Reporters who cover education have little trust in education companies, compared to other sources of information they have to choose from, a survey finds.
Many states have taken a cautious approach to reopening schools for in-person instruction during the pandemic. Florida was much more ambitious.
The vast majority of school districts across the nation’s third most populous state were required by the state’s department of education to offer an in-person learning option at the beginning of the academic year. That meant the state’s 67 main, county-based districts were tasked with finding a way to serve not only families who wanted face-to-face instruction, but also those who chose online instruction at home.
As such, Florida’s experiences offer a preview of what an increasing number of school districts around the country are now going through, as they transition into more fully in-person and hybrid instructional models. A new special report, available exclusively to EdWeek Market Brief members, provides education companies and other organizations keen on working in Florida with an in-depth look at the biggest needs that the state’s 67 school districts face, as they continue to straddle the brick-and-mortar and online learning worlds.
Through our reporting and analysis, readers will learn about Florida school systems’ hunger for academic interventions and other strategies to address learning loss, and their need to bolster the well-being of students whose emotional states have been made fragile by the upheaval of COVID-19.
Readers will get districts’ perspectives on the massive scale of their device purchasing over the past year, and prevailing worries about lackluster internet connectivity in students’ homes. And they will learn about the pressure Florida districts face to implement new state academic standards — and to scaffold myriad instructional materials, assessments, and professional development for teachers on top of those standards.
This special report is the final installment in a three-part series on state markets that have enormous importance for companies in the K-12 market. The first two reports focused on Texas and California. This report, like the others, includes original research drawn from surveys of Florida K-12 officials. But the heart of the analysis is interviews EdWeek Market Brief’s editorial team conducted with key district administrators, including superintendents and their top deputies, curriculum directors, finance officials, and others.
Student Engagement, Standards, and Remediation
The Florida report includes perspectives of district officials like Robert Bixler, the associate superintendent for curriculum and digital learning in the Orange County school system, based in Orlando.
Bixler explains how his district began turning its attention to students’ anticipated learning loss as early as last summer, offering targeted academic programs and focusing on students thought to be most vulnerable, particularly in elementary grades.
Since then, the 212,000-student district has been exploring strategies for remediation that can be delivered in a variety of in-person and online settings.
“You are always concerned about the kids who are most at risk and what they’re missing in school,” Bixler said. “We’re all trying to find ways to meet their needs–with intervention, tutoring, all those things.”
Among the other insights offered in the report:
- Survey data collected from Florida K-12 officials about their top academic priorities over the next year – which include both instructional and non-academic needs.
- Perspective on the key factors that will drive Florida district officials’ decisions on selection and purchasing of curriculum and other academic resources to align with new state academic standards.
- Details on the current blend of in-person vs. remote instruction in Florida districts, and their plans for offering summer instruction focused on learning loss.
- The results of in-depth interviews with district officials from across the state about their biggest needs from vendors, the state policies shaping their work, how they plan to spend federal funding.
Another major school system highlighted in the report, the Palm Beach County district, is – like many in Florida — trying to navigate two different worlds, with about 50 percent of its students taking classes in person, and remainder working remotely.
Teachers have found “unbelievable and inspiring” ways to help students and encourage them to think creatively in online settings, particularly through technology, said Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Schools Keith Oswald.
But the 193,000-student district needs more innovation and flexibility from education companies, to keep students locked in no matter what their learning environment.
“Engagement has been our number-one priority,” he said. Every day the district looks for “little things that can enhance how [tech] is used in this environment,” and vendors who can “enhance what students do in a distance learning space.”
EdWeek Market Brief members can access the report here.
Image by Getty
A new class of special purpose acquisition companies could give rise to a constellation of publicly traded education companies, with more visibility and greater access to capital.
A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress would make make E-Rate money available to support Wi-Fi on school buses, the latest of several recent recent efforts to expand student internet connectivity outside school hours.
