Trailblazer Award Winner uses her grant at the Page School

First Grade Teacher Krista Niles tells us how she spent her Trailblazer Award grant money at the Page School. Thanks so much for sharing Krista!

"Here are some pictures of my students utilizing the bee bots and mats from the PEF grant money! Under the direction of our STEAM teacher, Hilary Seager, students were given four challenges to complete. The challenge was to collaborate to code their bee bot to follow a path from one point on the mat to another. They were equipped with the mat, bee bot, and directional cards (start, forward, backward, left, right, stop, go, delete). Students were excited to code the bee bots and to complete each challenge that increased in difficulty. The last challenge was to make their own path and have another group successfully code their bee bot to follow the designed path! Engineering and collaboration at its finest. Thank you PEF!" ~ Krista Niles


A lot of parents are wondering, “What is this new PARCC test and what happened to MCAS?” There’s a nice explanation on the Citizens for Public Schools site.

The PEF was lucky enough to get an early report card on PARCC from the front lines, courtesy of a veteran standardized test taker who prefers to remain anonymous (OK, it's my sixth grade son who just took the test today). Key pieces of feedback include...

"The practice tests are way harder than the actual test."


"I like PARCC better than MCAS because it only lasts two hours and you can actually learn something the rest of the day."

So there you have it:  PARCC 1 - MCAS 0.


Andy Murphy

Random Observer of Standardized Tests


Why Does “Ed Tech” Lag?

The PEF's  newest success story focuses on the Page School K-3 teachers subscribing to BrainPOP Jr., an online service providing interactive lessons for early elementary education.  When one reads how valuable this type of service can be to teachers, it raises the question: why aren’t there more Internet services like this available to schools? The answer lies within how technology companies are created and funded.

Most successful technology ventures rely on funding from venture capitalists to hire people, procure infrastructure, and so on.  This funding enables them to grow far faster than if they relied on their own revenue. Venture capitalists, in turn, aim to make a nice return on their investments by taking their portfolio companies public, or getting them acquired by larger companies or private equity firms.

Historically, education technology (Ed Tech) has not been terribly interesting to venture capitalists. The tight budgets and lengthy procurement processes typical in public school systems create barriers to revenue that can slow or destroy a company’s ability to grow, and thus its ability to deliver a suitable return to investors. According to a recent story in The New York Times, however, this is starting to change. The crème de la crème Silicon Valley venture firms are starting to pay attention to Ed Tech. In fact, there was a 55% increase in venture investment in Ed Tech last year, amounting to $1.87 billion. (Although to put this in context with other tech sectors, Dropbox alone has raised $1.1 billion. Still, the uptick is promising.)

Interestingly, organizations like the PEF are helping to create a more favorable market for Ed Tech companies.  As we saw with BrainPOP Jr., teachers were able to shorten the procurement cycle by applying for a PEF grant, rather than going through the traditional procurement process.  And, BrainPOP Jr. is delivering fantastic benefits to both the students and their teachers. But what is not mentioned is that on a national scale, this type of foundation-driven investment is creating a more attractive market for entrepreneurs, which is driving increased investment into Ed Tech – and that’s good for everyone.

Andy Murphy

Random Observer of Education

A New Chapter for the PEF

Clearly you’ve noticed by now that the PEF has a new website. What you may not know, however, is that this new website really signifies a new chapter for the PEF.

 In our first chapter, which started in 2010, we focused on getting the organization off the ground – lining up corporate and private donors, establishing our grant process, organizing our various fundraising events, and so on. Those initial years have been highly successful – you need look no farther than the “Success Stories” section of this website to see the impact the PEF has had on the public schools. Today, however, we are moving the PEF to a new level – to serve as a driving force for creating a real sense of community among all constituents in the PRSD ecosystem.

Community is the only way we can ensure a first-rate education for our children. Tax dollars alone simply will not get the job done, because voters have no appetite for overrides. In this environment, we need to develop alternative sources of funding and expertise to give our educators the tools they need to deliver a true 21st century education to our children. That is what the PEF is all about – bringing together the entire PRSD community to focus on moving our schools forward.

We hope you enjoy our new site, and we hope you will make it a priority to be part of our community in the year ahead. We welcome your participation as a volunteer, donor, or even just as an attendee at our monthly meetings (we meet the first Thursday of every month in the Pentucket Middle School library, and more ideas are always welcome!). Together, we can make a PRSD education second to none!

Anna Marie Beech

PEF President