Archive for the ‘K-12’ Category

00802 Finland

October 8, 2010

Every other nation is jealous of Finland with its 1st place K12 education rating among developed nations. There are few preschools in Finland. Their kids have a pre-primary year at age 6 and enter formal (basic) education at the age of 7. Finnish basic education is nine years followed by 3 years of upper secondary education. The upper secondary splits into preparation for vocational or university. The school year is 190 days for the estimated 800,000 students in a stable population of 5,600,000.

Their four level system is national, municipalities, school and classroom. They give only one national standardized test – much like the SAT or ACT. It is at the end of the upper-school studies which entitles the students to go to university or polytechnics. They have shifted from a national curriculum to depend on the local ingenuity of the schools and teachers. Finland has focused on individualized education base on teacher freedom to provide direction and inspire.

Finnish students learn four languages including English, Finnish and Swedish. The country is bilingual with homes with Finnish and Swedish spoken. Schools are highly stable with low growth rates. They have three teachers in a classroom where one is full time to help struggling students. Teaching is one of the most honored professions with only the top 10% of applicants admitted into the teacher colleges. Their homogeneous population spends about 7% of their gross domestic product on youth education. The Finnish citizens, communities and leadership are highly committed to education.

Our Arizona education ranks below average in the U.S. which has a 19th rating world wide. Preschools are abundant. We have 10 fewer days per academic year and one more year of education. We put one teacher in a classroom with maybe an aid and parent volunteers. Arizona has career technical education and academic options, but do not split the schools. Our population of 6.5 million includes about 1.1 million students.

Our five level system is national, state, district, school and classroom. With No Child Left Behind and multiple other standardized tests, including AIMS, the curriculum decisions are spread through out the system. Schools and teachers are assumed to need more guidance and control, and have less freedom to use their own ingenuity. Arizona has worked for decades to standardize education to control what is taught in the classroom.

Arizona students learn one study one language English and maybe another. Many students learn Spanish in the home. We have continually evolving schools with one of the highest growth rates in the US and some with 30% turnover each year. Teaching is not rated in the top rank of professions. Most students entering teaching colleges are in the lower quartile of college entrants. Arizona spends a bit under 5% of gross domestic product ($10 billion/$210 billion) on youth education.

The differences in expectations and results are obvious. Teachers are the powerhouse which drives their success. Their system and culture is totally focused on getting education right and keeping it right. The other major foundations Arizona contends with like competitive workforce, university education, enterprise, and economy can take care of themselves.

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00726 Public Education Opinion and Governance Response

October 8, 2010

A recent poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa pried into the minds of the American people to determine their opinions on American schools.  The results:

Teaching was the top priority, well above standards, testing and fixing the worst schools.

Support is high for charter schools.

Don’t fire principals and teachers or close failing schools, just provide comprehensive support.

College education is absolutely necessary.

Funding is the biggest problem.

State, not Federal, government is responsible for public schools.

Teacher pay should be aligned with student achievement.

Teacher time to learn new and better methods is essential.

Increasing student motivation by paying students money is opposed.

The “grades” respondents gave their schools have been stable for 35 years.

Our governance leaders at all levels are supposed to reflect the wishes of the American people. So what have they focused on for American’s 55 million K12 students, 3 million teachers and 100,000 schools for the past couple of decades?

Standards, testing and trying to fix the worst schools, a host of new federal mandates and a single innovation – charter schools.

What did they not address in any substantial way?

Teacher (pay, education, professional development, practice, placement, support), funding (regulations, levels, and sources), student motivation (success, individualization)

If you will put up with my engineer-entrepreneur bias I will have a go at the mismatch of citizen opinion and leader action:

Our governance leaders are actually pretty smart. Although ideology varies there is an overriding realism in their decision making that keeps them from putting major investments into unproven areas. Standards and testing cost almost nothing (a few $million). They closed only a few of the failing Arizona school (a few more $millions). Hundreds of charter schools are supported since the teaching results compare to District schools and cost is usually less. Charter schools also provide a venue for innovation.

Aggressively improving the current legacy pedagogy within the teacher and student relationship carries risk. No other state has done it. The increased annual investment would be significant about $2 billion a year for Arizona. At best the results would be only a modest increase in academic performance.

