Archive for October, 2009

91013 P20 Great Teachers – Great Leaders

October 13, 2009

Subject: Suggestions for Addressing the Critical Issue of K-12 Teachers and Leaders

Proposed Requirements by RTTT:

  • Confirm the number and percentage of core academic courses taught in highest- and lowest-poverty schools by highly qualified teachers;
  • Describe the systems used to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals by LEA;
  • Indicate whether systems that evaluate performance of teachers and principals include student achievement outcomes by LEA;
  • Provide the number and percentage of teachers and principals rated at each performance rating or level by LEA;
  • Indicate whether the number and percentage of teacher performance ratings are easily accessible to the public by LEA.

My Response

Actually I am a bit bum-fuzzled!  P20 Coordinating Council is tasked by Executive Order to focus on reforms to increase academic achievement. Based on decades of studies and planning initiatives, and our individual experience the teacher, time and again, has been recognized as the greatest single factor in student academic success. The scope of this issue is wide and deep. This task force has been named Great Teachers Great Leaders.

Why are the proposed requirements limited to a small component of the overall problem?  The five bullet items from Race To The Top cover only a situation assessment dealing with LEA data on performance ratings of teachers and principals. A quality assurance system is a necessary but insufficient part of the most critical human resource problems in Arizona. Most of this data challenge will be addressed by the State Longitudinal Data System Task Team.

I suggest that the P20 coordinating council develop requirements that address the statewide needs of teachers and leaders over the next decade:

  • Educating, hiring, professional development, rewarding, retention;
  • The emergence of eLearning in the classroom, online and at home;
  • Develop a multilevel system to assess teacher skills and practice mastery;
  • Design and implement the next generation of teacher instructional tools;
  • Transforming teacher practice from legacy education to hybrid eLearning;
  • Integrating the formative assessment data driven decision support system into teacher practice.
  • Aid Arizona’s universities in transforming their colleges of education to produce eLearning savvy teachers.

91013 P20 Data Task Force (3b) Research

October 13, 2009

Suggestions for Addressing the Research Requirements

Race to the Top (RTTT) Data System Proposal

(3b) Plan to support researchers with data from longitudinal and instructional improvement systems so they can evaluate what works

A suggestion: There is a requirement from the U.S. Department of Education that “schools adopt strategies that have been proven through rigorous research.”  (Education Week, October 7, 2009 pp18)

This is impossible because there are over 150 courses that populate the typical P-12 curriculum and there is almost no rigorous research available. The reason is fundamental. Complex systems that are in the same size and class as P-20 education include medicine and defense. The federal and industry funded rigorous research and development for medicine and defense is in the $60-$100 billion level… (each). On a good year the funding of rigorous research and development for P-12 education is at the $100+ million range, will behind the VA, Interior, EPA and DOT. Both medicine and defense has had 70 years of rigorous research based technology and procedures adoption. Education has yet to leave the starting gate.

There is a glimmer of hope and the Arizona RTTT proposal should reflect this new opportunity. A Washington based advocacy organization, “Digital Promise,” was successful summer of 2008 in having Congress pass legislation: Sec. 802. National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies. The 2010 funding is expected to be $50 million. It is modeled after the National Science Foundation. They will focus on using information and digital technologies to advance education, both formal and informal.

Arizona has an opportunity to collaborate with NCRAIDT. Through ADE, AZ eLearning Task Force, ASSET, IDEAL and research arms of our colleges of education and field testing system could be developed in Arizona. With Arizona’s wide range of populations we could develop networks of schools where innovative practices and technologies could be rigorously tested. Edwards AF Test Facility has spun off aircraft research base innovation into southern Californian aerospace industries for decades. An Arizona virtual statewide test facility integrated with our leading statewide data system would position Arizona as a first adopter of rigorous researched innovation.

