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Tracy Weeks

SETDA Executive Director
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SETDA Advocates for Funding Flexibility for States

US Capitol Building

President Trump released his proposed FY19 Budget yesterday.  Sadly, this proposal eliminates several important Federal education programs. Of particular interest to state digital learning leaders is the elimination of Title II funds which are used for Professional Learning as well as the elimination of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants, also known as Title IVa of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The SSAE Grant program focuses on Whole Child Education, Safe and Healthy Students, and the Effective Use of Technology. When ESSA was authorized, Title IVa was authorized at $1.65 billion. However, for FY 17 only $400 million was budgeted and FY 18 funds are at $450 million, although that budget still has yet to be approved. The rationale behind eliminating funding for these programs is the belief that they are duplicative and funding from other programs such as Titles I and III may be used.

“Title IIa funds ensure that educators have funds dedicated to professional development – an area typically under funded or not funded at the state and local levels. Title IVa funds ensure that teachers understand how to effectively harness digital content, tools, and applications to best meet each student’s needs,” notes Tracy Weeks, Executive Director of SETDA. “This budget eliminates the funding flexibility given to states through ESSA so that they can combine funds from federal programs to create a seamless system of support for educators and students.”

SETDA calls on Congress not only to continue to fund Titles IIa and IVa, at their fully authorized levels.

SETDA Highlights from 2017

2017 was a great year for state leadership for educational technology. SETDA engaged members, affiliates, private sector partners, and partner organizations around federal and state advocacy efforts and provided national leadership for broadband, digital instructional materials, and data interoperability. Below are highlights from the work of 2017.

Advocacy

With a new federal administration in 2017, SETDA partnered with both ISTE and CoSN on advocacy efforts around educational technology. In May, 2017, the three organizations held an Ed Tech Policy and Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC, that included a congressional briefing, visits to the offices of members of Congress, and visits to the FCC and the US Department of Education. The event focused on advocacy around E-rate, Lifeline, funding for Title IV-a, and Student Data Privacy.  At the October leadership summit, SETDA members also had the opportunity to visit members of congress to continue advocating for these important issues.

Broadband

As mentioned above, SETDA has been a strong advocate for state leaders for E-rate, Lifeline, and most recently, Net Neutrality. We have participated in coalitions such as EdLINC and SHLB to provide comments and feedback to the FCC on these vital issues. SETDA remains strongly committed to access to high quality broadband for all students.

In September 2017, SETDA and ENA released the report, State Wi-Fi Leadership for Fostering Digital Learning Ready K-12 Schools exploring the steps states are taking to address the wireless equity gaps that exist among their schools. Leaders from Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah outline the planning, policy, funding, and management approaches their state agencies or education technology leaders are adopting regarding Wi-Fi, and they share their recommendations for promoting and/or creating equitable access opportunities to high-quality Wi-Fi connectivity.

Digital Instructional Materials

2017 was both a year for updating current SETDA digital content resources and a time to launch new resources to support state and district leaders, policy makers and the private sector. SETDA’s suite of to digital instructional materials resources is provided via the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials http://qualitycontent.setda.org SETDA’s From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials, published in February of 2017, provides guidance to administrators and educators in the selection of instructional materials. The toolkit includes useful resources, guidance and examples that will help identify best practices when considering instructional materials including both core-instructional materials and supplemental resources
  • State Procurement Case Studies: Spotlight on Digital Materials Acquisition http://www.setda.org/priorities/digital-content/procurement/ Published in October 2017,  this publication highlights state level procurement case studies that share how states have effectively established and implemented policies for the procurement of high quality instructional materials and devices. As the process for the acquisition and implementation varies widely from state to state, the case studies provide detailed information about the process in each state. These in-depth studies of California, Indiana, Louisiana and Utah provide road maps for other states that are moving forward to implement digital learning materials policies and procedures.
  • Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) dmaps.setda.org Updated in 2017, the goal of the Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) portal is to provide a clear picture of each state’s instructional materials policies and practices to help encourage increased implementation of digital learning. Educators, policy makers and private sector executives have the opportunity to learn about state policies and practices regarding the procurement and implementation of instructional materials, including the ability to access individual state profiles.
  • Navigating the Digital Shift II:Implementing Digital Instructional Materials for Learningnhttp://www.setda.org/priorities/digital-content/navigating-the-digital-shiftii_2017/ This 2017 report, expands upon the 2015 Navigating the Digital Shift report with a focus on living and learning in the digital age. In this second publication, stakeholders will learn about states’ guidance and policies around the implementation of digital instructional materials, as well as best practices.

