Roles Supporting Local Action Plans
Archived Information

The 21st century is America's for the taking--if we are bold enough and strong enough and confident enough to go forward together. We will make the best of this new technology together. We will educate our children with it, improve our businesses with it, make our government more democratic with it, and build a brighter, freer, more prosperous future with it. That is the American way.

-- President Clinton

The nation is working toward making all students technologically literate by early next century. There has been considerable initiative and funding devoted to this end in some states and communities. At the same time, it is evident that the nation has a long way to go before reaching our goals for technology in schools. Although the federal government has an important leadership role, states and local communities have the most at stake and will have the largest role. The purpose of this report is not to prescribe a single plan of action; instead, it offers a strategic framework to support efforts by states and local communities to develop their own plans for promoting the achievement of high standards by all students through the application of technology.

Role of the Federal Government

The federal role, though limited, is to provide the leadership momentum for reaching the educational technology goals through targeted funding and support for activities that will catalyze national action. Indeed, federal support has been critical over the years as a catalyst for technology development and for providing incentives for schools to implement educational technology programs. (See Appendix B for examples of federal support for technology in education.)

Technology Literacy Challenge Fund

States, communities, and the private sector face a challenge of massive proportions, in terms of effective innovation and school improvement, as well as in terms of substantial investments and reprioritizing of school budgets. The purpose of the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund is to serve as a catalyst for states, local communities, companies, universities, and individuals to work together on a common set of goals. The president has asked Congress to appropriate $2 billion over five years for the fund. For the fund to succeed, each federal dollar will have to be matched by dollars and in-kind contributions from state, local, and private-sector sources. The president has included the first installment of this fund--$250 million--in his 1997 budget.

The fund would provide states with maximum flexibility. To receive funds, states would have to meet only these basic objectives:

  • Each state would develop a strategy for enabling every school in the state to meet the four technology goals. These state strategies would address the needs of all schools, from the suburbs to the inner cities to rural areas. Strategies would include benchmarks and timetables for accomplishing the four goals, but these measures would be set by each state, not by the federal government.

  • State strategies would include significant private-sector participation and commitments, matching at least the amount of federal support. Commitments could be met by volunteer services, cost reductions, and discounts for connections under the expanded Universal Service Fund provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, among other ways.

  • To ensure accountability, each state not only would have to set benchmarks, but also would be required to report publicly at the end of every school year the progress made in achieving its benchmarks, as well as how it would achieve the ultimate objectives of its strategies in the most cost-effective manner.
By design, states would have tremendous flexibility. Because the states are at different points in financing and using educational technology in the classroom, this flexibility is necessary so each state can address its own particular needs according to a technology plan that it develops itself.


The Technology Literacy Challenge Fund

Catalyzing State, Community, and Private Sector Efforts

The technology literacy challenge fund would support a wide variety of innovative efforts.

  • Districts and schools may provide funding for on-demand technical assistance to help technology-using teachers during the school day.

  • Districts may link schools electronically to gather and maintain administrative data.

  • States and districts may enter partnerships with the private sector and universities to develop software geared to challenging state academic standards.

  • States and districts may build high-speed networks carrying voice, video, text, and graphics that connect schools.

  • Districts may provide incentive grants, awards, and salary increases to individual teachers who make a commitment to upgrade their knowledge of computers and technology.

  • States may target funds to communities that are farthest behind in effective use of educational technology.

  • States and districts may collaborate to find cost effective ways of purchasing and using hardware and software.

Affordable Connections

The president and vice president have made connecting every classroom in America to the information superhighway by the year 2000 a national goal. To deliver on that goal, on February 8, 1996, the president signed into law the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which ensures that schools and libraries have affordable access to advanced telecommunications service. The law requires telecommunications carriers to provide service to schools and libraries at reduced rates.

The federal government will play an important role in effectively implementing the law so that access is real and affordable and classrooms are connected in all of our communities, including rural and urban areas. Making the new law work for the nation's schools and libraries will involve many players: the Federal Communications Commission, state public utilities commissions, service providers, rate payers, and the education community. The secretary of education, the chairman of the Federal Communications commission, and other federal officials will provide leadership, convene educators and regulators to identify solutions, and build a broad base of support for affordable access.