The alternative way to address the opinions of the American and Arizona people is to break from the 19th century legacy system and embrace the 21st century means and methods.   More to follow….

00719 eSATS 3 Scenario Redesign

October 8, 2010

From the date above, you can see that I am a couple of months behind on my weekly blog. I will be catching up over the next few months. The main reason is a combination of vacation activities and hours a day committed to the redesign of the 2004 eLearning System for Arizona’s Teachers and Students (eSATS) design document.

For the past 6 years, we have attended hundreds of community organization and legislative gatherings, collected their ideas, studied the experts and research, and synthesized this information into the redraft. The 2010 eSATS draft recasts the K12 transformation effort into Grand Challenge mode. The heart of the challenge is for eLearning adoption to transform education which in turn reverses the downward spiral of workforce capability and employment, and economic development and prosperity. The 60 pages include new graphics and a revised 10 year time line based on three scenarios:

Freeze eSATS: holds eLearning at the existing 5% of learning but builds data decision support systems, broadband telecommunications to all communities, and increases legacy teacher professional development by a factor of ten. This low probability scenario maintains the current 68% graduation rate and is the baseline for the next two scenarios.

Current eSATS: forecasts a continuation of low growth of eLearning from 5% to a 30% level. There is State support, but most progress is by District/School initiatives. This scenario aligns with the current national trend. Graduation rate is increases to 80% due to significantly higher but fragmented motivation to learn and academic achievement.

Full eSATS: has Arizona doing a carpe diem with adoption of the eSATS Grand Challenge design. The State builds out 21st century class intellectual infrastructure and physical infrastructure to support adoption at the District/School level. Finance, laws and regulations are changed, costs savings due to accelerated learning pay most of the bill, and eLearning savvy teachers get a 15% raise over normal inflation. Districts and Schools refocus the teacher professional development to produce eLearning savvy teachers, install 1:1 computing interfaces for students and effective digital curriculum and content for every class. The individualized, competency based education for all students results in not only a graduation rate of 95% but students are prepared for post-secondary careers and education. Arizona becomes the vision, poster child, and center of the vortex for eLearning transformation of the Nation’s education system.

eSATS task team had a fruitful meeting on Friday, September 17th. We addressed how we can use this design to influence dozens of community organizations and hundreds of Arizona leaders to embrace K12 eLearning as the main dish on their plate to “fix” education.

We are redoing our web site and it will be up shortly. If you want a copy of the 2010 “Grand Challenge, Transforming Arizona’s K12 Education by Adopting an eLearning Systems Design” August 2010, send me an email.

00712 From Genteel Pleasures to Hard Headed Mentality

October 8, 2010

David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed writer recently reframed our current situation within the context of the genteel mentality. What made England, Japan, Germany and the United States and may other nations great at various times over the past one hundred years is that technicians started putting scientific knowledge to practical use. But for every nation the saying of “shirt sleeves to shirtsleeves in X generations” set in. The great, great … grandchildren of inventors, mechanics and entrepreneurs change their attitude to a more genteel way of life. It is difficult for a culture to maintain a hardheaded and practical drive after decades of affluence.

In the U.S. many of our newly educated mathematicians, engineers and physicists eschewed the practical field of manufacturing and science. They found a genteel way of life in the financial industry. Industrial manufacturers that used to attract the best minds now see these prospects going into professions of law and other societal helping disciplines. The current mismatch between the need for employees in the manufacturing trades and the surplus of mortgage, real estate, consulting and service professionals accounts for about 3% of the our 9.6% unemployment rate. Closer to home this issue is highlighted in surveys of manufacturers by the Arizona Technology Council.

Over the past twenty years the upper class has aspiring to the aristocratic life style, the middle class has been funding their life styles with debt, and the lower class has been struggling within social breakdown and failing schools.

Frankly this class description of Dickens’ merry-olde-England needs to be broken up once and for all.  K12 education is where it should happen. eLearning transformation will individualized, engage, and deliver success for students. eLearning simulation programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will attract a much larger set of students into the practical professions. A healthy balance and stronger integration of helping, creating, and rearranging professions and trades will prepare our 21st century citizens for the highest pleasure the genteel miss out on – practical success by one’s own hands that helps others.

