Category: Newsworthy.

Along the same subject as our post from yesterday, Fast Company posted a piece on the origins of Honest Tea.

CEO Seth Goldman was a student at the Yale University School of Management and Chairman and Strategic Advisor Barry Nalebuff was his former economics and management professor.

The company was conceived in a class discussion about beverages, and after Goldman had spent a lot of time thinking about the beverage industry, he contacted the Yale professor.

There are many reasons why this collaboration worked; one being that Nalebluff had the capital and connections to help the business grow.

The main point here is that a student’s interest was sparked by an educator and businessman’s curriculum. Inspiration can come from different sources. If that opportunity isn’t readily available for student’s, then the ceiling from their creativity is going to be lower than we’d prefer.

The collaboration between business leaders and educators has come to light in policy and reform.

There’s the Bill Gates push for the Common Core revolution in education and, more recently, David Welch’s support in Vergara vs. California.

What is the difference between the two?

In the case for Bill Gates, Common Core is a noble idea but it has already been dropped altogether by a handful of states.

With David Welch, he supported students and helped to remove teacher tenure in the state of California.

What is the fine line between businessmen and education?

With Gates, it’s not possible for him to be at every school in the nation and helping every student succeed to see his dream come true. In Welch’s situation, he saw a problem and helped a specific group of people fight for what they believed in. They were fortunate to have the financial help from someone with a high interest in the case.

What about local businessmen helping schools in their area?

This is what we need to be asking more often. Students need opportunities to hear from successful people around them. The more involved these people with an outside perspective are in the daily activities of schools, the more they will understand what needs to be solved, and the more they’ll think about how to help.

Cicero once said, “The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.”

With schools receiving less funding and looking for corners to cut in their budgets, the question remains: how important are art, music, and physical education to a student’s curriculum?

Research supports the value in these classes, stating that those who participate in the arts do better in school and are more likely to stay in school than those who don’t; however, most parents would rather their kids spend that time on academics.

While academics are a critical part of a child’s education, their mental and physical health is equally as important. Districts typically require 150 minutes of physical education a week, and some charter schools are even pushing that number to 225 minutes. It may mean less time is being spent reading books, but P.E. classes also help reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity and sharpen students’ focus when they get back into the classroom.

The arts have been shown to act as a creative outlet for personal expression. There was a story recently about a group of middle school students from Brooklyn who formed a heavy metal band and were just signed to a $1.7 million record deal with Sony. This isn’t to say that every student is going to get the same offer, but if there weren’t support for the arts in New York, these kids would not have the opportunity that they have now.

Though every parent wants their child to be successful both in and out of academia, it is vital for us to give students a period during the day for them to get away from math, reading and science. Besides, not every person will want to pursue those subjects as a career path.

ISTE 2014 came and went, but not without making an impact on everyone in attendance.


Last week, Esther Quintero summed up the latest of issue of The Progress of Education Reform here. He stated the following:

“In sum, teaching children interesting ‘stuff’ that is challenging and coherently presented:

  • Sets the foundation for reading with understanding;
  • Supports children’s ability to learn faster and independently;
  • May make children more perseverant and more engaged in their learning;
  • May benefit all children, while also helping to sustain the benefits of pre-k into elementary school.

So, what’s not to love about a fun, challenging, well thought out and well taught curriculum in the early years?”

The only possible setback of this is having to teach kids how to mature at an earlier age.

We’re coming into a period in civilization where we’re tapping into the intellect of children all over the world at a level unlike before. We know they’re capable of being smart and aware. In theory, teaching children challenging material in preschool sounds great. There would essentially be 13 years of schooling, and that one extra school year at 4 or 5 years old would lay a great foundation.

I believe that if kids were given positive rewards for completing boring tasks, they might expect those same rewards at a later age. There would have to be a transition period to where the students understood and appreciated learning and education for what it was, not just another way to receive trinkets.

We love this piece.

Alex Golub wrote a follow-up post to his Inside Higher Ed column from nine years ago entitled “The Professor as Personal Trainer.”

