said Teela Watson, Director of Digital Learning at Education Service Center Region 11 in Fort Worth, Texas. “The information has allowed us, for the first time, to accurately and clearly communicate the effectiveness of our technology initiatives.”

Using the CASE framework, which evaluates technology implementations across four domains (Classroom, Access, Skills, and Environment) in order to help school and district leaders develop a more holistic perspective on technology, the BrightBytes Insights Report considered:

  • Classroom use of technology, including teacher and student integration of technology for communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity

  • Support for technology implementation around areas for professional learning, and the extent to which the school policies, practices, and procedures (3Ps) support the use of technology
  • Student and teacher access to technology at home and at school
  • Rural schools were disproportionately represented among schools scoring in the top 5 percent for access at school, while suburban schools were disproportionately represented in the bottom 5 percent.

    Conversely, suburban schools were disproportionately represented in the top 5 percent of schools for access at home, suggesting that suburban students, who are more likely to have devices of their own, could benefit from policies that allow them to bring their devices to school. Rural students still struggle with access to internet and devices in their homes.

    Schools with high rates of students receiving free or reduced price lunch scored lower across all domains analyzed except professional learning, indicating that teachers have the freedom to influence their own professional development regardless of their school characteristics.

    However, the data, which show low scores for the 3Ps in populations with high free or reduced price lunch rates, suggest that teachers are having difficulty transferring new skills and strategies to the classroom due to the impact of administrative decisions on technology integration.

“Drawing on millions of data points from schools around the country, this report provides critical insights into the relationship between school characteristics, such as geographical setting, and successful implementation of technology. It provides a way forward for schools–whether they are rural, urban, or suburban–to adopt the technologies necessary for building a stronger future for their students,” said former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, who authored the foreword to the new report.

SPS to Distribute 20,000 Laptops in First 11 Days of School

By: Claudette Riley
Original Post from Springfield News-Leader

Even rattling off the number gives Nichole Lemmon pause.

"We have never handed out 20,000 devices in 11 days, and we are doing 8,300 on the first day," she said. Lemmon, director of blended learning for Springfield Public Schools, said the distribution of computers, the largest of its kind in the history of the district, also signals the final step in a three-year plan to provide a Google Chromebook for every student in grades 3-12.

"We are finally in a place where all classrooms have the same technology," she said. "We are finally equal. I look at it as we are getting started." Superintendent John Jungmann, with the backing of the school board, launched a three-year technology effort in 2015 called Ignite. He said the effort aimed to put "modern tools and resources" in the hands of teachers and students. "The Ignite program has, as a foundational goal, the leveling of the playing field for all of our learners," he said.

In addition to the laptops, classroom teachers in kindergarten through second grade will have access to sets of iPads. A total of 3,000 will be available. The approved budget for the 2017-18 year includes lease payments for the technology rolled out during Ignite, including $437,424 for the first year, $658,919 for last year and $771,540 for this year.

The technology was implemented in a staggered way, and the leases must be reviewed every three years. At that point, the district will decide if it wants to renew and extend the lease or go in a different direction.

"We believe right now we do have the right tools in the classroom," he said. "We get good feedback from our students and teachers in the classroom. One area where we get feedback that we need more is K-2." He said expanding access will be considered this year.

Lemmon said the district is trying one-to-one technology, in the form of the touchscreen Google Chromebooks, for students in kindergarten through second grade at Fremont and Sherwood elementary schools. But, in early grades at other schools, classrooms have to check out sets of iPads.

"Our K-2 teachers, in our survey last year, said they wanted to be one-to-one too," she said.

The district has also beefed up its IT help, hired a team of blended learning specialists and provides mobile hot spots for students without internet access at home.

Jungmann said the district is in the process of revising its curriculum to take advantage of online tools and providing students with access to more adaptive software. "The goal is not modern tools, it's better learning," he said. "And better learning happens when students get individual feedback in a much more efficient manner about where you are."

