Education Act Sets Stage for Technology Reform
Editors' note: This is the first in an occasional series of articles on federal and state issues that will affect educators who use technology.
On Jan. 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed by Congress. This bill, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, provides additional federal money to schools, especially those serving students from low-income families. Amid all the media coverage of the accountability provisions, especially the requirement to test all students in grades 3-8 in reading and math, other components of the bill have gone unnoticed. Among the unnoticed is a significant change in both size - more money - and direction - more requirements - of support from the federal government for technology. As of press time, the exact amount of money per state had not yet been determined, but overall there is more money for technology than in past budgets. It is also important to note that the rules implementing this bill have not yet been created either at the federal or state level, so the specifics of how it will affect your district are not yet known.
There are responsibilities for everyone. The U.S. Department of Education will conduct research on the conditions and practices under which educational technology is effective in increasing student achievement, and it will create a national education technology plan. As part of their application for funds under this act, states will submit a statewide long-range strategic educational technology plan that must address 15 components, many of which describe the proposed uses of the technology-related money. Among these uses are to raise student achievement, provide courses through distance learning, ensure teachers and administrators are technologically literate, and increase parental involvement.
States also are to flow money to the schools. Approximately half of the technology-related money going to a state will flow through to schools using the same formula as their Title I basic program money. The other approximately 50 percent of the technology-related money will be awarded through a competitive process determined by the state. No matter what the competitive process, to apply for the funding, schools must submit a local long-range strategic educational technology plan that is consistent with the state plan, as well as other information the state may reasonably require. The application must address a dozen areas describing how the local education agency, i.e. the school district, will use the funds. These areas are similar to those required of the state to describe how the funds will be used to improve student achievement, including technological literacy; to improve the capacity of teachers to integrate technology into curricula and instruction; to have increased access to technology, especially students in high-poverty and high-needs schools; to provide ongoing, sustained professional development; etc.
The U.S. Department of Education will conduct research on the conditions and practices under which educational technology is effective in increasing student achievement, and it will create a national education technology plan.
One additional stipulation is that no less than 25 percent of all technology-related money received under this bill by the local education agency must be spent on professional development in the integration of advanced technologies, including emerging technologies, into curricula and instruction. A few other topics for professional development are mentioned as well. One is a waiver provision, whereby a local education agency may not have to spend at least 25 percent of its money on professional development if it can demonstrate to the state that it already provides that same professional development.
Again, the rules for implementing this legislation have not yet been formulated, nor have the specifics on the money been settled. Watch future issues of T.H.E. Journal for additional, more in-depth articles on this and related topics, and visit www.thejournal.com for the most current information.
Dr. Fletcher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or e-mail your thoughts to T.H.E. Journal at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.