91012 USDOE National Education Technology Plan

October 8, 2009

Preface Note: I am a proponent of the use of cross-industry innovation systems and transformation models. When my aeronautical engineering domain stopped talking about “flying machines” in the early 1900’s and started using the system descriptor of “aviation” the industry took off (horseless carriages => automobile, etc.). It is time to put aside “educational technology” and consider the system descriptor that has been emerging for a decade: “elearning”.


The U.S. Department of Education is developing a new National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) to provide a vision for how information and communication technologies can help transform American education. The plan will provide a set of concrete goals that can inform state and local educational technology plans as well as inspire research, development, and innovation. A draft plan is expected in early 2010.

This web site is hosted for the U.S. Department of Education by SRI International.

Planning Working Group

This group of 18 leading educators, researchers, state and district ed-tech leaders and policymakers has been selected from the Central-East part of the nation, except for Roy Pea and John Seely Brown from the Stanford/ USC communities. I know, or know of, a number of these pioneers from our work with eSATS (eLearning System for Arizona Teachers and Students) that started in the late 1980’s. These experts have provided the “shoulders of giants” that have, since the early 1990’s, guided and inspired a generation of advocates who have driven the early progress of eLearning adoption. The problem is that half of this working group should have been the bright new minds of eLearning like Susan Patrick and Clayton Chistensen. Also the US DOE Education Technology Director slot is vacant.

Barbara Means of SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning is engaged as the leader of the working group. We first met at a large ed-tech conference at in Stanford/Palo Alto in early 1990’s.

My concern is that the working group’s challenge is to be a driving force behind innovation driven transformation of a legacy system based on human labor. This is a huge task to achieve. Our K-12 education system has a history of innovation cycles that require a half century from start to finish. In the latter 20th century technology driven transformations of other industries were in the 20 year range. The economic, energy, resource and ecological transformation of our global 21st century demands an even shorter innovation cycle.

The foundation for the solution to these challenges is a successful mastery of the K-12 curriculum of – not just 50 to 65 percent of our student population – but 95 percent. A brief glance at our bell shaped performance curve shows a minimum of a one sigma increase for all students, and a pulling in of the tails. The failing student is performing at the C level and gifted student does not drop out. eLearning is the only means supported by meta-studies that show an effect factor in the 0.40 range.

Without a history of innovation driven transformation within K-12 education, the task of the NETP working group seems to be insurmountable. But innovation is always driven by a small group and fired by genius, so the probability is not zero. In business, science and engineering it is well known that the invention and innovation in a narrow sector of an industry is by the young with passion and creative ideas. If an industry transformation is to take place, it will happen with the collaboration of two forces.

One is the disruptive innovation (like microcomputers invented in the 1970’s destroying the minicomputer industry by the early 1990’s). The other is the few – then many – enlightened and seasoned leaders of the mature industry removing barriers and making the strategic planning, organizational design and financial change decisions that will accelerate a transformation. The 2010 NETP is positioned to support this transformational challenge with a innovation based strategic redesign of the K-12 system.

My Response

Over the past 20+ years hundreds of Federal and State technology plans have been written and rewritten every few years. However, they have had little effect on adoption of elearning.

A major exception is the NETP 2004 published from the U.S. DoE’s Office of Educational Technology under the leadership of Susan Patrick. The 68 page publication was titled “Toward A New Golden Age in American Education”, How the Internet, the Law and Today’s Students are Revolutionizing Expectation.” I distributed over a 1000 copies of this “little blue booklet” to Arizona legislators, governance, councils, businesses and educators. I believe it had a material effect on Arizona’s progress. Our legislature formed the Arizona eLearning Task Force that has 8 years remaining to transform our K-12 education system. Other legislative and governance successes were $3 million for a middle school math pilot, P20 council with data and teacher task forces, and all 1500+ Arizona schools enabled as virtual schools.

I recommend that this 2010 National Education Technology Plan reach beyond the 2004 success with a powerful new prescriptive design for innovation driven transformation. It must be more than just a visionary model on paper to be used as an instrument of advocacy. Create this plan with the expectation that it will be fully implemented. Transformation to K-12 elearning will be reaching its tipping point within the life of the plan. The quality, equity and effectiveness of the drive to that tipping point depends on this design.

