Programmable Vortex Robot Offers Palm-Sized Coding, Fun – Education News

By Jordan E. Wassell

With an increasing emphasis on STEM curriculum around the world, developers are constantly turning out new methods to help even the youngest children learn coding and programming fundamentals. Thanks to new toys like

Vortex, a programmable robot, kids can learn the basics of programming in a fun, interactive way.Vortex has been revealed via Kickstarter campaign from DFRobot, reports Edgar Alvarez for Engadget. The company has been selling open source hardware since 2008, and now they are looking to raise $50,000 to help fund the new palm-sized robot.

“With Vortex, DFRobot wants to bring back the joy of tinkering to the next generation and boost STEM education among children, even from an early age, DFRobot CEO Ricky Ye said. “For the most part, toy technology has actually not changed much for decades. We’re challenging this with a smart robot that children can enthusiastically play with, while also learning about programming and robotics.”

via Programmable Vortex Robot Offers Palm-Sized Coding, Fun.

Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs. X-BL | Edutopia

At the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), weve been keeping a list of the many types of “_____- based learning” weve run across over the years:

  • Case-based learning
  • Challenge-based learning
  • Community-based learning
  • Design-based learning
  • Game-based learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Land-based learning
  • Passion-based learning
  • Place-based learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • Proficiency-based learning
  • Service-based learning
  • Studio-based learning
  • Team-based learning
  • Work-based learning

. . . and our new fave . . .

Zombie-based learning (look it up!)

via Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs. X-BL | Edutopia.

EcoArt Camp gives kid recycling lesson – Times Herald

By Richard Freedman

That stereotype about only boys liking robots? Forget it.

Oh, 6-year-old Annika Hellevik figured out how to accessorize her self-described robot with a skirt. But, just like other kids in Arts Benicia’s EcoArt Camp, the precocious child gave her metal man super powers.

And the super power was …?

“I have to remember that because I did that a week ago,” Annika mused.

Pause. Light bulb over her head.

“The powers were transforming into animals, flying, singing and a fashion sense,” Annika smiled, admitting to liking this whole robot-making thing “because they move all by themselves and they can do things for you. Sometimes they make weird noises.”

via ecoart-camp-gives-kid-recycling-lesson



DUSD trustees to hear report on solar energy use at six campuses – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

If Dixon Unified leaders like the idea, several district schools will be using solar energy to power their sites, saving taxpayers several million dollars over 20 years.

When trustees meet Thursday, they will hear a proposal about solar energy systems from John Calise, the district’s maintenance and operations manager.

If six campuses begin to use solar panels to generate some or all of their electricity, the district will save $41,000 in the year after the equipment is installed, in 2016, he noted.

Over two decades, the district could, conceivably, save $2.3 million to $4.5 million, if the panels are installed at four schools or groupings of schools, Calise will tell the five-member governing board. They include C.A. Jacobs Intermediate School, the Maine Prairie/Anderson Elementary/old high school campuses grouped near one another on C Street, and Tremont and Gretchen Higgins elementaries.

via DUSD trustees to hear report on solar energy use at six campuses.

VUSD leaders to hold workshop on Sierra Vista re-opening, Measure A – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

When they meet Tuesday in a special governing board workshop, Vacaville Unified School District leaders will hear updates on lease-leaseback construction, a plan for the re-opening of Sierra Vista Elementary, Phase 1 projects under Measure A.

Lisa Allred, an attorney with the law firm that represents the district, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, will update the board about lease-leaseback construction contracts, which, under the state Education Code, a school district may enter into without competitive bidding. The lease-leaseback structure permits builder-financed construction, with payments made over a set period of time.

Her presentation comes on the heels of a recent state court case, Davis v. Fresno Unified School District, in which the court ruled that Davis, a local taxpayer, had on appeal sufficiently alleged that Fresno school officials had violated the competitive bidding requirements for a building project.

On appeal, the court determined that the terms of the district’s contract with its builder were more like a traditional construction contract, not a lease. The Education Code section at issue applies only to “genuine or true leases,” the Fifth District Court of Appeal stated.

via VUSD leaders to hold workshop on Sierra Vista re-opening, Measure A.

Fairfield-Suisun school trustees OK $10.8M in spending – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

Recommendations by school district administrators for spending $10.8 million in state funds won approval this week by trustees for the Fairfield-Suisun School District – after an initial deadlock on delaying a decision on $3 million of the money and concerns by two trustees that not enough was known about the spending plans.

“I am not feeling very comfortable about taking action on this item tonight,” Trustee Pat Shamansky said Thursday. “This is something very different from what we usually vote on.”

“I don’t think, in general, it’s good governance,” she said.

Trustees usually are provided information at one meeting and then vote at the next, said Shamansky, who wanted the school board to continue the matter until the next meeting.

via Fairfield-Suisun school trustees OK $10.8M in spending.

