Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

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.

00628 Invention Driven Innovation for Education

October 8, 2010

AP’s Kathy Matheson’s article on educational invention is at It seems that at last a national support system is emerging for eLearning products and services – maybe.

Our U.S. technology based and innovation driven industries enjoy a total of $150 billion in research funds annually. Defense gets half, National Institutes of Health $30 billion and National Aeronautics and Space Administration $20 billion*. Educational technology? Just about zip – maybe $100 million on a good year. Education is just now being recognized as an industry to be driven by technology based innovation.  With research lagging far behind, where are the other vectors of support. The market?

The U.S. formal education industry spends $1 trillion each year, and is willing to invest for access, efficiency and effectiveness. For most entrepreneurs the lack of technology infrastructure, turnover in policies, leaders and curricula, and cumbersome purchasing procedures presents a significant marker barrier. Entrepreneurs have tended to invest their talent and funds in more attractive markets. How about the public sector?

The Department of Education has a $650 million fund to boost education innovation that is focused on entrepreneurship. University of Pennsylvania wants to create an entrepreneur incubator linked with their Department of Education. ASU has grouped their world class ed-tech research groups into SkySong with its enterprise incubator under the leadership of Julia Rosen, Assoc. VP for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They held the first national education entrepreneur summit this spring. It was modeled after Michael Moe’s similar eLearning industry conferences in the 1990’s.

The expectation is that the education market for technological innovation will become a rival to health care. It’s an admirable goal but we have a long way to go if the health care model of technology is a model.

Another down side for entrepreneurs is that the Venture Capital system destroyed itself ten years ago with its dot-com melt down. During the 1990’s half of VC funded entrepreneurs could expect an initial public offering where they could take their enterprise to the next level. Almost all they can expect now is to be acquired by another company where the entrepreneur leaves with a big pay day. On the brighter side, let’s do a visionary road map:

Factor of 10 and then another factor of 10 increase of federal R&D funding for eLearning research.

A boom in entrepreneurship driven marketing of innovative digital content, curriculum, assessment and delivery systems.

A return of the IPO and a healthy VC dynamic to grow $5 million enterprises to $500 million.

I know that there is a fine line between road maps and wishful thinking. But maybe the Black Swan is about to alight on the eLearning entrepreneurs’ pond.

* “Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2008,” 2007, Congressional Research Service.

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.

00509 Social Bonds Trump Governance Policies

October 8, 2010

A May 4th Op-Ed column by David Brooks in the NY Times addressed the issue of government policy and outcomes for the society it governs. His example were Swedes who had immigrated into America a century ago. Today both the citizens of Sweden and their American cousins have 6.7 poverty rates. Their life expectancy rate increases from 1950 were 2.6% and 2.7% respectively. Even though there were huge policy differences between the Swedish welfare state and national healthcare system and the U.S. system, the outcomes were not effected.

So rest easy Arizona, Brooks writes, “The influence of policy and politics is usually swamped by the influence of culture, ethnicity, psychology and a dozen other factors.” A U.S. citizen’s continent of origin is a huge factor in life expectancy. For instance Asian roots will give you 15 years more life than African.

Some U.S. regions happen to be high trust, where highly educated people will produce positive feedback loops, good culture, and human capital programs. Others have low social trust, low education levels, and negative feedback loops.

Government policy has little leverage to improve social bonds, but can be very damaging if it destroys these bonds – like devastating U.S. Native American policies — which take generations to repair. That is rule one, do no political harm to any social group. Second is to establish basic level of physical, economic and social security. Last is to be creative about policies that strengthen relationships.

My gut tells me that there is much truth within Brooks’ take on governance and policy. Without trust, no society will flourish. Without a spirit of collaboration, creativity and long range vision societies give way to wrangling on short term, meaningless issues. Without a total commitment to education of every single student, 70 percent of Arizona’s kids are winding up with the short end of life’s stick.

Arizona is a phenomenon. We are the U.S.’s newest region. Immigration across our north-south-east-west borders has increased our population five fold over 50 years. We have a rich and eclectic mix of social groupings and cultures. Any family that pulls up roots and moves to Arizona has somewhere, down deep, an entrepreneurial – pioneering – innovating spirit.

Arizona is still in play. We are not yet a region of high trust nor a region of low trust. But how we play the game into the future will have huge consequences. So here is the plan:

We must not only celebrate this diversity of social and ethnic groupings but strengthen all aspects. The common linkage that networks all of Arizona is P-12 and higher education. We must refocus all our disparate energies into a single area — our schools. They are the primary linkage for local communities throughout Arizona.

Arizona must become the exemplar of what a “21st Century Education State” means. Any policy proposed that tears the social fabric of any group in any way, we reject it. Any policy that claims to improve our education we try, assess, then adjust our aim as needed. Every leader must be a player on the education team. Every organization must play its part. Especially the local parent, community, religious, neighborhood and business groups that embrace our 1500 schools.