The most recent data on eLearning adoption are from the 2008 iNACOL annual conference on online learning and Project RED => click on “click here to see the chart”. iNACOL reported 3% of elearning in K-12 education takes place online. The Project RED study had 4% of students in schools with computing devices for (almost) all students. With the hybrid mode online elearning being a significant contributor to classroom elearning. Let’s assume for the situation assessment that 5% of K-12 student learning is elearning based.

The semi-log plot from disruptive innovation theory predicts that 3%-5% will reach 10% by 2012. At 10% we are at the tipping point where elearning will begin its rapid transformation of legacy education.

Our federal NETP 2010 plan has two major roles. It will guide federal policy to drive this innovation and it will point to where significant funds must be invested. I am limited by the SRI web site for the working group, so I can only assess the current stage of their work in four focus areas.

Four focus areas of learning, teaching, assessment and productivity may be a reasonable first cut as system processes. But, historical processes are weak foundations on which to redesign a plan of this scope and magnitude. From both the NECC input and this outreach for public comment, I have to assume that the working group is still in the situation assessment phase. Members/staff of our AZ eLearning Task Force are concerned that a number of critical issues raised during the NECC focus groups were not included by the consultants/working group.

Possibly these four elements of legacy education theory are the conventional wisdom of the working group, and that is why they gravitated to them. In the science and engineering fields we advance rapidly because we understand how conventional wisdom can retard advancement. Inventive and transformational advancements and innovation are not based on best past practices or group processes. They are based on inventive genius and entrepreneurial skills of emerging leaders of the discipline. I wonder why this same old ground is being plowed many months into the process when the plan draft has to be written within a few months. I question the wisdom of not having representatives of the current cadre of K-12 innovation leaders in the working group. I also question the apparent lack of specialized expertise of strategic planning, inter-organizational design, elearning industry entrepreneurship, and school finance on the working group.

Some of this expertise may be provided by the SRI support staff, but to maximize effectiveness, it should also be built into the NETP working group.

The most difficult aspect of the NETP design is the inter-organizational design that will produce the systematic transformation of our entire national education system. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I had the pleasure of initiating –and being in the leadership of –Arizona’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development. We raised $500,000 and engaged SRI International. Critical economic industry clusters and supporting infrastructure were identified. Changes were made in how Arizona’s economy was supported in our government agencies, and new Arizona industry associations were formed. This system-wide effort addressed both our physical and intellectual infrastructures. Based on SRI’s initial engagement with Arizona, they developed a global practice that applied lessons learned on transformational strategic planning to other states and countries.

Since SRI International is the lead consultant for the National Education Technology Plan working group, I suggest that Barbara Means engage their global strategic planning team. They could provide the support needed for the complexity and scope of the elearning transformation of K-12 education in the United States.

The following are a number of elements that might be addressed with a system design process:

  • A vision of the transformed U.S. K-12 system in 2019;
  • The five to ten goals set by the working group to effect the K-12 system transformation, including P-20 goals where linkage is vital.
  • A set of quantitative objectives with time lines;
  • A short set of strategies for each objective;
  • A meta-strategy that addresses the entire system transformation.
  • A system design model presented on the learning ecology dimension with aspects of micro, meso, exo, macro and chrono ecologies* at each of the five functional levels from teacher-student engagement to federal.
  • A system design model based on the major implementation components: teacher practice development, student personal learning plans; digital curriculum, formative and summative data systems, broadband Internet access, student computing devices, technical support, metamorphosis of funding system from “seat-time” to mastery-based, leadership, elearning centered schools and spaces, federally sponsored research, emerging solutions based elearning industry, and “Innovation Centrals” to champion the transformation at all levels.
  • A detailed ten year financial model of the system transformation based on a roll up along the five functional levels of classroom, school, district, state, and federal. It would include a one-time investment spread over that ten year period, new costs, cost avoidance, cost savings and use of net savings either to meet needs like teacher salaries or to decrease tax burdens on communities.
  • An implementation plan with costs and benefits to guide the national efforts. It would deliver models for the state, district, school and classroom levels to support their efforts. Implementation will address changes in systems, governance, funding, facilities, transportation, people, types of positions and student learning pace/calendar.


