Author Archive

Tracy Weeks

SETDA Executive Director

SETDA Applauds Senate Leadership for Net Neutrality

US Capitol BuildingSETDA applauds Senator Markey for introducing S.J.Res.52 to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Regulations (OIR). State Educational Technology Leaders greatly appreciate his desire to restore the OIR and ensure Net Neutrality for the nation’s schools and other broadband users.

SETDA’s members share an unwavering commitment to expanding broadband access to unserved and under-served schools and communities, because they recognize broadband’s power to promote educational equity. This includes using broadband to enable access to digital learning opportunities that otherwise may be unavailable to the students that need the greatest support. Unfortunately, the country’s persistent educational achievement gaps often roughly overlay with community and regional broadband gaps. A recent U.S. Department of Education report, Student Access to Digital Learning Resources Outside the Classroom, showed that students living in remote rural and distant rural areas generally have more limited Internet access than students in suburbs, cities or towns. Notably, the report also showed that poor and minority children living in these areas were even less likely to have access to broadband.

Our members are concerned that the FCC’s decision to dismantle the agency’s Net Neutrality protections, may make it even harder to overcome the connectivity gaps describe above. Why? Without the OIR, the schools struggling to catch up to the digital transition may face higher digital content costs, preferential service fees, and less education technology innovation. The FCC’s answer, tasking schools and other broadband customers with the responsibility to police providers’ opaque service terms and report problems to the Federal Trade Commission, simply will not do. We need the Senate to approve S.J.Res.52 and restore a level broadband playing field for schools, especially for the schools serving the most economically powerless communities in the country.

SETDA’s members strongly support Senator Markey’s efforts to restore Net Neutrality and for introducing S.J.Res. 52.

SETDA Urges Congress to Continue to Invest in ESSA

SETDA sent the following letter today to Senator Blunt, Senator Murray, Representative Cole and Representative DeLauro urging Congress to continue investing in ESSA, Title II and IV:

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) represents state education agency technology leaders from across the United States. SETDA helps state leaders promote equity by sharing evidence-based ideas and resources and promoting multistate collaboration.  Our members support implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including encouraging using the law to promote program alignment within their state agencies and working with local leaders to ensure teachers, students and their communities benefit from digital learning materials and other useful educational tools. Technology facilitates meaningful communication between schools and families, equips students, teachers and school leaders with useful data, and creates exciting and engaging instructional opportunities by connecting learners with a wide array of resources, including rich open educational resources. Our members’ work also includes providing advice about how states and districts can better use technology to satisfy important federal requirements, such as ESSA’s annual assessment, accountability, and reporting obligations.

Despite these advantages, federal education technology investments, including funding for badly needed professional learning, declined significantly over the past decade. Given this decline, we are alarmed by the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request, which proposes to compound the problem by eliminating funding for two important ESSA programs that support digital learning and related educator and leader capacity building: Title II-A and Title IV-A. We are writing to urge you to not only protect these essential investments but to increase them and encourage their aligned use. Digital learning materials, high capacity broadband, data use, and related professional learning are unevenly distributed across the country – falling especially short of needed levels in rural and poor communities – and greater federal funding is needed to help states and districts address this inequity.

ESSA, Title II-A, Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders.

Congress used ESSA to consolidate or eliminate many programs but choose to maintain Title II-A as one of the law’s core pillars. Congress recognized that investing in educators’ professional capacity is a critical strategy for promoting student success, so it re-confirmed the federal commitment to helping teachers and school leaders better meet their students’ needs.  As states and school districts place a greater emphasis on digital learning, including using digital materials and offering beyond school learning opportunities, many educators need to acquire new or expanded skills, such as the ability to use digital tools, use data, protect student privacy and more. These needs are present in every state and school district and Congress can help state and local leaders meet them by providing $2.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2019 for the ESSA, Title II-A formula program.

State Title II-A Leadership

Alaska plans to use Title II-A funds to support a project to develop an online professional development network that allows teacher teams to support personalized professional learning. Learning paths for both ELA and mathematics have been developed using open source videos with interactive and discussion activities.

Mississippi plans to use Title II-A to help teachers and school leaders develop their technology skills to create vibrant, relevant environment for our digital native students. This work includes supporting high-quality professional learning for educators, school leaders, and administrators to personalize learning and improve academic achievement. The state plans to target help for students living in remote and underserved areas, so that they can benefit from high-quality digital learning opportunities.

Oklahoma plans to use Title II-A funds to provide guidance and collaborative opportunities to promote the effective use of technology that increases the likelihood of preparing all Oklahoma students for the future workforce. Specifically, the agency will build capacity both in computer science and open instructional materials, the OSDE encourages schools and districts creating and curating instructional materials to make use of the exciting #GoOpen campaign, of which Oklahoma is a partner state.

ESSA, Title IV-A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants

Congress used ESSA to shift considerable education policy decision-making back to states and school districts. The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, more than any other ESSA program, embodies this shift by serving as a flexible funding source for meeting an array of locally identified needs. Properly funded, the SSAEG program can help school districts and their state partners promote digital equity. The program supports modest technology infrastructure investments, while also investing in the digital transition, including developing and adopting open educational resources, improving data use and privacy protections, and strengthening science, technology, engineering and math education. The program is also a direct funding source for expanding computer science education and other skills focused initiatives designed to help students acquire the knowledge and skills they will need after graduation. Given the program’s potential to help states and districts meet these and other technology needs, we encourage Congress to provide $1.6 billion for the SSAEG program for Fiscal Year 2019.

