June 4th K-12 Roundtable: 
Are Schools Ready for Online Assessments?
Washington, DC (June 3, 2014) – Join CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) and the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) on Capitol Hill tomorrow, Wednesday, June 4 for an important discussion exploring the technology readiness of America’s schools for delivering next generation online assessments. The next school year, 2014-2015, will be the first time a majority of states assess most or all students online.
The event will feature expert perspectives of education technology leaders from both the district and state levels.
Co-hosted by CoSN and NASBE, speakers will include:
  • John Williams, Executive Director, Technology & Information Services, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Dr. Tom Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of the eLearn Institute and former Chief Information Officer, Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Patrick Mara, State Board of Education Member, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, June 4
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430
Washington, D.C.
Interested press should contact Michael Kaplun, michaelkaplun@cosn.org, or Renee Rybak Lang,reneerl@nasbe.org.
About CoSN 
CoSN is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. The mission of CoSN is to empower educational leaders to leverage technology to realize engaging learning environments. Visitwww.cosn.org or call 866-267-8747 to find out more about CoSN’s focus areasannual conference and eventsadvocacy and policymembership, and the CETL certification exam.
About the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)
The National Association of State Boards of Education is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state and territorial boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in educating all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org
Tennessee School Districts to Implement Skyward in Fall 2014
Franklin Special, Tipton County and Sevier County School Districts Select the Student Management Suite

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (June 3, 2014) ­– Three Tennessee school districts have designated Skyward, an industry leading K-12 school administrative software provider, as its student information system vendor. With the addition of Franklin Special, Tipton County and Sevier County School Districts this fall, Skyward now serves more than 45 districts in the state. Tennessee selected Skyward as a preferred Student Information System vendor to maximize the collection and reporting of student data and information.

The three districts purchased the Skyward Student Management Suite to provide a comprehensive web-based system that integrates the key elements to manage student learning in one centralized system. Skyward offers unmatched flexibility and control to help ensure students succeed by providing districts with real-time accurate and reliable information through a web portal for easy access.

After a rigorous evaluation process, Franklin Special School District chose Skyward for its ability to optimize access to student data, facilitate parent communication and its proven track record of success statewide. Currently in the midst of training, teachers and administrators look forward to the interactivity and intuitiveness of the online platform from Skyward, which will improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout the district.

“Our district’s vision is to create an environment where there is less time and effort dedicated to record keeping and more time for teaching, and we believe Skyward will enable us to accomplish this goal,” said Sherry Badger, chairman for Franklin Special School District Board of Education.

Tipton County School District adopted Skyward from the list of approved state vendors due to its glowing customer references, superior implementation support and additional enhancements not offered by other student information system providers. The district foresees several benefits, including automation of district processes, real-time updates for parents, and the ease of use of storing student information in one location.

“Our administrators have had nothing but positive feedback to share during the implementation process,” said Lea Ann McCammon, student information coordinator for Tipton County School District Board of Education. “We look forward to Skyward providing the support we need to have everything run smoothly in our district.”

After successfully implementing the Skyward School Business Suite in 2012, Sevier County School District turned back to Skyward for the Student Management Suite to maintain continuity of platforms. With the goal of facilitating data-driven decisions, the district looks forward to implementing the Educator Access+ system with grade book to advance access to data, and Family Access to improve communication with parents.

“Skyward’s ability to handle school issues on a local level has proved extremely beneficial for our district,” said Jerry Baxter, student management systems specialist at Sevier County School District. “The support from Skyward is second to none, and we are eager to build upon our use of the School Business Suite to include the Student Management Suite next year to further increase performance across the district.”

Many Tennessee districts already use the Skyward Student Management Suite to monitor student information, including Oak Ridge Schools, which was the first district in the state to select the school administrative software provider. The district’s success with the software is outlined in this Skyward case study.

