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Fix, Don’t Discard MCAS/PARCC

This fall I had one on one conversations with many of our state's leaders and experts on the misplaced opposition to testing in gen...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting Facts on Common Core

College and Career Ready Standards and New Assessments Move MA Forward
logo-parcc 2 
As new assessments that are aligned to these standards and actually measure a student’s ability to apply what they have learned are introduced, it will be important for anyone concerned about the college and career readiness of our children to make sure the information they are receiving is valid and accurate.  Despite a steady stream of misinformation in recent weeks, the new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks that include the Common Core State Standards will better prepare students for higher education and the workplace.  For the record:
  • When nearly 40% of MA students require remedial coursework upon entering college, when gains in student achievement have clearly leveled off, when employers say they can’t find workers with the right competencies to fill jobs, and when even our top students remain far behind their peers in leading nations, it’s clear we are not sufficiently preparing students for the future.  The reforms that have led to great progress over the past 20 years are not enough to take us where we need to go in the future.
  • The Common Core State Standards were developed through a voluntary, state-led effort facilitated by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  The writing of the standards, which involved educators and experts from Massachusetts, predates the Race to the Top competition.  For a great summary of the true history of the standards read this Huffington Post column.
  • Sample test items for every grade have been posted online so teachers, parents, students and others can see what students will be expected to do on the field tests later this spring.
  • Assertions that the new MA standards end with Algebra II are patently false.  The standards include advanced courses such as precalculus and advanced quantitative reasoning.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provides sample pathways for students to complete an accelerated track and prepare for college-level STEM courses.
  • The new math standards were developed with input from critical stakeholder groups in this state including teachers, professors from Tufts, Framingham State, Boston College, Middlesex Community College, UMASS, Worcester State, Salem State, Bridgewater State, Springfield College, Lesley, Harvard, Boston University as well as representatives from several foundations, business associations and advocates for students.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My view on testing

My view:

  •            Standardized testing is like taking your blood pressure and testing for cholesterol.  It is no fun and does not tell the whole story of a person’s health, but is important nonetheless.  Extremes cannot be ignored.  Students scoring at the lowest levels in MCAS have learning needs that must be addressed.  Doing this is the greatest civil rights priority of our time.

  •            Growth measures on MCAS controls for student previous performance and wealth.  Last year, Somerville did very well by this metric compared to almost any community across the state.  If we can continue high growth it indicates the kids are learning here at high rates.

  •             Public education is going through a transformation simultaneously re-focusing on core instruction particularly to students previously left behind and opening the doors to flipped classrooms and personalized learning.


From: somerville-4-schools@yahoogroups.com [mailto:somerville-4-schools@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Michele Biscoe
Sent: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 6:09 AM
To: UnidosSchool; escs-pta@googlegroups.com; unidos2021@yahoogroups.com; somerville-4-schools@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [somerville-4-schools] Re: [UnidosSchool] interesting article on opting out of testing

Dear Renée,

Thank you for sharing this very interesting article about parents and schools in New York City and across the region who are opting out of standardized testing. This is especially interesting to think about in a district like ours, where most of us agree that standardized testing does not reflect the best that we have to offer as a district--in terms of both opportunities and performance.  At worst standardized testing not only reflects us and our children unfairly as "underperforming"  but also takes resources away from educating our children.

Standardized testing may well be the law, and I don't know what the penalty is for breaking this particular law, but I do know that laws are ultimately made to serve people and our society. The place for change to start is with sharing and discussing the issue among ourselves and with our district administrators--if they are willing to participate in a discussion about what may well be a broken law ("broken" in the sense of not functioning for the best interest of all our children), and with our legislators.

With apologies to list members for filling up your inboxes and screens with the full (interesting and short!) article, I have pasted it below Renée's original post.


On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 7:03 PM, Hatch, Holly <hhatch@k12.somerville.ma.us> wrote:
Massachusetts State Law requires that all students take the MCAS.  There is no “opt-out” option. 