Let’s look at an example. One of several system components being actively pursued under the current Race To The Top initiative is data driven decision support. Three of the requirements (1, 2, 3b) address Longitudinal Summative Administrative Data. The other (3a) addresses Real Time Formative Instructional Data. The administrative data systems are well defined, and have been under development for many years by many states. They are relatively easy to address since only 1 million administrators will be active users. The instruction learning systems are still in the research and development, and must serve the needs of 3.5 million teachers and 60 million students. These systems must be integrated with teacher professional development, digital curriculum, and computing interfaces and systems for all students and individualize learning plans.

Each component of the system transformation must be phased with an appropriate time line and with full consideration of the leads and lags of the other components. There are many other challenges within the five level system, from the teacher-student relationship to national physical, financial and intellectual infrastructure support.

I recommend that your planning working group might take a step back. You might want to reconsider developing a plan and process the is based on a redesign. Then generate a strategic eLearning plan that has both implementation and financial plans as major sections.

* Microsystem—the student’s family, school, peers; Mesosystem—two or more linked microsystems such as home and school; Exosystem—indirect outside forces: districts, states; boards, state standards, federal support and mandates, parents work conditions; Macrosystem—cultural beliefs, values, customs; Chronosystem—student is influenced by different systems at different times.

91005 Comments on Dr. Krugman’s Three Problems

October 5, 2009

The NY Times  opinion columnist, Paul Krugman had a recent subject for comment on solving three major U.S. problems. I read few of the comments and they addressed all the current issues: Obama, financial industry, politics etc. I felt that they totally miss the mark. My response:

In the long run, there is only one way for the U.S. to have full employment in the highly competitive global economy, transform manufacturing to serve 21st century needs and opportunity, and shrink the deficits with a sustained economic boom. To do this, we must transform P-20 education to individual paced learning where average academic performance will increase by 50% and graduation rates will soar to 90%. The legacy (Prussian based) model that has served us well into the 1970’s is mature and cannot respond to these current expectations and challenges. Only by accelerating the adoption of individualized elearning with its online, classroom and 24/7 access will these three crushing problems be resolved.

A strategic system analysis and redesign of the P-20 system including financial modeling shows elearning adoption can be implemented for a net cost of $300 per student per year for ten years (essentially, a one time capital investment spread over a ten year period). This one time net investment is for teacher practice transformation of $1500 per teacher per year, digital curriculum, real time formative assessment, data driven decisions support throughout the learning ecosystem, a computer interface for every student, school funding for competency-mastery learning instead of the existing seat time funding, and research to support emerging practices. Cost savings from construction avoidance, transportation, books, and each student moving thought the education system at a rate of 15% faster will not only pay for most of the elearning implementation but have enough left over to provide a 20% salary increase for teachers.

The major design attribute of elearning is individualizing of the engagement between the teacher and student. The driving transformative model is disruptive innovation which is at this time centered in online learning. With about 5% of education currently being delivered online, Our semi-log plot tells us that this will grow to about 50% by 2019. With political will and purposeful investment, our laws and funding models can be changed over the next few years to accelerate this adoption of this elearning transformation. Elearning supported individual paced and motivated learning is the only driving force that can transform the U.S. smartly into a new era of global competitive prowess, manufacturing leadership, and bulging coffers.

91001 Requirement 3a for P20 Data Committee

October 1, 2009

Subject: Suggestions for Addressing the Critical Issue of P-20 Data Driven Decision Support


The critical foundation to Arizona’s P-12 (was K-12, now PreK-12 => P-12) education future is the rapid completion of, and bringing to full operation, the P-12 data driven decision support system. This paradigm shift is the major change of creation, storage, transmission, communication and use of data. This transition is from analog means of verbal, white board and paper to digital means of audio, computer screens and data bases.

