00524 Refocus on Fundimental Arizona Needs

October 8, 2010

The May 21st issue of Capital Times focused on Arizona’s recently completed legislative session. A section by Jeremy Duda was titled, “10 most significant bills of 2010.” The selection of items for any top ten list is highly subjective. But from a news criterion, which reflects the interest of readers, they have a tale to tell.

The article starts with S1070 the immigration bill followed by bills that;

Ban K-12 courses than focus on racial divisiveness or anti-U.S. sentiment;

Decriminalizes discreet gun carry without a permit;

Remove regulations for gun manufacturers that sell inside Arizona;

Joins Arizona with 18 other states in a lawsuit against the U.S. health care bill;

Requires reporting of corporations and unions on campaign spending;

Legalizes sale of small consumer fireworks;

Criminalizes as a misdemeanor offense the sending of sexually explicit photos by minors electronically;

Allows for private firms and other entities to operate State parks;

Increases to $1000 the amount for private education that can be deducted from state taxes.

We each have intuitive and emotional responses to these widely varying bills. That is why they make the top ten for news. But not one of them has any significant current or long range effect on solving the most important of Arizona problems:

Education that prepares less than half our children for success;

Workforce that is both rife with unemployment and is ill equipped to compete for quality jobs;

Economy that is not only struggling within a recession but has limited capability to transform from its 20th century industries into the emerging industries of the 21st century.

Bills that directly effected Arizona’s major problems were lost or killed in the chaos of sine die. The digital content/curriculum bill and the jobs bill were two that could have had a real effect.

It all comes down to a couple of questions. Will Arizona elect a legislature and a governor that will fade ideology and the news worthy moments into the back ground? Will Arizona’s newly elected 91 person governance focus 80% of their efforts on education, workforce and economy using a mid to long range outlook with deep intellect, rational thinking, prescient intuition and brilliant ideas?

We must make it so.

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00571 Refocus with Cloud Computing

October 8, 2010

In the early 1990’s I first heard of the “cloud.” Being an aeronautical engineer, I was taught to avoid clouds, since the bad ones can give aircraft safety factors a run for their money. But last month our Arizona eLearning Task Force addressed a different kind of “cloud” – cloud computing, and the Arizona Tech Council hosted a daylong expo on cloud computing at the Phoenix Convention Center.

I decided to see what “cloud computing” might mean to our quest for K-12 eLearning. Don Rodriguez, editor of TechConnect Magazine defines cloud computing (translated to education).  “It’s letting the Web be the gateway to your learning support, assessment and administration tools. No software, no IT technical person, and no down time. Except for your computer interface everything is in the ‘cloud’.”

talked to the 18 vendors serving Arizona at the ATC Expo to find what they could offer to support K-12 education. About half had major contracts from large school districts to charter schools, along with many higher education engagements. Several provided consultant, business requirements, design and system architecture services. Some provide specific aspects such as data centers, voice over IP, data, virtualization, document storage and telecommunications. Others provide IT, online IT education for high schools or expert course modules. A few offered complete virtualized cloud computing service or were VAR’s (value added resellers).

There have been significant changes since our original 2004 eSATS K-12 system design, and our 2007 update. Our task team has embarked on a month long challenge for a systematic update of the design. With cloud computing becoming available to K-12 education, the potential reduction in investment in district servers, data systems, software and technician staff needs to be reexamined. eSATS is all about the teacher-student interrelationship with a large increase in both academic performance and graduation rate. Our focus has not been on educational technology; it has always been on eLearning. Going forward, we must depend on cloud computing to do its job. We need to keep our focus on teacher education and professional development, the redesigned of curricula using all the strengths of emerging digital content and its effect on pedagogy, the 21st century schools and Internet interface devices.

Only then can we complete the long awaited transformation from legacy education to eLearning.

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.

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.

 

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.

00419 Educators and Employers Two Different Worlds

May 3, 2010

So goes Arizona’s economy, so goes education, so goes the economy, so goes ed…

In the early 1990’s, Arizona had a thriving high-tech manufacturing sector with quality jobs paying twice the average wage of other sectors. Four of the top ten employers were high-tech, with 45,000 employees. By 2000 Honeywell had merged with Allied Signal Aerospace and Intel moved into the top ten with Motorola and Raytheon, with total of 52,000 employees. Today Walmart, and other retailers dominate the top 10 employers with only Honeywell and Raytheon with 23,000 high tech employees remaining.

Educators have striven over the past two decades to improve reading, math and science education and focus on learning 21st century skills. There has also been an effort to adopt high-tech learning support systems to improve effectiveness of student achievement. The small academic gains based on test scores may be statistically significant, but their effect factor is far off the mark of what is needed. High school graduation rates, and graduate career and college readiness have not begun to close Arizona’s widening demand gap.

From the 1940’s through the 1970’s, our major high-tech manufacturing firms were established as divisions of California, Chicago and New York based corporations. Since then, no divisions or corporations of this type have been successfully attracted or grown from scratch in Arizona. Current non-manufacturing successes such as Avnet (electronic components distributor) and Apollo (online learning) have combined 75,000 employees — but only a fraction are in Arizona.

