Author Archive

Tracy Weeks

SETDA Executive Director

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.”


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 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.”

The Year Ahead with SETDA

As the first month in 2017 comes to a close, the SETDA staff and Board of Directors looks forward to the exciting work ahead of us for the year. Below are several areas of focus and updates on SETDA initiatives for 2017.

Federal Transition

800px-Capitol_Building_Full_ViewWith a new administration comes the opportunity to build new relationships. While we wait for a Secretary of Education to be confirmed and the subsequent hiring of Deputy and Under Secretary positions as well as a new Director of the Office of Education Technology, SETDA is working with CoSN, ISTE, CDE, and SIIA to develop an advocacy platform and resources for members and partners. These resources will lead up to an Advocacy Day on May 11, 2017, which will include Hill visits for our members and partners.

Instructional Materials

On February 9, SETDA will release of the Guide to Quality Instructional Materials, a free online toolkit to support the vetting and curation of quality instructional materials for all learners. The toolkit includes sections on planning, budget, selection, implementation, and effectiveness with specific details of several state and district vetting processes. Join the webinar release by registering today.

DMAPSSETDA is in the process of updating and expanding the Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States Updates will be released in the spring of 2017 and include the addition of policies related to accessibility, details about state content management systems and RFPs. In addition, SETDA will release a national report with data analysis related to the implementation of instructional materials.

Additionally, SETDA is excited to partner with the Office of Educational Technology to lead a coalition of organizations who support state and district leaders who have committed to using openly licensed resources for teaching and learning through the #GoOpen Initiative. Over the next year, SETDA will coordinate convenings and the release of resources for states, districts, and schools who are building capacity to incorporate OER as a partial or full strategy towards instructional materials.

Finally, SETDA is launching an online community of practice, focused on the implementation of digital instructional materials, Essential Elements for Digital Content will launch mid-February and include guest content area experts and facilitated discussions.

Transformative Digital Learning

et_forum_2017_socialmedia-1In June, 2017, at the Emerging Technologies and Leadership Forum, SETDA will release professional learning modules for state leaders to use in their work with districts and schools to plan and implement scaling and sustainability efforts as states transition to digital learning. Along with the modules, SETDA will release Influencer communication toolkits to provide support to state leaders in work with state boards, parents, teachers, and other important stakeholders.

Broadband and Infrastructure

In September 2016, SETDA released The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning. This work will continue to be highlighted during 2017 via a series of monthly webinars focused on the 4 recommendations, advocating for increasing robust access both in and out of school to best prepare all students for college and careers. This first webinar was January 23 at 4pm ET, the archive can be accessed here: The next webinar is February 22 at 3pm ET.

SETDA Remarks on Non-Regulatory Guidance for SSAEG

Thused-logoe U.S. Department of Education today released Non-Regulatory Guidance for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants.  SETDA was invited to deliver remarks on the Effective Use of Technology during a press call with Secretary John King regarding the guidance document. Below are the comments shared by Executive Director, Tracy Weeks, on behalf of SETDA.

We are at an exciting time in education where we now have access to applications, content, devices, and broadband that can allow educators to truly personalize learning for every student. But in order to leverage technology to transform the teaching and learning process, we need to support our teachers, administrators, and district and state leaders in building the skills and dispositions needed.

Increasingly, states, districts, and schools are shifting from print materials to a greater use of digital instructional materials. These digital materials might be purchased, free, or open. By using digital content in conjunction with content delivery systems, classroom teachers can help students learn by connecting students with content at the appropriate level for the student and in the mode that student learns best. Additionally, with these tools, the pace of learning can be personalized for each student. As a former math teacher, I often note that we need to move from time being a constant in our schools and quality being a variable to a model where quality is a constant and time is the variable. Further, with equity of access to high quality content and high quality teachers as a goal, schools can leverage technology to expand their course catalog by providing students with access to blended and online courses so that a student’s zip code no longer has to determine the student’s course of study.

In order to see technology transform teaching and learning, schools will need access to robust broadband, a variety of digital devices, content, applications, and most importantly to educators who understand how to teach in this new paradigm and leaders who can support these teachers. That is where the SSAE Grants are critical.

The effective use of technology can be leveraged in every area of the SSAE grants. There is a place for digital learning in all content areas and with all types of students. Further, these funds can be used in conjunction with other ESSA Titled programs. However, a low level allocation of funds will not adequately support any of these efforts.

Schools need an adequate level of SSAE funds to provide professional development to educators so that they can become developers, collaborators, and connoisseurs of open education materials. They need to learn blended learning strategies so that they can deliver this content in a way to maximize student achievement and growth. We need to develop our school, district, and state leaders so that they can begin to determine the devices and infrastructure needed in schools based on the teaching and learning needs rather than providing teachers with devices and broadband first and then having them determine the kind of teaching and learning that can be delivered with what they have been given.  Additionally, with adequate funding, technology coaches can be hired to properly support teachers and leaders and district and state agencies can fund positions to provide the technical assistance needed for schools.

I am happy to see the priority of the effective use of technology throughout ESSA and especially in the SSAE Grant Program. I am hopeful that states will take this opportunity to rethink their approach to teaching and learning in all areas of ESSA and maximize the use of funds for technology.



SETDA Applauds the Innovation for Tomorrow’s Workforce Act

seal_of_the_united_states_senate-svgLast week, Senator Hatch (UT) and Senator Bennet (UT) introduced the Innovation for Tomorrow’s Workforce Act of 2016 which would amend current law to create a grant program to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) through innovative activities. Further, this bill allows for the use of open educational resources (OER) with CTE funds.

SETDA applauds Senator Hatch and Senator Bennet for championing innovation in Career and Technical Education. CTE innovation depends on ensuring access to cutting edge instructional supports and SETDA appreciates the bill’s focus on encouraging effective technology use and developing and adopting open educational resources.

“The Innovation for Tomorrow’s Workforce Act of 2016 strives for equity in Career and Technical Education by prioritizing grant awards to schools that serve students from low-income families,” noted Tracy Weeks, SETDA Executive Director. “Increased numbers of students need access to high quality, high impact CTE programs to prepare for success after high school graduation.”

SETDA strongly supports the bill’s inclusion as part of the broader CTE reauthorization legislation Congress is debating.

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