Markets Opinion

School Improvement of RFP of the Week (2): First Steps To a Federal Infrastructure for K-12 Online?

May 27, 2008 3 min read
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From Tuesday’s issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets ReportAnnouncement: Professional Development Module Due May 30 (May 21) US Department of Education

Their Description:

The U.S. Department of Education’s, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is a State formula-grant program.... to enable community learning centers to have the ability to plan, implement, or expand after-school learning enrichment opportunities to help students meet State and local standards.... 21st CCLC programs must primarily serve children who attend schools identified with high-poverty... giving priority to... children in low-performing schools....

The... Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) intends to establish a contract that will be used provide continued technical assistance through a professional development module to help State and local programs throughout the country design and implement research-based, effective afterschool learning opportunities for children primarily in high-poverty, low-performing schools. [T]he contractor shall design professional development databases and modules using a hybrid of distance learning techniques, train the trainer techniques, and regional study circles to increase the capacity of local 21st CCLC project and program directors to use nationally recognized best practices to improve the academic outcomes of their participating students.... The main deliverable of this contract will be an interactive web portal encompassing several distinct sections.

• A technology-based, user-centric one-stop infrastructure that includes a virtual gateway for State coordinators and sub-grantees to select academic and learning strategies, classroom instructional materials, staff and instructional training modules, best business practices, and program evaluation tools;

• Evaluation strategies and tools that will eliminate duplication, and enhance quality and consistency across the program;

• A large and robust online learning and professional development system that will provide increased, consistent, customized, and focused afterschool information and strategies for the entire 21st CCLC community;

• A communication tool that includes access to State 21st CCLC activity calendars, message boards, blackboards, meeting-conference webinar access, and other community-driven communication tools;

• A virtual gateway for States and sub-grantees to select from a menu of comprehensive, innovative, and creative best practices and professional development training modules that are specific to the needs of the respective State and/or sub-grantee programs.

• Several aspects of this contract require strong collaboration and coordination among distinct entities involved in the model identification and dissemination process. Additionally, the contractor must have access to and be knowledgeable of the information and materials pertaining to after-school programs to ensure that it has the capabilities to be thoroughly familiar with existing literature on effective afterschool content-area curriculum, specifically in the areas of reading, mathematics, and science and professional development.

My Thoughts: Today, firms like Blackboard and K12 own the k-12 information turnpike, on and off ramps, filling stations, rest stops, long-haul vehicles, and much of its workforce. Other things being equal, such bundling makes for higher profit margins.

Once the federal government purchases this “module” (See also NASA’s Electronic Professional Development Project) it can grow beyond after-school and professional development. When/if the feds own the channel, service and content become king and the fragmentation of market providers inevitable. Prices and profits will fall.

Oh, and whether you like the scenario or hate it, protest the time line.

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