Thanks, Holly
Holly Hatch, Ed. D. , principal
East Somerville Community School
50 Cross Street
Somerville, MA  02145

At East Somerville Community School Every Student Can Succeed.  Our instructional focus is a school and community-wide effort to increase students' ability to write to express their thinking and learning across the content areas as measured by the MCAS and school-based common assessments.

From: UnidosSchool@yahoogroups.com [mailto:UnidosSchool@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Renee Scott
Sent: Thursday, January 23, 2014 5:59 PM
escs-pta@googlegroups.com; unidos2021@yahoogroups.com; UnidosSchool@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [UnidosSchool] interesting article on opting out of testing

A quick and interesting read:

JANUARY 23, 2014

Anna Allanbrook, the principal of the Brooklyn New School, a public elementary school in Carroll Gardens, has long considered the period of standardized testing that arrives every spring to be a necessary, if unwelcome, phase of the school year. Teachers and kids would spend limited time preparing for the tests. Children would gain familiarity with “bubbling in,” a skill not stressed in the school’s progressive, project-based curriculum. They would become accustomed to sitting quietly and working alone—a practice quite distinct from the collaboration that is typically encouraged in the school’s classrooms, where learners of differing abilities and strengths work side by side. (My son is a third grader at the school.) Come the test days, kids and teachers would get through them, and then, once the tests were over, they would get on with the real work of education.

Last spring’s state tests were an entirely different experience, for children and for teachers. Teachers invigilating the exams were shocked by ambiguous test questions, based, as they saw it, on false premises and wrongheaded educational principles. (One B.N.S. teacher, Katherine Sorel, eloquently details her objections on WNYC’s SchoolBook blog.) Others were dismayed to see that children were demoralized by the relentlessness of the testing process, which took seventy minutes a day for six days, with more time allowed for children with learning disabilities. One teacher remarked that, if a tester needs three days to tell if a child can read “you are either incompetent or cruel. I feel angry and compromised for going along with this.” Another teacher said that during each day of testing, at least one of her children was reduced to tears. A paraprofessional—a classroom aide who works with children with special needs—called the process “state-sanctioned child abuse.” One child with a learning disability, after the second hour of the third day, had had enough. “He only had two questions left, but he couldn’t keep going,” a teacher reported. “He banged his head on the desk so hard that everyone in the room jumped.”

As a result, Allanbrook has changed her approach to testing. This year, while tests will be still administered at B.N.S., and children in the third and fourth grades will have as much practice taking them as they ever have, the school is actively and vocally preparing to support families who decide to opt children out of the testing. Alternative activities will be provided on those days, as will alternative ways of measuring children’s progress. (Among other methods, kids who opt out of state tests will be given alternative tests produced by the Department of Education, one in English language arts and one in math, each lasting just forty-five minutes.) Allanbrook says that her decision to speak out was motivated in part by thinking about the fifth-grade social-justice curriculum at the school, in which children who are about to graduate are asked to consider the question “What are we willing to stand up for?” “As parents and educators, this is the very question that we could be asking ourselves,” Allanbrook wrote in a letter to parents this week.

The dismay felt in the corridors of B.N.S. has not been a singular response. Throughout the city and beyond, there is a burgeoning opt-out movement, with parents, teachers, and administrators questioning the efficacy of the tests as they are currently administered, in measuring both the performance of teachers and the progress of students. More than five hundred New York State principals have signed a letter of protest, which cites the encroachment of test prep on teaching time, and the expense of test materials, which come out of stretched school budgets. Educators are also questioning the methodology of the tests, which are graded on a bell curve, with the results closely associated with socioeconomic status. Only three per cent of English-language learners in New York State passed the state tests last year, and only five per cent of students with disabilities did so. Among African-American and Hispanic students, fewer than twenty per cent passed. As Diane Ravitch has noted on her blog and elsewhere, the demoralizing effect is being visited upon those who can least afford the discouragement.