Improved Professional Development

The federal government has an important role in expanding and improving professional development for teachers, in order to reach the goal that all teachers have the training they need to use technology. First, it provides funds for professional development through the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, the Teacher Enhancement Program, and other programs. The Departments of Education and Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies all support teacher professional development. These investments must be expanded and greater emphasis on the use of technology added. Second, the Department of Education can provide leadership by highlighting the importance of sustained professional development and by disseminating information about what works in teacher training. The Department will convene states, school districts, colleges of teacher education, professional organizations, teacher unions, and others with a stake in improving pre-service and in-service training in order to galvanize commitments to provide effective training and support to all the nation's teachers. The Department of Education can also collaborate with national teacher accreditation bodies to support the development of model standards that integrate technology into requirements for graduation and state certification.

One of the key lessons from our experience so far is that a collaborative model is essential for sustained school improvement and student achievement. Business, government, and, of course, education all have something unique and valuable to offer.

-- Representative from a Telecommunications Firm

Improved Educational Software

The development of high-quality educational software depends on greater collaboration between educators and the private sector. The Department of Education, in coordination with other federal agencies, can support this collaboration in a number of ways. For example, it can sponsor workshops that bring together state and local educators, researchers, publishers, software developers, on line services, cable and wireless operators, and other commercial providers of educational technology materials. Workshops would focus on issues such as how the market can meet the needs of today's classrooms better; how software can support higher student achievement; what students should know and be able to do (state standards); how states and school districts can develop better tools for evaluating the quality of the software on the market; and what are the lessons of current practice and research for future software development. The Department, through its educational technology programs for individuals with disabilities, has been instrumental in making more software accessible to students with disabilities.


Presidential Challenges to Spur Collaborative Efforts

To meet the nation's technology goals, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have challenged the private sector, retirees, and educators to work together in new ways to improve student learning through the use of technology. States, communities, businesses, and individuals around the nation have risen to meet this challenge. For example:
  • NetDay 96: An electronic barnraising
    The president and vice president brought together telecommunications and computer industry leaders in September 1995 to kick-start a historic effort to connect California classrooms to the Internet. On March 9, 1996, more than 20,000 parents and volunteers and more than 200 businesses in California installed and tested about 6 million feet of wire to connect classrooms in 2,600 schools to the Internet. Since California's successful "electronic barnraising," over 30 states have embarked on their own efforts.

  • Tech Corps: Volunteering expertise
    The Tech Corps, launched on October 10, 1995 as a private-sector response to the president's and vice president's national mission to make all children technologically literate by the dawn of the 21st century, is a national non-profit organization of private sector volunteers with technological expertise dedicated to helping improve K-12 education at the local level. Its mission is to recruit, place, and support volunteers from the private sector who advise and assist schools in using new technologies in the classroom to improve student learning. Since October, leaders from industry and education have been working together to establish Tech Corps organizations in all 50 states.

  • American Technology Honor Society: Recognizing student expertise
    The American Technology Honor Society was formed on October 10, 1995. This organization, sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Technology Student Association, is the school-based organization through which students with technology expertise can help expand their school's use of technology. It will recognize and reward students who use their technological expertise to serve their schools.

  • 21st Century Teachers
    On May 29, 1996, a coalition of 11 major education organizations, including both major teachers' unions, announced the creation of a voluntary corps to help more teachers learn how to use new technology to improve teaching and learning. One hundred thousand teachers will each train five of their colleagues during the 1996-97 school year. Teachers can sign up on a special World Wide Web site to participate in this effort.

Continued Investment in Educational Technology

In addition to the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, it is critical that the federal government continue to target investments to address particular needs in educational technology. For example, to demonstrate new models of how information infrastructure can benefit the nation's schools, the Department of Commerce's Technology and Information Infrastructure Applications Program (TIIAP) provides grants to develop telecommunications networks for educational and other services. The Department of Education's Challenge Grants for Technology in Education award grants to school districts in partnership with businesses, museums, universities, and other institutions to develop a new generation of learning tools and curricula. To address the special needs of remote schools, the Department of Agriculture supports telecommunications links to provide students with access to advanced courses and other distance learning opportunities, and the Department of Education's Star Schools program provides seed funding for distance learning providers.