The Skyward Student Management Suite empowers administrators, teachers and parents with the information they need to make the greatest impact on improving student achievement. For more information on Skyward administrative software and IT consulting services for K-12 districts, visit www.skyward.com.

About Skyward
Skyward is a leading provider of K-12 school administrative software that surpasses districts’ needs in state reporting, improves operational capabilities, and opens communication between schools and families. Today, the Skyward School Management System™ is used in more than 1,700 school districts worldwide, ranging from districts with as few as 50 students to statewide implementations supporting more than 800,000 students. Founded in 1980, Skyward serves school districts with its integrated student, finance, and human resources suite of products and is proudly made and supported in the United States. To learn more, visit www.skyward.com.


June 3, 2014 – A study looking at the attendance of over 234,000 teachers in the 2012-2013 school year found disturbing evidence of a group of teachers who are absent at least one out of every ten school days.  The report, Roll Call: The importance of teacher attendance, finds that at 16 percent, the group of chronically absent teachers was precisely equivalent in size to the group of teachers who had excellent attendance in that school year, absent three or fewer days.

The findings were especially troubling because the study excluded long term absences of 11 or more days in order to ensure that any teacher who had to take extended leave for illness or family problem were not part of the sample. The results only include absences of one to ten consecutive days.

“While these big city school districts are struggling to improve student achievement, they may be overlooking one of the most basic aspects of teacher effectiveness: every teacher being regularly on the job, teaching kids,” commented Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and policy organization dedicated to ensuring every classroom is led by a quality teacher.

The report categorizes teachers’ attendance rates into four categories:  excellent attendance (≤3 days); moderate attendance (4-10 days); frequent absenteeism (11-17 days) and chronic absenteeism (18 days or more).  Among the report’s main findings:

  • On average, teachers missed 11 days out of a 186-day school year (the average school year length) for any reason, typically illness, illness of a family member, personal business or professional development. On average these districts offered a leave package of 13 days, intended for illness or personal reasons.
  • The largest group was those with moderate attendance (40%) followed by those with frequent absenteeism (28%).
  • In spite of previous research to the contrary, no relationship was found between teacher absences and the poverty levels of the children in the school building.  More affluent schools were just as likely to have high rates of absences as less affluent schools.
  • Indianapolis teachers had the lowest number of days missed of the 40 districts (6 days), followed by teachers working in the District of Columbia, Louisville (KY), Milwaukee, Tampa, New York and Philadelphia also had low average numbers of absences per teacher per year, all ranging from 7 to 9 days on average.
  • Cleveland had the highest number of days missed on average (16 days), but Columbus (OH) (15 days), Nashville, Portland (OR) and Jacksonville (FL), were not far behind (all 14 days).

A sizeable percentage of the absences were for reasons classified as “district authorized” leave, which most often means professional development such as training on new curriculum adoptions or  intervention strategies but also includes other absences that could include meetings held during the school day that require teachers to be in attendance, like union negations. Walsh stated, “While professional development can be valuable, districts should avoid at all costs cutting into precious classroom time. Even ‘good’ absences have bad consequences for kids.”

Although three quarters of the districts had policies to suppress absenteeism – typically strategies like requiring a doctor’s note after missing a certain number of days – there did not appear to be any impact on attendance rates. Districts without such policies had equivalent absenteeism. Walsh added, “We have learned that it is not so much district policy but expectations which lead to high attendance. Teachers who work in buildings that are led by principals with high standards are much less likely to be absent.”

The full report is available here.


NCTQ requested teacher attendance data for school year 2012-2013 (the most recent year for which such data is available) from 51 public school districts from the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Forty of the 51 districts responded to the data request with enough information to be included in the report. NCTQ calculated the average teacher attendance rates and the average number of days teachers were absent, categorized teachers into one of four attendance categories, and examined the data for differences between schools with varying poverty levels and between districts with varying attendance incentives. Long-term absences (absences of more than 10 consecutive days) were not included in the analysis.