The regime of testing has expanded in recent years, in the wake of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and a belief that what goes on in a classroom can most accurately be divined by data. Defenders of the Common Core curriculum, which seeks to insure that students nationwide are being taught according to the same standards and are meeting federally defined expectations, argue that testing is an effective means of determining whether standards have been reached, thus protecting the interests of children most at risk of being failed by the educational system. Among the interests that standardized testing certainly does appear to be serving are corporate interests. Pearson, the largest educational publishing company in the United States, not only provides the standardized tests but also sells curricular materials for teachers to use in tailoring their teaching to the tests, test-prep materials for children to study in advance of taking those tests, and remedial materials for children to use after they’ve failed them. (It also inserts so-called field tests—questions for possible use in future tests—into its exams, turning public-school children into unwitting guinea pigs for procedures to be administered to other children.) In 2012, the most recent year for which it has made data available, Pearson reported that its educational-publishing revenues for North America were up two per cent, compared with an industry decline of ten per cent.

There is questionable wisdom in entrusting a for-profit corporation with measuring how well kids learn to read, write, compute, and think, the last of which is especially unlikely to be accurately gauged by industrial-scale metrics. The skepticism about Pearson was reinforced last month, when the company’s charitable arm, the Pearson Foundation, was obliged to pay $7.7 million to settle accusations that it had funded the development of educational software to be used by its for-profit parent, in violation of the law. That came after the revelation, last spring, that Pearson had flunked its own scoring of the city’s gifted-and-talented tests. Almost five thousand children were given the wrong score and were initially denied places in schools for which they were eligible.

In pockets of the city and of the region, principals and teachers and parents are refusing to go along with the program—igniting an Occupy Education movement in all but name. In one high-profile act of defiance, the Castle Bridge elementary school, in Washington Heights opted out en masse of tests for kindergarteners that were what educators call developmentally inappropriate and parents call completely insane. Groups like Change the Stakes and Teachers Talk Testing are agitating for reform through the holding of town meetings, the gathering of petitions, and the making of video protests featuring despondent children and frustrated parents. In a recent poll of New York City voters, twenty per cent said that education should be the top priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio—a higher proportion than for any other single issue. There is guarded optimism about de Blasio, a public-school parent who, on the campaign trail, spoke disparagingly of the Bloomberg Administration’s investment in standardized testing, and has appointed as schools chancellor Carmen Fariña, a former teacher and principal who has spoken about her opposition to teaching to the test.

Parents who complain about testing—particularly affluent, educated ones—are easily derided, as they were by Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Education Secretary, a few months ago, when he described critics of the Common Core as “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—[find] their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” But parents who challenge the status quo on testing are not motivated by a deluded pride in their children’s unrecognized accomplishments, or by a fear that their property values will diminish if their schools’ scores’ drop. They are, in many cases, driven by a conviction that a child’s performance on a standardized test is an inadequate, unreliable measure of that child’s knowledge, intelligence, aptitude, diligence, and character—and a still more unreliable measure of his teachers’ effort, skill, perseverance, competence, and kindness.

They are also motivated by the belief that those parents who are least equipped to speak out are the mothers and fathers of the children who are most vulnerable—the most likely to have their educations diminished by months of repetitive test prep, most likely to find themselves reduced to the statistical data at the wrong end of the bell curve. Parents in this year’s opt-out movement are standing up for something larger than their own child’s test-day happiness: the conviction that all children have better things to do with their days than fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice sheet, and that all children have better things to do with their heads than bang them against a table in despair.
Recent Activity:
Yahoo! Groups


Obama E-Rate

--More action on E-Rate: Obama renewed his call to revamp the federal Internet subsidy for schools and libraries and said he has a “down payment” to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed broadband over the next two years without adding to the deficit. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to help make that happen “by applying business-like management practices to E-Rate,” he told Pro Technology’s Brooks Boliek. But the roles of private companies Obama said would participate in the expansion of high-speed access: aren’t entirely clear: An industry representative described it as a “substantial financial commitment” but said it was aimed at providing training, support and tools rather than connectivity. More details will be announced soon at a White House event, the source said.