Interoperability

In 2017, SETDA engaged members, affiliates, and partners in discussions around data interoperability with a focus on how state leaders can leverage data transform teaching and learning. SETDA members participated in a working group at the SETDA Leadership Summit in October.  In December, SETDA partnered with the Ed-Fi Alliance and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to bring nine state teams composed of both data and academic leaders along with private sector partners and organizations focused on data interoperability to have a focused discussion around the current successes and challenges of states around leveraging data for academic excellence. SETDA looks forward to publishing a report on Interoperability in 2018 and continuing to support states this area.

SETDA Urges FCC to Protect School Broadband Access

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The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote, on a Declaratory Report and Order, and a second Order that together will eliminate the agency’s Net Neutrality regulations. The targeted regulations place limitations on internet service providers, including prohibiting them from blocking or degrading internet traffic, or selling ‘fast lanes’ that prioritize particular internet services over others. Chairman Pai proposes to eliminate these requirements and replace them with transparency obligations requiring ISPs to publicly describe their carriage practices.  

SETDA’s members remain strongly committed to helping all schools meet the broadband goals adopted by the FCC as part of the 2014 E-rate modernization and to ensuring students and teachers have affordable access to the innovative digital content, including open educational resources, required to support effective teaching and learning. State leadership for equitable access to high quality broadband is detailed in several SETDA publications:

As the FCC prepares to vote on eliminating the agency’s Net Neutrality framework, we urge commissioners to ensure that connecting schools to affordable high-speed broadband remains a national priority and that students have access to the digital content and tools they need to prepare for graduation.

Students and teachers – especially vulnerable learners in rural and low-income communities – must not be disenfranchised by this proposed change in federal policy. SETDA urges the commission to take the steps required to deliver a level telecommunications and digital learning playing field for the nation’s schools.

Senate Education Funding Misses the Mark for Digital Learning

SETDA Executive Director Dr. Tracy Weeks issued the following statement regarding the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval of the fiscal year 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies spending bill:

“SETDA welcomes the Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to increase funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program, but we remain frustrated by Congress’s failure to fully fund the program.” The Every Student Succeeds Act authorized the program at $1.6 billion for the next fiscal year to address an array of educational needs – including supporting the digital transition – but federal leaders have not followed through on that commitment.

US Capitol Building“We encourage the Senate and House to work together to fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program at the levels intended by ESSA. Now more than ever, we need greater resources to equip students and teachers with the digital learning opportunities required to grow academically and succeed after high school. ”

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants, also known as Title IVa of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The SSAE Grant program focuses on Whole Child Education, Safe and Healthy Students, and the Effective Use of Technology.

By The Numbers:

ESSA Authorized Level: $1.65 Billion

FY17 Funding Level: $400 Million

FY18 Proposed Funding:

SETDA Applauds the Appointment of Rosenworcel to FCC

FCC-AltLogo.svg_-300x300Last night, the U.S. Senate confirmed theFederal Communications Commission (“FCC”) nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel (D) and Brendan Carr (R)  to serve as FCC Commissioners.  This brings the FCC to its full complement of 5 Commissioners.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) endorsed President Trump’s nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel to serve on the FCC.  As the FCC oversees the vital E-rate and Lifeline programs and considers other national connectivity strategies, Ms. Rosenworcel will be a strong, innovative, and collaborative addition to the agency’s leadership.

