Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Knowledge Alliance Calls for Bipartisan Action in Education

Knowledge Alliance Calls for Bipartisan Action on Education in the 112th Congress
Research-based knowledge as the arbiter for bipartisanship

Statement of Knowledge Alliance President Jim Kohlmoos

The results are now tabulated for most of the Congressional and gubernatorial elections for this unique and volatile mid-term election cycle. It is now time to put aside the harsh words and uncompromising rhetoric and look forward to turning the page to a new chapter of governance in Congress. When it comes to education, it is particularly important to do so and to do so in the spirit of bi-partisanship. That's because education urgently needs and deserves to be a top priority in the 112th Congress. Funding education to appropriate levels and fixing the No Child Left Behind Act should be high on the agenda when Congress convenes in January.

It is our belief that knowledge generated through scientific research should be an arbiter for bi-partisan action in education and play a prominent role in decision making moving forward. Knowledge Alliance and its members stand ready to work with the leadership in Congress to help get the job done on behalf of all the children in our great country.

Friday, October 29, 2010


The Sourcerer loves this time in the election cycle. The final few daze before the elections bring out the great speculators about what will happen. The cottage industry of pundits becomes a veritable industrial complex. So let us add to the speculation by inviting you to make some predictions about the House, Senate, and Governors seats. Among the many web sites that are into the prediction business we love the simplicity of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball. Check it out and then enter you predictions in "comments" below. Here are ours:

* House--- 53 seat gain for GOP
* Senate--- 8 seat gain for GOP
* Governors --- 9 state house gains for GOP

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept 11 reunions and reflections

In the early the morning of September 11, 2001 eight of us from around the country were having a breakfast meeting about urban teacher preparation in a conference room one block from the White House. The horrific surreal events of that morning in DC and the ensuing panic that we experienced together created a lasting bond. On each subsequent 9/11 we have had an email re-union. Here are excerpts from this 9th year:

"(911) reminds us how important it is that we not forgot how fragile life can be and the perils that challenge our nation and the world. All one can do is continue to contribute to the good of society."

"Our annual email gathering always evokes a complex mix of emotions for me: first the gratitude, then the recollection of the day itself. I was running late to our meeting and passed blocks of people lining the streets. I remember hearing sirens and wondering whether there was some dignitary coming up the street. It wasn't until I saw you all coming out of the building that I learned what was transpiring. And I still never think about that time without remembering the great silence of the skies I never travel to DC, as I will tomorrow, without recalling that time".

"The ninth anniversary of our infamous day(s) together is arriving. It is reassuring and comforting to contact you again as a group. I am hope that the insanity in Gainesville, FL will not spill over into another tragedy. As we remember the past, we also need to learn for the future, yes?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Innovation and the federal role

Tough on ed innovation and the federal role --- We think that in his recent commentary Paul Tough is asking the right questions about the federal government as a venture funder for education innovation: Should Congress finance unproven but promising experiments to fix America’s troubled education system? How much evidence does the government need before trying something new? Should there be airtight proof that a pioneering program works before federal money is committed? Is it sometimes worth investing in promising but unproven innovations? We think there is a new emerging fed role in R&D and innovation as demonstrated by i3. Tell the Sourcerer what do you think.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Racing to the Top and Beyond

The Knowledge-able Sourcerer congratulates the nine states and the District of Columbia for their winning applications in the round 2 Race to the Top (RttT) competition at the US Department of Education. The competition was extremely intense and challenging over the past 12 months. We are hopeful that the immense reform efforts that were triggered by this program will reap lasting benefits for all involved. We also hope that Congress will take notice of the unprecedented interest in this incentive-based program and continue to fund it in the years ahead. Kudos to the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education for a very difficult job well done.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Urgency, anyone?

Urgency, anyone? --- For us commuters in DC, using the Metro has been a godsend and, lately, a rather harrowing experience. Accidents and equipment failures have become the rule rather than the exception. Last week the National Transit Safety Board filed its report about a terrible accident last year and emphasized the need for a major change, if not transformation of the system. We heard the Metro commentators say the change to a safer system will take time --- years not months. How do you think it made us feel riding the Metro the next day? Probably the same way parents feel when they send their kids to schools that need to be transformed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Imprressive Research Conference but...

Connecting research, policy and practice at IES Research conference --- We hung out at the Institute of Education Sciences' annual research conference a week ago. It was a far cry from the first small gathering five years. This one was large (over 1200 grantees and others), with very high production values and important presentations and conversations. Here are five quick observations:

Easton's vision --- In his keynote speech the IES director hit all the right points in presenting his vision and soon-to-be-released proposed research priorities focusing on the interrelationships among research, policy, and practice.