00621 K12 is Risky Business

October 8, 2010

ames Bagian – a NASA astronaut, engineer and currently a hospital patient safety expert engaged by the Veteran’s Administration at their National Center for Patient Safety – was recently interviewed by Kathryn Schultz in her series on “being wrong.” Their discussion focused was on health care safety vs. aviation safety.

Aviation is a highly hazardous industry, but it has so much safety designed into the system, there is very little risk of a bad event. The field has a systems perspective, and there is a huge investment in safety. They are not interested in punishing the individual but rather learning what led up to the event and how to change the system to prevent a repeat in the future.

In his current job with the VA, Bagian found the opposite. Health care is all about,”finding out who made the mistake and punishing them for being stupid.” The profession trains them “the right way” and then blames them for mistakes. But a systems analysis and transformation in one area, medication, can reduce the error rate from the current 7% to 10% (!!!) to less than one tenth of one percent.

Admonishments to double-check, be careful, be diligent, and to read the literature do not work. But reporting close calls in a non-blame environment can be highly effective. Developing a culture where breaking the law (rare) remains blameworthy but human errors are expected and capitalized on leads to both a better work environment and a safer work environment. Punishing errors is a terrible policy because it chokes off reporting the very data needed to change the system.

The most similar industry to health care is education. Each is an integration of public and private entities within a large and complex system. They deliver critical human to human service where errors can cause serious problems. Errors in medical systems usually cause immediate harm, where in K-12 education the accumulated harm is only evident after many years.

Many K-12 reform efforts produced a range of admonishments — such as more parent involvement, hire better teachers, more money in the classroom, fewer administrators, and students should work harder — but practical systemic K-12 solutions are rare.

eSATS was founded based on the use of systems analysis applied to education. We discovered a number of serious systemic issues. The isolated classrooms and schools hampered close-call and error reporting, that could support systemic changes to correct for errors. The focus on summative assessments of students, teachers and schools on a weekly to yearly basis were of little value for continuous systemic reduction of risk of student academic performance failure. This results in significant risk to the probability of student academic performance success. The labeling of schools and judging of teachers and principals on summative assessments has been framed as a solution instead of being recognized as part of the problem.

eSATS focuses on real time, data driven formative assessment within the teacher-student relationship as the most important means to assure each student performs, and rises to, their academic potential. The automated data warehouse and decision support systems in our State are being developed for legacy summative data which is a necessary step forward. But only with the application of eLearning systems that include real time student-teacher formative assessment capability, will Arizona have the capacity to remove risk of student failure from of our K-12 education system.

00614 Transformational Triggers

October 8, 2010

My annual one month crunch of model airplane building-flying-competing at the Nationals in Muncie, IN is now behind me. I am settling back into a more “normal” routine. The challenge for 2010-2011 school year is upon us. The question is whether our associations with their advocacy will have any effect on transforming Arizona K-12 education. History has the answer, but to a different question – one of turning points leaping out of the blue. For example:

Forty years ago Yosef Mendelevich, a Soviet Jew, tried to hijack a plane in Leningrad to fly to Sweden, and then on to Israel. He was arrested with a number others by the KGB. The heavy handed trial cause a global protest and back lash against the Soviets. As a direct result, hundreds of thousands of Jews were allowed to emigrate over the next decade. A transformation in Soviet attitude toward human rights was triggered that resulted in the Berlin Wall falling and an empire collapsing.

A decade or two from now, an educational historian (yes, we have these folks at our universities) will do a study on what triggered the massive transformation of Arizona’s K-12 education into a 21st Century powerhouse. She will probably find one person that for her own reasons bucked the system and triggered the transformation. Instead of Yosef’s “unrequited longing for a homeland” her driving force will be “unrequited longing for equity to serve the learning needs of her child.”

The best we can do is keep plugging away. The tipping point may be soon or may have already happened. In a decade or two I hope to be reading the real story of what had triggered the turning point for Arizona.