--E-Rate across the digital aisle: “We are proud to join President Obama in this historic initiative to transform America's schools,” Apple said in a statement. “Apple has a long history in education, and we have pledged to contribute MacBooks, iPads, software and our expertise to support the ConnectED.” Microsoft is all in, too: "We’ve heard the President’s challenge and will soon deepen the investment we’ve made in U.S. education. Stay tuned for more news.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For-Profit Higher Ed Worse Outcomes

Students who began their education at a community college and later transferred to a for-profit college earned about 7 percent less over the next decade than did students who transferred to a public or private nonprofit college, according to a study released today by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment.
The study looked at students in two statewide systems and found that students who transferred to for-profit colleges tended to do more poorly at community colleges than their peers. Researchers found that students at for-profit colleges were more likely to work and continue earning wages while they were enrolled in classes, but that advantage disappeared over time.
— Libby A. Nelson


EdWeek article on Student Data Privacy

Published Online: January 22, 2014
Danger Posed by Student-Data Breaches Prompts Action
By Benjamin Herold

Privacy advocates say the increased collection, storage, and sharing of educational data pose real threats to children and families, from identify theft to nuisance advertising, misguided profiling to increased surveillance of everyday activities.

There is even the potential for physical harm to students, alleges one Arizona legislator who authored a recently passed privacy law in response to complaints that low-income children had been subjected to unnecessary dental work by corporate-affiliated "mobile dentists" relying on easy access to school records.
But while some parents, advocates, and academics are raising alarms that sensitive student data are being poorly safeguarded and improperly shared, it remains difficult to document the scope of the harm caused by the misuse of such information.

For a decade, proponents have called for more and better use of data in K-12 schools, arguing that good information is critical to personalizing student learning, providing teachers with real-time feedback, and helping policymakers make smarter decisions. All states now have longitudinal data systems that track students' performance over time, and much of the technology that has flooded classrooms now records even children's smallest digital actions.

In recent months alone, however, districts and their vendors have lost laptops and flash drives containing student information, accidentally posted children's health information and Social Security numbers online, and improperly released individual student test scores.
An increasingly widespread business model is also cause for concern, privacy advocates say. In December, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission accusing the popular financial-aid website Scholarships.com of selling sensitive student information to third-party marketers without adequate disclosures.

School Data-Security Lapses
Experts say it’s difficult to know exactly how frequently school systems have their data compromised. Such instances can happen without anyone knowing, and they’re not always reported. But a review of recent news reports found some troubling incidents:

Loudoun County, Va.
 The 71,000-student Loudoun County public schools was thrust into damage-control mode last month after an outside vendor, New York City-based Risk Solutions International, inadvertently uploaded and left unprotected some schools’ emergency evacuation plans, as well as “directory information” that included students’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates and places of birth, course schedules, and attendance histories, according to the Washington Post.

Rich Contartesi, the Loudoun County district’s assistant superintendent of technology services, told Education Week that the biggest lesson learned is that districts must be vigilant in overseeing third-party contractors.
“You want to make sure that you know something about the business practices, processes, and physical plant of the companies that have your most sensitive information,” he said.

Last November, the district reported that 2,000 students participating in a free vision-examination program offered by the city had their names, dates of birth, gender, and ID numbers, as well as information from their exams, accidentally posted online.

In June, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that roughly 47,000 participants in state teacher-preparation programs had their personal information—including names and in some cases Social Security numbers—posted on the Internet for two weeks last spring. The information was being stored by Florida State University.

Long Island, N.Y.
The 12,000-student Sachem Central School District suffered three data-security breaches in recent months, including one in which the names, ID numbers, and designations for free-lunch programs of 15,000 former students were posted online, according to a Newsday report.
A 17-year-old student from Sachem North High School was arrested and accused of illegally downloading and posting the information last November, and pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to reports.