Members of the school board have repeatedly asked how the district will measure the impact of the new technology and learning strategies. Jungmann said the district uses BrightBytes, which analyzes students' access, skills and development. Other, more traditional measures, are also used.

"That learning is measured by a number of different things — grades, GPA, as well as standardized test scores, which we want to move and we always say are a significant part of our metrics, but they are insufficient in representing the entire child," he said. The older devices, which were purchased before the Ignite initiative, have been moved around to provide access where needed.

"We have quit buying them so as they roll out, they've been going to surplus," he said. "We've been using them to Band-Aid the other spots and we've pushed them into K-2 environments, where they want more."

Experts: 5 Elements for a Winning, Data-Informed District

By: Laura Ascione, Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchoolNews
Original Post from eSchool Media

Data, data, data. Most school leaders know how important data is to every part of a district’s operations, from bus routes to PD and student achievement. But sometimes, capturing and interpreting that data proves challenging.

Still, when data is collected and used to drive transformational change in a district, the results are nothing short of eye-opening.

During an ISTE 2017 session from eSchool Media and BrightBytes, a panel of ed-tech experts discussed how the ability to collect, access and easily interpret data has allowed them to personalize student learning and track achievement.

Panelists included Chuck Holland, director of technology integration in South Carolina’s Richland School District Two; Donna Teuber, innovation program designer in Richland School District Two; Sheryl Abshire, chief technology officer of the Calcasieu Parish School District in Louisiana; and Jeff McCoy, associate superintendent of South Carolina’s Greenville County Schools. Here are some of the things attendees learned:

1. Technology is a must-have part of learning

“We’ve turned the corner so technology isn’t the cool thing anymore–it’s the necessary thing,” said Sheryl Abshire, chief technology officer in Louisiana’s Calasieu Parish Schools. “Twenty years ago, if we didn’t have email or if the internet went down, nobody cared but [technology staff]. Now, if it bleeps for one second, our phones start blowing up, and it’s because the internet is mission-critical. This innovative practice of using technology as an anchoring part of the total learning environment has been transformational. It’s not a revolution–it’s an evolution. The innovative piece is that you change teaching and learning with technology–the innovation is technology not for technology’s sake, but for the sake of advancing learning.”

2. Data use can make or break an initiative

“The data we’ve been able to harness has been an eye-opening piece for us,” Abshire said. “We’ve been able to dive deep into every single school, student and administrator and display information graphically.”

Data continues to drive the districts’ approach to both student and teacher learning.

“We’re using data to continually innovate,” Holland said. “When we went one-to-one, we used data from the beginning to evaluate the success of the program during implementation, and we make sure we use multiple pieces of data to drive our decisions. We monitor the data over time as our needs shift.”

“Looking at our platforms, the data we have is so important to moving forward,” Teuber said.

3. Shaking up departmental structure and physical classroom space can result in positive learning changes

Uniting the instructional technology department with the academic side allowed Greenville County Schools to focus on personalized learning and change classroom practices, McCoy said.

“We went from pockets of equity to fostering innovation in our district,” said Teuber. The district launched an incubator and made consistent efforts to support innovative practices and expand those that proved successful, often through crossfunctional innovation teams that work on lingering challenges.

“[Our instructional technology department] works with those innovation teams a lot, and technology has caused us to rethink the way classrooms are working,” Holland said.

Last year, the Richland district reevaluated its learning spaces after finding that students’ physical environments did not support innovative instructional practices in classrooms.

“Looking at the data in classrooms, [our teams] are recognizing that making one change leads to something different, and that boosts student engagement,” Holland said. “It’s really exciting to see grassroots efforts by the teachers to change student learning.”

4. PD is a big piece of the data puzzle

McCoy’s district relaunched its technology initiative after finding that, despite new technology tools, little had changed in its classrooms because teachers didn’t know how to change their instructional practices.

“This year, most of our teachers have crossed over,” McCoy said. “We invested almost as much in PD as we invested in devices, and I think that’s a critical move. You also have to have the digital content there for teachers.”