SETDA is the principal membership association representing U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders that serves and supports the emerging interests of our members with respect to the use of technology for teaching, learning, and school operations. SETDA’s members work daily to ensure that their states have the technology infrastructure and high capacity broadband connections required to support world-class teaching, learning, and school operations. States, communities and carriers have achieved incredible connectivity improvements over the past decade and additional broadband expansions are on the horizon. Nonetheless, many rural and high cost areas still lack the broadband speeds required to power teaching and learning in and out of school. Continued federal support, through the FCC’s Universal Service program and other initiatives, will be essential to overcoming these hurdles.

Ms. Rosenworcel deeply understands the country’s service gaps and network shortcomings and the difficult work underway to address them for students and their families. Her knowledge and experience will undoubtedly contribute to the FCC’s efforts to ensure all students have access to the high capacity broadband they need to succeed academically.

Commissioners Rosenworcel and Carr will begin working immediately, upon swearing in, with Chairman Pai and Commissioners Clyburn and O’Rielly.

SETDA Advocates for Equal Access to Digital Content

Cover_square2Today, online communities are alight with a Day of Advocacy in support of keeping the current Net Neutrality rules in place. These rules were passed in 2015 and reclassified the Internet as a telecommunication service. This allows the FCC to regulate broadband access under the 1934 Communications Act, which covers all public utilities including telephones. The change gave FCC regulatory authority over both wired and wireless services. In a nutshell, the rules ensure that providers do not create fast and slow lanes on the Internet. On this day of advocacy, SETDA encourages the FCC to continue to support strong, unrestricted access to the Internet.

SETDA has long advocated for robust broadband access for learning both in schools and in the homes of students. Most recently, in the Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning, SETDA calls for an increase in school broadband levels to support high quality learning environments:

“Access to high-speed broadband in K-12 education is no longer an afterthought; instead it is fundamental for implementing the student-centered learning models critical in preparing all students for college and careers in the digital age. Schools and districts are moving towards student-centered, personalized learning approaches to increase student success — utilizing digital applications to support these deeper learning experiences. High-speed broadband access enables schools to expand learning options, allowing students to create content, participate in virtual courses that may not be available on their campuses, and to collaborate with experts or other students remotely. Bandwidth capacity is required to support these digital age learning opportunities, and determines which digital instructional materials and educational applications students and educators can effectively leverage in the classroom.”

The FCC also has a history of supporting high quality access to broadband for learning through E-rate, Lifeline, and the adoption of SETDA’s 2012 broadband targets outlined in the original Broadband Imperative report. “The FCC’s adoption of the current Net Neutrality rules aligned with these efforts to ensure that students have quality access to instructional materials, applications, and tools regardless of provider,” stated SETDA Executive Director, Tracy Weeks. “Our students need continued support for unrestricted access to high quality digital content.”

On behalf of our students and schools, SETDA thanks the FCC for working towards increased access to high quality broadband in schools and encourages them to maintain support for strong, unrestricted access to the Internet. Our students are counting on you!

SETDA Response to President’s FY18 Budget

whitehousePresident Trump released his proposed FY18 Budget.  Sadly, this proposal eliminates several important Federal education programs. Of particular interest to state digital learning leaders is the elimination of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants, also known as Title IVa of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The SSAE Grant program focuses on Whole Child Education, Safe and Healthy Students, and the Effective Use of Technology. When ESSA was authorized, Title IVa was authorized at $1.65 billion. However, for FY 17 only $400 million was budgeted. This limited funding model would mean that many school districts would receive very little or no funds at all unless a state awards the funds via block grants to enable a few districts to use the funds for meaningful work. The FY17 funding level is the rationale used by the President to justify elimination of the grant program.

“Learning in the 21st Century means leveraging digital content, tools, and applications to best meet each student’s needs. However, teachers need to understand how to effectively harness these resources to maximize student learning,” notes Tracy Weeks, Executive Director of SETDA. “This budget takes away a vital funding source for schools, districts, and states.”

SETDA calls on Congress not only to continue to fund Title IVa, but to fund it at its fully authorized level of $1.6 Billion.

Digital Learning Enables Choice Within all Schools

This week President Trump called on Congress to pass a bill that increases school choice. This position by the President is no surprise as he appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who has devoted her philanthropic efforts towards school choice, especially in the Detroit area and since her appointment has included advocacy for school choice in her public remarks.