"We don't have good data on how often this is happening in schools," said Joel R. Reidenberg, a professor of law and technology policy at Princeton and Fordham universities. "But essentially every adult American has had their financial information compromised. There's no reason to think the educational world is any better."

Inappropriate Access

In 2012, the Gagnon family of Camp Verde, Ariz., became the face of public outrage over reports that some corporate-affiliated mobile dentists were performing unnecessary—and often traumatic—dental work on children from poor families in order to maximize reimbursements from the federal Medicaid program.

The Gagnon family sued Phoenix-based ReachOut Healthcare America, a company that provides administrative support to mobile dentists, after their medically fragile 4-year-old son, Isaac, was given two unauthorized and unnecessary "baby root canals" while being forcibly held down inside his school. The suit has since been settled, according to the family's attorney, who declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
In June of last year, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee concluded an investigation into complaints involving ReachOut Healthcare and four other corporate dental chains operating across 23 states. The committee found that the traumatic treatment endured by the Gagnon family was "not necessarily widespread" among ReachOut Healthcare's affiliated dentists, but criticized the company for failing to provide adequate oversight.
The committee also recommended that Nashville, Tenn.-based Church Street Health Management be excluded from the Medicaid program after a review of treatment records found that two-thirds of the baby root canals, or pulpotomies, performed at a Phoenix clinic operated by the company were likely unnecessary. The company, now known as CSHM, has since gone through bankruptcy proceedings and taken on new management, allowing for continued participation in the Medicaid program, said Perry Hall, a senior strategist for the public relations firm Lovell Communications.
Arizona state Sen. Kimberly Yee, a Republican, said inappropriate access to student records helped fuel the abuses by mobile dentists in her state and elsewhere.
ReachOut Healthcare's practice is to "make friends with employees on [school] campuses, particularly those in administrative or nursing offices, take them to lunch, and thereafter ask for student information databases," Ms. Yee maintained.
In response, she sponsored a bill, signed into law last year, strengthening the procedures for reporting violations related to the release of student directory information—which typically includes name, address, and phone number—to third-party vendors. Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, schools may disclose such information so long as parents are provided the opportunity to opt out of any such releases.
Ms. Yee said her goal was to maintain "the privacy of students on campuses from outside vendors who want to obtain [directory] lists to increase their client bases."
In an email, company spokesman Eric Tolkin wrote that "student directories are only used in approximately 2 percent of schools served by dentists affiliated with ReachOut Healthcare."
That would still involve thousands of students: In Arizona alone, dental teams affiliated with the company provided services to more than 100,000 children in 2010 and 2011, according to Mr. Tolkin.

In part because of parent complaints about unwanted solicitations made using student directory information, a number of districts, including the 37,000-student Peoria Unified School District outside Phoenix, have severed ties with the company.
"We let them know we wouldn't be able to continue the relationship given what seemed to be an abuse of that information," said Danielle Airey, the Peoria district's director of public relations.

Security Breakdown
Privacy advocates, though, offer few such specific examples of children being harmed as the direct result of having their personal information compromised.
The fallout from identity theft, for example, might not be known for years, especially when it involves children, said Mr. Reidenberg, the Fordham professor.
That's cause for concern, he said, given the volume and scope of accidental data breaches in K-12 systems. In 2009, for example, the Philadelphia-based Public Consulting Group, a private contractor of the Tennessee Department of Education, inadvertently left the names, addresses, dates of birth, and full Social Security numbers of more than 18,000 Nashville Public Schools students available online for more than two months. Affected families were notified of the breach and given free identity-theft and online-credit monitoring, according to Nashville school officials.
Just as alarming, advocates say, is that many businesses now encourage children, families, educators, and district officials to pay for online content and services with personal information.