Creating personalized, data-driven learning environments for students means also focusing on personalizing PD for teachers.

The Calcasieu Parish’s technology facilitators use data to drive professional learning changes in every school.

“That data, over two years, has driven PD in every school so that when we talk about transformational change, we’re not talking about it, we’re doing it,” Abshire said. “If you delve down into the data and look at the key components, you can see where your district’s needs are, and for us, that’s driven our entire district PD program. We’ve made substantive changes that have improved practice and resulted in improved test scores, engaged learning, teacher confidence, and more teacher risk-taking.”

Because PD is informed by data, classrooms focus on students instead of teachers.

“Shifting from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom was a logical progression, because technology is a huge enabler of that,” Abshire said. “It frees the classroom up to become a constructivist learning environment, which leads right into personalized and blended learning. We’ve had to personalize PD for teachers, so now we do pre-work to find out what teachers know and what they’re already able to do. We want personalized learning for our students, but we want personalized learning for teachers, too. The model we use for PD, we hope, will transfer over to teachers’ classroom instruction. When you give teachers the time to learn the way they want to, they transfer that over to their students.”

5. Identifying communication disconnects is crucial

“We launched a student-centered learning leadership series for our schools, and one of the issues we saw with getting schools ready for change is that sometimes our principals moved faster than staff wanted to move, or could move,” McCoy said. “Principals didn’t have realistic expectations of their teachers.”

The district equipped principals with strategies to put student-centered learning into place, while at the same time giving them the skills needed to create supportive environments for teachers as they developed skills necessary to foster the new learning environment.

District leaders realized principals needed additional skills to encourage teachers to create innovative classrooms, and some of those skills included the ability to give teachers safe space to take risks.

“You can’t create a culture of innovation by saying ‘No’ all the time,” McCoy said.

R-7 School District Gets Acknowledged for Technology
The Kansas City Star

Original post The Kansas City Star

The Lee’s Summit School District was among seven educational organizations featured in The Keyword, Google’s a national blog that focuses in part on Chromebooks and the company’s tools for education.

The June 2017 blog, written in conjunction with the International Society for Technology in Education conference, featured Lee’s Summit’s move to one-to-one student Chromebooks.

The organizations are included among a number of “Impact Portraits,” developed during a 16-month investigation by the Evergreen Education Group, which discussed educational strategies and tools with more than 100 school leaders from six countries to develop the case studies.

The Evergreen group describes its mission as helping “state and federal governments, school districts, companies and foundations gain insight into the ever-evolving digital learning landscape so they can successfully plan and implement best practices related to educational technology.”

Each study included key factors that helped schools and students flourish when adopting technology for the classroom — including planning, professional learning, patience and support.

In August 2015, the district gave a Chromebook to each of its 17,500 students from kindergarten through senior high school. Known as Connect2Learn, the program has increased learning opportunities and leveled the playing field for students from a variety of family incomes.

The students use the Chromebooks at school, at home or wherever a WiFi hotspot is available. District staff members have been working with internet providers to help families obtain low-cost internet service. The district also maintains a website mapping businesses that support students by offering free internet hotspots.

By providing each student a Chromebook, the district can offers them more personalized and novel learning experiences. Lee’s Summit used BrightBytes CASE exams to measure results from the one-to-one program. These exams showed increased in all four measures of the test after Connect2Learn’s first year. The test measures classroom, access, skills and environment.

BrightBytes Named One of 10 Most Innovative Learning and Development Solution Providers

Original post from Insights Success Magazine

BrightBytes: Using Data to Improve the Way the World Learns

Schools have no shortage of data. The hard part is deriving relevant and meaningful information from extremely large data sets gathered from various sources. With a mission to improve the way the world learns through the use of data, BrightBytes, a learning analytics company, gathers research from the best experts in the world and creates evidence-based frameworks that analyze data from schools.  Across BrightBytes’ decision support platform, Clarity, educators can access the tools to better understand data and improve student learning outcomes.

