Groups Examine ESEA's Technology Provisions

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At a meeting held Feb. 25-28, the U.S. Department of Education worked with state directors of technology, members of the Regional Technology in Education Consortia and others to take a focused look at the technology provisions of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This meeting was a major step forward in implementing the act's technology provisions, known as Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT). Some highlights from this meeting:

- An important organization, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, was officially formed. This organization, headed by Melinda George as executive director, will provide a mechanism for states to communicate and collaborate with each other, as well as provide coordinated input into federal policy.

- John Bailey, the Education Department's new director for educational technology, led the meeting with enthusiasm. He had other members of the federal government - not just from the Education Department - speak to and answer questions from the group. While these people provided valuable information, possibly more important was their knowledge of the technology provisions of ESEA, and their willingness to work with Bailey in coordinating technological and educational efforts.

- States are still working with the Education Department to determine how to implement all aspects of the bill. They are also putting together an aggressive timeline for implementing this new program. Key dates include having the state application form ready by the first week of March; having Title I data, a key factor for implementation, ready for use by late April; and disbursing money to the states by July 1, assuming their plans are ready for submission. Three areas received significant attention in this discussion: integration, flexibility and evaluation.

Integration. ESEA emphasizes integrating technology throughout the curriculum. For example, states must describe how they will ensure the ongoing integration of technology into the curricula and of instructional strategies in all schools by Dec. 31, 2006. The rationale behind this is that as we approach a critical mass of technology and Internet connections in classrooms, districts and states should focus on using technology in all parts of the teaching and learning process.

Flexibility. While the focus of the meeting was on implementing the technology provisions of ESEA, Bailey went to great lengths to point out that money in other parts of the bill could be used for technology. That is, money from the $900-million reading program, the $1-billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program or other programs could be used for technology. Money could also be transferred out of those programs into an EETT program at the state's or district's discretion. However, money could also be transferred out of the EETT program. While not discussed in detail at the meeting, state directors agreed that flexibility can be a double-edged sword. It could open up turf battles at state departments of education or within school districts as they put plans together to respond to the federal requirements.

Evaluation. There are a number of evaluation requirements in the bill. For example, districts and states must describe how technology contributes to student achievement. The Education Department plans to research the conditions and practices under which educational technology is effective in increasing student achievement. They also plan to research the conditions and practices that increase the ability of teachers to integrate technology effectively into curricula and instruction, enhancing the learning environment and opportunities, and increasing student academic achievement. U.S. Under Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok pointed out that the term "scientific research" is used 111 times in the bill. This focus on evaluation and accountability is a major theme of ESEA. It is also among the most difficult components of the bill to implement because of limited funding.

Check your state department of education's Web site for up-to-date information on EETT's implementation. You can visit the Education Department's Web site at www.ed.gov/nclb for more information on ESEA. You can also e-mail the federal department at StateTechGrant@ed.gov. T.H.E. Journal recommends checking with your state department of education first regarding your state's EETT implementation, as they will establish the rules and regulations for your state.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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