There are two separate but linked components to this data support system: student learning and administrative. These aspects have been addressed quite differently within the total ecosystems of Arizona P-12 education (micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono)[1].

1. The Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) has being under development for 15 years. The creation of this summative assessment[2] based system has made significant progress over the pass several years and is becoming operational. Within the next few years the full implementation of this powerful tool will support administrative decision makers in school, district, state, governance and community. Approximately 10,000 Arizona administrators are expected to use this system on a daily to weekly basis.

2. The Teacher Student Learning Data System (TSLDS) (to coin an acronym) has had little attention over the past 15 years. This real-time formative assessment[3] data driven decision support system is needed to support the learning interrelationship of the student and teacher. Real time formative assessment is tied closely to or integrated into the curriculum. Effective digital curriculum includes automated formative assessment aspects that provide feed back, coaching, guidance and scaffolding to the student during the learning process. For problem sets this may be a simple right-or-wrong as the answer is input by the student. Hints or direction may be provided. An artificial intelligence (AI) system may shift the student to relearning a fundamental concept before readdressing the more complex solution. A different AI system may assess all aspects of an essay and support a redrafting minutes –not days – later. Teachers are provided with real time assessment of each student’s challenges and successes and can provide effective and meaningful individualized support. Approximately 60,000 teachers and one million students are expected to use this system on a minute to hour basis.

[1] Microsystem—the student’s family, school, peers; Mesosystem—two or more linked microsystems such as home and school; Exosystem—indirect outside forces-school boards, state standards, parents work conditions; Macrosystem—cultural beliefs, values, customs; Chronosystem—student is influenced by different systems at different times.

[2] Summative assessment—end of course tests, summing up work of student and links to demographic – operational data.

[3] Formative assessment—real-time and supports the student form the retained learning.

Race to the Top (RTTT) Data System Proposal

There is an opportunity that Arizona can secure data system funding in the range of $15 to $20 million from the federal government’s RTTT stimulus fund. This would be enable the SLDS to be completed and brought to full operation in about three years. The proposal must address four requirements:

(1) Implementation of all 12 data elements specified by the America Competes Act.

(2) A high-quality plan to ensure key stakeholders get access to and use state data.

  • Key stakeholders include parents, students, teachers, principals, LEA leaders, community members, unions, researchers, policymakers, and others.

(3a) Plan to increase educators’ use of data-based tools to drive instruction.

  • These “instructional improvement systems” include instructional planning, formative or interim assessments, rapid-time reporting, interventions and other actions

(3b) Plan to support researchers with data from longitudinal and instructional improvement systems so they can evaluate what works

Timing is critical for this proposal. The P-20 Coordinating Council (P-20 CC), Deb Duvall of the governor’s office and Arizona Department of Education have made this a leading priority. Boston Consulting Group has been engaged to assist. The P-20 CC created a SLDS Task Force whose first task is to support creation of a winning proposal. Cathleen Barton, Intel’s US Education specialist, heads up this task force. The proposal is due in early December, 2009.

Requirements (1) and (2) are mostly addressed within the history, current operations and long range plans of ADE’s SLDS and district level administrative data operations.

Requirement (3a) has not been well addressed over the past decades, and Arizona does not currently have many strong TSDLS’s in place – nor active plans and funding in place for comprehensive implementation.

Requirement (3b) will be readily addressed within the large and active educational research systems of our universities with their phalanxes of masters and doctoral students within every school district. Arizona has national class educational research operations like the Applied Learning Technology ^ Institute, the Fulton Institute and others throughout the state university system.

Reaching across all requirements is the ASU based and ADE funded Integrated Data to Enhance Arizona Learning (IDEAL) portal system for online teacher education and training and digital curriculum delivery. It has developed over the past ten years into a national model for a statewide P-12 data-information delivery network.