In an industry overwhelmed by DRIP syndrome (data rich, information poor), BrightBytes helps educators across schools, districts, and at the state level, by providing personalized and research-driven insights, resources, and support material at each data point. Educators not only see the data in an educative and engaging format, but they also know what actions to take to address any gaps or challenges within their personalized results. With seven core modules, and personalization capabilities, the Clarity platform offers research-based and actionable solutions for every area that impacts student learning.

Clarity Humanizes Big Data and Personalizes Solutions

Big data has made great contributions to areas like marketing and science over the past few years, but its recent arrival in the education industry has been both exciting and challenging. Big data opens a universe of unexplored information to educators, but without the right lens to understand data, the right tools to execute findings, and the right method to communicate results, the access to abundant data may hinder progress. Increasingly, educators are turning to data to make informed decisions, but various challenges make those efforts unachievable. Many organizations suffer from DRIP (data rich, information poor) conditions, and educators struggle to see solutions behind the numbers. The BrightBytes Clarity platform takes the abundance of data, and humanizes the numbers to provide insight to action. Clarity incorporates the essential elements of a successful data analysis platform that allow educational leaders to realize the infinite power of actionable data to drive learning outcomes and better leverage data to inform critical decisions.

Many companies offer dashboards of educational data, but those products fail to transform that information into decisions. The Clarity platform provides educators with research frameworks that select only the data linked to improved student outcomes. It then maps an education organization’s data to these frameworks, identifies strengths and gaps, and offers insights into how to improve, using specific examples from real schools. This combination of data analysis, research, and action plans set the platform apart from every other offering.

 Proven Expertise

Key to the company’s success is its dedicated team of educators, researchers, statisticians, and designers. The BrightBytes team has decades of experience in the K-12 space and routinely partners with education researchers and experts including McREL International, Mazin™ Education, and iKeepSafe.™ Due to the depth of knowledge around education, individuals across BrightBytes are very familiar with the common challenges that many educators face. However, the team also recognizes that no two organizations 

have identical needs. In addition to the seven core modules on the Clarity platform (that address common areas like graduation rates, financial transparency, the impact of technology on learning, leadership, and digital privacy), BrightBytes has the unique capacity to personalize research-based data solutions to meet specific needs.

The critical components, such as research-based frameworks, engaging data visualizations, collaborative workflow management, data democratization, role-specific views, and data-driven connections are already embedded into all of the core modules. However, these elements are also personalizable to assemble for specific solutions. Clarity’s flexible modular system enables BrightBytes’ team to personalize solutions tailored to address individual organization’s diverse needs. By focusing on the key elements of a successful data analytics platform, BrightBytes can assemble education solutions quickly for each organization.

 A Team Built for Success and Guided by Visionaries

The team behind the Clarity platform is comprised of experts who combine qualitative research and quantitative methods with a proprietary framework specifically designed to link educational factors to learning outcomes. The team is led by Traci Burgess and Hisham Anwar. Traci Burgess, the CEO of BrightBytes, has spent her career entirely in education. Her early love for mathematics led her to pursue a career as a math educator. After deciding she wanted to help students on a larger scale, she made the move to the edtech industry, holding leadership positions in companies including, Thomson Learning, Blackboard, Catapult Learning, and Think Through Learning. Hisham Anwar is a BrightBytes co-founder and the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Hisham has spent the last 12 years building and managing global technology strategies and new product portfolios. The son of an educator, he has held technology leadership positions at Moody’s, Royal Dutch/NWA, Mamapedia, and most recently Zynga. Hishamm has an MBA from MIT. As the company grows, they plan to continue their process of creating solutions that address issues that arise in the K-12 educational sector. The organization is set to expand product lines and sales teams, across the US and internationally.

