Data for Kids

Helping students succeed with timely, actionable information to those who need it most.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paige Kowalski

CREDIT Data Quality CampaignThe Data Quality Campaign (DQC) recently released a new vision and set of policy recommendations to help states enact policies critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning. We gathered a bunch of smart people in a room (and via webcast) to impress on them how we can—and must—do better for kids. We need to do better for the military mom, the first-year teacher, the struggling ninth-grader, the tireless school leader. How do we do better? By getting quality, timely, actionable information to those who need it most to help students succeed.

Our recommendations for policymakers outline four policy priorities:

  • Measure What Matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
  • Make Data Use Possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
  • Be Transparent and Earn Trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
  • Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.

Every student has a unique background, unique strengths, and a unique path to college and career. To date, efforts to improve education have operated on a model of mass production, assuming—wrongly—that what works for some students must work for all. Data has the

The focus needs to pivot from collecting data to using data at all levels.

potential to transform education from a model of mass production to a personalized enterprise that meets the needs of individuals and ensures that no student is lost along the way. But for this transformation to happen, the focus needs to pivot from collecting data to using data at all levels. In order for districts and states to use data and technology to personalize learning for students, we must stop thinking about data as a hammer for compliance and instead start seeing data as a flashlight illuminating the path to continuous improvement.

Education technology has a significant role to play in making personalized learning a reality for all kids. At the same time, the integration of technology into education has significant implications for the privacy and security of student information. States need to understand the digital environments in which student data is generated and stored, account for schools’ use of third-party online applications, and address the need for security safeguards designed for evolving digital environments. States must adopt smart policies and practices to ensure the privacy and security of students’ personal information and build trust in the use of student data.

Providing secure access to student-level data to educators and parents gets us closer to realizing the promise of personalized learning. With advances in education technology, teachers have richer and more useful information than ever before to support teaching and learning. Using data and technology in new ways allows educators to generate a more holistic picture of student learning than has been traditionally available, providing them with information about students that is both timely and useful. When teachers have access to information, they can better tailor their practice to what individual students need. States must advance policies and practices that give teachers and families access to valuable information so they can better support students.

Of course, having access to quality data doesn’t help teachers—and students—improve if teachers don’t know how to interpret and act on that information. Educators need training, time, and tools to use education technology (and the data that is generated) effectively to improve teaching and learning. Our policy recommendations call for states to enact the necessary policies, practices, and conditions to ensure that every educator can use data effectively.

Technology and data use has immense potential to transform education from a one-size-fits-all model to one that recognizes students’ unique strengths, challenges, and goals. Implementing the four policy priorities is fundamental to realizing the potential of personalized learning. It will be challenging work, but we believe that it is both necessary and possible. Now that every state in the nation has a robust longitudinal data system, it is possible for every student in this country to benefit from personalized learning that meets his or her needs. We are confident that states are ready to tackle this next step. All students deserve a great education, and changing how we think about and use education data is essential to that mission. When students, parents, educators, and partners have the right information to make decisions, students excel.

Paige Kowalski is the vice president of policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization leading the effort to bring every part of the education community together to empower educators, families and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students achieve their best. 

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China’s Got Educational Game

Inside the world’s largest education system with an edtech entrepreneur.

GUEST COLUMN | by Michael Lee

CREDIT UMFUNThe kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) educational system in China is the largest in the world, comprising of approximately 210 million students. The K-12 educational system in China generated $294 billion in revenues in 2013, increasing from $150 billion in 2009 according to Frost & Sullivan. People in China spend a higher portion of their household incomes on education than people in some other Asian countries do at 30 percent (17 percent for Korea, 10 percent for Japan). China has more students studying in the Canada, UK and U.S.A. than any other overseas group. More than 304,000 Chinese students studied in American colleges and universities in 2015 alone.

Since 2015, we have served 2.52 million students, 1.32 million parents, and 380,000 teachers and we are just getting started.

As a Hong Kong-based technology entrepreneur, it was clear there was a market developed specifically for the Chinese K-12 system that made learning fun while bringing big data analysis to bear. A common stereotype about Chinese students is that they are believed to be extremely disciplined, methodical and great in mathematics. The reality is that Chinese students are no different than American students. Chinese students want to excel at academics and also have a good time. Like American students, they are avid smart phone users.

