Fighting the Good Fight

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Can the ed tech community convince policymakers that states and districtsdesperately need dedicated technology funding to ensure no child is left behind?

According to Title II D: EnhancingEducation Through Technology(EETT) of the No Child Left BehindAct (NCLB), the states must show how technologywill be integrated throughout all oftheir curriculum and instruction by Dec. 31, 2006. But the definition of “technology integration”has evolved significantly as itsimportance has increased. The term initiallymeant using technology in the classroominstead of only in a computer lab.

However, now the NCLB authors, aswell as various leaders in technology andeducation, recognize that the integration ofeducational technology should be basedupon the needs of students and communitiesand embedded in educational goals.

In the print and online editions of thismonth’s T.H.E. Journal, you can read abouthow states and districts around the nationhave implemented programs to help closethe achievement gap, ensure highly qualifiedteachers for all students, and facilitatethe use of data for schools to meet adequateyearly progress (AYP) requirements. Whatis striking about the examples in these articlesis that they describe and documentpowerful improvements in education andstudent learning with technology as a keyintegrated element.

Dedicated Technology Funding

There is growing evidence that, increasingly,technology is becoming an integral componentof all education. Look no further thanthe State Educational Technology DirectorsAssociation’s (SETDA) 2005 NationalTrends Report (Metiri Group, 2005,www.setda.org/resources/NationalTrendsReport2005FINAL1.pdf) that covers theprogress of the EETT program,which cites atremendous number of states (78 percent)using technology for assessment, outreachto parents, and data-driven decision making.The report also shows that statesand districts are targeting specific corecontent areas for educational technologyspending. For instance, in alignment withthe EETT priorities, 74 percent of states arefocused on reading or writing, and 38percent are focused on mathematics.

In business, providing technologyfunding is not even a question—companiesunderstand the critical need for technologyas a productivity, communication,and research tool. However, that is notalways the case at all levels of education.The field of educational technology hasreceived dedicated funding from thefederal government, most recently throughthe EETT program which represents theprimary source of funding for educationaltechnology in many schools. Currently, 12states do not receive any state-level fundingfor educational technology, while 81percent of US districts receive EETT funds.

A rude awakening. In February, wereceived a true eye-opener when the Bushadministration proposed eliminating allEETT funding. Since then, educators fromstates, districts, and schools have worked toengage policymakers in restoring this criticalsource of funding. At the same time, many ofus also had to accept that we have notprovided enough information or data on theimpact that educational technology has inschools beyond the actual physical placementof computers and access into classrooms.The situation has provided us with anopportunity to home in on the impact ofeducational technology on increasedstudent learning. In some ways, the cut toEETT funds is exactly the push we needed.

A Community Challenge

In the last few months, SETDA and itsmembers have taken a leadership role inhelping legislators, corporations, and alleducation stakeholders more effectivelyunderstand and communicate technology’svital role in closing the achievement gap,developing highly qualified teachers, andusing data effectively for accountability.

We talk about data-driven decision-makingin education, but we must do abetter job of using our own data to showdecision-makers the important outcomesof fully using educational technologythroughout education. With this in mind, Ichallenge each of you to do the following:

  • Read the articles in both the print andWeb versions of the July issue to learnabout how states are working withdistricts to improve student learning.
  • Consider your own programs and thedata that you have. Share this informationwith those outside of the educationaltechnology community, especiallyschool board members and legislators.
  • Force yourself to answer the questionabout how educational technologyimpacts education and NCLB.

Finally, as a community, we must beforward-looking to ensure sustained educationaltechnology funding at the district,state, and federal levels of government. Inbusiness, this is commonly a percentage ofoperational costs or a ratio based on numberof employees; to date, this has not been thecase for education. The business way maynot be the precise way for education toapportion sustained funding for technology,but it is a place to start the discussion.

The educational technology community’sfight for EETT funding is only thebeginning. We need to demonstrate thateducational technology is indispensable toother federal programs, state budgetingprocesses, as well as to district and schoolplanning. As we share the data and resultswith all education stakeholders, the proofmust begin with you.

Mary Ann Wolf is SETDA’s director of leadership,planning, and policy. Sara Hall isSETDA’s director of strategic relations. Formore information on SETDA, log on towww.SETDA.org.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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