Statewide Longitudinal Data System (Requirements 1 ands 2)

SLDS is in the rapid growth phase of its forty-five year “S” shaped innovation cycle started in the 1970’s as school districts installed DEC, Wang, GE and other minicomputers in their back offices. This innovation is now accelerating toward maturity. The broadband infrastructure, data and computer systems are mostly in place for the teachers, administrators and staff who will be using the system. There is much yet to be done to provide training and to implement unique decision support systems to assure effective use these systems. Large districts have implemented their own sophisticated data systems over the decades. Small and remote schools and districts will need individualized support do to lack of expert staff in this area, and less sophisticated current systems. Much work remains to be done to integrate these systems into the requirements of SLDS. There seems to be strong support from leadership and staff at all levels to complete this task and start reaping the benefits. Fortunately for SLDS, work processes using green sheets for accounting, type writers for documents and file cabinets for storage have not changed significantly. Digital data systems have readily automated these relatively simple manual and intellectual tasks. The teacher-student learning process is radically more complex and difficult.

Teacher-Student Data Learning System (Requirement 3a)

TSDLS is at the beginning of the ramp of its fifty year innovation adoption cycle started in the late 1970’s with Apple, PET and TRS 80 micro-computer labs. This low cost, out-of-classroom experiment has not been successful in its charge to increase academic achievement. A few computers in the back of the class and a teacher computer plus projector have been the next step forward. But transformation to an elearning system is the only mechanism where research shows significant academic performance improvement. This human-technology integrated system includes:

Individual computer interfaces with 99% uptime technical support level;

Ten-fold increase in educator training and education for practice transformation to elearning;

Broadband Internet connectivity;

Individualized student learning pace and funding mechanism;

Digital curriculum that is unique and effective for each of the 200 semester courses offered in P-12 education;

And only then will “formative or interim assessment with rapid-time reporting” integrated with digital curriculum and teacher practice transformation have the effects that the Obama administration is expecting from RTTT funding.

Proposal Strategy

Here lies the elephant in the room. It will be a challenge to write a winning RTTT proposal for requirement (3a) without assuming that the elearning transformation system is to be implemented during the next three years. Unfortunately this prescribed statewide elearning system is currently only about 15% implemented. There are no plans backed with the $2 billion in net funding needed ($2000 per student, over ten years, when cost savings are factored in.) to accelerate this implementation. This funding is a one-time capital investment spread over ten years.  Arizona is struggling to keep the current implementation of K-12 education from sliding backward. The good news is that no other state has stepped up to elearning implementation any better than Arizona.

A proposal strategy might be to develop a unique message of how Arizona has had a long history of design and partial implementation of this P-12 elearning system design and has learned the challenges. Then build on an 8 year implementation plan that will have at its center the (3a) funding. This funding would be used to study the limited research and emerging practices of teacher-student data real-time systems. Then a startup design would be made and implemented within current P-12 sparse elearning system. With basic improvement in place, elearning build out for our entire P-12 system can be addressed.

Two Arizona experts that may be available to assist in the proposal are Joseph O’Reilly and Rick Baker. Joe is serving on the Arizona eLearning Task Force (AZeLTF) and is a leader at Mesa Unified District in this area. Rick is Associate director of the ASU Applied Learning Technologies Institute (ALT^I) at Skysong.


I suggest that the SLDS Proposal Team call on two Arizona elearning organizations to provide support for Requirement (3a). One is the AZeLTF appointed, for ten years, by the legislature and governor to address this issue, and housed at ADE. Two years ago AZeLTF was ready to award a contract for a $3 million middle school math elearning research project when the legislature swept the funding. The other is eLearning Systems for Arizona Teachers and Students Inc. (eSATS) a 501(c)(3) non-profit task team with a 20 year history of addressing this issue through engineering design, human systems and advocacy lenses. Members of this task team completed a study on elearning research for Institute for Defense Analysis/Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2005.


Data are necessary but to not sufficient for innovation driven change. Intuition, knowledge, champions and zealous advocates are also part of the innovation process. Only when data supports the development of information which is then transformed into knowledge to support decisions for action will effective transformative effects on P-12 education be realized.