00531 Ambiguous Decisions

October 8, 2010

Being an engineer, entrepreneur, designer and strategic planner, I have long been an advocate of integration of the rational, intuitive, creative and visionary aspects of decision making. This quartet seems to have served me well for most challenges over the decades. The one challenge that seems to be intractable to this approach is the transformation of K12 education to meet the needs and expectations of the 21st century. Many of our eSATS task team have been working on this issue for 20 years – some for 30, and at best the solution has reached the 5% level.

Last week, I had a heated discussion on this issue with my close circle of high-tech entrepreneurial buddies from the 1980’s. They recommended that I abandon this grand challenge and like an entrepreneur, refocus on something that has a reasonable probability for success. I retorted that I had done the smaller summits, and Mt. Everest is the only game worth playing.

But it got me thinking that maybe my quartet of decision making processes was not hacking it. Perhaps what was needed was a new approach that would be effective with our target audiences – Arizona’s governance and education leadership. In reality, it’s their decision process, not mine that is fundamental to this K-12 transformation.

For incumbent leadership, the solving of this education challenge has been disappointing and potential solutions ambiguous. For 30 years they have responded with reforms that have face validity but have had minor effect on the overall challenge a 30% failure rate for student

graduation. Gary Klein, a psychologist and chief scientist at Applied Research Associates, has written a book on how people make decisions in ambiguous situations.*

From an interview in Science News, Gary Klein describes how we are wired for speed and it is impossible to not jump to conclusions in ambiguous situations. Within an unending universe of rules and facts, the logical risk analysis approach leads to inaction, or worse, to inaccurate and deceptive calculations that lead to disaster – like our financial crisis. Experienced decision makers use tacit knowledge to recognize situations based on experience. They create a mental story to understand what is going on while using intuition to make their decision.

Education is the most critical factor in the success of each citizen and for the entire State of Arizona. Leadership is rightfully hesitant to risk a radial change in the status quo without being assured of the outcome. But without a radial and successful change, we will continue our slow economic decline and wastage of 30% of our children. What to do?

I say we trust our decades old intuitively reinforced concept that technology is the key to transforming K-12 education and follow Gary Klein’s advice, “Successful decision makers actively manage a situation and shape their options rather than passively awaiting the outcome of a gamble that has specific probabilities, risks and benefits.”

In other words don’t analyze, synthesize or shade your eyes. Act now knowing that once eLearning  transformation has started your intuitions will serve you well in the follow through to a successful conclusion.

*Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making, MIT Press, 2009.

00511 Learning Path Keeps Widening

October 8, 2010

Arizona’s demand for both quantity and quality of K-12 educated graduates has been increasing for decades. But only once, about 40 years ago, was there a significant response by the K-12 education system. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the federal government enacted Public Law 94-142 a major increase in school service for special education. I served on the Special Ed Advisory Committee to the Arizona Board of Education as the representative for gifted education, one of the ten categories. Due to massive support of Arizona parent advocates and new federal and state funding, learning support was brought to this ignored population (10% to15%). The increased investment in school funding was about 10% and has been maintained to this day.

During this most recent legislative session, Florida was used as a model for legislation that would improve Arizona education. Over the past decade Florida has moved out of the middle of the pack to the top quartile of math academic performing states. Arizona has remained at, or near, the bottom, usually bracketed by Mississippi and Louisiana. And both of these hurricane battered states have a reason.

Many Arizona bills changed rules and regulations. What has not been publicly addressed is the fact that Florida invests 15% more per-pupil adjusted for regional cost differences. Of equal importance is that Florida committed to eLearning in the mid-1990’s with major investments in digital content and curriculum. More currently, their state-wide Florida Virtual School is now serving the nation. There was little movement in these areas in this year’s Arizona legislative session.

Arizona has the right focus in place with STEM, 21st century knowledge and skills, career and/or college ready graduates, etc. We have a host of advocacy organizations massing to influence the election of a education supporting legislature and new Department of Education leadership.

The tulips and daffodils have bloomed this spring and hope is in the air. I spent the day yesterday at ASU – my grandson and another 100 entering freshmen went through an orientation, advising and registration process that was light-years beyond my 1956 experience of just getting onto the train in Akron and walking onto the MIT campus to fend for myself.