How Writing Down Specific Goals Can Empower Struggling Students | MindShift

By Anya Kamenetz

Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream?

Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.

He co-authored a paper that demonstrates a startling effect: nearly erasing the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap for 700 students over the course of two years with a short written exercise in setting goals.

via How Writing Down Specific Goals Can Empower Struggling Students | MindShift | KQED News.

How to build a bridge from pre-kindergarten to third grade | EdSource

By Richard Carranza

The month of June marked transitions for many of our students, but few more so than the very youngest. This month, thousands of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds completed their first years of formal education in San Francisco Unified. Research suggests they will be significantly better prepared to succeed in school because of their high-quality preschool experience.

What these children don’t know – and it should be invisible to them – is that they are on the leading edge of our district’s strategy to align pre-K–3rd grade instruction. Our goal with this approach is to shrink a stubborn achievement gap by aligning primary school teaching to a formerly separate pre-K system. If we are going to bridge the gap, we have to start earlier, and that early work must be connected and coherent with the work in the grades that follow.

via How to build a bridge from pre-kindergarten to third grade | EdSource.

It’s elementary, Fairfield speakers say of music – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

Speakers, including a graduate of the California School for the Blind, told Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees Thursday about the importance of musical education in elementary schools.

Robert Lucky said his introduction to music in elementary school proved crucial when as a 14-year-old he began losing his sight.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to become of me,” Lucky said.

via It’s elementary, Fairfield speakers say of music.

Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment During ESEA Debate – Education Week

By Lauren Camera

The U.S. Senate waded into its first contentious debate since it began considering an overhaul to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, voting on and ultimately rejecting a voucher amendment that would have allowed Title I dollars for low-income students to follow them to the public or private school of their choice.

The amendment, offered Wednesday by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., co-author of the bipartisan bill, would have provided low-income students with a $2,100 scholarship to use at their discretion.

“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone should have the same starting line,” said Alexander. “There would be no better way to help move students from the back of the line to the front.”

via Senate Rejects School Voucher Amendment During ESEA Debate – Politics K-12 – Education Week.

New Financial Reporting Requirements for Pensions – CA Dept of Education

The two recent pension accounting standards issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) make fundamental changes to how state and local governments account for their costs and obligations relating to employee pensions. This letter augments the considerable body of information about the new standards that is available from other sources, and discusses certain implications for California local educational agencies (LEAs).

The guidance in this letter supersedes the guidance in the 1996 Management Advisory 96-03 from the California Department of Education (CDE) relating to accounting for on- behalf pension payments made by the state.


GASB Statement 68 (GASB 68), Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions—an amendment of GASB Statement No. 27, introduces new requirements for accrual-basis recognition by state and local governments of employer costs and obligations for pensions. Although GASB 68 relates to accrual-basis financial statements, for California LEAs there are implications for governmental fund statements as well.

via New Financial Reporting Requirements for Pensions – Correspondence (CA Dept of Education).

One-time state money, attendance rates on Fairfield-Suisun USD agenda tonight – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Kelly Bartel, assistant superintendent for business services, will inform the seven-member governing board that the state’s adopted budget means the district will receive $10.8 million because of an additional, one-time budget add-on for the 2015-16 year.

Nearly half the money will pay for technology upgrades for the 21,500 students enrolled at more than two dozen campuses, including several high schools. Additionally, the $5 million will pay for updated security and telephone systems.

Two million dollars are earmarked for upgrades to the Mary Bird Early Education Center, at 420 E. Tabor Ave., Fairfield. Beside general upgrades, the money would pay for an expanded play area and equipment; a bus drop-off area; new heating, ventilation and air conditioning; a new fire alarm system; and upgrades to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

via One-time state money, attendance rates on Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District agenda tonight.

Vacaville Unified School District summer school graduates 23 – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

For whatever reason, among them illness and family tragedies, nearly two dozen Vacaville Unified high school seniors did not graduate in June with their respective classes at Vacaville, Wood, Buckingham and Country high schools.

But, while enrolled in the district’s Extended Summer Learning, or summer school, they never lost sight of their goal. On Wednesday, during a brief ceremony at Will C. Wood High, they joined the ranks of the Class of 2015.

via Vacaville Unified School District summer school graduates 23.

Financial Boot Camp For Your Teens Coming Up In Vacaville | Dixon, CA Patch

From Sherry Cordonnier:

You’ve just been transported into the future with your friends.  Some of you have just graduated from college or technical school.  You already have families of your own.  You’ve just started your first full-time, professional job.  You’re earning money and have bills to pay.  Now you have to select housing, transportation, food, household necessities, clothing, day care, and other wants and needs.  Lots of choices to make.  Oh, and you need to build a budget based on your income and debt.