The core of his piece revolves around the following premise, “Education is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, but is a process of personal transformation. Student learning is the student’s responsibility, not the teacher’s. It requires commitment outside the classroom, not just in it. And, I maintained then (as now), the best ‘job skills’ we can give our students are the generalized capacities cultivated by a liberal arts education.”

Golub is a professor who wanted to become more physically fit, and looked for a way to relate this experience back to his classes.

For example he writes, “My students often ask me how I can live my life reading boring, poorly written books. I’ve never been sure how to answer since, let’s be honest, a tremendous amount of academic work is boring and poorly written. Now I have an answer! You have to push though the pain and persevere, never relent and keep fighting, if you want to get mentally strong. Never give up. Never surrender. Previously, I thought this was a cliché from Galaxy Quest. Now I know it’s about Deleuze. Working out has helped me understand my intellectual regimen in a new way.”

Though Golub learned lessons about mentorship from his personal trainer, the same ideals can be applied to educators in general. It is the educators’ duty to peak the interests of students so that they leave the class having loved to learn and respected the teacher. Just as Golub experienced a comforting, positive environment at his gym through his personal trainer, the same should be offered by educators at school.

We all have our issues that we deal with on a daily basis. When it comes to our students, it’s vital that we put the problems aside and give the kids 100% of our attention. We need to also provide them with the confidence to figure out solutions on their own without having to rely on us as a crutch. It isn’t just their future that depends on it, but also ours.

This is a wonderful story about a low income school two and a half hours outside of Seattle.

The Seattle Times writes, “[Toppenish] High School sits next to a cornfield on the Yakama Indian Reservation, where the median household income hovers below $30,000, the slaughterhouse is the largest employer around and a third of all parents never made it past ninth grade.”

Now, the school has a 94% four-year graduation rate. All of this can be attributed to technological advancements, a change in the curriculum and leadership, and teachers guiding students to where they need to be.

Superintendent John Cerna stated, “These classes are giving our kids the opportunity to think of themselves as civil or electrical engineers, or in aerospace. We’ve got several kids who are going to become doctors — they see the relevance now. Before, math was just numbers.”

With technology in education, there’s an amazing opportunity to allow students to dream big. Students can come into school and treat it like playful work, where they have ongoing projects they want to see through to the end.

If kids are interested in becoming a doctor or nurse, they can take the right classes and have an interactive experience that peaks their interest in a way that wasn’t possible before. If they want to be a civil engineer or an architect, they have a direct way to apply their dreaded math lessons into an insulated, environmental friendly dog house.

The greater overall impact is that parents can see their children become more successful than they were. They can see their children go to college when they weren’t given a chance. They can be hopeful about their children making a salary over $30,000.

Though it’s true that other districts around the nation are doing well without tech in education, technology is so important in low income areas. We only need to look to Toppenish High School as a good example.

The 2014 school year is coming to a close, and apparently California’s teacher tenure is as well.

Let’s summarize everything you need to know in six easy points.

  • Teacher tenure in K-12 public education started in 1909.
  • The policy was meant to give jobs to good candidates instead of handing out favors to unqualified people.
  • David F. Welch is an entrepreneur who paid for the case to come to court and for the lawyers of the winning side. (One of those lawyers won a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s same-sex marriage ban). He’s not a billionaire or anything, he just wanted to spend a lot of money on litigation to essentially get what he wanted, which was to speed up the process in how terrible teachers could get fired.
  • Judge Rolf M. Treu stated, “The least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students.”
  • Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are in support of this decision.
  • This has a lot to do with professional development.

Are you up to speed? Good! Let’s move on.

So what is everyone worried about? We’ve been checking out what others are saying and here’s what we’ve found.

Three reasons in support of the decision:

  1. This is a great opportunity for the government to now focus on a more unified standard of professional development because teachers will want to be competitive themselves.
  2. This is also a great opportunity for college graduates who are interested in becoming teachers, not just for those interested in Teach For America.
  3. New teachers will have the same security as older teachers.