Unfair Practices
In its FTC complaint over the "deceptive and unfair" business practices of Highland Park, Ill.-based Scholarships.com, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, accused the website of encouraging its 14 million users to provide sensitive information, then using an affiliated entity of the company known as American Student Marketing, or ASM, to sell that data to third-party marketers without adequate disclosures.
The site invites users to indicate their sexual orientation, if they are clinically depressed, if they have a drug addiction, and if they have parents who are illegal immigrants, among other pieces of information. According to the complaint, ASM then sells that information to marketers.
In an email, Scholarships.com said users have the option to provide the sensitive information referenced in EPIC's complaint, that such information is collected primarily to direct users to relevant scholarship opportunities, and that most third-party marketing comes from postsecondary institutions.
In a telephone interview, company vice president Kevin N. Ladd also suggested that using individuals' personal information to support targeted advertising is hardly unique to Scholarships.com.

Related Blog
Data proponents acknowledge the growing furor around privacy concerns, but say better security practices, clearer consent procedures, and improved contracting protocols can mitigate risks without dampening data's educational benefits.
Ms. Barnes of EPIC, though, stressed the need for a wide perspective on what those risks actually are.
"From our standpoint, the initial harm comes when the law is violated and when student consumers lose control over their data," she said.

Contributing Writer Michelle R. Davis contributed to this article.
Vol. 33, Issue 18, Pages 1,11


Friday, January 24, 2014

Digital Learning Blog on Student Data Privacy

Trust in the Classroom: Protecting Student Data Privacy and Security 

The expanding array of education opportunities enabled by digital technology and broadband networks necessitates a renewed commitment to establishing trust with teachers, parents, and students that sensitive information is securely protected.

Teachers and students have access to new tools and resources ranging from online gradebooks to online courses, personalized blended learning platforms, and math apps for tablets. These new resources support teaching and learning but also raise important questions around how sensitive data is protected, used, and under what conditions is shared with whom. Parents deserve to know what data is being collected on their children and they deserve to know that steps are being taken to securely safeguard that data and ensure the privacy of their student. Parents also deserve to have the best educational options possible for their children, and those options are increasingly dependent on technology that uses data to personalize instruction for each student. Safeguarding sensitive student data means more than just rejecting all data collection. Individualized learning can only exists with the proper and effective use of relevant student data—whether that information comes in the form of a teacher’s observation in her classroom or the electronic record of a student’s completing an assignment. The crucial element is to store that information securely and ensure student privacy is protected. At the heart of any forward-thinking education system should be a clear and explicit listing of the rights of a parent and student, a detailing of the measures being taken to protect that privacy, as well as a clear assigning of responsibility for the trust and maintenance of that protection. There is patchwork of state and federal privacy laws related to children, including COPPA, CIPA, and FERPA. As states take steps to clearly address through policy the rights of students and districts and education providers work to put into practice new systems, it’s worth unpacking some recent legislation which can help to inform this work. Back in May of 2013, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order officially prohibiting the federal government from collecting a broad range of personally identifiable data on students and their families.

Oklahoma’s recent student data privacy bill is one example that was expanded upon by ALEC in September 2013 to provide a template other states can use to protect their students. The Data Quality Campaign has also released some key principles. Each of these examples embraces good governance, transparency, and accountability as fundamental components of promoting student data protections. The Student Data Accessibility, Transparency, and Accountability Act in particular outlines six critical sets of activities for state policymakers:

