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The New Reality Roundup | Week 190

It is week 190 in our new reality and we are thinking about how much students lost during the pandemic and how important it is to keep pushing forward with new ways to catch them back up. 

“The evidence is now in, and it is startling,” writes The New York Times editorial board in a very long-delayed but still welcomed editorial on Saturday. “The school closures that took 50 million children out of classrooms at the start of the pandemic may prove to be the most damaging disruption in the history of American education. It also set student progress in math and reading back by two decades and widened the achievement gap that separates poor and wealthy children … This is a bipartisan issue, and parents, teachers and leaders in education have a role to play as well, in making sure that addressing learning loss and other persistent challenges facing children receives urgent attention.”

We need to empower teachers, parents and students with every tool we can. That means investing in the kind of R&D far too often lacking in American education. One way to do so is by continuing to experiment with AI, which has evolved so much since we first looked at ChatGPT seven months ago. While drama around the governance of industry leader OpenAI is getting the headlines right now, there is no denying the potential of the products emerging at the intersection of AI and education. 

“The nonprofit Khan Academy is making strategic decisions to shore up its position at the forefront of the use of artificial intelligence in K-12 education,” writes Alyson Klein in a new article for Education Week. “One move it’s making—announced Nov. 15—is to cut the price almost in half for use of Khanmigo, its AI-powered chatbot that is currently being used in 32 school districts. The cost of Khanmigo, which gives students and teachers the opportunity to interact with an AI-powered personalized tutor and lesson-planning collaborator, will drop from $60 to $35 per student annually.” 

At the same time, the tool is about to get a lot smarter: “Beginning later this month, students will be able to submit a draft essay to Khanmigo, which will then guide them through a revision process. Students will get feedback on their essay’s structure and organization, how well their arguments are supported, and the essay’s overall tone and style … Eventually, Khanmigo will be programmed to give teachers feedback on what parts of the writing process their students could use extra instruction in.”

It’s a good example of the fast moving nature of AI and education, and the wisdom of John Bailey’s advice in our interview back in March of this year: “The only way to really understand this technology is to use it.” If you want to use it, you can find out a lot more on the Khan Academy’s Labs page

AI is also the topic of discussion on EdSurge’s podcast, where researchers are warning that our current approach to AI in education is too parochial and short-sighted. And the Fordham Institute has published a series of essays on AI and is holding a competition where participants will vote on the “wisest wonk.”

Last week, we celebrated the launch of Louisiana Kids Matter and Accelerate’s Louisiana’s statewide tutoring effort and looked at what’s behind the explosive growth of homeschooling programs. Today, we turn to the lingering and expansive student attendance crisis and dive into what science tells us about community organizing as a core advocacy strategy.

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The New Reality Roundup | Week 186

It is week 186 in our new reality and we are thinking about the power of leadership in troubled times.

A few days ago 50CAN President Derrell Bradford announced that we were opening applications for both a new cohort of our National Voices fellowship program and a New York Voices fellowship specifically for residents of the Empire State. The goal of both is to “facilitate a bipartisan conversation among the next generation of education leaders” and I can’t think of a more important time to do so. If you are thinking about raising your voice around constructive change, I would encourage you to learn more.

We also recently launched a new report from AdvocacyLabs, a partnership between 50CAN and FutureEd at Georgetown University. The report provides a unique synthesis of organizing traditions along with practical lessons that advocates can put to use in their campaigns. One lesson seems particularly timely right now: “Community organizing efforts are most vulnerable when they are successful because they are threatening the status quo. The tools of organizing can be used to defend these campaigns but only if their leaders are willing to get political.”

Last week, we looked at the growing disconnect between increased educator hiring and shrinking student populations, as well as a first look at a new direct aid program in Denver that could serve as a model for communities across the country. This week we look at the continued momentum behind making tutoring a permanent feature of the education system of the future and put a spotlight on Ben Austin’s bold bet on constitutional reform.