Authentica Solutions and SchoolCity Announce Partnership

Atlanta, GA, July 17, 2017– Authentica Solutions™, a data integration and data management platform leader, announced that it has signed a channel partner agreement with SchoolCity.  SchoolCity Inc. is a premier product provider of revolutionary 21st Century curriculum, instruction, assessment, and intervention solutions to school districts. 

SchoolCity will be utilizing Authentica’s DataSense™ Cloud Solutions to manage bi-directional data flow between their Assessment platform and other enterprise applications for their school district customers.  

Russell Long, General Manager of Authentica Solutions, said “SchoolCity is a great company that provides valuable solutions to K12 schools. We are very impressed with their culture, software solutions and EdTech market savvy. Our Education Cloud Solutions build, deploy, manage and monitor enterprise application development, integrations, and identity for school districts and universities. We are pleased to be partnering with SchoolCity to deliver data management solutions to their school districts.”

Authentica’s award winning IPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) solution, DataSense, provides one central administrative web UI for building, deploying, managing, and monitoring all data integration processes across multiple applications. As the 2017 winner of the EdTech Digest Cool Tool Award for Best District Data Solution, DataSense is a proven solution for educational institutions to easily share all their purposeful data between their software applications.   

The DataSense IPaaS solution is built with flexibility in mind. It utilizes and conforms to many open standards. DataSense integrations have been implemented in hundreds of educational institutions across the country, creating bi-directional flows of data between enterprise applications used in school districts and universities.

Vaseem Anjum, CEO at SchoolCity, commented that “At SchoolCity, we are always looking for ways to provide the best possible solutions for our customers. Authentica Solutions is providing a great service in the K-12 market. All school districts have a need to share data between applications and it is becoming more important for districts to take action on this data.  Authentica Solutions and their DataSense Cloud Solutions, has provided us a way to confidently serve our customers.”   

About SchoolCity: SchoolCity Inc. is a premier provider of revolutionary 21st Century curriculum, instruction, assessment, and intervention solutions to school districts. Based in the heart of California's Silicon Valley for more than 15 years, the SchoolCity educational technology experts work with schools nationwide to measure and increase student achievement. In response to the new rigor and expectations of the College and Career Ready Standards, SchoolCity launched the brand-new SchoolCity SUITE™ which takes all the best of our flagship assessment platform and delivers a fully integrated instructional system that provides curriculum and instructional tools, assesses performance, reports progress and recommends valuable next steps, allowing teachers to enact change where it matters most: the classroom.

About Authentica Solutions: Authentica Solutions is an education data management company providing data driven software solutions with a core focus on:

  • K-12 Data Integration
  • Centralized Data Management
  • Education Data Visualization
  • EdTech Cloud Engineering

Authentica Solutions was established in 2013 after our many years in K-12 to serve school districts, departments of education, and Ed Tech software companies seeking to design, develop and implement highly technical, enterprise software and interoperability solutions. Authentica was recently acquired by BrightBytes, a learning analytics organization that translates complex analysis and educational research into fast actions that drive student learning. The addition of Authentica to the BrightBytes family will provide education leaders and end-to-end solution for data integration through analysis, improve the quality of data collection, and free education institutions to use their data for the intended purpose of student achievement and success.

K-12 Dealmaking: BrightBytes Acquires Authentica; Nelson Takes In Assets of Edusight

By: Alexa J. Henry
Original Post from EDWEEK Market Brief

A handful of companies have announced acquisitions in the K-12 space recently. And the Canadian publisher Nelson continues to make deals at a busy pace, following a series of announcements of partnerships with U.S.-based companies with a new acquisition closer to home.

BrightBytes Acquires Authentica: BrightBytes, San Francisco-based learning analytics organization, has acquired Authentica Solutions, developer of an education data integration platform as a service (IPaaS), according to an announcement.

BrightBytes’ Clarity platform, a decision support platform for K-12 educators, seeks to provide research-based analysis and organizes and deliver data across dashboards and reports. Authentica’s DataSense platform provides a single, unified approach to managing all data integration, transformation, and migration processes between all of an education organizations’ critical applications, according to the statement.