  1. Inventory what type of data is being collected. Knowing is the first step, and this model language would require the state to annual audit and publish an inventory and dictionary of what type of student data is currently being collected. Any data that has been proposed to be included for future collection will be required to have a supporting statement explaining why it is necessary to have that data collected.
  2. Avoid unnecessary collection. Data that isn’t collected can’t be breached or used improperly. There are certain pieces of information that do not belong in an educational record, such as a student’s (or a family’s) political affiliation or voting record. 
  3. Ensure data remains close to the student. There are benefits for those in a school to know certain medical information on students, such as if a student has an allergy or requires the administering of medicine. However, knowing that a specific student is allergic to penicillin shouldn’t go beyond the school’s doors. Multiple layers need to exist to ensure there are adequate protections around the flow of student data, detailing what can be collected at the school, and how much of that information is permitted to flow to the district, to the state, and lastly, the federal government. This is true for those private companies and nonprofits providing services to a school as well, be it an online gradebook, an online courses, dual enrollment program, or a personalized, blended learning platform. 
  4. Define parental access. Parents are given the explicit right to access and review their child’s education record. Schools must provide electronic copies of student records to their parents upon request. Parents must be notified of their rights as they relate to their child’s personal information. This is new in education but it isn’t new in other areas of sensitive information such as electronic medical records. New requirements under the Meaningful Use incentive program require patients to have access to their records within three days of request. Most patients have immediate access via secure websites. If we can do this in healthcare, surely we can do it in education. 
  5. Establish a Chief Privacy Officer. A Chief Privacy Officer would be charged as the primary person responsible for ensuring all educational privacy and security policies—federal or state—are faithfully implemented. The CPO would work with the legislature, the Department of Education, local districts, and the general public to share best practices and develop policies to create a culture that respects privacy and security. Shortly after the release of this model language, Alabama became the first state to create the position of a chief privacy officer for education. Parents need to know who they can turn to if they feel their child’s privacy was violated. Schools need someone they can consult with to guide their practices and procedures. A state CPO would help. 
  6. Develop security plans. The state would be required to develop policies for keeping sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands: who has access to what data and when. Policies also must be developed to prepare for and mitigate against data breaches. Security practices, procedures, and technologies need to be constantly reviewed and assessed for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. 
These concepts are largely the same as those advocated for by bloggers such as FunnyMonkey and other privacy experts. Far from a vacuum, there is a strong desire for action by policymakers. We saw another reminder of that reality as Common Sense Media released a survey showing that, “91 percent of respondents support stronger parental-consent requirements related to the sharing of sensitive student data, and 89 percent supported tighter security standards for cloud storage.” While the desire is there, the challenge is enacting smart policy that thoughtfully establishes protections without preventing the next generation learning teachers and students demand. Whether a district maintains control of all student data internally or contracts out to vendors for assistance; whether that sensitive data is stored on servers within a school building or is stored out of state in the cloud, proper data protection policies are needed. We would also argue that the solution goes beyond simply passing more laws and regulations.

Schools need to update their practices, as highlighted by a recent Fordham Law School report. And as we outlined in our Data BackPack paper, we think there are opportunities for the technology community to offer new solutions to privacy and security. In addition to standard privacy controls such as encryption for sensitive information and user authentication, there is a need to explore a Facebook-like set of privacy management tools that let parents determine what data gets shared, and with whom. Parents could determine, for instance, if they were comfortable with sharing information about their child’s profile with outside community organizations, institutions of higher education, tutors, or a MOOC. The key design principle must be to give users the tools to control what is shared with whom in a way that is easy to understand and allows the parent and student to know when information is disclosed and to whom. The effective and careful use of data has transformed our society. It has made society more productive and efficient in all stages of life. The thoughtful use of data in school can increase the effectiveness of teachers and ensure each student is receiving the personalized instruction they deserve. But these new opportunities must be coupled to new safeguards. Parents should clearly understand the rights of their students and the steps that their state is taking to protect them. Policies taken by security-minded states like Oklahoma paved the way for the development of this stringent model legislation. It should spur legislators and parents to examine their own state’s safeguards for data. Trust remains a timeless and central ingredient of any classroom. - See more at:


Educational media per day

Children are using less educational media per day as they progress through preschool and elementary school, a new survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center found.

Yet at the same time, the overall time children spend in front of a screen goes up, from an hour and 37 minutes a day on average for 2 to 4 year olds to 2 hours and 36 minutes a day for children between the age of 8 and 10. The 2- to 4-year old set spend 78 percent of that screen time, or 50 minutes a day, with media that parents considered educational. The 8 to 10 year olds spend slightly less time — 42 minutes a day — than their younger counterparts on educational media. More than half of parents reported that their child has learned “a lot” from the educational media.