About the National Council on Teacher Quality
The National Council on Teacher Quality advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state, and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers. In particular, we recognize the absence of much of the evidence necessary to make a compelling case for change and seek to fill that void with a research agenda that has direct and practical implications for policy. We are committed to lending transparency and increasing public awareness about the four sets of institutions that have the greatest impact on teacher quality: states, teacher preparation programs, school districts and teachers unions. For more information, visit: www.nctq.org.






“The mom is a flawed character–she had Aspen under a tree at a Widespread Panic concert at 16,” says Carey Albertine, cofounder of the book’s Denver-based publisherIn This Together Media. “There’s a parade of men through the house, and she smokes pot, which is not great–Aspen will mention that her mom hasn’t gotten off the couch for a while. But their relationship is also funny and warm, and for all her flaws you also see how loving and nurturing she is to Aspen.”

Carey Albertine and Saira Rao

The book fits with In This Together’s mission of offering more diverse, realistic, unwhitewashed representations of kids, especially girls, in YA and middle-grade literature. Albertine, who has an MBA with a background in TV news, investment banking, and standup comedy, founded the company with UVA classmate and former lawyer and novelist Saira Rao in 2012 after both had kids and shared a belief that the characters in children’s media were seriously lacking. The two self-funded the company with a Kickstarter last year, and have published six books so far, with three more out this month and a few on deck for 2015. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) is now repping Aspen for film rights, and the three-book Personal Statement YA series by Jason Odell Williams has already been optioned for film.

“Where we start is ultimately with the reader, and this idea around who’s being underserved, what stories aren’t we seeing,” says Albertine of their approach to finding and developing stories. “I think that’s a slightly different approach (from) where’s there a big hit and everybody wants that. What’s important to us is that the female characters are complex and nuanced. They don’t need to be superchicks or princesses, they don’t necessarily need to be strong, just complex and real.”

“And the boy characters need to be the same way,” adds Rao.

“The relationships between characters also need to be authentic,” says Albertine. “We’re wary of mean girls, catfighting. We’re looking at female friendship, and male-female friendship that is more authentic to our own experience. We also are increasingly focused on racial diversity. Those are the mission-based things, but we also like a particular aesthetic. We like things that make us laugh.”

With a few exceptions, including Rebekah Crane’s first book Playing Nice and the middle grade Soccer Sisters series by Andrea Montalbano, Rao and Albertine develop story ideas and then search out the right authors. For example, for the middle grade series Carly Keene: Literary Detective, the author needed to be able to write a period story, because the title character travels back in time and meets the Bronte sisters. Through an editor they’d been working with, In This Together found Katherine Rue, who had a degree in medieval literature.

While the middle grade books tend to be “pretty earnest, smart books that aren’t babyish but don’t propel kids into their teens too early,” according to Albertine, the YA books take more risks. “The first sentence in Personal Statement is ‘I fucking hate Emily Kim,'” says Albertine. “‘Fuck’ is in the first sentence.”

The book is a satire starring a black gay boy, an Indian American girl, and a Korean girl, all of whom travel to volunteer at the site of a recent hurricane for the sole purpose of beefing up the personal statements in their Harvard applications. For that series, which has two more books in the pipeline, Rao and Albertine reached out to Williams, a friend from college who was a playwright with a biting sense of humor. He is also working on the screenplay.

“People our age will read the book and say, ‘Girls don’t act like that,’ because the girls curse, aren’t trying to get a guy, and will do anything to get into Harvard,” says Rao. “They’ll say, ‘This is not how an Asian girl would act,’ and I’m like ‘Hello, I’m an Asian girl.’ And feedback from kids who read the book is like, ‘hallelujah.'”




The end of the school year keeps the Kajeet team on its toes; and with little time to slow down, we’re gearing up for the ISTE Conference and Expo beginning June 29. We look forward to the discussions and hearing from leadership like you. Stop by our booth (#3378) during the conference and attend our session “Internet Access at Home” featuring our own Michael Flood on July 1. Schedule a meeting with our sales team to talk about how we can help connect your students.