Welcome to Mad City Money!

Financial Boot Camp For Your Teens Coming Up In Vacaville | Dixon, CA Patch.

The Common Core Debate: One Teacher Vs. The Experts | Edutopia

By José Vilson

For years, Ive been saying that the Common Core State Standards needed true teacher voice in order to succeed. Millions, however wittingly, have taken on the challenge, reading denser passages in English and complicating their math problems. Whenever we talk about the standards, we rarely hear about whats actually happening in classrooms beside what I view as outliers: the intense schools with kids crying their eyes out during a test, homework assignments that many of the math teachers I speak with would rebuke, and mass movements of opting out across larger states.

And Im a teacher whose professional duty is teaching to the Common Core, and have done so to fidelity (more on this later) for the last five years. In that vein, Ive decided to jot down some notes comparing the original claims I heard those five fateful years ago to what Ive actually experienced since then.

via The Common Core Debate: One Teacher Vs. The Experts | Edutopia.

Special Education Bill Offers Flexibility on Maintenance of Effort – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

School districts would have more permission to reduce their special education spending under a bill introduced in Congress today by Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican.

Currently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act only allows district special education spending cuts in limited circumstances—for example, if a highly paid special educaton teacher retires and is replaced with someone who earns a lower salary. Other permitted reasons to reduce funding include a student who requires expensive services leaving the district, or an overall decline in special education enrollment. This so-called “maintenance of effort” provision is intended to keep funding, and thereby services to students, stable.

Walbergs bill would allow districts to cut back on special education spending if theyve found other ways to reduce costs while keeping services intact. If a district negotiates a contract with its teachers that reduces personnel costs, for example, the bill states that the district should be able to adjust special education spending to account for that.

via Special Education Bill Offers Flexibility on Maintenance of Effort – On Special Education – Education Week.

Vacaville Unified School District’s migrant ed program bridges gaps – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

In an aging beige portable, Room 18, at Vacaville’s Markham Elementary, Laura Contreras used small paper flash cards, on which were printed frequently used English words, as a way to teach a new language to Antonio, 14, who arrived from Mexico a few weeks ago.

Among Vacaville Unified’s newest students, the teenage boy — with sister Daniela, 15, offering occasional translations in Spanish — spoke the words: we, them, what, toward, also, with, and old.

Antonio paused, mildly stumped as he looked at the last English word.

“Viejo,” Daniela told her brother.

via Vacaville Unified School District’s migrant ed program bridges gaps.

White House: ESEA Rewrite Needs to Focus on Struggling Schools and Students – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

Both houses of Congress are about to consider bills to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

But the Obama administration is worried that neither version of the legislation does enough to ensure states stay focused on struggling schools and on closing the achievement gap. And it cant support either bill at this point, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday.

The White House has already threatened to veto the House legislation. But its stopping short of issuing a similar threat against the Senate bill.

Low-performing schools and students remain persistent problems at the state level, the administration argues. For instance, in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in each state—as identified by the Obama administration—only 36 percent of students hit grade-level proficiency in reading on state tests, compared to 67 percent in all other schools, according to a report released Monday by the White House.

via White House: ESEA Rewrite Needs to Focus on Struggling Schools and Students – Politics K-12 – Education Week.

More than $10 million going to Solano, Napa Head Start programs – Times Herald

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

Some $10.9 million of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant is coming to Head Start and Early Head Start services throughout Solano and Napa counties, Rep. Mike Thompson’s office announced Monday.

The award is the first installment of a five-year grant which Child Start, Inc. won through a competitive process established by Health and Human Services. Child Start, Inc. will receive a grant of the same amount for the next four years.

“Everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves an equal opportunity to work hard, get ahead and succeed,” Thompson said in a statement. “The Head Start and Early Head Start services provided though Child Start, Inc. make sure our kids have a foundation for success that’s rooted in education and strong, healthy development. I am proud to support Child Start, Inc. and this grant which will allow them to continue doing great work in our community.”

via More than $10 million going to Solano, Napa Head Start programs.

Dixon Unified School District Approves Budget | Dixon, CA Patch

The beginning of July brought a new fiscal year to the Dixon Unified School District (DUSD). The onset of the new fiscal year required the Board to approve the 2015-2016 Annual Budget at our June 25th meeting. The Budget is our spending blueprint for the next 12 months, and will be updated regularly as state and other revenues come in. DUSD budget highlights include:

•Total 2015-16 District revenue from state, local and other sources: $31,643,569.00

•Average Daily Attendance (this is not a total student count, but a count based attendance): 3,198. It is important to note that state funding is based on ADA and not on enrollment.

•Salaries and benefits for DUSD employees make up 79.9% of general fund budget expenditures.

via Dixon Unified School District Approves Budget | Dixon, CA Patch.