Arizona’s population has almost doubled in the past couple of decades, but the high-tech quality jobs have not. Lower paying retail and service jobs continue their explosive growth.

What is the cause – effect relationship?

According to the Arizona Technology Council, there continues to be high demand in the high-tech community for high quality engineering, manufacturing and service employees, yet they are hard to find in Arizona even though our college level education system is working hard to meet the need.

The critical factor is that our K-12 system does not connect to this demand. K-12’s time horizon to address this demand is a decade or two while human resources departments need educated workers this year. K-12 boards and leaders live in a non-profit public service world while employers are mostly in the for-profit private sector. School funding comes from an array of property, income and other taxes. Employers pay their taxes with little influence on how schools are funded.

eSATS’ team has striven provide a solution that can transform education to be highly responsive to every student’s needs. Our intent is to home-grow an educated and skilled adult population that itself attracts and grows a huge number of quality jobs within Arizona.

But frankly I believe we are at a time similar to the Lincoln – Douglas debates and Lincoln’s Coopers Union address. Lincoln had so finely clarified the true situation between the South and the North that the nation had finally realized there was no political solution, and their only alternative was war.

Since war is not now an alternative, and the current reform process is not meeting the demand for greatly increase academic performance we must find a better way. There is a single critical linkage between educators and employers. Over the past 200 years, employers have become very effective in adopting emerging technologies of all kinds. If Arizona employers could transfer both the knowledge and the culture of technology driven innovation to our schools it might be just tip the scales toward transformation.

00412 Green Energy and Turqs

May 3, 2010

During the 1960’s, the “green revolution” bible was Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog”. Last year Mr. Brand published his “Whole Earth Discipline” again with a picture of Earth from space on the cover. This time he asks us to “question convenient fables.”

There are many fables from the 1960’s that turned out to not be true or caused significant harm to the environment. Overpopulation driven apocalypses did not happen, but climate change was ignored for decades. New technologies like nuclear energy were thwarted, resulting in massive carbon releases from burning coal. Anti-genetically engineered foods and focus on organic food is fine, as a lifestyle choice, for affluent folks but when this notion is exported to third world counties, malnutrition and starvation surges while the natural environment is harmed.

Mr. Brand has now “rebranded” nuclear power as green energy because of low carbon emissions and foot print.

Yesterday I was having a luncheon discussion with one of Arizona’s legislators who is a strong supporter of green energy. Fourth generation Arizonan, her grandfather’s ranch was run on “green” wind power, wood burning and thick walls to insulate from the heat and cold. I suggested that she consider another green source of renewable energy on the ranch that of muscle power of both animals and people and particularly the mental energy of people.

Our overarching conversation yesterday at the capital was how Arizona could transform itself into a technology driven economy. The common vision of the day focused on energy, biotech and education. By integrating these three together the solution for Arizona’s transformation emerges. By enabling the mental energy of Arizona’s people with technology to learn; the knowledge and skills needed for the greenest of green economic transformation of Arizona will be in hand.

Mr. Brand has renamed green activists as Turgs. This is short for turquoise which is green combined with blue. The blue sky vision of the future is needed to guide green action and mitigate unintended consequences, and to be guided by facts and research, not nostalgia or technophobia. He has also modified his mantra from the 1960’s from:

We are as gods and might as well get good at it.

To

We are as gods and have to get good at it.

Ref. John Tierney article, New York Times.

00405Advocacy Demands Clear Message

May 3, 2010

Education Week, March 31, 2010 had two interesting articles. One was on the NAEP scores progress over the years and the other was titled “What Gifted Educators Can Learn From Sarah Palin.

What has sustained Sarah Palin is her ability to put out a very clear message to her base of voters. Her niche is exact and identifiable. Originally gifted education was defined by Lewis Terman, designer of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, as an I.Q. 140 or more. This resulted in 1%-3% of the students who were the smartest of the smart who had extraordinary needs from the educational system. Over the past 60 years, Witty, Renzulli, and Gardiner expanded the definition to where giftedness was diluted to the point of absurdity. Advocates have become hard-pressed to define the gifted child. As a result, potential supporters – politicians and administrators – are confused since there is no longer a clear definition. It is easy for the public to ignore the gifted. On the other hand, Sarah Palin has articulated a “unique selling proposition” and she sticks to it.

Gifted education has always been a niche issue and will remain so. eLearning for K-12 education is currently a niche issue serving about 3%-5% of learning. But it has the potential to serve all students. The critical issue for advocates is to define the issue in a very clean and concise way to accelerate adoption. Since we are still in the disruptive part of the innovation cycle, we need to hammer hard on one issue:

The effect of eLearning on academic performance.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows NO PROGRESS. As much as educational statisticians like to play with statistical significance to call out “* Significantly different from 2009” there is no EFFECTIVE difference.

