Solving pressing education problems at scale, managing challenges posed by geography, engaging the community in school improvement, and sustaining reform efforts beyond federal project funding —these topics and more were tackled by i3 (Investing in Innovation) project directors and other key leaders who gathered in Washington, D.C., this past July. The i3 team held this second annual Project Directors Meeting on July 19-20, bringing together Department staff, i3 project directors and project personnel from the 2010 and 2011 grantee cohorts. Project evaluators and education leaders were also important contributors to this event. The event provided the grantees a range of experiences designed to assist them in their work as OII grantees and to help them build relationships with other i3 projects and personnel.
For those who received i3 support in FY 2011, the opportunity to get advice and guidance from their FY 2010 peers was invaluable. “It was especially great to hear that others were facing some of the same challenges I face,” said first-year project director Toria Williams of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.
Last Monday, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and committee member Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored a briefing on innovation in public education through the use of learning technologies. More than 50 Senate staff members came to hear from a panel I moderated that featured leaders in the ed tech field.
The panelists, Dr. Stephen Elliott (founding director of the Learning Sciences Institute at Arizona State University), Jennie Niles (founder of the DC-based E.L. Haynes Public Charter School), and Jeremy Roberts (director of technology for PBS Kids Interactive), all concurred that the promise of technology to transform education has fallen short of expectations for the past two to three decades. However, they also all agree that we are finally at a time where many factors are converging to overcome historic barriers: increasingly ubiquitous broadband, cheaper devices, digital content, cloud computing, big data, and generally higher levels of comfort with technology among the general population.
To deliver an excellent education to every child and to ensure U.S. global competitiveness, President Obama has set the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Though ambitious, this goal is attainable through bold reform and innovation spanning the education pipeline from early learning to college.
This past calendar year, a number of new programs and initiatives were launched and many of OII’s existing programs were refined to align with the Department of Education’s commitment to being an “engine of innovation” for the U.S. public education system. Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton discusses the highlights of the past year and provides his thoughts on several important issues facing education in this February interview with The Education Innovator.