To focus on the particular challenges of teaching math and science, the National Science Foundation funds programs that demonstrate how electronic networks can support education reforms and improve math and science teaching. Likewise, NASA develops model curricula using state-of-the-art technologies; and an innovative program called Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) links students, educators, and scientists around the world in a long-term effort to make observations of the environment and share the data via the Internet. The 140 schools run by the Department of Defense on military bases around the world are becoming a powerful model and effective testing site for the use of advanced technologies for learning.

Effective Use of Technology by Major Education Programs

Among the federal government's largest education and training programs are the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, Head Start, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, the Job Training Partnership Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Programs under these acts allow funds to be used for educational technology, including training teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms, and purchasing software and hardware. For example, according to one estimate, in 1995 schools invested about $450 million under Title I (formerly Chapter 1) of ESEA in educational technology in order to help students in low-income schools improve basic and advanced skills in the core academic subjects.77

The federal government will continue to promote the use of educational technology as an important element of improving the achievement of students served by these programs and, through high-quality technical assistance, it will help to ensure that technology is used as effectively as possible to improve teaching and learning. It will also continue to increase flexibility in the use of funds under these programs, as it did in the recent reauthorization of Title I, which has made it easier to make technology purchased with Title I funds available to all students in a school.

Clearinghouse for Good Ideas

Helping states, school districts, schools, teachers, parents, professional organizations, and the private sector know and share what works is a vital function of the federal government. The federal government will continue to disseminate accurate and up to-date information about what works in educational technology through the Department of Education's technical assistance provider network, which includes an on-line library; the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) Clearinghouses; the Regional Technology in Education Consortia (R*TECS); the Technology Related Assistance Program for Individuals with Disabilities; The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse on Math and Science Education; and the Department of Energy's national laboratories and specialized technology centers and research facilities that assist states and school districts. In addition, the Department of Education will increase its efforts to promote information sharing. For example, it will sponsor national and regional conferences that give state and local education leaders an opportunity to learn from the experience of communities that are further ahead. The conferences will also promote collaboration between various state and federal initiatives to maximize the impact of state and federal investments in educational technology.

State-of-the-Art Tools

The federal government has a strong history of research and development in both learning and technology. That work has shown that all students can learn to much higher levels than we had previously expected, and led to the development of breakthrough technologies such as the Internet, high-performance computing tools, and technological tools for students with disabilities. This year, the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology will issue recommendations on how federal research and development can help to ensure the development of new ways of using technology for learning, new learning materials, and new ways of measuring student progress. Based on these recommendations, federal agencies will provide funding for the highest priority areas for research and development and disseminate results.

Closing the Divide Between Technology "Haves" and "Have Nots"

The federal government can help to close the "digital divide" between affluent communities with access to technology and low-income communities where schools lack computers, access to the Internet, software, trained teachers and basic wiring. The Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, if approved by Congress, would provide resources for those communities facing the greatest challenges. In addition, many major federal education programs--including Title I of ESEA, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, and Head Start--target funding to low-income communities, and can invest in educational technology.

Under the leadership of the vice president, the private sector has stepped forward to help schools in the nation's 15 Empowerment Zones, which are among our most impoverished urban and rural communities. The private sector, working with Tech Corps and the Department's Regional Technology in Education Consortia, will connect every school in the Empowerment Zones to the information superhighway.

Monitoring Progress Toward Technology Goals

An essential role of the federal government in helping the nation meet the technology literacy challenge will be to monitor national progress and provide regular updates on how far the nation has traveled toward meeting the challenge. This report provides baseline data on where we are today regarding each of the four goals: the extent to which teachers are adequately trained to use technology in the classroom; the availability of modern, multimedia computers in the classroom; the percent of schools and classrooms connected to the information superhighway; and the use of effective software and on-line resources in school curriculum.

To evaluate how the nation is progressing, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) intends to collect data related to technology in schools through such vehicles as its Schools and Staffing Survey and Fast Response Survey System. As NCES plans for the next administration of the Schools and Staffing Survey in 1998, it is consulting with the field to determine how best to collect information about access to and use of technology in schools. Moreover, the Fast Response Survey System has been used twice in the past two years to collect information related to the availability and use of telecommunications in schools, their plans to implement or upgrade wide area connections, their access to the Internet and selected Internet capabilities, and barriers they face to the acquisition or use of advanced telecommunications. The survey system could be used to collect this information in future years. Further, under the proposed Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, each state would be required to develop its own state-specific goals and benchmarks and report annually on progress toward them.

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Last Modified: 01/20/2004