Thursday is the final day of SXSWedu 2017, the education-focused component to the SXSW family of conferences.

SXSWedu organizers predicted up to 8,000 students, teachers, administrators and education professionals would participate this year in the four-day conference, which took place at several venues across downtown Austin, including the Austin Convention Center.

The conference wraps up ahead of the Friday opening of SXSW Interactive and the SXSW Film Festival. The SXSW Music Festival starts March 13.

On Thursday, SXSWedu programming included a keynote speech from author Tim Ferriss, who is also an entrepreneur and investor in major tech companies such as Uber, Facebook and Shopify.

Ferriss also joined SXSWedu Executive Director Ron Reed and Charles Best of for an off-stage chat on Facebook Live.

Standardized testing in schools was the topic of one Wednesday panel titled, “Now Trending: State Assessments Worth Taking.”

Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction for the Ohio Department of Education, Christa Krohn, instructional mathematics coach with the Orange School District in Ohio, and Jennifer Poon, director of the Innovation Lab Network, discussed the implementation of performance-based assessments in Ohio.

In Ohio, districts like Orange are embracing performance-based assessments that promote a “link between engagement and deep learning.” Performance-based assessments measure a student’s ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned rather than simply internalize it.

DeMaria said while states can act as a catalyst to move an agenda forward, to truly reform assessment practices, teachers must act as advocates to demonstrate the need for change.

“You need to create a foundation where people are aware of [performance-based assessments], understand its power and demonstrate that it is working,” he said.

Krohn said the first step in transforming state assessments is cultivating a supportive environment.

“Having an environment that is nurturing and supportive allows teachers to take that risk,” she said. “You can’t take the step forward until you have a support administrative team. I would also look to like-minded districts in the area to partner with.”

Another panel Wednesday focused on transgender student rights in K-12 education.

Among the panelists was 17-year-old Ezra Morales, a transgender student from Austin ISD who testified to a Texas Senate committee in opposition to Senate Bill 6, which proposes to mandate that people use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings that match the biological sex listed on their birth certificates, regardless of whether that matches their gender identities.

The controversial bill garnered six hours of invited testimony and more than 13 hours of public testimony ahead of the Senate committee’s vote Wednesday to move the bill forward to the full Senate floor. 

Morales said school administrators should ensure transgender students feel welcome among their peers. He took exception to SB 6 supporters’ claims that the proposed legislation does not target transgender people but rather is meant to protect individual privacy, adding that he believes the bill’s backers have spread rhetoric that “is very damaging to students like me all across the nation and all across the world.”

SXSWedu's final day includes keynote speaker Brené Brown, founder and CEO of Brave Leaders Inc.. The Houston-native is well-known for her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.”

Brown's keynote Thursday will focus on how risk and vulnerability in the classroom can lead to teachers and students choosing courage over comfort, what is right over what is fun, fast or easy, and how to practice values rather than profess them.