Duncan gets closer --- While the Secretary has always been strong in connecting R&D, innovation and high performance for America's long term economic competitiveness, until his opening comments at this conference he has been weak in making the same connections for education. But this time he was eloquent in repeatedly characterizing research as "the compass for education reform". We thought this was a breakthrough of sorts.

Most frequently heard words --- Use, partnership, relevance, rigor, practice to research.

Least frequently heard word --- Innovation

Biggest concern --- How and how soon will IES staff begin to implement Easton's vision?

Complex Web of Ed Politics

Complex web of education politics at work--- The emergency supplemental appropriations debate in Congress last week brought to the surface in dramatic fashion last week the complexity of education politics these days. Consider these dynamics:

A guns-or-butter debate between Republicans and Democrats;
A reform vs jobs argument within the Democratic Party;
An equity vs excellence issue for reform-minded many civil rights groups;
The Obama Administration was forced into a nasty corner---having to threaten a veto of a help-the-troops bill which would save teacher jobs but upset favorite ed reform strategies. Hmmm it was not a choice that Obama wanted to have to make during an election year. This episode surely demonstrates why ed politics, and ESEA reauthorization in particular, is so tough to navigate. Great political skill and leadership are needed to get it done Where are you, Ted Kennedy?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The half life of innovation

The half-life of innovation --- This NY Times editorial about the short life cycles of iphones got us to thinking about the larger issues re: the sustainability of innovation. Indeed there is a built-in obsolescence in some innovations in order to capture and expand market share. Is this true for education innovations? Chat with the Knowledge-able Sourcerer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cloud computing for education?

Cloud computing business trends for education? --- Over the past year we have moved to the "cloud" and use it as an anywhere/anytime way of getting our work done. So when we saw this short review we thought about how cloud computing might work for schools and kids. Any thoughts to tell the Knowledge-able Sourcerer?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Education's Inconvenient Truth

Waiting for Superman and Education's Inconvenient Truth --- Several years ago we wrote a couple of articles (see here and here) on how Al Gore's ideas about climate change have analogies in education. Well, the Oscar-winning producer of Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim, went about making a documentary on that theme called "Waiting for Superman". It is causing a big buzz through its early screenings (it will be nationally released in the fall). Next week Davis will be in town for another screening which we will be attending. See the provocative stuff in these trailers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Education's oil spill

Did you notice some of the phrases that POTUS used in his Oval Office speech (link) on the oil spill last night?

"Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

"we can’t afford not to change"

"The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet".

"what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children."

"And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires."

"Others wonder why the industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -– and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development."

So change the reference to energy to a reference to education and you have what the country needs to advance the R&D-innovation-improvement reform agenda for education. Indeed education needs an Oval Office speech.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Race to sanity

Must-read Brooks on RttT --- Yep, there continues to be lots of chatter about RttT as a policy vechile for incentivizing reform. See this terrific David Brooks commentary on race to sanity. We think Brooks makes huge sense and so do a number of our friends at the White House.

Kalamazoo to you too

From all accounts last Monday was an amazingly inspiring day for the students and teachers of Kalamazoo when the Prez came to town to deliver his promised commencement speech for the winners of his national competition. Here is what an eye witness wrote to us "President's speech was a thing of inspiration and beauty. Everyone in this town is walking taller for it. My friends the teachers are inspired and glowing. And a generation of teens here are going out in the world to 'make a difference.' good stuff. ".

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Racing to the right top

On this the Sourcerer fourth birthday we wish to share with you this enlightened article by David Brookes in this Sunday's New York Times about the right kind of federal role in education. He thinks the most practical and effective approach is to incite reform rather than command it. He applauds this strategy in the Race to the Top "contest" and thinks Obama is on the right track here. We agree with Brookes that "Over the past decades, federal education policy has veered between the incredibly intrusive to the appallingly supine". RttT is the Goldilocks of federal ed policy: just right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Data Rich, Information Poor, Knowledge (what)?

Marty Orland of WestEd hits a home run with this piece in Ed Week about the importance of translating data into information (and ultimately knowledge). We think it is time to change the name and focus of the Data Quality Campaign to the Knowledge Use Initiative!