“Bringing these two companies together will, for the first time, give educators an end-to-end solution for data-driven decision making,” said BrightBytes’ CEO Traci Burgess.

The addition of Authentica to the BrightBytes family “will help education leaders cost effectively manage data integration and analysis, improve the quality of data collection, and free education institutions to use their data for the intended purpose of student achievement and success,” BrightBytes argued.

In an interview with Marketplace K-12, Burgess noted that the acquisition was the first for BrightBytes, and said that by combining the two organizations the company has “an opportunity to help support learning in the personalized learning environment for K-12.”

She declined to disclose the financial and structural terms of the deal but said “the two companies will have a full integration plan to work seamlessly together.”

As a result of the acquisition, Authentica CEO Russell Long will become the general manager of the DataSense platform and will report to Burgess; CTO Gene Garcia will become the CTO for DataSense. In addition, BrightBytes will maintain an office in Atlanta as well as their two current offices in Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Nelson Acquires Technology Assets of Edusight: Canadian educational publisher Nelson has entered into an agreement to acquire the technology assets of digital portfolio company Edusight, according to a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As its “first purely digital acquisition,” the deal” signals Nelson’s further investment in meeting the evolving needs of educators and students across the country, ensuring unparalleled access to the educational resources they need,” Toronto-based Nelson noted.

The purchase “enables us to help re-conceptualize the learning experience for both teachers and students, reinforcing our 100+ year connection to the Canadian classroom in a fresh and meaningful way,” said Steve Brown, Nelson president and CEO.

Edusight is designed to intuitively align with teacher workflow on both the web and via mobile app to provide visualization of data that leads to a better understanding of student learning, according to Toronto-based company, which has received venture capital funding from Imagine K12, the education vertical within Y Combinator.

The move is one of a spate of deals announced recently by Nelson. In May, the company agreed to acquire the K-12 business holdings of McGraw-Hill Ryerson, the Canadian subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Education. As a result of the acquisition, Nelson will take on all development, production, sales, distribution and marketing of the McGraw-Hill Ryerson K-12 portfolio in Canada, including the publishing and distribution of educational materials in both print and digital formats.

In fact, Nelson has formed a series of partnerships over the past year with U.S.-based K-12 companies to help that sell and distribute materials into the 5 million-student Canadian market. (EdWeek Market Brief members should see our recent story about the Canadian K-12 landscape, which describes Nelson’s dealmaking with U.S. providers.)

Nelson also recently unveiled a partnership with Microsoft “to explore the future of classroom learning for K–12 schools.”

Certica Acquires Unbound Concepts: Wakefield, Mass.-based ed-tech platform Certica Solutions has acquired Unbound Concepts, which provides an application that aims to help educators, librarians, readers and curriculum buyers search, browse and discover books, Certica said in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition enables Certica to provide its network of ed-tech partners with the ability to tag and describe content using “artifacts”; and to embed content search capabilities into key applications, the company said.

“The addition of Unbound Concept’s app, dubbed Artifact, complements Certica’s Academic Benchmarks™ collection of over 3.9 million learning standards and taxonomic terms, utilized by nearly 200 education sector providers to enrich, align and power improved search of content. Both capabilities will be available to publishers, booksellers and educational system providers, such as learning management system (LMS) vendors, via the Certica Connect platform,” Certica explained.

“Unbound Concepts has made important connections between book publishers, distributors, buyers and educators, by creating a common language between those stakeholders,” said Mark Rankovic, Certica’s president and CEO. “We’re excited to execute the synergies between Artifact and our existing platform capabilities, to benefit our business partners.”

Abl Raises $7.5 Million: Ed-tech startup Abl has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding, led by Rethink EducationSinovation Ventures, Owl VenturesReach Capital, and First Round Capital also participated in the round.