Sens. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have introduced the legislation, which would require the Federal Communications Commission to issue regulations to make Wi-Fi access on school buses eligible for support under the E-Rate program no later than 180 days after enactment. Under the bill, schools would be reimbursed for equipping buses with Wi-Fi.
The E-Rate program is funded at $4 billion annually, and allows schools to receive reimbursement for certain internet services provided on campus.
If policymakers provide more financial support for off-campus wireless services, it could increase the ability of students to make use of companies’ ed-tech tools, apps, and platforms, including on long bus rides where students have access to laptops and other devices, if this bill gets enacted.
The bill is aimed, in part, at promoting digital equity for rural and tribal communities in states like New Mexico, according to Lujan’s office.
Approximately one-quarter of New Mexico’s over 350,000 students don’t have affordable internet, according to a statement by the New Mexico Homework Gap Team, which describes itself as an ad hoc group of professionals who support narrowing the digital divide for K-12 students in the state.
A December study by the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that almost 17 million students nationwide lack home internet access to complete school assignments.
“For rural and tribal students who travel hours to and from school, these commutes can be valuable time accessing the internet, completing assignments, and conducting research,” Lujan said in a statement. “Empowering our schools to equip buses with Wi-Fi is an opportunity to uplift our students, tackle the homework gap, and help alleviate the financial strain that too many families are experiencing at home.”
If passed, the legislation would give schools more flexibility in terms of figuring out how they can best use ed tech to promote equity, said Amina Fazlullah, equity policy director for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe and effective technology use for children.
“Every community has different layers of barriers to equitable access to education related to technology,” she said in an interview. “Having that flexibility ultimately in the E-Rate program will be incredibly useful for schools where students have long commutes.”
But Fazlullah suggested that the ed-tech funding expansion outlined in the Lujan-Graham bill shouldn’t substitute for other potential federal initiatives to support costs for students’ home connectivity.
It remains to be seen whether the FCC will act decisively on some lawmakers’ and education advocates’ calls for a long-term, dedicated funding source to support students’ home connectivity.
The COVID-19 stimulus package approved earlier this month allocated $7 billion to the FCC for the creation of what is being called the “Emergency Connectivity Fund,” separate from E-Rate, to pay for high-speed internet and devices used off campus.
The commission also recently announced plans for a policy that, among many other things, would allow school districts to apply for reimbursement for costs they have paid for students and teachers to access broadband at home.
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in an interview with Education Week this month, said the agency remains in the “process of evaluating how we can update the current E-Rate program to meet the moment students and families find themselves in.” She spoke after the agency in February issued a request for public comments on whether E-Rate funds could be used to support remote learning during the pandemic.
In 2018, then a U.S. congressman, Lujan became familiar with how Wi-Fi operates on a school bus when he attended a “Rolling Study Halls” event. Hosted by Santa Fe Schools and funded by Google, the event took a Wi Fi-equipped bus to a Native American pueblo in New Mexico, Tom Ryan, chief information and strategy officer for the district, noted in an email.
In addition to Santa Fe, the Albuquerque district is one other school system that has outfitted school buses with mobile Wi-Fi units, installing hot spots on 80 buses across the area as of October.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has introduced legislation similar to the Lujan-Graham bill in the House.
The legislation has picked up endorsements from the National Education Association, Competitive Carriers Association, Free Press, Public Knowledge, School Superintendents Association, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Rural Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
Photo: Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., is pictured on June 29, 2018, visiting the Kewa Pueblo, a Native American settlement southwest of Santa Fe, N.M. The program was called “Rolling Study Halls” which was funded by Google.
Happy Tutorial Thursday Friends! Today I’m showing you how to make this insanely easy and fun fabric bowl. Honestly this couldn’t be much easier, and they only take about 10 minutes to make! They are perfect for gifts, and of course organizing smaller notions!
And keep in mind you can make this project any size you like. Just make sure your outside and lining fabric are the same size, then make your fusible fleece 1/2″ smaller. So for example in the video both my outside and lining fabric are 7″ square. That means my fusible fleece needs to be 6-1/2″ square. Stick with that formula and you can customize the size of these to fit your unique storage needs.