Unleashing a new knowledge and innovation era

Knowledge Alliance has gotten a bit feisty about the role of evidence and knowledge in stimulating innovation and change in k12 education. Check out this testimony to the House approps committee and the call for a knowledge and innovation revolution in teaching and learning.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Research for the Blueprint

Last week the ED released a very interesting series of reports outlining the research upon which Obama's Blueprint for ESEA reauthorization was based. This has been a long time coming and worth a good read (which we have yet to do---more next week). Check it out here and let the Knowledgeable Sourcerer know how you would rate the ED's use of the evidence.

i3 not venture investing?

"i3 is not venture investing" --- Hmmm. We have been loving the way that the Investing in Innovation fund acknowledges the importance of evidence in innovations processes and linked different types of evidence to levels of funding. But there is another more pessimistic way to look at this: i3 is about what works rather than about what might work but we don't know yet. So says Tom Vanderark on his blog. What do you think?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Checking on the check list

A number of you have been raving about Atul Gawande's latest book "The Checklist Manifesto". In fact we had a nice chat with John Easton about it just the other day. Our friend Denis Doyle adds to the rave in this great piece:

"So too would the checklist work in education, drawing on the smartest and most effective teachers and principals, requiring them to analytically breakdown complex tasks into their simpler component parts. To simply figure out what works in what sequence would make the task worthwhile. In and of itself the checklist works no magic, creating and using it simply sets the stage for the practitioner to make his or her own magic".

Yep, Denis is right on.

i3 is about innovation, yes?

Me thinks that the Investing in Innovation program has the potential of being a revolutionary program for the way it recognizes different levels of evidence for different levels of funding. But I had to pause when I saw this in the Depart of Ed's frequently asked questions:

F-6. Question: If an applicant proposes for a Development grant a project that has not previously been tested even on a limited basis, and there are no available studies of any similar innovations, will the application fail to meet i3's standard of evidence for a Development grant?

Answer: To be eligible for a Development grant, the proposed practice, strategy, or program, or one similar to it, must have been attempted previously, albeit on a limited scale or in a limited setting, and yielded promising results warranting further study. Consequently, even if the proposed project has a rationale based on research findings or reasonable hypotheses, including related research or theories in education and other sectors, it would not qualify for a Development grant if it has not been previously tested.

This would discourage the early ideation and rapid prototyping phases that are so essential to innovation processes.

Me thinks this is not good news.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Congrats! TN & DE 4 RttT

Whew! All of those speculators did not quite get it right. Kudos to Tennessee and Delaware for their Race to the Top awards!!!! Much more to come to be sure.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

White Rabbit and the Alpha4-beta-delta effect

Remember "White Rabbit" that great Jefferson Airplane song about "one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small"? Well, how about a pill that makes you learn more? Yep, some researchers have found one perhaps. See Debbie Viadera's report on this Alice in Wonderland possibility. Hmmmm. We didn't see this anywhere in the Obama blueprint for ESEA reauthorization. Perhaps the idea needs a bit more evidence.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

R&D in the ESEA Blueprint

In her Inside Researach blog, Debbie Viadero raises questions about the Administration's emphasis on research in its ESEA blueprint. While evidence is one of the six cross cutting priorities in the proposal, research or evidence is not mentioned frequently in the programmatic descriptions. Hmmmmm. Should knowledge-able stakeholders be concerned about this?

Testy talk about testing

Two very smart ed journalists at the Washington Post are having quite a debate about the role of standardized tests in evaluating schools. Not a small issue in the ESEA reauthorization deliberations Check it out here and tell the Sourcerer what you think. We are leaning in Jay Matthews's direction with all sorts of nuanced qualifiers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obama's Blueprint for Education Reform

Those folks overy at the US Depart of Education ought to get a life. They released their long-awaited proposal for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on Saturday night of all times. How many geeks out there like us (who need to get a life) picked it up right away? From all of the traffic on our twitter feed, too many.
Our first quick scan of the blueprint on this Saturday night found no big surprises. Sec Duncan and staff had telegraphed their plans last fall and in their FY11 budget proposal. Our only real comment at this point is to urge all involved to take a good hard look at the best available, research-based evidence for the range of proposals and counter-proposals. We say "best available" because the knowledge base for some of the ideas is rather shallow. The debates in the coming months should always begin and end with the question "what's the evidence?"
Onwards with the debate!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

And the winnas are ....

The intense speculation over the past several weeks about which states would be finalists for the Race to the Top program has been numbing. Now the results are out (see below) and I am sure there is a lot joy and saddness in state capitals around the country. Not to be trite but we think that given the unprecedented action and attention that RttT has already generated makes education the big winner in the domestic policy sweepstakes. Now let the most important work begin in transforming education for the next generation of learning.