Currently 60% of students who are not classified as performing are classified as either achieving or failing to achieve a basic education. Basic education is below the standard needed to thrive in a 21st century world.

The eLearning advocate’s message is can be illustrated by data from eLearning exemplars. Arizona’s Wilson District is one of the oldest, and there are hundreds more across the U.S. Only six years after adopting a complete 21st Century eLearning system for their K-8 students, Wilson had improved their students’ academic performance from last in the state to above average.

A K-12 eLearning system description is complex. Effective implementation requires focus on dozens of issues and long range planning. Advocates must rise above this maze of details and focus a clear “Sarah Palin” type of message. This message must carry the current true-believers while attracting an audience ten times as great. Our best bet for this phase is to sell the potential attainment. For this we need a host of exemplars like Wilson District. You find them for me, and I will do a one pager that distills their academic performance increases into a clear and visual message.

00329 History of Education – 5 Act Play

April 1, 2010

Economic History => Future

A recent Op-Ed by David Brooks* NY Times lamented the lack of a comprehensive history of modern economics, based on the stunning consequences of the recent events. His framework for this history is in five Acts.

Act I. Economic man was a crude representation of individual human nature who was totally rational and only interested in maximizing his personal benefit. During my late 1970’s MBA I took several economic courses, ran econometric models, and was always one variable away from solutions that matched the data. We actually used humans with quantified util’s as part of the utility functions and had grand arguments.

Act II. During the past several decades, Herbert Simon addressed not-perfectly rational people, and Gary Becker saw behaviors that were not just self interest, like having children. Others saw that people have biases, and many make non-objective decisions.

Act III. Is a discontinuity with the economic crisis of 2008-2009. The incredibly sophisticated econometric/financial models built over the decades failed to predict the wiping out of $50 trillion in global wealth and the huge human suffering that followed.

Act IV. is starting with soul searching that is far from a consensus on why the economic intellectual agenda-setters failed to see the oncoming train wreck. In the physical sciences, real problems are solved and stay solved. In economics, thinkers cycle in and out of fashion. Economists are now talking about the individual, love, virtue, social relationships and imagination!

Act V. David Brooks predicts that the current field of rational economics will be blown-up. Human beings cannot be addressed with universal laws like physics. It will become a subsection of history and moral philosophy focusing on individuals within contexts. The lessons learned will be one by one, like art, not science.

Education History => Future

Any lesson’s to learn for educational transformation from the economics’ meltdown? Probably not since Brook’s history is over a few years, and education’s a few century. But let’s walk along the path of economics anyway and lay in education at their milestones.

Act I. Early 1700’s: Prussians founded the highly structured lecture, recitation, seat-work system for the select group of aristocratic youth.

Act II. Late 1800’s: This model one-size-fits-all factory like system was applied to all children through universal education.

Act III. Middle of the 2000th century the system expanded to meet expectations that women, minorities and special needs children should also graduate. There was a significant increase in funding for all education with the major gains in special education. The education crisis emerged over 2 decades not the 2 years for the economic crisis.  Academic performance gains stagnated in the mid 1970’s. In 1980’s the system was shocked to learn that the Iron Curtain countries were out-performing American schools by a significant margin. The final blow came from a Bolivian immigrant Jaime Escalante who transformed L.A.’s tough Garfield High School. He blew away the myth that inner-city kids can not perform at the highest levels (movie: Stand and Deliver). He graduated more advanced placement Calculus students than all but four other U.S. high schools.

Act IV. The initial reactions were reforms and restructuring that moved the deck chairs but did not focus on hard issues. Innovations such as charter schools, choice, career ladders, No Child Left Behind, etc. were tried by many states but success was fleeting. Summative testing to standards is becoming a piece of the solution. But as any industrial quality expert knows the only way to have quality products out the door is heavy investment in design, training and equipment investment for all aspects of the cycle. After three decades of action academic performance and graduation rates remain flat. Society’s demands for job and college ready students, 21st century critical thinking and a globally competitive economy have soared. Fortunately ideas with broad and significant success factors such as eLearning, individualized instruction, digital content, teacher-student centered focus, mastery not seat time funding, online learning, and personal learning plans have started to emerge.

Act V. The 21st century will not see a blow-up of K-12 education like David Brooks’ forecast for the economics field. I believe the coming transformation from the factory model of the Prussians to massively-individualized education is definitely in the cards. This transformation will be shaped by the decades-old Benjamin Bloom studies of the tutor-student relationship and the individualization methods for gifted and other special education students from the 1970’s. Serving moral, social and emotional yearnings and ambitions of individual students will be the driving factor bringing renewed growth of both academic achievement and graduation rates.

The most import lesson from the economic tragedy is that the focus of education must not be on the “school” but rather on the multifaceted context of the student. Of course, this is not news to any successful teacher. Like Jaime Escalante they know how to ward off the Prussian structure to serve the needs of their individual students.

*: David Brooks, Op-Ed  The Return of History New York Times, March 25, 2009