800px-Capitol_Building_Full_ViewSchool choice advocates often think of choice in terms of choosing between individual schools as noted in the President’s speech, “These families should be able to choose the public, private, magnet, charter, religious, or home school that is right for them.” And in urban and some suburban areas, these individual school choice can be a possibility because there are enough students in the area to provide critical mass to multiple schools. However, roughly 72% of the geography in the United States is rural. In these areas, putting enough students together to fill one school requires covering a large geographic area and therefore school choice by creating additional schools is simply not practical in those areas.

I would challenge Congress along with the President and Secretary DeVos, to shift their thinking to how we can empower our current schools to provide greater choice and personalization within current schools rather than creating a brand new school.

This is where educational technology comes in. By leveraging digital learning tools and resources, current schools can provide students with choices in courses, pace, learning modality, content, assessment, and demonstration of mastery. This does not happen by simply replacing legacy teaching methods and resources with digital versions. Rather, teachers, leaders, students, and schools have to be free to rethink how learning will take place for students with varied learning styles and then plan for the content, devices, and infrastructure needed to implement effective and efficient learning plans.

State, district, and school leaders must collaborate to determine what policy and funding shifts need to take place to give schools the ability to implement this within school choice. SETDA recommends that Congress should:

  • Support E-rate so that schools and districts can maximize the high quality broadband needed to leverage digital learning opportunities
  • Treat Internet access as infrastructure so that it is available to every home along with electricity, plumbing, and access to roads
  • Fund the Title IV(a) SSAE Grant fully to provide funding for human capacity building to help educators build their skill sets to implement personalized/digital learning models
  • Incentivize qualified individuals to become teachers

If we shift our thinking away from the dichotomy of either protecting the current school status quo OR building alternative schools, we can truly rethink how we leverage the technologies currently available to change the way teachers teach and students learn to best meet the needs of all learners.

DeVos Confirmed as Secretary of Education

USED LogoOn February 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next US Secretary of Education. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) looks forward to continued collaboration with the US Department of Education (ED), especially ED’s Office of Education Technology in order to support digital learning leaders to help ensure quality educational opportunities for all learners.

Executive Director, Tracy Weeks, stated, “Leveraging digital tools, content, and innovative teaching and learning strategies can transform any school and help educators provide high quality, personalized instruction to every student. Interstate collaboration provides opportunities for replicating and scaling up successful programs, collaborative purchasing and dissemination of quality research. Ensuring leadership at the state level can help reduce costs, align work to state curriculum standards and support increased student achievement.”

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal non-profit membership association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology leaders. Our mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice. For more information, please visit: setda.org.

SETDA Disappointed in FCC Lifeline Revocations and Modernization Report Retraction

FCC-AltLogo.svg_-300x300The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the principal membership association representing U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders released the following statement of disappointment regarding the February 3rd actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rescind the E-rate Modernization Progress Report and revoke Lifeline provider designations.

SETDA has a track record for supporting the infrastructure necessary to ensure digital learning. As noted in SETDA’s publication, The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning: “Access to high-speed broadband in K-12 education is no longer an afterthought; instead it is fundamental for implementing the student-centered learning models critical in preparing all students for college and careers in the digital age. Equity of access includes ensuring access to devices and sufficient high-speed broadband in school, at home, and everywhere in the community to utilize digital instructional materials, complete homework assignments, and to connect with students, educators, and experts throughout the world anytime/ anywhere.”

“As content moves to digital and more states are enacting policies requiring digital instructional materials, as legislators are now recognizing the benefits of digital resources. These policy shifts have direct implications on issues related to device and internet access. Students must have access to broadband and devices outside of school, particularly at home, to be successful.”

SETDA Executive Director, Tracy Weeks, states, “If we are to close the digital divide, a collaboration effort between, federal, state, and local governments along with the private sector is essential. SETDA strongly urges the FCC to reconsider these recent actions and to move forward in continuing to provide leadership in connecting students with access to the infrastructure tools they need for learning.”

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