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Quarterly Update
Fall 2013

Dear TLA friends,

 

There is incredible momentum building all across the country around blended learning. 

 

In the last month we have spoken with more than a dozen superintendents about blended learning.  They see its transformational potential, they are clear-eyed about the challenges and barriers, and they are committed to building smart, effective plans to move forward.  We used to say "the time for blended learning is coming."  Well, it's here.

 

It is also exciting to see the coordinated mobilization of capital happening across the country, particularly the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Next Generation Systems Initiative.  School districts are launching blended learning pilots and funders are starting to actively support them.  And we are now starting to hear for the first time about districts moving on their own towards district-wide implementation.  This is what national scale looks like!

 

But there is still a very long way to go, both to build up the implementation ecosystem and to help districts bring blended learning to life in their classrooms.  Things are starting in earnest, but this is only the beginning.  The Learning Accelerator's current focus is to guide this tidal wave of activity to happen faster and with high quality so it improves the lives of as many students and teachers as possible.  We have made great progress and there are exciting times ahead for educators and learners alike.  Thank you for joining us on this journey.

 

With appreciation,

 

Scott Ellis               Joe Wolf

CEO                       President                           

 

 

Recent Activities

Broadband
We continue to support EducationSuperHighway (ESH) and its efforts to ensure every school in the country has the broadband it needs to enable blended learning.  ESH continues to work with the FCC to reform and improve E-rate to provide more funding for districts to upgrade their broadband.  ESH is also actively engaging with 
EHS logodistricts to assess their current performance through "district snapshots" and then proposing upgrade plans. It is very exciting to see such talented people working with districts on these critical issues, and we are very happy to partner with them.

Pooled Purchasing

TLA's national IT hardware pricing database is gaining traction. Several school districts from across the country have shared pricing data with us and we are reaching out to dozens more to expand the database.  We are seeing variances of 10-40% in the prices districts pay for IT hardware.  As our database grows, the increased pricing transparency will help districts negotiate better prices for devices.  TLA Partner Daniel Owens is leading this work and is also negotiating directly with hardware vendors to provide devices to school districts at attractive prices.

 

Human Capital  Bellweather

We completed our research project with Bellwether Education Partners in late August.  Based on the findings, TLA Partner Beth Rabbitt has created a blended learning educator competencies framework and is sharing it with school districts across the country. She has also developed an initial focus area strategy to guide our activities and upcoming capital investments in this sector. We will also be focusing on developing a complementary principal/leadership competencies framework, as districts have identified this as a critical need.  The human capital segment of the value chain is absolutely critical, and so this is one of our top priorities.

  

We are also excited to be funding a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled

"Blended Learning: Personalizing Education for Students."  While the Coursera offering is designed for anyone with a strong interest in blended learning (educators, parents, philanthropists, or members of the education technology sector), it will be particularly useful to teachers who are looking to integrate blended learning structures and methodologies into their classrooms. The course will be taught by Brian Greenberg from Silicon Schools Fund, Rob Schwartz from the New Teacher Center, and Michael Horn from the Clayton Christensen Institute. The 6-week course begins today, October 15, 2013. In addition to being excited that thousands of people will have the opportunity to participate, we're looking forward to learning more about the role MOOCs like this might play as vehicles for highly scalable professional development.

  

Professional Services

The Learning Accelerator is helping to fund and launch a non-profit consulting organization called the Mastery Design Collaborative (MDC) to help districts implement blended learning at scale.  This investment will be a significant step forward in accelerating our learning about how to cultivate the professional services sector to support blended learning.   MDC will create materials in their work with districts and then make the materials available for free to all districts (and to other consultants) across the country.  We are also seeing the emergence of licensing agreements among consultants in the space (some brokered by TLA) to share their materials and processes, and generally enable them to move forward faster in developing the required expertise to support districts.

  

District Financing

We completed our consulting project with Education Resources Strategies in late July. With the results, we are creating a framework for how districts should think about the financial aspects of implementing blended learning.  TLA CEO Scott Ellis is advising a few districts about their budgeting and helping them identify and address their key financial challenges in blended learning implementation.  Districts across the country vary widely in their financial circumstances, and our growing expertise in this area is helping us to accurately diagnose these situations and develop effective strategies to help districts move forward.

 

District Implementation Partnerships

In August, The Learning Accelerator announced its first district-wide blended learning partnership with Reynoldsburg City Schools in Ohio.  The partnership's goal is to implement blended learning across the entire district over the next few years, with

schools accelerating their existing blended learning programs in the fall of 2014. TLA will provide the overall framework for implementation at scale and bring partner organizations in to assist in critical focus areas, including broadband, purchasing, and professional development for educators.  TLA Partner Lisa Duty is coordinating this work for the team.

 

We have completed our agreement with our newest district partner, the Partnership for LA Schools (a part of Los Angeles Unified School District).   TLA's role will be similar to that with Reynoldsburg and we will launch in the next few weeks.  TLA Partner Daniel Owens is leading this work. We are in ongoing discussions with a number of other districts about establishing implementation partnerships. We are targeting 3-5 total partnerships that in the end will provide a clear blueprint for districts to follow to successfully implement blended learning at scale.

 

TLA is also directly involved in the Next Generation Systems Initiative led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The initiative is facilitating the design and implementation of blended learning programs in 20 of America's largest school districts.  We are serving as a content expert for the program management team running the initiative and are also
responsible for identifying and addressing the barriers we see across all of the district implementations.
 

State Strategy

TLA Partner Lisa Duty continues to define the roles that states and state agencies can play in accelerating the implementation of blended learning at scale.  We are engaging with multiple states at varying levels, meeting with state board members, commissioners, and educational agencies, among others.  We have created a first draft of a state implementation framework that we are testing with our partner states, and revising as our work progresses.
 
Other Activities

Working with Digital Learning Now! and Getting Smart, TLA updated the

Blended Learning Implementation Guide and re-launched it last month. The Guide 2.0 has new and enhanced sections on blended learning models, funding, devices and human capital, among others.  There is a helpful new infographic and executive summary as well.  Demand for this how-to guidebook has been rapidly increasing as more and more districts are eager to explore blended learning.

 

Using the new Guide, TLA CEO Scott Ellis will be presenting a workshop at iNACOL's Blended and Online Learning Symposium in Florida on October 30.  He will be joined by Guide co-authors John Bailey, Tom Vander Ark, and Carri Schneider, and they will work directly with teams from districts across the country to help them use the guide to create their own plans for implementing blended learning.
What's Next?

 

As you can see, things are really rolling!  The momentum across the country is incredible and TLA is making excellent progress in all of its program areas.  

 

If you use social media, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on our latest news. Visit our website at www.learningaccelerator.org to see our growing collection of resources for school districts that are ready to adopt blended learning.  

Again, thank you for your support!
Contact:
Scott Ellis, CEO
iinfo@learningaccelerator.org
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