That cute baby bowl in the photo above was made using 5″ square outside/lining fabric and 4-1/2″ fusible fleece.
Supplies for this project are simple:
Watch the Easy Fabric Notions Bowl 2 Video tutorial here:
And that’s it friends! This cute bowl couldn’t be any easier! They’re perfect for using up some of your fabric scraps and would make a fun gift idea too! I hope you’ve enjoyed this project, make sure to share your makes on social media and tag me @ericaarndt #ericaarndt #ericaseasyfabricbowl
Don’t you love finding new ways to celebrate holidays? We thought you would because we love it too! Here you’ll find a collection of ideas and activities we’ve gathered from our own sites and from some of our blogging friends. We truly do hope you are inspired to try one (or several!) of these activities and ideas!
Whether you want to keep things simple, use what you already have on hand, or go all out and have a big celebration, we think you’ll find just what you’re looking for!
Games and Hands-on Activities
We hope this free printable Easter Story Trivia Game will help you keep the focus on Christ this Easter season!
This LEGO Tomb Easter Activity will help you share the story of Christ’s resurrection with your kids in a hands-on way this Easter!
If you’re having an Easter party (or if you just have a lot of kids!), this is a fun game for young children.
This Lego challenge is perfect for helping children illustrate (and remember) the Easter story.
Looking for a simple, just-for-fun Easter craft for your family or a party? This is it!
These crosses are beautiful and are easier to make than you might think!
Dyeing Eggs and Easter Egg Activities
Using shaving cream and food coloring to dye Easter eggs is fun and simple, and your eggs will be pastel beauties!
This fun science experiment/activity is perfect for the Easter season.
If you’re like me, you hate throwing things away if they can be recycled or repurposed! This article shares 10 ways to use leftover plastic eggs in fun and educational ways.
ABCs and Math Activities
If you like the number match activity above, we think you’ll love this upper and lowercase letter match too!
This is a super cute preschool math activity for children who are working on counting, matching, and recognizing numbers.
Use plastic Easter eggs to do these math activities with your little ones.
Fun with Food
This sweet Easter treat reminds us of new life, so it’s a perfect Easter or Palm Sunday treat for kids to make and eat!
If you have Peeps for Easter (or leftover Peeps after Easter), use them to do this experiment! It’s super easy and inexpensive.
This simple activity will encourage your children to be creative and use critical thinking skills in a fun way.
Coloring and Painting
This is an Easter-themed coloring pack for kiddos who enjoy coloring or need something quiet to do for a little while.
These Q-Tip coloring pages are fun for children, but they’re also great for helping develop eye-hand coordination!
Miscellaneous and Collections of Ideas
Learn more about how other countries and cultures celebrate Easter with this fun printable booklet that all ages will enjoy.
In this article, we share a collection of ideas and experiments for the Easter season.
This is a fun assortment of articles sharing creative ways to dye and decorate Easter eggs!
This article is a collection of all kinds of printables, ideas, and activities for your children or for an Easter party, co-op, etc.
This collection includes printables for both Easter and spring. (Note: All of the printables were free at the time we created this collection.)
This resurrection garden is a wonderful way to remind your family of Jesus this Easter season.
This is another collection of lots of fun printables and activities for Easter and spring.
Looking for printable craft ideas for Easter? You’ll find a great collection here!
I walked into the kitchen to find my youngest two kiddos (9 and 6) deep in concentration at the table. Glancing at the pile of tiny clay food, it was clear that they’d been up awhile. These two are early risers.
For my own sanity, and to keep them out of trouble (bright and creative minds are uniquely dangerous when it comes to too much unsupervised time), I started strewing things for them to discover a few years ago.
Put simply, strewing is leaving something out for the kids to discover, piquing their interest. Putting things in the path of your kids — spreading a feast, so to speak, and letting the kids take from it what they will.