Press announcement from the US Department of Education at 11:45 am 3/4
At noon today the Department will issue a press release on to announce that 16 finalists will be invited to Washington in the coming weeks to present their proposals to the panel that reviewed their applications in depth during the initial stage, and to engage in Q&A discussions with the reviewers. Winners for Phase 1 will be chosen from among the finalists and announced in April.
The Phase 1 finalists are:

• Colorado
• Delaware
• District of Columbia
• Florida
• Georgia
• Illinois
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Massachusetts
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina
• Tennessee

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One year later

ARRA one year later --- It was a year ago this past week that Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with a stunning $100 B for education. While much of the funding has yet to reach its intended beneficiaries, we think the impact at the state and federal level has been profound. To be sure, the anticipated cliff effect of when the funds stop flowing has enlivened debate, but we still think this is a once in a lifetime development of major proportions. Tell the Knowledge-able Sourcerer what you think.

Assessing interim assessments

The Center for Policy Research in Education released this revealing study suggesting that use does not follow the rhetoric when it comes to interim assessments as a tool for informing instructional change. What do you readers who are assessment experts think about this? Tell the Knowledge-able Sourcerer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

R&D for 3-D Learning

R&D for 3-D Learning --- The other day when we read this clever Maureen Dowd piece about the rise of 3-D movies we instantly thought about two things: is there some kind of equivalent innovation in education to immerse students in learning?; and are there any education innovators out there who are probing far-out and far-beyond ideas to really transform instruction? hey, how about developing an R&D pipeline to develop 3-D learning? Chat about it with the Knowledge-able Sourcerer.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tiger and Toyota

We had a fascinating chat with Tim Waters the visionary leader of McREL the other day about sudden fall of Toyota this past week. It reminded Tim of the similarly stunning decline of Tiger Woods. It also conjured other collapses of leaders and innovators like Enron, Lehman Bros, Bernie Maldof, Gilbert Arenas, and, yes, the Roman Empire. In this era of innovation in education and the emergence of new kinds of leaders/entrepreneurs, are there lessons to be learned from the erstwhile stalwarts in other industries? hmmmm. Seems like there is ample for fodder here for a good discussion here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yes sir!! The Prez's FY 2011 Budget Request

Knowledge Alliance Applauds the President’s FY 11 Budget Proposal
Supports Vital Education Programs for Innovation, R&D, and School Improvement

Knowledge Alliance supports the general direction of the research-based education reform strategies contained in the President’s FY 2011 budget request to Congress today. We believe that the request effectively builds upon the innovation and improvement initiatives in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and paves the way for sustaining and scaling research-based innovations for school improvement in the years ahead.
We encourage Congress to support the President’s request for increased investments in such key initiatives as: the Race to the Top fund, the School Turnaround fund; Investing in Innovation program; the comprehensive literacy program and other research-based programs that help states and districts respond to the rapidly increasing needs of low performing schools. Indeed the need has never been greater or more urgent to deliver researched-based innovations to schools with the greatest needs to improve.

To support and supplement these innovative efforts, we also urge Congress to expand the scope of the federally supported knowledge infrastructure which includes such critical programs as the Regional Education Labs, Comprehensive Assistance Centers and the National Research and Development Centers, and the Research, Development and Dissemination fund. These programs provide the basic framework for generating new knowledge about what works, translating research to innovation and building the long term capacity of states and districts for significant change.

We are optimistic that the combined federal investments in innovation, school improvement, and research and development programs can make a major and lasting difference in improving our school systems.

Now is the time to unleash America’s ingenuity to solve our most pressing education problems, deliver break-the-mold, research-based solutions to our schools, and guide a new knowledge and innovation revolution in teaching and learning.

Knowledge Alliance looks forward to working with the Administration and the Congress to move this important agenda forward in efficient and effective ways in the months ahead.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

RIP Bill Demmert

Knowledge Alliance celebrates the extraordinary life of Bill Demmert , the father of American Indian education, who was a role model, mentor, hero, friend for so many. We will miss him dearly

Saturday, January 16, 2010

50% under 18

As we move into a week of commemorations for MLK and BHO, our thoughts and prayers are aimed southward on Haiti and the search, rescue and recovery efforts that have been so courageously undertaken by so many. Our emotions play tricks on us as we search for ways to explain why and how: from deep sadness to utter helplessness to undirected anger and back. While the immediate recovery efforts are for the trained professionals in that domain, the long-term transformation of a whole society will be dependent on the skill and knowledge of many organizations. Education becomes all the more critical in response to this unimaginable catastrophe since a stunning 50% of the Haitian population is under 18 years old. Our collective cause has taken on new meaning and sense of urgency over the past week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Evidence as Central, not Peripheral to Excellent Policy

by Guest Blogger, Candice DePrang

An NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel met last week to hear from different stakeholders regarding the restructuring of the preparation of teachers. The Council is looking for a clinical component – field experience like other practice-based professions such as nursing – in order to equip aspiring teachers with, not only experience, but an understanding of their work that reaches beyond text books and theory.

