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Game On at KIPP Bay’s Ping Pong Smackdown

The NewSchools Adventure Fund team and the You Just Got NewSchooled team used their superhero powers to pull off a couple of victories at KIPP Bay Area’s second annual ping pong tournament, held this year at Airbnb’s ultra-hip headquarters in San Francisco. Although we were no match for Apple Ping Pong Loves Education (APPLE) teams I, II and III (two of which were in the finals), NewSchools’ Superman (aka David Havens) did manage a showdown […] Read more

Helping Children Cope with Technological Change

A recently posted video of a four-year old’s tearful reaction to his father’s upgrade to Apple iOS 7 serves as a reminder that software innovation can affect children psychologically. The 17-second clip leaves much unaddressed: What about the new operating system made it “different” instead of “better”? Could the father have anticipated such a reaction by preparing his son with the ageless wisdom that “nothing is forever”? Or was he too busy […] Read more

Beyond Data to Insights and Action

“Big Data” has become a buzzword within edtech circles and learning analytics is a Top Edtech Trend driven in part by increased accountability. However, the overwhelming amount of education data can often be inaccessible to those that need it most, educators and school leaders. This may be the reason that only 50% of administrators surveyed by the Center for Digital Education see improved student outcomes from the use of big data. Read more

The Changing Boston Charter Cap Scene

The political dynamic in the city is about to change, however, as long-serving Mayor Thomas Menino moves toward retirement at the end of 2013. Menino opposes charter school growth. Boston is a Mayoral control city, where the Mayor gets to appoint the school committee, which in turn appoints and oversees the schools superintendent. Boston’s superintendent Carol Johnson stepped down this summer, so the new Mayor will be instrumental in appointing a new superintendent at the outset of his or her first term. A strongly pro-charter Mayor could also wield significant influence over the state legislature in lifting the charter cap, at least in Boston. Read more

Book Smarts vs Street Smarts: aka Edtech Founders as Action Researchers

Last week I was in Boston visiting two of our portfolio companies, BetterLesson and Socrative. Spending time with entrepreneurs is, by far, the best part of my job. I’m always moved by the passion of our entrepreneurs. As always, Ben Berte (Socrative) and Alex Grodd (BetterLesson) left me inspired by their commitment to supporting teachers. However, in this visit, I took away a new appreciation for how technology products are moving beyond just teacher productivity and into deeper issues of instruction and teacher learning. Read more

Charter Restarts: Enforcing Charter School Accountability

In its nine years, Harlem Day Charter School had seen nine principals at the helm. Despite these principals’ efforts, only a quarter of the students scored proficient on the state math exam, and even fewer on the reading. In a honorable and necessary move, Harlem Day’s Board Chair, Ben Lambert, called the state authorizer with a plan to heed his commitment and obligation of providing a quality school choice to Harlem Day’s students. His plan: replace the entire board (himself included) and turn the school over to a high performing charter operator, Democracy Prep. Harlem Day’s authorizer, The State University of New York (SUNY), agreed, and Harlem Day soon became Harlem Prep. Read more

Announcing Readworks.org: The Best Kept Secret in Reading Comprehension

We are thrilled to welcome Readworks.org to the Seed Fund portfolio. It’s a humble and hardworking nonprofit, with a maniacal focus on quality. They’ve mostly flown under the radar since their founding in 2010, spending zero dollars on marketing. Even so, they’ve grown organically through teacher word of mouth resulting in 3 million reading lessons downloaded and 270 websites linked to their materials. Read more

Mowing Down the Mistakes of Confused Common Core Opponents

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s online portal SFGate.com ran an anti-Common Core op-ed authored by George Ball, the “past president of the American Horticultural Society.” While reasonable minds may disagree about the merits of the Common Core, this particular editorial was so riddled with factual errors I couldn’t stop myself from going through this piece line-by-line to rebut the most egregious misstatements. It’s one thing for the far-right fringe to indulge in Common Corespiracy theories, but surely the Chronicle can do better than this? Read more

Why are the Common Core standards worth fighting for?

Before answering that question, let’s first do a little homework. Please turn to page 22 of this booklet, released only this morning, which contains sample assessment items from the New York state Common Core-aligned math assessment for third graders. Although you might be afraid of math even at this grade level, page 22 contains a relatively easy question about finding the areas for two equivalent rectangles. This question aligns with the Common Core standard 3.MD.C.7a, which in plain English means 3rd grade math, measurement and data, covering the concept of geometric measurement of area and related to multiplication and addition. Read more