In an email to EdWeek Market Brief, Abl founder and CEO Adam Pisoni—who previously served as CTO and Co-Founder of Yammer— said the company spent the past year developing its first product with a number of design partner schools. “This helped us get clarity on the problem and the demand,” he said. “What it’s shown us is that the demand for master scheduling solutions is high among all types of schools of all sizes and types.”

Abl raised the funding round to accelerate growth by hiring more engineers and designers to build out more of the product to handle more school use cases – especially elementary and district needs; invest in easier data integration and onboarding – including building out a larger customer success and implementation team; and expand the sales and marketing team to accelerate growth, Pisoni explained.

The company provides a school scheduling platform that aims to make “it easy to design and manage the daily life of a school through a simple, cloud-based system that eliminates the spreadsheets, magnet boards, and calendaring tools most schools use today,” according to the company.

Mystery Science Raises $2 Million: Mystery Science, a provider of lessons designed to inspire kids to love science, has joined accelerator Y Combinator and raised $2 million, the company said a blog posting on Medium.com.

In addition to Y Combinator, investors included Learn CapitalReach Capital, and 500 Startupsaccording to VentureBeat.

The company was started by Doug Peltz and Keith Schacht. Peltz is a former master classroom teacher, science department head and creator of an original science curriculum; Schacht was previously a product manager at Facebook.

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking.

 

BrightBytes Acquires Trusted IPaaS Provider Authentica Solutions

BrightBytes Acquires Trusted IPaaS Provider Authentica Solutions

BrightBytes adds Authentica to brand portfolio, providing educators with end-to-end data management to improve the way the world learns

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — June 29, 2017 — BrightBytes,® a learning analytics organization currently impacting one in five schools in the United States, today announced the acquisition of Authentica Solutions, developer of DataSense, an education data Integration Platform as a Service (IPaaS). Authentica, a 2017 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Finalist, currently partners with top enterprise solutions in edtech to help educators at every organizational level meet data management requirements. It is this deep experience in data integration within the K-12 space and the shared dedication to use data to drive learning that makes the combination of BrightBytes and Authentica an unstoppable force.

As big data informs more and more learning decisions, this groundbreaking acquisition marks a major milestone for the industry. Bringing the two companies together will provide educators with fast, easy, and secure data integration, research-based analysis, and actionable recommendations. Big data has caused an undeniable shift across every industry, but many educators have struggled to participate in the data revolution due to widespread data disarray or extreme DRIP (data rich, information poor) conditions. Collection methods, variables, and captured information differ greatly within data sets and produce disparate results for limited analysis. Authentica’s IPaaS solution, DataSense, solves many of these integration challenges by providing a single, unified approach to managing all data integration, transformation, and migration processes between all of an education organizations’ critical applications, including SIS to APP, APP to APP, and APP to EDW. The solution quickly streamlines quality data flow and removes laborious data collection, rostering, and scrubbing on the user’s end.

The widespread availability of accurate and usable data has the potential to unlock a universe of information for educators. However, without the most insightful lens to understand data, the right research to provide meaning, and the clearest methods to communicate results, data is simply a scatter of numbers. The BrightBytes Clarity® platform, the world’s leading decision support platform for K-12 educators, provides research-based analysis and organizes and delivers data across engaging, easy-to-understand dashboards and reports. To date, BrightBytes has impacted 9.2 million students by helping schools use data analysis to address common education challenges. Across the platform’s core modules, educators can easily gain access to actionable data to evaluate technology efficacy, improve graduation rates, ensure organization-wide data privacy and security, and develop effective leaders. Clarity connects each organization’s data to relevant research proven to drive outcomes.

“Educators have always had a lot of data, the challenge is integrating data from multiple sources, analyzing that data against research, communicating the results in an engaging and educative way, and understanding what specific levers need to be pulled to drive effective change. Bringing these two companies together will, for the first time, give educators an end-to-end solution for data-driven decision making,” said BrightBytes’ Chief Executive Officer, Traci Burgess.