Clinicals, NCATE suggests, will mean “more extensive use of simulations, case studies, analyses of teaching…as well as sustained, intense, mentored school-embedded experiences.” Additionally, student teachers will be evaluated on performance, not simply test scores and grades.

New vision is important, and raising standards for teachers is a significant piece to ensuring that every child learns because s/he has an excellent teacher. However, the partners in this initiative must not weigh the research of clinicals on the periphery, but gather more data where current studies cannot determine which practices in teacher preparation are actually successful.

Research is one piece of NCATE’s look into clinicals, and must be central in moving forward so that excellent, sustainable policies emerge from these forums. Evidence-based policy ensures that groups don’t have to use rhetoric like “clinicals could help with X problem” or “experience in the field may mean…” Rather, the education community can walk forward confident that new standards for teacher preparation are an effort that will be long lasting because it’s proven to work, and that as higher education folds in field-training, that teachers will be better prepared, and students will be better served.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Good-bye Aughts. Hello Oughta Be

As Ellen Goodman says in this terrific retirement editorial, "January, after all, is named for the Roman god of beginnings and endings. He looked backward and forward at the same time." So, on this morning full of ones (1/1/10) we do the same. For our retrospective-prospective from our Knowledge Garage perspective, we have chosen to take the long view gazing way back 10 years ago to the start of the Aughts and then leaping way forward to the beginning of the next Roaring 20's with a stop in the here and now. It's an interesting time-journey. Jump on board and let us know what you think here:

Federal education policy as a national priority

2000 --- Judging from the presidential primaries underway during this month, education ranks in the top three in domestic policy.

2010 --- The rhetoric is high but the polls show education off the radar screen, getting trumped by the economy, health care, energy, jobs, etc

2020 --- Education is back on top this time as part of major new domestic and global initiatives focusing on sustainable development.

Standards-based reform as the framework for federal education policy

2000 --- Policy positions in both parties embrace standards-based reform and share a big focus on alignment challenges and strengthening accountability provisions.

2010 --- Heavy debate around common core standards, multiple measures for determining AYP, and state capacity. The stimulus funding, appropriations priorities, and ESEA reauthorization all build on the standards based reform framework but some questions begin to emerge from the innovation arena about speed and relevance.

2020 --- So long to standards based reform as it is discarded for being too slow and ineffective as a theory of change and replaced by technology-based learning infrastructures, grass roots capacity building, and free market innovation.

Education R&D as a stimulus for change

2000 --- New initiatives in the late 90's (eg comprehensive school reform, reading excellence act) requiring a research basis to program funding open up new possibilities for transforming education into an evidence-based field.

2010 --- NCLB's scientifically based research provisions and IES's focus on rigor create greater awareness (and controversy) about research's potential role in ed reform. But R&D for education is left out of the stimulus package (while other sectors net a cool $18 billion). The i3 program raises the possibility of the federal government as a venture capital partner for public school reform and innovation.

2020 --- The quality improvement movement in health care is applied to education through new catalyst R&D networks, intermediary research-to- innovation organizations, and a digital knowledge ecosystem. Web 4.0 processes using next generation social networking platforms inspire an "every day, everywhere R&D" movement for teachers and schools.

Innovation as an education reform strategy

2000 --- Almost a dirty word.

2010 --- An overused concept but also underused when spoken in the same sentence with knowledge and R&D in education.

2020 --- Knowledge, R&D, innovation and transformation are inseparable in concept and in practice as in other sectors.

Federal funding for education

2000 --- $38.4 Billion (see here)

2010 --- $120.4 Billion (includes $57.7 for ARRA)

2020 --- $120 Billion (after the cliff effect of ARRA)

Political strategies in education policy

2000 --- Triangulation

2010 --- High-partisanship (as opposed to post-partisanship)

2020 --- Tri-partisanship with the emergence of a new independent party