Kajeet wants to contribute towards your technology program to inspire and prepare students for a successful future. If are planning to attend ISTE 2014, you have a chance to win a $5,000 donation to your school’s (or school of choice) technology program. (#FundYourTech) Enter for a chance to winhere.


BYOT Students Still Need Access at Home
Forsyth County has implemented the nation’s most successful BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) program. With help from Kajeet, the program is flourishing today, with nearly half of Forsyth’s 40,000 students using personal devices as part of their regular curriculum. Download the Free Case Study »

Texas Funding: Technology Lending Program Grant
If your Texas district has applied for TEA’s Technology Lending Program Grant, you must ensure students can access Internet both at school—and at home. Later this month, Texas districts will be notified as to whether they will be recipients of this funding. The Kajeet SmartSpot™ would be an affordable solution for the district’s mobile broadband need. Learn More »

How Much Does it Cost to Connect Schools? 
Try $3.2 billion. That’s how much CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) and the Education Super Highway say it will cost to equip and update public K-12 schools’ existing infrastructure in order to meet President Obama’s goal of connecting 99% of students by 2018. Read more »

How Teachers are Using Technology in their Classrooms
Earlier this year, a study was completed that aimed to understand how teachers use technology in their classrooms and to identify some best practices for all. Of the respondents, 93% reported that technology has had a positive effect on student engagement. Read more »

Top State-by-State Education Twitter Chats
A number of states have established Twitter chats that educators are now finding useful in connecting multiple resources from across the state or even the country. Chat topics can range from the very generic to the very specific depending on their geographic location. Read more »



New York State Broadband Summit and Awards Ceremony
June 5, 2014
Albany, NY

Council of Great City Schools
June 10-13, 2014
Denver, CO

CoSN Texas CTO Clinic
June 17, 2014
Austin, TX

ISTE 2014
June 28-July 1, 2014
Atlanta, GA


Avant Assessment expands reach into Hebrew

STAMP for Hebrew now available for grade 3 to adult


EUGENE, OR (June 3, 2014) – Avant Assessment is pleased to announce the release of STAMP for Hebrew, the first web-based, computer-adaptive Hebrew proficiency assessment designed for students from grade 3 through adult. Developed in consultation with Hebrew at the Center (http://hebrewatthecenter.org), STAMP for Hebrew engages students with real-world scenarios and measures their Hebrew proficiency level in all four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). Separate, age-appropriate tests are available for grade bands 3-5 and 6-adult, with test results statistically validated and reported at proficiency levels related to The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (www.actfl.org) levels novice through advanced.


STAMP provides individual reports and aggregated data that are exportable to Excel for flexible analysis. When repeated periodically, STAMP assessments help educators measure progress and evaluate programs, empowering informed decisions around staff development and instructional planning.


“We are excited to be able to meet the language proficiency assessment needs of Hebrew educators and students,” said David Bong, CEO of Avant. “We have seen the movement to expand and improve the teaching and learning of Hebrew grow dramatically over the past decade. In developing STAMP for Hebrew, we benefited from support and guidance from Hebrew at the Center, a recognized leader in Hebrew language pedagogy. We share with Hebrew at the Center the belief that effective language programs focus on developing student proficiency and are assessment-based.”



To learn more about STAMP for Hebrew, as well as Avant Assessment’s other offerings, including free online webinars, please visit www.avantassessment.com.


About Avant Assessment

Founded in 2001, Avant is leading language assessment with web-delivered, valid, four-skill, realia-based proficiency assessments in multiple languages. Avant’s assessments build student and teacher confidence in real-world learning and deliver accurate standards-based data to inform a more efficient, effective learning process. Avant’s assessments are accessible, engaging and reliable.