State Title IV-A Leadership Examples

 Idaho plans to use Title IV-A funding to support school districts working to deliver equitable access to well-rounded educational opportunities and rigorous coursework in areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. The Idaho Department of Education’s (ISDE) STEM Action Center will work collaboratively with districts to use Title IV-A to improve STEM instruction and learning.

Louisiana plans to use Title IV-A funds to support work with district to integrate technology into academic planning, delivery, and improvement. Technology is part of the Louisiana Department of Education’s annual collaborative priority setting and planning with LEAs. LDE staff work with LEA leaders to review annual technology indicators as reported in the LDE’s annual technology footprint report, and in tandem with reviews of student achievement data. They also plan to review and discuss readiness for online assessments, although the primary focus is on the availability and effective integration of technology in classroom instruction.

Maine plans to use Title IV-A funds to strengthen existing initiatives, including determining teachers’ needs and providing timely opportunities and support for continued improvement, such as using technology to improve student literacy. For example, the state will use Title IV-A funds for a pilot project, MoMEntum K-3 literacy, which will provide one-to-one iPad technology for students and professional learning for teachers in how to use technology to boost student literacy.

Thank you for carefully considering SETDA’s recommendations. When schools appropriately use technology, it accelerates, amplifies, and expands access to effective practices that will provide for a well-rounded education and increase engagement for all students. Our members strongly support this vision and believe these programs play a critical role in helping states and districts successfully implement ESSA. We would be pleased to provide you more information about how our members plan to work with their districts to use these funds and welcome any questions you may have about how the programs are being implemented nationally.

SETDA’s Annual Partnerships Include Value for All – Including Startups

SETDA exists to lead, inspire, and empower the education community to leverage technology for learning.  Our association serves as a forum for inter-state collaboration and cooperation, the furthering of public-private partnerships in support of public education goals, state-federal relations and advocacy, and professional learning for education leaders across the nation.

The SETDA strategic plan is a concise statement of our direction and of the value for state and partner engagement. This plan reaffirms our commitment to being the national leadership organization supporting all states to advance education through technology policy and practice.  One thing we have learned is that none of us can do this work alone.  That is why we focus on our partnerships, which help us maintain a future-focused, holistic view on how to leverage technology for learning, while keeping an eye toward the future of what’s possible for education through successfully integrated technology.

Map of the United States with the names of digital learning leadership roles listed

SETDA offers two types of annual partnership programs – one for established edtech companies who have been in operation for more than five years (Gold and Platinum levels), and one specifically for startups, known as the Emerging Partners program. Our current list of private sector partners can be found at setda.org/partners.  SETDA engages in a unique way with its partners –including the startups.  The Emerging Partners Program is one way that SETDA nurtures and shapes the pipeline of aspiring edtech solutions and quality learning resources for the digital age. This week is the last week that Edtech startups can apply for the 2018-2019 cohort of the Emerging Partners Program. There is an April 1, 2018 deadline for companies to join this year’s cohort.  The 2018 application is here. Learn more about the Emerging Partners Program here.

Companies selected to participate in this program will benefit from a variety of opportunities to showcase their products and services, receive feedback and advice on their plans, and engage in meaningful dialogue with state educational technology leaders and industry leaders, including participation in a high-energy pitch fest at the 2018 SETDA Emerging Technologies Leadership Forum in Chicago, IL just before the ISTE conference at the end of June. The list of SETDA’s current Emerging Partners is here.

Whether it is by working closely with our partners to shape the products and services coming to the K-12 market or with other associations and nonprofits who share mutual goals for school improvement, SETDA members and staff have been instrumental in brokering meaningful partnerships with a range of companies, organizations, and foundations. “By taking responsibility for engaging with emerging education and technology companies, state level digital learning leaders play a valuable role in ensuring that future educational technology products and services are of high-quality and align with state education goals and needs. The Emerging Private Sector Partners program is a fun, engaging way to learn from one another in a highly supportive environment, while also providing a vitally important lens to our vision and mission of improving education through technology policy and practice,” said Dr. Tracy Weeks, SETDA Executive Director.

From the private sector perspective, our partners “value the ability to work alongside SETDA members to inform the development of products and tools,” according to Dr. Kari Stubbs, BrainPop.  Dr. Stubbs shares her thoughts in the short video clip below.  All of our partners say that they value the leadership network, connections and influence that their SETDA partnership creates.  The relationships that are developed are mutually valuable, to the company, to SETDA, and to the field of educational technology.

SETDA highly values its strong private sector partnerships with those who share our passion and our aims, and nurtures its relationships with leading educational technology companies, associations, foundations and other private organizations. All of SETDA’s Private Sector Partners are  tremendously beneficial and remain an important part of our vibrant network, our vision and plan, and of our “family.”  For more information about SETDA’s PSP, and to learn about the myriad of benefits that a partnership with SETDA offers, visit: https://www.setda.org/partners/  Finally, please encourage startups that you work with to apply to the Emerging Partner program today. The 2018 Emerging Partners Program application is here: 2018 Application

SETDA Applauds Congress's Decision to Increase ESSA-TITLE IV Funding

US Capitol Building

State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) Executive Director Tracy Weeks today issued the following statement praising Congress for increasing funding for ESSA-Title IV, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) program, in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill:

“SETDA applauds Congress’s recognition that SSAEG funding needs to increase to help States and districts serve their students, including by investing in digital learning initiatives. More STEM, Computer Science, open educational resources and other digital initiatives will thrive with this additional support. Ensuring all students graduate ready for later academic, workplace, and life success demands equal access to the advantages technology conveys for teaching and learning. We are thrilled by Congress’s increased commitment to this vital program’s investment in ed tech.”

 

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://www-setda-org.www.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 https://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) www-setda-org.www.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 Learningnhttps://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

Globe with nodes and lines encircling

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!

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