Strewing is popular with unschoolers, and I think it’s one of those things that anyone can adopt and pull into their homeschooling — or life. It’s a great way to incorporate more self-directed learning, giving kiddos ownership of their time and education. But, there are a few things to remember when it comes to strewing…
The first, and most important thing to consider when it comes to strewing, is that parents should have no expectations for how — or if — the materials will be used.
Strewing is all about sparking curiosity and letting kids run with it. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment as a parent if you’re putting something out as the start of a new unit study or because you think your kids need a bit more practice in an area.
Strewing fails when we get caught up in a desired outcome. If I strew space stuff — a book, games, maybe queue a video on curiosity stream, and put out some space tous, but the kids fiind a book on Ancient Egypt on the shelf and dive into that instead, it might feel like I’ve failed. And I did, if I set out to start a unit study on space with them.
But, when I keep in mind that strewing is about sparking curiosity, and not product placement, I realize that the Ancient Egypt play and conversation the kids are now involved in is a huge win. They’re owning their learning, and it’s a natural part of their lifestyle.
It Can Be Anything
“What do I strew?” is probably the most common question I get when it comes to strewing. Most people who hear me talk about it get the whole leaving things out for the kids to find thing. They struggle with the what to leave out and the how to keep it from costing a fortune part of strewing. If you do too, I want you to relax.
Strewing can be just about anything:
- queued videos
- building blocks
- science kits
- historic toys
- art supplies
Whatever you dream up — you can probably strew it.
To help you get started, I created a printable for you to download, print, and hang up in your school room or put into your planner to give you a bit of inspiration whenever you need it. Simply drop your name and email in the form below and check your email for your printable!
You can also learn more about our #StrewtoLearn email series and join in here! What cool things have you strewed out for your kiddos? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever wanted to ask a homeschool graduate what they thought about their homeschool experience? Are you curious about what an adult life after homeschool looks like? I get all the answers from Samantha Shank, a brilliant homeschool graduate, highly successful business owner, and highly gifted, eclectic learner.
I absolutely adored my conversation with Samantha Shank, from Learn in Color. Not only is she a homeschool graduate, she is also an obviously gifted, eclectic thinker, whose enthusiasm for learning is contagious.
These are some highlights from our time together.
The Most Important Things Parents Can Do For Their Homeschooled Children
As a homeschool graduate, who graduated from high school and college early, Samantha believes the most important thing her parents did for her education was simply this –
“They let me learn.”
Sam’s experience and ultimate success, is one of the reasons I feel so strongly that interest-led, child-directed learning produces the very best outcomes for gifted learners. For a example, her passion for World War Two was the flickering flame that launched an entire business.
Other experiences that Samantha remembers as essential to her homeschool education were:
- Weekly Library Trips
- Encouraging Outside Groups and Connections (I think Samantha is going to be Miss America someday!)
- Her parent’s encouraging her to try new things, knowing that not everything would be a fit
- Helping her learn to fail in a safe and supportive environment
Homeschooling High School, College, and Beyond
One of the most encouraging topics we covered was Samantha’s homeschool experience through high school and college. It’s clear that her passion for learning fueled not only her studies and interests, but her ability to build a flourishing business.
She attributes much of this success to her parent’s decision to homeschool her, specifically in an interest-led eclectic way.
Samantha is also quite encouraging for those of us who worry about our kids not fitting in or struggling to establish friendships. Her advice for our kids?
Do you. It may not happen in your city or your area, but eventually, you will find your people who share your interests. Find your group of friends in your own nontraditional way. You don’t have to sacrifice your core personality for friendship.
What Does A Gifted Homeschool Graduate Really Think About Homeschooling?
If you are homeschooling a gifted learner, I think you will not only enjoy Sam’s episode, but find so much inspiration and encouragement!
The Raising Lifelong Leaners Podcast, Episode 111: A Conversation With Homeschool Graduate Turned Business Owner, Samantha Shank
Links and Resources from Today’s Show:
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