A typical Chinese class size is comprised of 55 students; a large number of students to keep on track. Teachers were desperate to gain insight about how each student was progressing with the ability to make strategic interventions as necessary. When I started developing educational software side by side with teachers, ‘gamification’ meant playing video games. Adaptive Learning was not even a buzzword. We put the two together and the result was a deep engagement by our student subscribers.

UMFun, my company’s K-12 flagship product, combines “gamification” and adaptive learning. It is a cloud-based assessment and learning analytics platform that can intelligently analyze and adapt to a student’s performance and personalizes the delivery of proprietary educational items in accordance with their individual learning needs. The time saved by being able to identify required interventions gives teachers more time to guide each student through those identified problem areas; adjusting learning to match their needs.

Students, teachers and administrators crave education that is personalized and accelerated. Our patent pending (US & China) algorithms intelligently analyze a student’s performance and personalizes the delivery of proprietary educational items to address their individual learning needs and to improve students’ performance in core skill areas:

  • Teachers can create custom formative assessments to target improvement efforts; adjust instruction throughout the year, and develop personalized learning strategies for students struggling with a particular standard.
  • Students’ performance can be intelligently analyzed and adapted to deliver learning items dictated by their individual needs.
  • Parents receive real-time standards based reports and progress charts.
  • School administrators can compare student performance across classrooms or across other school districts.
  • District administrators can use it to create benchmark assessments. The results can be used to predict performance on other tests.

Our solution is currently available on China Mobile’s subscription based “AND! Education” platform in the Shanxi, Ningxia, Guangxi, Guizhou and Guangdong provinces, which services over 16,600,000 paid subscribers. Established in 2003, China Mobile’s “AND! Education” K-12 subscription-based communication platform is the largest of its kind in the world, used primarily by teachers, students, parents and schools through the provinces that China Mobile services. Currently, this platform has over 90,000,000 paid subscribers system-wide and generates over US$2.1 billion in sales annually.

We have a major milestone coming up later this year. UMFun has been part of the China Mobile K-12 Education platform as a free App, and has gained a solid audience amongst students, parents and teachers as a fun and engaging way to learn. In August 2016, we will launch a Premium Application to coincide with the beginning of the academic school year, and generate revenue for the first time.

Working together with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone operator by subscriber base, we are leveling the playing field for education. Since 2015, we have served 2.52 million students, 1.32 million parents, and 380,000 teachers and we are just getting started.

The market for mobile computing devices in K-12 worldwide has grown by 18 percent, according to Futuresource Consulting. China is the second-largest mobile learning buying country after the United States reports Ambient Insight. They report “by 2017, China will overtake the US as the top buying country. In 2014, China accounted for 26 percent of all Mobile Learning revenues in Asia. By 2019, China will account for 31 percent of all Mobile Learning revenues in Asia.”

China clearly embraces mobile online education. “A total of $634.4 million was invested in online education companies in China in 2014; this is just over 26 percent of all funding that went to all of the learning technology suppliers across the globe in 2014,” reports Ambient Insight.

Based in Hong Kong, Michael Lee is CEO, President and Chairman of the Board of UMeWorld,, an online K-12 adaptive learning education platform. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from the University of Western Ontario. Write to:

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Finding the Right Model

Sans obstacles, gliding ahead with personalized learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Maurice de Hond

CREDIT Steve Jobs School NetherlandsTwo points stood out at the recent ASU/GSV edtech summit in San Diego: there were three times more visitors than two years ago in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the number of new businesses and products in the field of edtech has now grown strong. The majority of those companies and products focus on personalizing education, responding to the level and possibilities of the pupil.

So long as your students are organized into age-based groups as has always been done, the best technology will deliver little return with respect to a personalized approach. It’s like trying to ice skate on grass.

I’ve been active in this field since 2012, like Max Ventilla of AltSchool. I got involved because I have a young child who started using an iPhone and iPad at a very early age. However, when I visited my old school, it looked just like it did 30 years ago.

I don’t imagine such a school will well prepare my child for life after 2030, and that’s why I’ve started a new school in the Netherlands with several others, for my daughter and countless other children born and growing up in a world of tablets and smartphones. In tribute to Apple’s co-founder, we named it the Steve Jobs School. Given the Dutch constitution, the school is paid for with public money; parents don’t pay anything.

