As the soccer world is facing the elimination rounds, we thought we’d offer our advice on which EdTech stories made the cut this week. Much like Costa Rica, some of these stories we didn’t see coming but are strong contenders for top story of the week.

Speaking of World Cup, our team is headed to the “world cup” of Science and Technology conferences as we pack our bags for ISTE Conference (@ISTEConnects). After we share our winning stories from ISTE we’ll pack up and head to the heat that rivals Brazil right now for National Charter Schools Conference (@CharterAlliance) in Vegas.  Keep an eye out for our updates on the blog and by following us on Twitter (@Getting_Smart), #ISTE2014, and #NCSC14.

Smart Cities

1. Expanding the “Breakthrough” School Community. Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) (@NextGenLC) announced partnership with six community-based education organizations to help apply $25 million in grants to expand and innovate personalized learning opportunities for students. Each community partner will invest over $1.8M in local design teams, helping to create smarter cities across the country. For more great work happening in cities across the US, check out these recent posts in our Smart Cities series:

– Moving Towards Next Generation Learning by Andy Calkins (@andrewcalkins)
– An Educators Lean Startup Mindset by Matt Candler (@mcandler)

Blended Schools & Tools

2. SETDA Releases a “Coaches Playbook”. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (@SETDA) launched the The Guide to Technology Requirements website. The new website seeks to help school leaders access information about technology requirements for common core assessments. The site allows users to input their information and access district-specific resources.

3. FCC Goes for the Goal with Wi-Fi. The Federal Communications Commission (@FCC) plans to spend $2 billion in the next two years to ensure American students have access to fast Wi-Fi networks at schools and libraries. Schools have complained for years that their Internet connections are too slow to take advantage of new educational tools.

4. Survey Shows Reasons for Full-Time Online Schools. Connections Academy (@ConnectionsAcad) released their 12th annual Parent Satisfaction Survey showing insight into why parents and students use online schools full-time. The survey showed, overall, families want more options for their students and greater flexibility when it comes to seat-time and learning styles. When asked, parents indicated their top three reasons for considering online schooling were a change from their child’s current school setting, a need or desire for a flexible schedule, and the desire for a safe learning environment.

Digital Developments

5. Giving Learning a Performance Boost. Last week, Digital Learning Now (@DigLearningNow), released the paper “Using Prizes & Pull Mechanisms to Boost Learning,” and the complementary infographic, “Using Prizes to Boost Learning.” 12th in the DLN Smart Series, the paper and infographic highlight the potential of boosting learning through incentives such as prizes.

Dollars & Deals

6. Big Time Scores. In this week’s deals…

– MasteryConnect (@MasteryConnect) acquired Socrative (@Socrative), a student-response system that increases classroom engagement, for $5M in cash and stock. The deal will add Socrative’s real-time classroom assessment functionality to MasteryConnect’s existing suite of cloud-based software and apps for mastery-based learning in K-12 settings.
– Schoology (@Schoology), a learning management system, secured $15 million in funding led by Intel Capital (@IntelCapital) along with new investors Great Oaks Venture Capital (@GreatOaksVC) and Great Road Holdings. Existing investors participating in this round are FirstMark Capital (@FirstMarkCap) and Meakem Becker Venture Capital. The round brings Schoology’s total capital raised to $25 million, which will support continued expansion in K-12 and higher education markets.
– Kaplan Inc. (@KaplanNews) announced Wednesday it is buying Dev Bootcamp (@DevBootCamp), a two-year-old school that offers nine-week crash courses to aspiring software developers. The deal brings a pioneer of the emerging code-school movement under the umbrella of Kaplan, which offers vocational training as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees through campus and online classes.

Leading Next-Gen Schools

7. Reporting on Leadership: Two new reports have us staying up to date on the latest in education leadership:

– Model Standards Getting An Update. Updated model standards for educational leaders are coming this fall. The two national groups behind the updates—the Council of Chief State School Officers (@CCSSO) and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration—said Tuesday that they hope the model standards, which were last updated in 2008, will be completed in October. The standards that will be revised include the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards, which are used by districts and school leaders; the National Educational Leadership Preparation standards (NELP), used as national standards for aspiring school and district leaders; and new guides for principal supervisors, a group that provides coaching, evaluation, and other support to principals and whose importance has grown as a result of federal and state education policy changes over the last decade
– School Leaders Matter Enormously. But are districts doing enough to ensure that the best possible candidates end up in these positions? That’s what Fordham Institute (@EducationGadFly) examined in Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement. Their primary finding: the practices by which school principals are selected—even in pioneering districts—continue to fall short, causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. Yet better hiring practices are only part of the solution. Districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want, are equipped and empowered to execute successfully, and are suitably compensated.

Let’s Get Personalized

8. Policy Playlists. Soccer stars aren’t the only ones listening to playlists. In fact, Bellwether Education Partners (@bellwetherEd) released their Policy Playbook for Personalized Learning this week that targets state and local policymakers to help them identify the policy changes needed in order to expand high quality personalized learning in their communities. Consisting of 15 policy ideas (plays), the playlist arms policymakers with the tools needed, challenges that will be faced, and implementation examples. to make change

9. Personalized Special Report.Education Week Teacher (@EdWeekTeacher) has released a special report that explores the growing interest in personalized learning. The report looks at how related instructional initiatives are being used and implemented in the classroom and what solutions and challenges they pose for teachers and schools.

10. When K-12 and Higher Ed Intersect. Competency Works (@CompetencyWorks) takes a deep dive into what students need to know and be able to do across the K-12 and Higher Ed path as well as how we can develop a deeper understanding of lifelong learning competencies by expanding the way we talk about pathways for learners. For more on how robust guidance systems can play a critical role in tracking progress, boosting college and career readiness, and empowering better choices, check out Core and More: Guiding and Personalizing College and Career Readiness.

Connections Academy and Digital Learning Now are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. MasteryConnect is a Learn Capital portfolio company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.

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