Three arguments against the decision:

  1. In a field where the incentive isn’t money, job security will now be at stake at all times. There is also a high probability that public schools will lose their best teachers to private schools.
  2. It’ll be like Dead Poets Society or season 4 of The Wire but real life. Great teachers could get fired if the administration doesn’t agree with their methods.
  3. Tenure prevents schools from letting go of older, better teachers to hire two younger teachers for the same cost.

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about this decision?

Recently we saw a great whitepaper from Curriculum Associates citing 14 points that administrators should evaluate in making an EdTech purchase for their school or district. The use of technology in schools across the country has increased tremendously over the past 5 years. Since there are so many options from assessment to grading and behavioral management tools it can be difficult to determine which tools will actually make a valuable impact on your school. With expanded emphasis on alignment Common Core Standards in many states schools need to make choices on technology applications that will show their value over the long term.

edtech purchases

Here are 14 steps to making valuable EdTech purchases:


1) Take Inventory

-Know what tools you currently use, and how effective they are for you and your staff.

-Think about how often the tools are being used.

-Think about who is using these tools, why they are being used, and if they are being used correctly.

-Are the tools used in your school or district properly supported?

2) Determine your educational priorities

-What are you looking for a product to do?

-Include all teachers and other staff members in the process.

-Figure out what processes are of the most need first.

3) Don’t customize (too much)

-Most schools need products which similar functionality (i.e. Common Core transition, saving staff time, streamlining communication).

-Be very specific about your needs and wants.

4) Use collaborative buying if the option is available

-Research your connections within your district, or school associations to learn how your co-op process works.

-Consider putting out an RFP.

5) Make apples-to-apples comparisons

-What are the results from this product in other schools or districts?

-What is the vendor’s renewal rate as a % of sales?

6) Understand data integration capabilities

-Only work with vendors that integrate with other service providers you currently have to lessen the workload for your staff.

-Data integration can help your teachers greatly in getting real-time feedback and insights. Make sure that teachers are involved in the process at this level.

7) Consider piloting the program

-Look to evaluate specific goals from the pilot.

-Make sure you have at least 1 staff member invested in the process.

-Choose a vendor who may do fewer pilots, but has great feedback or recommendations on customer service from past users.

8) Watch company support services closely

-How are support issues resolved? Does the company use a ticket system? How can you escalate key user issues?

-Who will be the main point of contact for your account? How responsive are they?

-Are you able to contact the CEO if you need immediate help?

9) Understand total cost of ownership

-Are their additional (hidden) fees for the use of this product or service?

-Make sure you fully understand the pricing model

10) Pricing and implementation guarantees

-Set a policy for vendors that your  school or district required either a money-back guarantee or price assurance.

-Ask vendors to certify the authenticity of price quotes that are given in the evaluation process.

11) Look for other ways to save

-Ask the vendor if they would come to the school or district to run PD over a few days.

-Assess the difference in price between per pupil vs. flat fee licenses.

12) Ask for references or recommendations

-Reach out to other similar size schools or districts that use the product.

-When speaking with reference spend time discussing customer service, account management and what they may know about the product roadmap.

13) Know what implementation objectives are

-Know how this product can help you in the short term, and plan for deeper integrations in the future.

-Make sure the program can work for everyone who needs it to.

14) It’s a journey, not a race

-Keep in mind that know product you purchase will be perfect day one.

-Your needs will continue to evolve so make sure that the product is helping to push your mission and vision forward.

We would like to know what other points in the process of buying new technologies may have been missed. We value the feedback of our readers and want to continue to find great content to share, Thanks for reading.

Over the past few years there has been a greater emphasis on data-driven instruction, and implementation of Common Core Standards in many states across the country. Teachers and administrators have been looking for digital tools to help bridge the gap between traditional instruction and the addition of EdTech application usage from the classroom to the district office. Below is an infographic on what teachers want and need from digital instruction tools.

We will be posting later in the week on how administrators and district offices are using EdTech tools to be more productive later in the week.

Some questions for you to think about while reading:

-How can EdTech product developers collaborate closely with principals, teachers and students?

-How are teachers and administrators defining product effectiveness?

-Why do teachers seem to know about only 53% of the available products on the market?

-In what ways can product developers close the availability, usage, & effectiveness gaps for digital tools?