The school became an overnight success.

Already, 35 public schools in the Netherlands are now using this school model. Tech Insider chose our school as one of the 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World. There is great interest worldwide; South Africa and Spain have begun replicating this model with further talks happening in more than 10 other countries.

In creating this school, we’ve learned something that should be a major warning to anyone who is interested in using edtech in schools:

So long as your students are organized into age-based groups as has always been done, the best technology will deliver little return with respect to a personalized approach. It’s like trying to ice skate on grass.

The essence of personalized learning is that a student, for each subject area or topic, develops at his or her own speed without limitation from any peer group. The way it has been, the better ones are curbed, and the slower ones can’t keep up—a considerable problem for both students and teachers.

We’ve broken the old model through clever use of technology and a smart structure. We reinvented the elementary school. Our model offers ample space for those personalized developments, some with and some without technology, and of course gives much attention to 21st-century skills and social-emotional development.

With a 24:1 student-teacher ratio and for children aged 4 to 12, our school does it like this:

– Each student has a teacher as coach. Every six weeks the coach, student and parent meet to review an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

– The IDP is based on the talents and abilities of the child and the requirements of the government/school.

– All children have an iPad, which they are allowed to take home.

– Each day, students spend one hour in their base group with their coach and other children.

– The rest of the day, teachers are specialists (language, math, geography, creativity, etc.), offering classes and workshops (30-45 minutes each) from their own classrooms, or are available for guidance.

– There is a quiet area where children can be active for part of the day, practicing with interactive adaptive programs as offered by various companies on the market.

– Via a special app, children (with help from parents) choose in advance from a range of next-day activities based on their IDP and weekly duties. Thus, during a typical day, a student makes their own way through school on the basis of supply and their plan.

In this way, students are both engaged and empowered, and the results are overall quite impressive. Not only are they happy to go to school, but problems such as ADHD and ADD melt away like snow in the sun. For children with dyslexia, this is also a workable approach.

So, if you want your school to really get started with personalized learning, and you want to choose from the many great edtech solutions out there, then you’ll also need to adapt a model like ours to ensure your school truly fits the 21st century.

Maurice de Hond is founder of the Steve Jobs School in the Netherlands. Write to:

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Trends | Making Education Data Work for Students

CREDIT DQC Campaign.pngParents, teachers, community leaders, policymakers and students themselves need tailored information to ensure all students’ individual needs are met. While infrastructure investments and smart policies have given every state the technical ability to produce richer and more useful pictures of student learning, a new report from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) says states must now focus on the needs of people who will use that data to truly make an impact on student achievement. States have an opportunity to create a culture of effective data use that puts students at the center. Whether it’s promoting ways for state leaders to track whether or not students are hitting critical milestones, helping teachers tailor instruction and understand students’ needs, creating better school report cards, or ensuring data privacy – states can do this with policies that evolve as technology evolves. They can provide teachers and parents the real-time information they need. The DQC report includes four recommendations for policymakers, including taking advantage of opportunities presented by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to ensure that data serves their citizens and supports student learning. The report also offers state examples and resources to help states make data work for students. Learn more.

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Trends | Report: Tech Tools, Content Teachers Use  

CREDIT PBS Learn More ReportThe learning landscape has shifted significantly over the past several years. Learning is now a multi-platform and multi-dimensional experience. Learners embrace technology to communicate and socialize and want to access information in multiple formats across a range of devices. The classroom is no exception to this shifting landscape, requiring that PBS, for example, innovate to create new pathways through which students and teachers can access the content they need. In order to understand the changing face of digital learning, PBS LearningMedia, a media-on-demand service offering educators access to research-based, classroom-ready digital learning experiences, recently conducted a nationwide survey of 1,540 educators, nearly two-thirds of whom (65 percent) were classroom teachers across all levels of schoolings. The findings can be found in the PBS Learn More Report. The results focused on the types of technology, tools, and content that today’s teachers are using, and those they expect to use in the coming years.

Highlights include:

  • While more than eight in 10 have access to personal computers, only a little more than half have interactive whiteboards, tablets, and electronic readers. Other tools, including tablets, mobile devices, and Chromebooks are used daily by at least one-fourth of teachers.
  • Two-thirds of teachers are using project-based learning, while half have used game-based learning and 44 percent have used blended learning strategies.

Learn more at


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