The addition of Authentica to the BrightBytes family will help education leaders cost effectively manage data integration and analysis, improve the quality of data collection, and free education institutions to use their data for the intended purpose of student achievement and success.

About BrightBytes
BrightBytes is a learning analytics organization that translates complex analysis and educational research into fast actions that drive student learning. Their flagship platform, Clarity, measures modern learning outcomes and provides visualized results that are educative, engaging, and actionable, allowing organizations to make evidence-based decisions that improve instruction and advance student achievement.

About Authentica
Authentica Solutions supports K-12 organizations no matter where they are on the data exchange spectrum. Their unique approach toward implementing, handling, and storing data from disparate systems provides school districts the freedom to select the software solutions that work best for them. With direct experience integrating their products with over 30 of the leading enterprise solutions in the edtech space, no other team has the hands-on experience to help all customers meet their data management requirements.

Follow BrightBytes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrightBytes
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/brightbytes


Media Contact for BrightBytes
Kristal Ayres, 239.398.1770, kristal@brightbytes.net

The BrightBytes Intervention Management Module Awarded Best In Show At ISTE
Tech & Learning

For the fourth year, Tech & Learning presented its prestigious awards program that honors great products at ISTE 2017. The products were selected by an anonymous panel of educator judges, who scoured the exhibit hall floor during the conference in San Antonio.
 
The judges rated their impressions on a sliding scale, evaluating areas such as quality and effectiveness, ease of use and creative use of technology. They then met in person to decide which technologies will have the most impact in the classroom and deserved to be named Best of Show. 

Congratulations to BrightBytes for a Best in Show Award for the Intervention Management module!

 

Charles Town, WV: Area High Schools Among Top 10 in State

By: Danyel VanReenen
Original post from The Journal

CHARLES TOWN — Jefferson County Schools announced Jefferson High School and Washington High School ranked among the top 10 high schools in the state according to U.S. News and World Report 2017 Best High Schools rankings.

According to a press release, Jefferson High ranked third, and Washington High placed tenth. The schools were ranked based on a college readiness index, the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement tests, the amount of students passing AP tests, and mathematic and English proficiency among students.

U.S. News reviewed 28,496 public high schools across America. However, they eliminated some schools because they were too small to be analyzed, which left 20,487 in the nation.

In West Virginia, there were 114 eligible high schools, and five received silver medals — meaning the school ranked between 501 and 2,609 on the list, and the school’s College Readiness Index value was at or above 20.91

"Jefferson High School reported a graduation rate of 87 percent with 34 percent of the school population taking the AP tests, and 77 percent of those students passing the exams. Jefferson High School was one of five schools in the state awarded a silver medal,” officials said in a press release. “Washington High School reported a 95 percent graduation rate. Twenty-three percent of the school population participated in AP exams, and 70 percent of students earned passing scores.”

Meghan Metzner, media contact for Jefferson County Schools, said socio-economic status can play a role in student opportunity, however Jefferson County Schools design programs to close the achievement gap. She said the Free and Reduced Lunch percentage for Jefferson High is 33.7 percent and Washington High is at 29.2 percent.

Despite the number of students on the free and reduced lunch program, Metzner said strong school programs prevent poverty from defining them or limiting their future.

According to Metzner, both Jefferson and Washington high schools have strong graduation rates and consistent AP programs with an outstanding teaching staff. Jefferson County Schools emphasize high academic standards for their students, and they utilize an early warning system called Bright Bytes, to identify and aid students at risk of early drop out.

“Our parents trust us to educate their children so they send them to school consistently, which allows them to make greater progress. One of the greatest assets in Jefferson County is the high level of parental involvement we enjoy,” Metzner said.

Metzner also said Jefferson County Schools have the highest attendance rate of any school district in West Virginia.

“These rankings are a reflection of a system-wide commitment to excellence,” said Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools. “From pre-school through high school our outstanding staff is committed to student success and these results show the results of that dedication and commitment.”