The vast majority of that time is spent front of a television, the Cooney center found. Children ages 2 to 10 spent 42 minutes per day with educational media on TV, while mobile devices, computers, and video games all captured 5 minutes or less on average.

— Maggie Severns


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mozilla Badges


What is a Badge?

badge [baj]: a special or distinctive mark, token, or device worn as a sign of allegiance, membership, authority, achievement, etc. (Source: Dictionary.com)
A badge is a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest. From the Boy and Girl Scouts, to PADI diving instruction, to the more recently popular geo-location game, Foursquare, badges have been successfully used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success in many contexts. A “digital badge” is an online record of achievements, tracking the recipient’s communities of interaction that issued the badge and the work completed to get it. Digital badges can support connected learning environments by motivating learning and signaling achievement both within particular communities as well as across communities and institutions. (Source: Erin Knight White Paper)

Digital Badges vs Open Badges

A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badges take that concept one step further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through credible organizations and attaches that information to the badge image file, hard-coding the metadata for future access and review. Because the system is based on an open standard, earners can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of their achievements — both online and off. Badges can be displayed wherever earners want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.
Open Badges are:
  • Free and open: Mozilla Open Badges is not proprietary. It’s free software and an open technical standard any organization can use to create, issue and verify digital badges.
  • Transferable: Collect badges from multiple sources, online and off, into a single backpack. Then display your skills and achievements on social networking profiles, job sites, websites and more.
  • Stackable: Whether they’re issued by one organization or many, badges can build upon each other and be stacked to tell the full story of your skills and achievements.
  • Evidence-based: Open Badges are information-rich. Each badge has important metadata which is hard-coded into the badge image file itself that links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence.
Open Badges make it easy to:
  • Get recognition for the things you learn;
  • Give recognition for the things you teach;
  • Verify skills; and
  • Display your verified badges across the web.

What is Mozilla's Open Badges project?

Learning today happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it's often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside of school.Mozilla's Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web through a shared technical infrastructure. The result: helping people of all ages gain and display 21st century skills and unlock new career and educational opportunities.
Want to know more about Open Badges? Read about what badges are and how they work and check out our Frequently Asked Questions page to find some answers, or shoot us an email at badges@mozillafoundation.org

Get started with Open Badges

Ready? Check out our site and Community page
Set? Create your Backpack
Go! Get some Badges!
Read more about the Technology behind Open Badges. 
Find the Onboarding information for Issuers, Displayers and Earners and get started!

Become part of the Community

  • Open Badges learning group and development group -- Subscribe to these groups to take part in ongoing conversations about badges in the wild.
  • Open Badges Community Calls -- Join our weekly global call every Wednesday at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 5pm GMT. During these hour-long calls we share our progress and encourage you to share your Open Badges work, questions, and comments. They're fun and we encourage you to come along!
  • Open Badges Research & Design Calls -- If you are interested in Open Badges Research and Badge System Design, join this call, held on Wednesdays in the hour before the Community Calls, at 8am PT / 11am ET / 4pm GMT.
  • Open Badges Blog -- Follow our blog for Open Badges news and updates.
  • Twitter -- Follow @OpenBadges and use the #OpenBadges hashtag to join the conversation on Twitter.
  • Facebook -- Like us on Facebook for news and updates you can share with your networks.
  • IRC -- Reach us on IRC at irc.mozilla.org, #badges
  • Open Badges presentation materials -- Want to give an Open Badges presentation? To get you started, here's a PDF. Please note that all of these documents are CC by SA.
  • Common badges terms and vocabulary -- Help us to build a common lexicon of digital badge terms.

Who is using Open Badges?

Further Reading

Press Inquiries

Please contact press@mozilla.com.

Get involved with Mozilla

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