Ride along with us this next month as we redesign and then plan for implementation of Arizona’s Grand Challenge => Transformation of K-12 education into the 21st century.

00503 Expect More Arizona

May 3, 2010

As many of you know, our legislative effort to create a significant new digital curriculum office  to support eLearning within Arizona’s K-12 schools was not successful. Although it passed unanimously in House and Senate committees it was held for a month in the Senate without the final hearings needed to complete its passage.  This failure has strengthened our resolve and new pathways are opening.

It and many other worthwhile bills were pushed to the side while the legislature focused on a host of other issues that the world and you are aware of.

A brand new organization Expect More Arizona ( expectmorearizona.org ) launched last week with major meetings in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma. The members are the heavy hitter organizations and entities in business, education, government, economic development, and philanthropy. They evolved from breakthrough work of the P-20 council over the past several years. Their published goals:

“Build public support of education as our state’s top priority;

  • Educate Arizonans about the education continuum and the inter-connectedness of each stage of education;
  • Increase public awareness of the issues affecting education in Arizona and their impact on individuals, local communities and our state;
  • Provide Arizonans with opportunities to be actively involved in strengthening education in our state; and
  • Mobilize Arizonans to support people, programs and policies supportive of education.”

Immediate goals are to pass Proposition 100 and to determine which legislative and state wide candidates will pledge to support education. eSATS is working to include appropriate use of technology in education. The goal is to separate the lip-service “education candidates” with top priorities in other areas, to the standup candidates for education as top priority – the root from which grows the future of Arizona.

Arizona, once again, has experienced Pearl Harbor. Our battleship has sunk but our new emerging technology and strategy – the aircraft carrier is on the ascendancy. We have a lot to accomplish in this election year of new beginnings.

Stay tuned, get tuned up, and start singing a happy tune.

00426Economy_Workforce_Education

May 3, 2010

Arizona for the past couple of decades can be modeled by a unique propeller driven airplane. The thrust that propels this aircraft is a counter rotating duo of three bladed propellers. As the head winds increase this thrust remains fairly constant but the aircraft slows.

The three propeller blades are the economy, education, and workforce which are tightly coupled.

The front propeller has the:

economy which depends on a high quality workforce;

which in turn depends on a high performance education system;

which in turn  depends on funding from a robust economy.

The rear propeller has the:

workforce that needs quality jobs delivered by a globally competitive economy;

which in turn , requires a top ranked education system to support enterprise attraction,   creation, growth and retention

which in turn requires a world class  workforce of educators.

Economic research credits technological  innovation for 85% of economic advances over the past 200 years.

Workforces in almost all industries have been trained and educated to adopt and use these emerging technologies with their unique process changes over the past 200 years.

Education industry has adopt  technologies and processes invented prior to 200 years ago,  only in the recent couple of decades has emerging technology initiated its innovation process to transform education.

Arizona is positioned to seize the global lead in transforming education with eLearning adoption. But since the leading player in Arizona education is our legislature, the members must be strongly support the long range plan.

We have major coalitions that are committed to transformation in general.

ABEC is business-education and is focusing on school finance.

Expect More Arizona (rolling out this week) is business-foundation and is focused on election of candidates the support education and workforce.

AZ eLearning Task Force has a 10 year policy mission.

The two missing pieces are the:

eLearning enterprises that lead in the understanding of educational technology and process that deliver effective eLearning across K-12 and higher education, workforce, and military simulation.

The rest of the technology enterprises that leading in the understanding of how to engage and develop technology savvy workforces and how apply innovative technologies in the workplace.

GAZEL is the organization for Arizona’s eLearning enterprises with one of the largest clusters of companies in the nation with revenues over $4 billion.

ATC has over 500 members statewide and has had great track record on educating legislators on technology issues and getting bills passed. Their reputation is outstanding, from the legislature to national level.

There is a significant opportunity for Arizona and both organizations if GAZEL and ATC are able to work mutually support each other and work together as the driving force in a statewide quest to make eLearning the means to simultaneously create a world class economy, workforce and education system.